Quick Challenge Answer: What is Molinism?

When I first heard the word Molinism, I half thought it was some weird inside joke for Christian philosophers. It’s a word that everyone pretends to know what it means that they casually drop in a conversation but never actually explain, right? As it turns out, Molinism is a fairly detailed theory about God’s omniscient knowledge and how it relates with human free will. If God controls everything, do we still have a choice? What is Molinism? Let me break this down for you as best as I can.

The Origins

Molina

Molinism gets its name from Luis de Molina, a 16th century Spanish Jesuit priest. The challenge has been raised for a very long time, how can both God be sovereign, and humans have free will? If nothing happens without God ordaining it, wouldn’t that mean we have no choice in the matter? Molina’s theory pushed back on some of the reformed theologians of the day like Luther and Calvin by proposing a sort of middle ground. Molinism is all about the kind of knowledge God has.

What Does God Know?

Previously, theologians had understood God as having two kinds of knowledge. God’s natural or necessary knowledge would include everything about the world and what could possibly happen. God’s free knowledge would include everything that will happen. Molinism proposes that God has a middle knowledge of everything that could happen under different circumstances. At any time, in any circumstance, what else could have happened? I don’t know how my life would be different if I studied economics instead of communication, but God does. Moreover, Molinism would argue that God knows how things would be different if I was born in India instead of America, or if I was a fisherman in Galilee who Jesus asked to follow him. Molinism believes that, much like Dr. Strange in the Avengers, God knows every outcome and what it takes to win.

Why Does this Matter?

This middle knowledge allows for an important distinction. It means that God is sovereign because he put the pieces in place, knowing how they would react, and what circumstances needed to be created for his plan. However, this also means that we still have the freedom to make our own decisions. Though he did not cause me to sit down and write about Molinism, he knew that under the circumstances that I would choose to write about Molinism.

This would mean we are still accountable for our own decisions, so I better not mess this post up. This understanding of how we will react also plays a part in objections about those born in other cultures. Would I still be a Christian if I was born in Iran? At least theoretically, God knows the answer and ordained that I be born here instead. Thus he can still control history while we still have freedom. Whether or not this theory is true, or even necessary, is still being discussed and debated, but it is good to have a basic understanding of it.

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