By: John Limanto
1. Forekowledge Entails Fatalism
For one to endorse this argument, it would roughly proceed the way that Nelson Pike had introduced it since 2001, which had taken roots back in 1965. The scenario Pike comes across is of a man named Jones who is about to mow the lawn on one Saturday. Supposing that God knows that Jones will do it, then how can we suppose that Jones could have acted differently? In short, the objection says that definite foreknowledge entails that no one has the ability to do otherwise because the future is logically necessary. Hence, either foreknowledge must be rejected or libertarian free will (LFW) that Molinism so insists must be rejected.
At first glance, it should strike one to note that this is not an argument against Molinism exclusively. Rather, it is an argument against all theists who hold to both LFW and exhaustive foreknowledge of God. This fact alone should already raise eyebrows for the easy victory that it claims to have. Our detractor has committed the so-called modal fallacy. To commit a modal fallacy is to deduce status of necessities and possibilities inappropriately to propositions. In order to make the argument proceed, our detractor would have to involve an equivalent of the following three premises:
1. Necessarily, God knows all true propositions.
2. X is a true proposition.
3. Therefore, necessarily, God knows X.
This fallacy can be more extensively discussed than the space permits me. The bottom line is this: our detractors want to insist that the future is logically necessary—that no logically possible condition could have changed. Our detractors want to arrive at this conclusion from the premise that God necessarily knows every and all true propositions. I’m not here to dispute the premise; I’m here to dispute the conclusion. Just because, necessarily, God knows all true propositions, the content of those propositions don’t have to be necessary likewise. Molinists may avoid this problem by saying that God may know that Jones will mow the lawn on Saturday. Yet, Jones is free to have done otherwise. In all the worlds in which he did, God would have known differently likewise!
2. Libertarianism is Luck!
I shall not be the last to say that this objection would require volumes of treatments. Be that as it may, the trump card of the Calvinists is the objection that a free will known as libertarianism that Molinism insists on is unintelligible because it would entail freedom being random in libertarian free agents. To begin with, we shall define LFW simpliciter. In bare-boned terms, libertarianism is simply the conjunction of the following three propositions:
1) Free will is incompatible with determinism
2) Free will exists
3) Determinism is false
The bottom line is that the type of freedom stipulated by Molinists is the kind where freedom is not compatible with determinism.
Peter van Inwagen famously quips that this argument should be called the ‘Mind’ argument for how often it appeared in the philosophical journal article, ‘Mind,’ of the 1980s. This, in itself, should already be a proof of how prevalent this argument against LFW even in the sophisticated philosophical literature. As van Inwagen pointed out himself, the major folly of this argument is in its equivocating between randomness and indeterminacy. It is true—as per the determinists—that libertarian free actions would have to be undetermined to be free from causal determinism. However, to jump to the conclusion that this is luck or randomness seems to be a stretch. If God were to have the choice to choose between a range of options which are all consistent with his nature, then it is obvious that he would possess an undetermined will. Does this mean that God’s action would be random? Well no! Quite the contrary, it would be motivated by the reasons albeit not causally determined by them.
3. Molinism is not in the Bible
This is a remarkable objection. By far, it is the most celebrated bastard ‘brainchild’ of the Reformed camp. White often quips that all these talks of possible worlds and feasibilities in the Molinist scheme cannot be found in the Bible and hence, we must not adopt it on the basis of a principle akin to the Reformation’s beloved sola Scriptura.
A positive case for Molinism supported by the Bible is that the Bible often talks about the choices to do otherwise. To cite two examples, Deuteronomy 30:11 would be a prime verse which contains God’s advice to the Israelites: “Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.” The famous pastoral message of 1 Corinthians 10:13 hits this point as well: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” Molinists take these verses at face value to mean that men have genuine ability to have done otherwise through a series of options available to him in his fallen state—even if all of the options are sinful choices. A strong affirmation of the Bible is also exhaustive divine providence. Indeed, Ephesians 1:11 talks about God’s total control over everything to bring his purposes.
The tension between these two verses are evident: how may we reconcile them? Molinism, indeed, is not a concept explicitly expounded in the Bible, but neither does a lot of doctrines posited by theologians: different models of Trinitarianisms, hypostatic union, closed canon, etc. The point is not to undercut the genuine sense in which these doctrines may be supported by Scripture. Rather, the point is to show the importance of reconciling Biblical concepts into one coherent system. We take this reconciliation, in itself, an evidence for a doctrine from the Bible.
4. What Grounding is there for Molinism?
This idea is the hardest to chew on because of its technicality and the overwhelming support that the so-called ‘grounding objection’ has had from popular academics. To simplify the matter, the grounding objection says that middle knowledge cannot be true because there is nothing to ‘make’ these knowledge true. How one may interpret the word ‘make’ is up to the grounding objector. Jennifer Jensen has helpfully categorized between two senses of the word ‘make’: the ‘in-virtue-of’ or the ‘causal’ sense. In the former, a proposition is true ‘in-virtue-of’ when there is an exemplification of that proposition as a concrete object. Thus, the proposition <Cars exist> is made true in virtue of the existence of cars. In the case of middle knowledge, the objection says that there is nothing in virtue of the knowledge in middle knowledge to make the knowledge true for they are true prior to the agents’ existence. The causal sense of ‘make’ likewise has had its technical formulations with the advent of its most ardent defenders: William Hasker and Robert M. Adams.
In any case, the grounding objection needs to be scrutinized in terms of the plausibility of the principle it posits. The knowledge posited by the ‘in-virtue-of’ grounding objections can be answered by bringing exceptions to the principle. Propositions such as the following have always been suspect to this controversial principle:
(1) Ravens are black
(2) Unicorns do not exist.
Both of these propositions have been known to circumvent the principle while no one would deny their truths.
The grounding objection, numbered as the principal objection to Molinism by the Molinist Thomas P. Flint, remains a hotly debated objection. However, it seems that the following retort by Craig sums its best:
What is ironic about this situation is not merely the fact that the many Molinist responses to the grounding objection remain largely ignored or unrefuted in the literature, nor yet again the fact that Molinist solutions to the objection tend to be far more sophisticated philosophically than the almost casual statements of the objection itself; rather the irony is that this allegedly powerful objection has virtually never been articulated or defended in any depth by its advocates.
 Pike, Nelson. 2001. God and Timelessness. Wipf & Stock.
 Kane, Robert. 2005. A Contemporary Introduction to Free Will. New York: Oxford University Press. 32-33
 Determinism here is defined as the thesis that all events or creaturely actions of a world is sufficiently caused by either prior states of affairs or divine determination.
 Jensen, Jennifer Lynn. 2008. The Grounding Objection to Molinism. PhD Thesis, Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame.
 I have personally written an academic exploration of this topic in a paper called: “Exploring the Grounding Objection: From Garrigou-Lagrange to Hasker.” https://www.academia.edu/37060747/Exploring_the_Grounding_Objection_to_Molinism_From_Garrigou-Lagrange_to_Hasker
 Craig, William Lane. 2001. "Middle Knowledge, Truth–Makers, and the "Grounding Objection."FaithandPhilosophy18(3):337-352. https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/scholarly-writings/divine-omniscience/middle-knowledge-truth-makers-and-the-grounding-objection/.
Augustine opens up book 11 of the confessions by declaring that eternity is the Lords. He asks two important questions about God’s relationship to time. If eternity is the Lords, can he be ignorant of what we will say to him or does he only know what happens at the moment in time when it occurs? Augustine ends chapter one by noting that the mercy of the Lord endures forever. Does his mercy last forever because God is eternal and timeless? How could it last forever if God only knows what happens at each moment of time?
In Chapter 2, Augustine explains that his time is too precious to waste so he has the burning desire to mediate in the Law of the Lord and reflect upon his knowledge of it, including what he does not know about it. Why pray to God if he already knows what you will pray for and even what you would pray for? The answer lies in the fact that we are temporal beings and need the help of him who created time. God knows our thoughts, intentions, and actions before we even produce such things. It is wise to pray to God who formed us in the womb, since he knows what we need and what we don’t. As beings stuck in time, we need to seek the help of the one who is in control of time, we do this by prayer and confessing our sins to him.
Chapters 3-4 explain that truth comes from God and not those who deliver the truth. Not even from Moses or from any other spoken language. Truth is universal throughout all people and languages. We should ask for the forgiveness of our sins to the one who knows all truth and grants truth to the imago dei’s. God gives us the power to understand these words and to speak them just like he did with Moses, The Prophets, and those who deliver the truth. All created things have an extrinsic beauty from their creation, but their creator has the most intrinsic value since he is the originator of all created things and beyond their limitations. All created things are temporal while the creator is timeless and creates all temporal things.
Chapters 5-10 reflect on the questions, how did God make the Heavens and the Earth? Did God use an instrument like the craftsman does? Surely not, since he created all material things and souls that can create through Aristotle’s four types of causes. The craftsman is the sufficient cause that turns the material cause into the formal cause with the final cause of the mind. Meaning that humans form material things into different substances with the mind and the tools they possess. Does God do this with the Heavens and the Earth? God is the efficient cause of the universe, but did not need any material cause to do this since the beginning of the universe implies the beginning of all material things? This is known as creatio ex nihilo, creation out of nothing. How did God do this? Augustine ponders how God spoke the universe into existence. Was it the same voice that said “This is my beloved Son?” Was it eternally spoken since his words are eternal? God is the author of his word since it does have a beginning to explain to us the need we have for him and why we confess to him in the first place.
An important question is brought up, what was God doing before creation? If God willed something to happen before creation, then would it have come into existence? If God willed nothing previously, then why did he not remain eternally in this state? Doesn’t an act of creation require time? If God’s will is part of his substance, then should it not also be eternal? How can a personal being be timeless anyway? These are pondering questions that reflect the argument Augustine represents in chapter 10. One response he notes is, that God was preparing Hell for those who ask these questions. Augustine argues that the man who poses this does not understand God since they put him in the box of past and future events. Augustine ultimately says he does not know, but he knows that if God would have created before creation, then that would have been creation. Before any creature existed, there was not a creature that was created. God is present at all places at all times that he creates. He also argues that there was no time before time since God created all times and ages, so it’s meaningless to ask what was God doing before he created since there was no time. This brings up an even more difficult question, if there was no time before creation, then how could God create something before time existed?
Augustine in chapter 15 describes what we call The A-Theory of time, where the past has gone out of existence, the present is now, but the future is not in existence. Can we say the future exists since every new moment is the present? He turns this into an argument against definite periods of time, but yet says in chapter 16 that we do experience definite periods of time since we are temporal. If the past and future do not exist, then how can we measure time? If the future does not exist, then how can the prophets tell us about it? Augustine is not posing these questions against God, but rather asking them to learn and teach about God.
There is one view of time that says that experience of time is an illusion of human consciousness and that we are going through a block of events that all exist simultaneously. We experience this illusion of flowing time that make things really seem to go out of existence and come into existence, but B theory says otherwise. Augustine describes this in chapters 18-21 as he explains that if the future and past exist as the same time, then they are present rather than past and future. All time is present, but through our mind we perceive things from an A-theory perspective. Augustine begs God and confesses his desire to resolve all these questions he has proposed in chapter 22.
Augustine discusses whether time is measured by the heavenly bodies of the sun and moon or by something else. Time is measured by change of how matter and space interact. He wonders what time is, but time is change between material things that inhabit space. We know this from general relativity that shows space, matter, and time are co-relative. While Augustine didn’t have modern day science, he argued that time is not measured by the heavenly bodies since the Sun stood still for Joshua, but yet time did occur since a battle was fought. He also ponders whether time is measured by bodies in movement, but from that we can still not know what time is. Augustine confesses in chapter 25, that he does not understand time or that he does not know how to describe something that is known to him. He confesses this to the Lord, who does have the answer. He uses examples of syllables, sounds, and reciting psalms of describing how we measure instances of time. He sees this as an extension of time that the mind reflects on in three ways. We reflect on things from the past, what we experience now, and what we look forward to. Chapter 26-28 are repetitions of him struggling with the idea of past and future going out of existence and how we can even measure time because of this.
God’s relationship to time is important to discuss and how it relates to the nature of time. One view says that God is timeless and is in a static state. Another view says that God exists throughout all time, but for this to work time must be eternal. Otherwise, God begins to exist if time has a beginning. B-Theory would work best for this model since it would be plausible for time to be eternal in a block system. A final view is that time is part of God’s nature just like omnipotence is, so time would always exist along with God in an eternal state. Similar to the second option, but not the same since time isn’t separate from the being of God. The timeless view of God struggles with the question brought up before, can God create time before it exists? Especially, if God is in a static state where if he creates, then he is not timeless. The second view is unbiblical since the very first verse of the Bible implies the beginning of time, meaning that God begins to exists so he cannot create the Heavens and the Earths. The third view says God is changing, which would be difficult to reconcile with the Trinity, unless you are a modalist, which is heresy according to Augustine and many other church fathers. I propose that before God creates, he is timeless. When time begins to exist, God becomes temporal since he exists at all times. He exists in both the Heavens and the Earth. To answer whether God can create time before time exists, the answer relies on a third option. The creation of time is simultaneous with the creative act. Just like how a bowling bowl’s effect on a cushion are simultaneous, the same is for God when he creates the universe.
Augustine urges those who ask these questions in a challenging way to seek God since they do not understand him. He rejoices upon God’s knowledge of all time, both past, present, and futures times. He confesses to God who knows him better than himself. This applies to all of us since we are temporal beings that seek help from the creator of all times. Time is dependent upon God’s will to create it and so are we. All things are created by him, so before anything was created there was the Holy Trinity that needs not to create anything, but created all times as a gift from the loving relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
When coming across something new, we tend to think that as knowledge. Learning something that you didn’t know before. However, the issue of knowledge goes way beyond learning something that you didn’t pick up on before. The question, how do you know in the first place is an epistemic question that is begged by the typical thinking of knowledge. One can take a pragmatic approach that argues that it’s useless to talk about knowledge so you should just believe that which is useful. One could argue that I am a thinking thing so it’s impossible to not want to know. The point is, that knowledge is essential to the human experience because we are philosophical creatures that seek to know. This is why it’s important to understand what knowledge is and what it entails.
Belief is key to understanding how knowledge is obtained. “There is agreement among most analytic philosophers that belief is (roughly) a dispositional, affirmative attitude towards a proposition or state of affairs.” When we hear a proposition, we must investigate it with proper logical inference and with no prior belief bias. This is the first step for obtaining rational belief that can be held with certainty. Beliefs come with different levels of certainty, but it’s not something you can just calculate with mathematics. Belief aim is the standard for what constitutes as a belief you ought to have. This gets into ethics of belief and the norms of belief. The belief aim for knowledge is to seek the truth. To have knowledge is to know what corresponds to reality. Pragmatic aim of truth would be to believe that which is most useful, which will not get the truth, hence no knowledge. The start of this is to set aside our emotions and have intellectual humility and honesty.
Truth should be the norm of belief to obtain knowledge, meaning “that any belief that does not also count as knowledge is impermissible or irrational or vicious or defective”. Without this principle, science, math, social studies, history, and any other epistemological topics are not teaching truth or knowledge. For those who go to universities or colleges, your money would be a waste of time and you might as well sell used cars. With this in mind, it’s important to use our mind since it is the tool that we use to form our beliefs. As we perceive something, then we form beliefs about it. If I see a car in front of me with its brake lights on, then I will form a belief from the accident if I don’t hit my brakes. All humorous examples aside, something to note that a belief is “a propositional attitude, then, is the mental state of having some attitude, stance, take, or opinion about a proposition or about the potential state of affairs in which that proposition is true.”[i] Most beliefs concerning conscious thought will be the gateway to knowledge. We have to seriously reflect on our beliefs and test them out as to see if they are true. This is why it’s important to get your epistemic methodologies set in the right path so that your beliefs will be aimed at truth. When it’s aimed at truth, then you will have true propositions, which are knowledge claims.
Knowledge is considered to be a species of belief by many philosophers. You must first believe something to see it as true and to test it as true. It starts with a knowing venture, which is a pathway to wanting to know something particular. If I set out to learn how to ride a bike, then I set out on how to know the process at which how to do it. This is of course an example of procedural knowledge. Semantic or declarative knowledge has to do with epistemology, which is the study of knowledge itself. These are more propositional statements, like Jesus of Nazareth existed. What we see in post-modernity is that anything that is not procedural knowledge is subjective to the mind of the believer. Meaning, that declarative statements of truth are seen as not objective, but subjective.
Knowledge at its core is justified true belief. You must first believe in order to know something. The distinction between procedural knowledge and declarative knowledge has been made already. Knowledge is more than just facts and information. It’s not 100% certainty since it stems from beliefs which have presuppositions. Also, different epistemologies have different norms at getting at truth, but in their field topics. For example, science deals with inductive reasoning which cannot have 100% about anything. Unless you want to say that knowledge cannot come from science, then you have to realize that knowledge is not 100%, but certainty. There is scientific knowledge that is justified true belief in the methodology of the scientific method. There are things that we can know for absolute certainty like there are no married bachelors or one ended sticks. Arguments from mathematics and definitions are things that can be demonstrated as proofs and not evidences. The reasoning for this are the axioms of logic and mathematics that are justified starting points since epistemology starts with the axioms of logic. These propositions are indubitable, meaning no counter arguments can show them to be false, hence not doubt worthy. There is another kind of knowledge as well, that is to know someone. To know someone is not a propositional statement or brute face, but a personal experience. Those who are married have this kind of knowledge at the center of their epistemological relationship.
Knowledge starts with beliefs since we are philosophical creatures that reflect on what we think and perceive. There are different types of knowledge that are based on different axioms and methodologies. All knowledge claims can be based on absolute certainty, certainty, or confidence. It is belief that corresponds to reality and is objective for all to justifiably believe in. We must submit to the truth and let it guide our beliefs to be true so they will become knowledge.