Monday, April 23, 2012

God's Foreknowledge

In an earlier post I discussed the free will defense to the problem of evil.  The most popular form of this defense today is called Molinism, which is named for the 16th century Jesuit priest Luis de Molina.  This view says that God's middle knowledge, the knowledge God has in looking into the future to consider the best world, resolves the problem of evil.  Some rely on middle knowledge to say that God made the best possible world given the existence of libertarian free will.  Others rely on it to explain election and predestination, saying God foresaw who would choose him.  

Molinism itself does not establish how God elects.  Within the Roman Catholic tradition some argue that God predetermines who to elect, and then foresees in which world those persons will respond and repent. Others, including Molina, argue that God foresees who will respond with libertarian free will to the offer of grace and then actualizes the best world.  Whichever of these ones takes, the idea of foresees is a limited view of the sovereignty of God, and is a focus on soteriology rather than doxology.

One of the standard objections to Molinism is called the grounding objection.  This asks how counterfactuals about the future are "grounded" so that their truth value can be determined.  

While this is an interesting question, more relevant is affirming the sovereignty of God against views that are inconsistent with theism.  Charles Hodge, in the first volume of his "Systematic Theology," discusses the will of God and contrasts the Augustinian/Calvinist view with the Luther/Remonstrance view (this latter corresponding to Molinism).  The Lutherans and Remonstrance view says that God by an antecedent will determined to save all men, but upon seeing that not all would repent, by a subsequent will determined to save those he foresaw would repent and believe.

The Augustinian/Calvinist view says that God by an antecedent will determined the revelation of his glory, and by a consequent will determined on the creation of the world to that end.  Some are elect and others not as part of the manifestation of God's glory, and not due to anything foreseen in the person.

It is important to notice that this is not simply a difference about election, but about the purpose of God in creating.  In the Molinist/Lutheran/Remonstrance view God's purpose is focused on salvation.  In the Augustianian/Calvinist view God's purpoe is the revelation of his glory.

The focus on soteriology (theory of salvation) is an important division left over from the Reformation.  However, the cumulated wisdom of the Reformation, stated in the Westminster Confession, affirms that the purpose of God is the revelation of his glory, and this includes permitting the fall and election but is not limited to these.

What must be answered by the Molinist is why humans need to be saved in the first place. God looks into the future to see who will choose him. However, what is the basis for choosing God?  Is there a clear revelation of God?  Or is the person offered muddled and fallacious arguments in favor of God?  If the latter then unbelief cannot be culpable.  If the former, then the Molinist needs to show the rest of us (rhyme unintended) that it is indeed clear that God exists. 

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