A Quick Refutation of Molinism

By | December 3, 2021

In my previous post, I discussed the grounding objection to Molinism and also briefly touched on another problem having to with divine aseity. In this post I want to try to cut to heart of the matter and show as simply and directly as I can that Molinism is necessarily false because it is internally inconsistent. The inconsistency arises from two of its core commitments, so this is not a problem that can be solved by merely “tweaking” the system. Here are the two commitments:

  • Creaturely libertarian freedom: some creatures in at least some indeterministic circumstances have the intrinsic power to choose among two or more alternatives. When they so choose, it is in some ultimate, buck-stopping sense up to the individual creature which of the alternatives they choose.
  • Pre-volitionality of middle knowledge (MK): for every possible free choice situation (C) that any possible creature (S) could be in and any alternatives (A or not-A) that S could have had in C, it was determinately true independently of God’s will and therefore independently of creation either that <If C then S would freely do A> or that <If C then S would freely do not-A>.

My quick and simple refutation pits these two aspects of Molinism against each other.

  1. If S is free in circumstance C to A or not-A, then it is at least partly up to S whether <If C then S would freely do A> is true or not. (At the very least S could falsify that conditional by choosing to not-A.)
  2. If Molinism is true, however, then <If C then S would freely do A> is not even partly up to S. (Because that conditional is included in God’s middle knowledge, its truth value must be determinate pre-volitionally and therefore independently of whether S even exists.)
  3. If Molinism is true, then S is not free in circumstance C to A or not-A.

In short, the middle knowledge component of Molinism conflicts with creaturely libertarian freedom. Molinism entails fatalism.

It is easy to show that the argument is logically valid. Just contrapose the first premise and you’ve got a standard hypothetical syllogism.

Some Molinists might try denying (2) by saying in Ockhamist fashion says that actual creaturely choices are explanatorily prior to the truth of MK conditionals. But this won’t work for two reasons. First, it lands the Molinist in a vicious explanatory circle: God’s MK concerning S is explanatorily prior to His creative decree → God’s creative decree is explanatorily prior to S’s existence → S’s choices are explanatorily prior to God’s MK concerning S → etc. Second, if S’s actual choices inform God’s MK, then God can’t turn around and use that MK to exercise providence over S’s actual choices. The information comes “too late” in the explanatory order for God to do anything about it. In short, Ockhamism and Molinism don’t mix. If you try to combine the two, then you gut Molinism of any providential advantages it might have had over Ockhamism (and over open theism too, for that matter).

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