Who was Luis de Molina?

Luis de Molina was arguably one of the most important theological dissidents in Roman Catholicism, alongside such greats as John Wycliffe and Martin Luther. What he presented was a revolutionary philosophical approach to understanding the relationship between divine providence and creaturely free will. Molina’s unwavering devotion to his revolutionary theological ideas never faltered – even as he faced seemingly certain excommunication by the Catholic church in 1600. Ultimately, the Spanish Jesuit would die believing all his work was for naught. In some sense, his legacy was unfairly snuffed out by controversy, as the torch of puritanical dissidence was passed onto the more radical Jansenists. All this despite Pope Innocent VIII’s commission regarding grace ultimately ruling Molinism not heretical in 1607. Without the spokesman for this doctrine on divine grace alive, however, the history of revelations regarding providence would slant toward such recusants as the Remonstrants and Calvinsits. Molina’s conception of middle knowledge fits neither of these categories, yet has experienced a resurgence in recent times.

What are Counterfactuals?

Understood in theology, counterfactuals (or “counterfactuals of creaturely freedom) represent real options a free creature would have taken if he or she were placed in a certain circumstance. God’s knowledge of these counterfactuals is understood by the Molinist as existing logically prior to the creative decree – in between God’s natural knowledge and free knowledge. Thus, this “middle knowledge” informs God of the decisions creatures would make if placed in circumstances, and allows him to actualize a world wherein the sum of freely made creaturely decisions ultimately allows God to accomplish His purposes. As William Lane Craig defines it, middle knowledge best synthesizes divine providence with human free will.

How can one differentiate between the middle knowledge of Molina and Arminius?

Thelogians of both schools would recognize the natural knowledge of God – His knowledge of necessary truths preceding other considerations or truths logically. His free knowledge, then, entails the divine creative decree, which is an outpouring of contingent truths (truths actualized by an act of the will). Thus, when God created the universe, it was an act of free will. Similarly, humans have been endowed with free will, and thus make contingent decisions. According to Arminianism, God first created this world (thus setting events into motion) and subsequently used His “middle knowledge” to decipher the actions of humans. God would then have to work around these inevitable actions and decisions placed out of His reach (for unlike in Calvinism, God has no control over what free actions His creatures will make). According to Luis de Molina, however, God’s middle knowledge is logically prior to his free knowledge. Therefore, He actualized one feasible world, wherein he could work in, around, and through the free actions of humans. Important here is that God selected one world out of many, taking into account these actions, circumstances, and so forth. One might further speculate that he actualized this world because it maximized his own glory, whereas a world with one sinless creature or 50 trillion sinners may not have. Regardless, this middle knowledge allows God complete control over all events that would transpire (i.e. sovereignty) without shirking or limiting the free will of man.

What is molinism?

Molinism is a theological system encompassing the “middle knowledge view” of Luis de Molina. The concept of divine middle knowledge itself is not exclusively linked to Molina – Jacob Arminius (founder of Arminianism) purported a notably opposing doctrine using this same term. Rather, the placement of God’s middle knowledge was significant to Molina as he sought to differentiate between his colleague, Arminius. Although Molinism is notably a doctrine addressing human free will and divine sovereignty, the overall school of thought sparked by Molina extends into a distingusshable thologcial system. Just as Calvinism and Arminianism have found grounding as systematic methods for Christian thought and apologetics in one main theologian, so also has Molinism been accepted as a school of thought and basis for theology proper, anthropology, and more.

What is middle knowledge?

middle knowledge between God’s natural knowledge and free knowledge. The former consciousness is of all necessary truths and thus is known essentially by God. Free knowledge, the knowledge of His own will, is postvolitional and consists of his consciousness of metaphysically contingent truths. Thus, middle knowledge exists logically between these two, since it entails God’s knowledge of future contingents, counterfactuals, and counterfactuals of creaturely freedom. According to His middle knowledge, God was able to view a gambit of possible worlds and thus actualized one world most conducive to His purposes.