Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Don't Conflate Middle Knowledge and Knowledge of Contingents of Creaturely Freedom

Alfred J. Freddoso in his lengthy introduction to his translation of Molina's "On Divine Knowledge," provides some advice that would be well taken by his fellow Molinists (p. 23):
Molina claims that infinitely many conditional future contingents obtained from eternity and that from eternity God had comprehensive knowledge of them. However -- and this is very important, though not widely appreciated -- neither of these claims distinguishes him from his Bañezian antagonists.[fn35 For an unambiguous admission of the point in question by a Bañezian, see Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., The One God (St. Louis, 1943), pp. 461-462 (n. 134) and 471. It is hard to overemphasize the importance of this point, given a marked tendency among recent writers to err by simply identifying the Molinist doctrine of middle knowledge with the claim that God has knowledge of conditional future contingents (or so-called counter-factuals of freedom). This claim, to repeat, is not a distinctively Molinist one, and, indeed, it was never in dispute in the rancorous sixteenth-century debates between Molinists and Bañezians.] What is distinctive about Molina is his controversial claim that God's knowledge of conditional future contingents is prevolitional rather than, as the Bañezians would have it, postvolitional.
I would add that Calvinists in the tradition of the real Francis Turretin agree with Bañezians on this point.  Thus, when Dan (who clearly has good taste) argues for Middle Knowledge in Exodus 3:19 by simply arguing that God shows knowledge of a conditional future contingent, or makes similar arguments as "I Told You So Molinism" from Deuteronomy 7:3-4 and 1 Kings 11:2 & 9, he is missing the point.

Rather, he is missing an argument for the distinctively Molinistic view as contrasted with a Bañezians (aka Thomistic) or Calvinistic view.  In other words, we firmly agree that God knows future contingents that are contingent on creaturely freedom (the so-called counter-factuals of freedom).  We simply affirm that God knows those future contingents postvolitionally.

Nothing in or about the cited verses suggests a prevolitional knowledge, and thus appeals to these verses continue to leave Molinism without support as to its distinctive assertions.  We recognize that some Molinists, such as William Lane Craig, are content to acknowledge that Molinism is not something taught by Scripture, and we think that all Molinists ought to join with him in this important concession.



On the difference between prevolitional and postvolitional:

Prevolitional: This term refers to God's knowledge logically prior to God's decree of what will be.
Postvolitional: This term refers to God's knowledge logically following God's decree of what will be.

In other words, Calvinists say that God knows what a man would freely do or will freely do because God has decided what they would do or will do.  Thus, to take a pedestrian example, if it is true that Dan would eat pepperoni pizza if I offered to him, that is true because God decided that it is true.  Thus, God's knowledge of this truth is post-volitional - it arises from God's deciding it to be so.  By contrast, in Molinism God does not decide whether Dan would eat pepperoni pizza if I offered it to him.  This leads to a grounding problem, which I've discussed at length elsewhere (link to discussion).

However, contrary to some apparent Molinist thinking, the Calvinistic model does not assume that God decides what would be apparent from means.  Thus, for example, God has decreed what sort of person Dan is, his cultural background, his tastes, and so forth - all of which contribute to Dan's decision to accept (or not) my offer of pepperoni pizza in our hypothetical.  And my examples of what God has decreed are far too limited: God has decreed just what pepperoni pizza will smell like and how well Dan's nose will smell that, as well as whether this discussion is making you as hungry as it is making me.

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