If you’ve been following this blog, then you probably know what Molinism is. If you haven’t, you probably still know what Molinism is if you’re a reader of FreeThinking Ministries’ blog posts or if you are a big William Lane Craig fan. If you’re none of the above, see Tim Stratton’s blog post “What In The Possible Worlds Is Molinism?” for a quick introduction. In the rest of this blog post, I’ll assume you have a basic knowledge of this theological system.
An objection to Molinism I frequently receive from people is this. One person direct messaged me on Facebook asking “Does Molinism avoid the problem of double predestination? That is to say, if someone were to freely choose God in a possible world, but not in the actualized world, isn’t God responsible? I don’t think we can get around this by saying ‘well God actualized the world where the greatest number possible freely chose him”’ That doesn’t help those who would have freely chosen in another world but not in this one. And it seems to make Molinism a trolley problem.” a person in the comment section on one of my blog posts on Molinism wrote “It seems to me that for molinism to work with God’s righteous nature He would not create hypothetical people. I also do not believe he would create people who would be saved in one world but because all the pieces didn’t work as well, insert that person in a better world overall-but they would be Lost in that one.”
The objection can be put another way; since we Molinists believe that God can meticulously get his will accomplished through the free actions of human beings via use of His middle knowledge, why couldn’t God use His middle knowledge to actualize a world in which everyone is saved. Why couldn’t God use His knowledge of what we all would freely do in any given circumstance to instantiate universalism? Surely God knows what type of circumstance would invoke a free response out of each person, so why not actualize those circumstances, given that The Bible says in various places that He wants to (see Ezekiel 33:11, John 3:16 2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:4)?
Is Transworld Damnation The Solution?
Some Molinists answer this problem via Transworld Damnation. Transworld Damnation says that all people who reject Christ in the actual world would have rejected Christ in any world God actualized that included them. In any world in which, say, Adolf Hitler exists, Hitler would be damned in that world.
However, I’m not sure why transworld damnation is required to get God off the hook unless one supposes that middle knowledge is deterministic. For you see, the counterfactuals of creaturely freedom are contingent facts logically prior to God’s decision to create. The counterfactuals of creaturely freedom that exist in God’s middle knowledge could have been different, and they were different, then God’s middle knowledge would have always contained different content. Therefore, were it true that Richard Dawkins freely chose to respond to God’s grace in the actual world, circumstances in which he clearly has resisted, then there would be one more person in this feasible world among the elect.
In my blog post “Was God Fair To Judas Iscariot?” I said that “Judas has no excuse for his sins. … Judas could have went home and when Jesus was raised, he could have gone to Him and asked for His forgiveness for betraying him just as the apostle Peter asked for Christ’s forgiveness when he denied knowing Christ 3 times. Judas could not stand before God on judgment day and say ‘Well, this is your fault God because you placed me in that particular situation, knowing that I would do these awful things, therefore I bare no responsibility. This is all on you!’ No. If Judas had said that to God, God would have responded ‘No, you didn’t have to do the things that you did. You could have done things differently. I didn’t make you do those things. You did them of your own volition. You chose to commit suicide. Everything you’ve ever done in life was because you chose to make those decisions.'” And the same would hold for anyone who finds themselves condemned in the actual world. It is the case, given that Jesus died on the cross for them and sent prevenient grace to them, that they COULD have repented. God just knew they WOULD not.
The objector to Molinism here typically neglects the fact that we’re co-actualizers with God. As philosopher William Lane Craig put it “It is up to God whether we find ourselves in a world in which we are predestined, but it is up to us whether we are predestined in the world in which we find ourselves”.1
Even if Bob would have been saved in a different feasible world, He could have been saved in any world (at least the world in which Christ dies for him and The Holy Spirit sends him prevenient grace). He, therefore, has no one but himself to blame.
It May Be That Any World God Creates Has Some Who Freely Spurn Him
I think it’s at least possible (dare I say plausible) that in any world God could create where creatures have libertarian free will and God gives a resistible grace to all, then there would always be at least some who spurn God’s grace and are lost while others come to be saved. To create a world of universal salvation, God would have to (1) not give humans free will at all, which would strip them of the capacity to truly love God2, preventing them from falling into sin in the first place or (2) causally determine everyone to receive Him. or (3) Create people with free will, but create a tiny number, those who would freely be saved.
So, it may be that in any world with as many individuals as the actual world, there would be some saved and some lost. Depending on which circumstances God places people in, who belongs in which category would be different, but both categories would still exist.
There’s a difference between possible worlds and feasible worlds. Just because a world is logically possible, that doesn’t mean that it’s feasible for God to create. What if a person (we’ll call him Sam) would not under any circumstance choose a particular thing (we’ll call it A). In that case, a world where Sam chooses A freely is infeasible for God to actualize because God knows Sam would never choose A in any circumstance. Or, what if Sam would choose A in a certain circumstance, but he would not choose A in circumstance S. In that case, a world where Sam chooses A freely in circumstance S is infeasible for God to create. Although a world where Sam chooses A in circumstance T is quite feasible.
Even though it’s logically possible for there to be a world where Sam chooses A freely, it may be infeasible because that is not the direction Sam exercises his will.
In the case of salvation, and in the case where far more free agents are interacting with one another, it may very well be the case many of the circumstances God knows would be adequate to extract a free response from different individuals are non-compossible. That is to say; they can’t all be cobbled together in a single world.
Although a world where Sam chooses A in circumstance T is quite feasible. A world where Bob chooses A in the same world where Sam chooses action A in circumstance T is infeasible. For if circumstance T comes about, Sam will choose A, but Bob will refrain from choosing A. If God actualizes circumstance S, Bob will choose A, but Sam will choose B. But what if God wants Bob to choose A and for Sam to choose A. If Circumstance T negates Bob choosing A and brings about Sam choosing A, then a world where both Bob and Sam make the same choice in circumstance T is infeasible for God even though it’s logically possible. Of course, if you take out the free will factor and God steps in and makes either Bob or Sam choose what He wants, then the proposition “Bob and Sam both chose A in circumstance T” can come true. But, it would still be the case that getting Bob and Sam to freely choose A in circumstance T is infeasible.
Isn’t This Basically Unconditional Election?
In some sense, yes. Why God picked this world with these people coming to Christ instead of another world with different people coming to Christ, I do not know. What I do know is that everyone condemned in the actual world could be saved in the actual world, if only they had accepted Christ. Jesus died for them (John 3:16, 1 Timothy 2:4, 1 John 2:2, Romans 5:18), The Holy Spirit gave them prevenient grace and drew them (John 12:32), and gave them many other aids of grace to get them to repent because God is “not willing that any should perish, but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, cf. 1 Timothy 2:4). They could have repented in this world even though they didn’t, because they resisted The Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51). And to me, as long as the option to receive salvation was truly available to them, as long as they truly had the ability to accept it, I don’t see how we can indict God with being unloving or unfair.
1: William Lane Craig, Defenders Podcast: Series 1 > The Doctrine of Salvation (part 5), June 14, 2009
2: Why is libertarian free will necessary for us to genuinely love God? Love, in order to be genuine, must be freely given. People who give true love must have the freedom to choose not to love. To see the point: imagine it’s the year 3,000 where robotics have been perfected to the point where robots look, sound, and behave 100% identical to real human beings. You go down to “Robot Depot” to buy yourself a wife. You buy this android that looks as beautiful as a supermodel. Based on her looks, you already know she’s got the attractiveness quality. But what of her character? The manual she comes with tells you that you can program her personality anyway you desire. So, you program her to always do whatever you want, to always put your needs above hers, and to always laugh at your jokes, etc. You program her to never leave you for another man. You program her to say “I love you” 20 times a day. You program her to never bother you while watching football. In fact, you program her to be just as into football as you are. You program her to be the perfect wife.
Question: would any of this be meaningful to you? Would you feel loved? No. You would clearly recognize that her love for you is artificial. Every act of kindness, every display of affection, and every “I love you”, was your doing, not hers. You causally determined her to do these things for you. They did not originate within her. All of her acts of love and selflessness would be empty gestures because you caused her to do them, and she had no capability of doing differently.
Similarly, if God causally determined everyone to love Him, praise Him 24/7, to never disobey Him, and to always do good, our actions would be devoid of meaningfulness. The only reason we praise Him is that He programmed us to praise Him. The only reason we abstain from sin is that He programmed us to abstain from it. It would be the same for our “love” for one another. If God causally determines a man to love his wife, I don’t see how that would be any more meaningful than when a little girl causes a Ken doll to show love to a Barbie doll.