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#223 Two Questions on Molinism

July 25, 2011

Dr. Craig,

I just recently picked up the book "Four Views on Divine Providence," and I enjoyed your contribution on Molinism. I noticed that there were a couple of arguments against molinism raised by Gregory Boyd that you did not have the opportunity to address in the book, so I wanted to give you an opportunity to respond to these objections:

1. Does Molinism amount to a form of Platonism? Boyd says:

"...I would argue that Molinism actually constitutes a form of metaphysical dualism, for it posits an eternal yet contingent reality alongside God that God neither chose nor created [namely, true counterfactuals of creaturely freedom]. This enormous body of uncreated and uncaused contingent facts has simply existed, alongside God, from all eternity as a brute metaphysical surd."

2. Does the molinist account of counterfactuals of divine freedom reinforce the so-called "grounding objection"? Boyd says:

"The reason Molinism is burdened with the grounding objection is because it rightly understands that 'would' counterfactuals undermine libertarian freedom if God is their truth-maker but fails to grasp that 'would' counterfactuals undermine libertarian freedom regardless of their truth-maker and even (per impossible) if they have no truth-maker. Curiously, Craig comes close to admitting as much when he denies that God has 'middle knowledge of how he himself would choose in any set of circumstances.' Were God to have such knowledge, Craig avers, 'It would obliterate God's freedom, since the truth of such so-called counterfactuals of divine freedom would be prior to, and hence, independent of God's decree.' But how is it that true 'would' counterfactuals of God's free activity undermine God's freedom if known prior to his decree, while true 'would' counterfactuals of our free activity do not undermine our freedom when known prior to our decree (that is, our decision)? The logic that undermines the freedom of the one undermines the freedom of the other as well."

I know you get a lot of questions, but I would really appreciate it if you could respond to these points for me. It would be a great help.



United States

Dr. craig’s response


I think that these two objections are fairly easily answered, Justin.

1. Molinism is independent of one’s views on the ontological status of propositions. Molinism holds that logically prior to His creative decree God knows, for example, that Peter would freely deny Christ under circumstances C. But so believing does not commit one to the reality of abstract objects like propositions. Such ontological commitments arise only if one (as philosophers put it) “ascends semantically” to making the claim that God knows that it is true that Peter would freely deny Christ, etc. There is no need to make this semantic ascent to talking about the truth of a proposition rather than just asserting the propositional content itself. Of course, it is natural and convenient to talk about what propositions God knows to be true, but such talk can be taken merely as a façon de parler (manner of speaking).

Notice that if Boyd’s objection were sound, then even Open Theists would be saddled with metaphysical pluralism, since they hold that logically prior to His decree God knows an infinitude of necessarily true propositions like 2+2=4; God exists; If it is raining, then it is raining, etc. Whether the propositions known by God at that stage are contingently true or necessarily true is irrelevant. The point remains that there are truths known by God prior to His creative decree, and so if such knowledge necessitates the reality of propositions, then one is stuck with metaphysical pluralism.

Finally, one could ascend semantically to talking about truth and still avoid metaphysical pluralism by adopting Conceptualism, according to which what Platonists call propositions are really thoughts in God’s mind. On that view, there are no abstract bearers of truth-value independent of God. Such a view is as open to the Molinist as anyone.

2. The second objection conflates the so-called grounding objection with a quite different concern. The grounding objection has to do with what makes counterfactuals of creaturely freedom true. If one denies that such counterfactuals need or have truth-makers, then such an objection is immediately dissolved. Boyd confuses the grounding objection with his worry that if God’s knowing counterfactuals of divine freedom prior to His decree obliterates His freedom, then His knowing counterfactuals of creaturely freedom at that point should be similarly freedom-removing.

This objection arises from a failure to understand why God cannot have knowledge of counterfactuals of divine freedom prior to His decree. It is simply because then the truth of such counterfactuals would be outside His control, just as His natural and middle knowledge are outside His control. But the truth of counterfactuals of creaturely freedom is not logically prior to creatures’ decisions and so not outside their control. The point is that whoever the knower is, he cannot have knowledge of counterfactuals of freedom about his own choices logically prior to his own choices. That’s why you could have middle knowledge only of the free decisions of others. No one could have middle knowledge of his own free decisions but only those of others.

So the fact that God cannot have middle knowledge of counterfactuals of divine freedom in no way implies that God cannot have middle knowledge of counterfactuals of creaturely freedom. What is impossible is having middle knowledge of one’s own free choices.

- William Lane Craig