The recent vampire movie, Twilight, contains a cinematic element that is frequently employed: a seer, a character in the movie that can see the future. Most movies that I've seen generally treat the visions of seers in one of two ways:
1) As projections based on a current but mutable stream of events; and
2) As inevitabilities.
Twilight is a type 1 film. The seer in the film is able to see the future, but her visions are subject to change if people make different choices. Other stories employ type 2 seers. An example of such a story is the famous ancient tale of Oedipus. In that story, the king is told that his newborn son will commit various heinous acts. He tries to prevent these acts by leaving the child to death by exposure. However, despite the king's attempts to prevent the inevitable from happening (and, indeed, even in part as a result of the fact that the grown son does not know who his parents are), the seer's vision comes true.
Most people - the average Joe, if you will - would view the type 2 situation as essentially fatalistic. "X" will happen, and there is no way to prevent it from happening. Thus, the average Joe prefers the kind of seer found in Twilight, in which the future is somewhat predictable, but still subject to change at the leisure of the common man.
Now, the charge of "fatalism" to type 2 seers is not necessarily appropriate. Fatalism, properly expressed, views some force as ensuring the important thing seen in the vision, quite without regard to (or perhaps "despite") the way in which the thing comes about. Thus, one could view the chronology of a particular person as a string that is generally loose, but pinned down at one particular point. By their choices, a person can try to to avoid arriving at that particular point, but all they will do is change how they arrive at that point.
To provide a specific example, in a fatalistic outlook, a man be told that he will die in Paris. Consequently, in an attempt to prolong his life, the man may purposely never go to Paris. Nevertheless, fate will bring it about that the man will have a wreck in the French countryside and be airlifted to Paris while unconscious and then die in a Parisian hospital.
The concept of "fate" is not a Christian concept. Christianity does not posit an impersonal force that brings about certain important events essentially in isolation. Instead, Christianity describes a God, who "of him, and through him, and to him, are all things" (Romans 11:36) and "we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28) Thus, Christianity does not view history as a bunch of mostly loose strings pinned down at certain points, but as a tapestry woven together by an Almighty Artist.
Nevertheless, from the standpoint of a person simply learning the seer's vision, the two positions are interchangeable. Unless the seer explains exactly how event "x" will occur, the person listening to the vision cannot distinguish the fatalistic worldview from the Biblical worldview. We see the same thing in Biblical prophecies. For example, the Scriptures clearly teach that Christ will come again in judgment. Still, some people treat that prediction as though it were a fatalistically determined event pinned to the end of the string of history, while others view it as the final act of a most well-written play. It is important to note that either of those views is consistent with the bare prophecy itself.
Reverting for the moment to the type 1 seers, one can see that this form of prognostication is really the only kind fully consistent with view of complete human autonomy. Thus, this view (like modern Arminianism) appeals to the humanistic side of man: the side of man that likes to think that he is the master of his own destiny. It is the view, one might say, of Open Theism. Certain Open Theists would object that God can make fatalistic prognostications, because he can bring about certain outcomes he wants regardless of what happens in the near term. Nevertheless, unless the Open Theist is to deny that God himself has the same kind of autonomy they attribute to man, they must assert that any future prediction that God makes is based on the contingency that he does not decide to do otherwise.
On the other hand, both Molinists and Calvinists acknowledge that God has complete knowledge of the actual future, knowledge that is not subject to being changed. Thus, both Molinist and Calvinist seers see an inevitable future - they fall into the second category.
This may seem a bit odd. Molinism claims to hold to the autonomy of man, and asserts that it holds that man has Libertarian Free Will (LFW). Nevertheless, Molinism also is forced to acknowledge that God's omniscience includes future events, and that consequently, God has advance knowledge of what will be.
There is sometimes an attempt by proponents of Molinism to argue that God's knowledge of the future does not convert to God being a causal influence on the future. While this attempt is doubtless important to the philosophical defense of LFW, it does not address the psychological difficulty that the Average Joe has with what he perceives to be a fatalistic future.
The Average Joe is not fond of the idea that the length of his life is already known and cannot be changed, particularly if that time is short. The idea that the future is - in effect - already written, poses a psychological problem for the autonomous man. If a seer comes to him and says, "You will die in a plan crash tomorrow," you can imagine that the Average Joe would not immediately go and board a plane, but would try to get as far as possible from planes.
Of course, if the seer is a true seer, the event will come to pass. What the Average Joe has overlooked is that the seer has seen what will be, and what will be, will be. What would be more puzzling for the Average Joe is if the seer not only announced the day and means of death, but also all the events leading to that death.
A sufficiently knowledgeable seer could even tell our Average Joe whether Average Joe will like the fact that events will unfold just as the seer said. Imagine yourself in the Average Joe's shoes. One feels a bit helpless knowing what will happen, without being able to bring it about that the seer's prognostication is wrong.
Indeed, between the two extremes of simply knowing the date and manner of death, and knowing every event leading to that death, the Average Joe would really rather not know what will transpire, so that he can maintain the illusion that what will be is not a fixed concept.
One might even note that while knowledge of the day of one's death is useful for planning other things (such as when to write one's will, whether to invest in a long-term investment, or the like), having an exhaustive knowledge of the future doesn't seem to have any particular use from a planning purpose.
From a Molinist standpoint, this result is somewhat paradoxical. Knowledge of the actual future doesn't help one to plan - more importantly it doesn't even help God to plan. Molinists try to avoid the idea that God causes the actual future to be the actual future, but they cannot escape the fact that God has exhaustive knowledge of the actual future.
Calvinism has a ready explanation for this difficulty. God's exhaustive knowledge of the actual future is logically the consequence of God's decision. That is to say, God knows what the actual future is, because he planned it to be that way. The exhaustive knowledge of the actual future is as useless for God's planning purposes as it would be for us. Nevertheless, this is not problematic because the actual future is logically the result of God's plan, not the premise of God's plan.
Molinism relies on this same explanation, but attempts to evade the impact of God's deciding what the future will be, by asserting that God has a special category of knowledge known as "middle knowledge." The basic premise of middle knowledge is that God knows what a particular person would do in a particular situation, prior to God's decision as to what the future will be.
In other posts we have discussed (for example, here) and will discuss how "middle knowledge" is not only an unbiblical concept, but also an incoherent philosophical concept. Suffice to say, however, for the purposes of this article, that whether "middle knowledge" is correct, Molinism does not and cannot escape the "Average Joe" concept of fatalism, since now - after the decree - God has an exhaustive knowledge of the future.
Molinism (like Calvinism) does not permit type 1 seers, and consequently movies like Twilight should be recognized as portraying a mistaken (albeit) popular view of "free will" in contrast either to LFW of Molinism or the simple Calvinistic model of free will.