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What is Molinism?

JBTM_11-1_Spring_2014The new issue of the Journal of Baptist Theology & Ministry[1] includes the transcript of a conversation between William Lane Craig, a prominent Christian philosopher and advocate of Molinism, and Paul Helm, a notable Christian historian and advocate of Calvinism. The purpose of the conversation was for them to advocate for their respective theological views and interact with one another. It is a fascinating exchange. During the conversation, Craig explains the lesser-known view he represents:

“Molinism derives its name from Louis de Molina, who was a sixteenth-century Jesuit counter-Reformer. Unfortunately, Molina thought the central point of the Protestant Reformation was the denial of human libertarian freedom in favor of God’s being the all-determining reality. And so what Molina was constrained to do was to offer an alternative to Luther and Calvin that would affirm the same sort of sovereign, divine control that Paul spoke of a moment ago, but without denying libertarian freedom. The view that Molina enunciated came to be called Molinism, after his name.”

Also,

“The key to understanding Molinism is Molina’s doctrine of what he called middle knowledge. This is God’s knowledge of everything that would happen under various circumstances, and he called it middle knowledge because it is in between, so to speak, God’s natural knowledge, which is His knowledge of everything that could happen, and His free knowledge, which is His knowledge of everything that will happen. So, in between everything that could happen and everything that will happen is everything that would happen under different circumstances. The doctrine of middle knowledge says that God knows what you would have freely done if you had been in the Apostle Peter’s shoes. He knows whether you would have denied Christ three times or whether you would have been faithful or what. And so the key to Molina’s doctrine of providence is that by means of His middle knowledge God knows what free agents would freely do in any set of freedom-permitting circumstances that God might put them in. So, by creating those circumstances and putting the agents in them, God then, so to speak, takes hands off and He lets the agent freely choose what he wants but He knows how that agent would choose.”

Click here to read the entire conversation between Craig and Helm.


[1] The Journal of Baptist Theology & Ministry is published online, semiannually by the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry, which is a research institute of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. This issue was back-dated Spring 2014, but released in January 2015.

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