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#326 Is Molinism as Depressing as Calvinism?

July 15, 2013
Q

I had a question regarding God's Foreknowledge which is a topic that consistently eats away at my heart.

I was looking at an article Dr. Craig wrote on middle knowledge and I was wondering:

How does middle knowledge take us away from the idea of determinism? If God picks which world is created and in that world someone I know is not saved and cannot be saved...is this suggesting that in no such world would that person ever be saved? Do we then just assume that God has created a world in which everyone who can be saved in ANY world will be saved and ANY who can't be saved, won't be? And if that's the case, what good is human prayer in this situation? Doesn't it kind of just make it so that anyone who prays for what God has already done is going to have his/her prayer "answered" and the others wont? I would have thought the answer would be that God would have factored human prayer into His decision making and plan for the world (not that we change God's mind, per se) but it seems like if God's creation decree already established salvation/damnation...does it matter?

When I try and ponder God's foreknowledge and my life, I have horrible doubts. I feel incredibly depressed and guilty because my mind cannot reconcile it all. I feel like Calvinism suggests that God predetermines everything and we are all following a script which makes everything seem meaningless to me (and to Dr. Craig, as he says in his answer)...but middle knowledge seems to suggest that God predetermines us by choosing which world we exist in, so it seems like it's not too different from calvinism, it's just a step higher (I would love clarification here)...and then armenianism suggests that God draws all to Him, but not all are saved, yet God does things in the world that bring people to salvation and yet does not do them to some other people, which suggests either arbitrary behavior or some form of higher knowledge.

I genuinely hate it because I have always been a relatively strong Christian but I have opened this pandoras box that I cant figure out how to shut.

I know this question was a bit "rambly" and I know that someone other than Dr. Craig is probably going to answer, which is cool, but ....I guess my final question is...How do you live life with joy? How do you not fear that maybe someday something might happen that brings doubt into your heart and then you start to wonder like "what if I'm one of those people who could never be saved and just thought I was?" I know it sounds ridiculous, but I worry myself about this kind of thing and am genuinely seeking the advice of fellow Christians on this matter. I never thought about this kind of stuff until I got into the whole foreknowledge debate. Unfortunately this kind of discussion goes way beyond the current level of understanding of the members of my church and I can't really have this kind of discourse.

Thanks very much for any and all input.

Mike

United States

Dr. craig’s response


A

While I agree with you, Mike, that Calvinism has some pretty depressing consequences, it seems to me that your distress with Molinism is largely the unnecessary result of misunderstandings on your part. So I think I have some relief to offer for your distress!

To begin with, it is inaccurate to say that on Molinism, “God picks which world is created and in that world someone I know is not saved and cannot be saved.” That person who is unsaved can be saved, and his being lost is the result of his free rejection of God’s saving grace and is contrary to God’s will for his life. On Molinism his destiny lies in his own hands. It’s not clear what you mean when you say, “in no such world would that person ever be saved.” Obviously, in no world in which the person is not saved is he saved! But there are possible worlds in which that person is saved. Perhaps you’re asking whether there are feasible worlds in which that person is saved. Molinism is neutral on that question. The Molinist could hold that that person is unsaved in every feasible world in which he exists, but that is not inherent to Molinism.

You ask, “Do we then just assume that God has created a world in which everyone who can be saved in ANY world will be saved and ANY who can't be saved, won't be?” Obviously not! Otherwise there would be an infinite number of people in the world. Really, your question seems so confused that it’s hard for me to make sense of it. Maybe you’re asking whether anyone who is unsaved in the actual world is unsaved in every feasible world; and the answer is that Molinism is neutral in that regard. Maybe you’re asking whether someone who is saved in the actual world is unsaved in some other feasible world. Again, Molinism doesn’t pronounce on this—but why not?

As for the efficacy of prayer, I agree with you that “God would have factored human prayer into His decision making and plan for the world (not that we change God's mind, per se).” God’s choice of a world may take into account the prayers people would offer in those worlds, so that prayer really does make a difference. But then, oddly, you turn around and ask if it doesn’t matter because “God's creation decree already established salvation/damnation.” But, Mike, you already said that God’s creation decree factored in those prayers, so obviously it does matter!

I have the suspicion that you’re being deceived by fatalistic thinking, failing to realize that if we were not to pray, then God would not have acted as He did. His acting as He did is a “soft” fact about the past, counterfactually dependent upon a later event. That is to say, we have the ability to act in such a way that, were we to do so, the past would be different than it is.

You say that on Molinism, “God predetermines us by choosing which world we exist in, so it seems like it's not too different from Calvinism.” It’s completely different because we have libertarian freedom in those worlds to accept or reject God’s grace. God’s choice of a world does nothing to predetermine us. Think of it this way: we are co-actualizers of the world with God. He leaves it up to us to determine whether W1 will be actual or W2 will be actual by giving us the freedom to actualize those states of affairs lying within the scope of our free choices. So if two worlds W1 and W2 are completely alike up to the moment of my accepting/rejecting God’s saving grace and if I’m saved in W1 but lost in W2, that’s because I choose to actualize one rather than the other. Don’t blame God for which world is actual!

You’re still thinking like a Calvinist, Mike, when you say, “what if I'm one of those people who could never be saved and just thought I was?” There are no such people according to Molinism! God wants every person He creates to be saved and furnishes sufficient grace to every person to be saved, if only that person will accept it. So everyone can be saved. God just knew who would freely accept His grace and who would freely reject it.

After reading your question, Mike, I think that you’re not sufficiently well-read in this area. I commend to you Four Views on Divine Providence, ed. Dennis W. Jowers (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2011).

- William Lane Craig