"The most famous distinctive in Molinism is its affirmation that God has middle knowledge (scienta media). Molinism holds that God’s knowledge consists of three logical moments. These “moments” of knowledge are not to be thought of as chronological; rather they are to be understood as “logical.” In other words, one moment does not come before another moment in time, rather one moment is logically prior to the other moments. The Molinist differentiates between three different moments of knowledge which are respectively called natural knowledge, middle knowledge and free knowledge."
- Natural Knowledge – This is God’s knowledge of all necessary and all possible truths. In this “moment” God knows every possible combination of causes and effects. He also knows all the truths of logic and all moral truths.
- Middle Knowledge – This is God’s knowledge of what any free creature would do in any given circumstance, also known as counterfactual knowledge. It is also sometimes stated as God's knowledge of the truth of subjunctive conditionals.
- Free Knowledge – This is God’s knowledge of what He freely decided to create. God’s free knowledge is His knowledge of the actual world as it is.
... Postulating a middle knowledge and placing it between God's knowledge of necessary truths and God's creative decree is crucial to the Molinist scheme. By placing middle knowledge (and thus counterfactuals) before the creation decree, God conceivably allows for man's freedom in the libertarian sense. Placing this middle knowledge logically after necessary truths but before the creation decree also allows God to survey all feasible worlds and decide which world to actualize.
Libertarian free will
Libertarian free will means that our choices are free from the determination or constraints of human nature and free from any predetermination by God. All "free will theists" hold that libertarian freedom is essential for moral responsibility, for if our choice is determined or caused by anything, including our own desires, they reason, it cannot properly be called a free choice. Libertarian freedom is, therefore, the freedom to act contrary to one's nature, predisposition and greatest desires. Responsibility, in this view, always means that one could have done otherwise.
As the desert father said to a monk, you are maybe not free to not desire a woman after looking, but you are free not to look. Or as Pope St Pius X said, you are when lying free to either shut up or speak otherwise and tell the truth.
Let us now be clear, acting contrary to one's nature is usually not praiseworthy. Whenever we sin, we wound our nature.
What Adam's sin did to it was not to replace a godly nature with a sin-nature opposed to it, but to degrade a godly nature so as to make it sinful.
It is in the nature of sex to be fruitful. Whenever anyone wanks, uses a condom in heterosexual context or choses a homosexual context, he is acting against his nature, not in accordance with it. It may be "according to the flesh", or "according to the desires of the flesh", but that is like a cancer is according to biology, but not according to normal human anatomy.
We are usually free to analyse habits and at least on most occasions to break bad ones (my recent habit of too much sugar is hard to break due to all the people trying to promote it because they think they are helping me break an old bad habit of too much alcohol, a habit I neither used to have nor have acquired, other than in some myth-lore among certain Puritans)
I do not think libertarian free will means freedom to act against one's greatest desire consistently - there is a freedom to act against it by inconsistency, but if consistently acted against, a desire cannot be or have remained the greatest one.
Now, the article poses objections.
- Causality — If causes are understood as conditions prior to an effect that guarantee an effect, and all events have causes, then it follows that all events were preceded by conditions that guaranteed those events. But this is the same as saying all events are determined. Since the choices of humans are events, it follows that the choices of humans are determined.
- Responsibility — Rather than salvage human responsibility, some maintain that libertarian freedom destroys it. If our choices have no causes, in what sense are they our choices? Is it any more agreeable to reason to hold humans responsible for choices they didn't cause than to hold them responsible for choices that were caused and thus determined?
- God's Freedom — Some have maintained libertarian freedom on the basis that all things done of necessity are not worthy of praise or blame. But what are we to think of God's actions? We believe that God does good, and that God cannot do evil. Does God's moral inability to do evil make His good actions unpraiseworthy? If God must do good, is He then unpraiseworthy? Some have said that God must do good because God's nature determines His choices. God is still free, some say, because God can act in accordance with His choices, but God's choices are determined by His nature. If God's choices are determined, and God is worthy of praise, this is a clear case, some say, of actions that are determined and thus necessary while also being morally praiseworthy.
Now, on the contrary, a choice is primarily a cause. And God gave us free will to impart on us (as well as on angels) the dignity of being causes.
Let's answer the objections.
"If causes are understood as conditions prior to an effect that guarantee an effect, and all events have causes, then it follows that all events were preceded by conditions that guaranteed those events. But this is the same as saying all events are determined. Since the choices of humans are events, it follows that the choices of humans are determined."
This first of all hammers that choices are effect - while they are mainly causes. The first cause for everything else being of course God's choices, but this choice of His allowing us to make choices of our own. You can say that it is kind of a miracle that anything or anyone other than God can be a cause, can truly chose, but we say God has made this miracle, if such it be.
Second, some effects are so of many causes, and some collaborations of events can have more than one effect. And some effects can be causing of their own continuation.
A fire needs three causes : a combustible, oxygen, sufficient heat. As to heat, a fire also produces it, and so perpetuates one of the necessary causes, as long as the other two are provided and the heat effect of fire is not combatted by a cold effect from something else.
A sudoku constraint per se leaves many possibilities left and even a clear number of sudoku constraints can leave one sudoku with double or triple or twelvefold solutions, if it is made that way.
And third, this denies the art of God's providence which is able to divide our labours and desires and occasions for knowledge and remembrance of past such so as to make free choices very possible.
"If our choices have no causes, in what sense are they our choices? Is it any more agreeable to reason to hold humans responsible for choices they didn't cause than to hold them responsible for choices that were caused and thus determined?"
This is a false dichotomy, since our choices are neither completely uncaused causes, like God's choices or goodness, nor simply effects rather than causes.
"God is still free, some say, because God can act in accordance with His choices, but God's choices are determined by His nature. If God's choices are determined, and God is worthy of praise, this is a clear case, some say, of actions that are determined and thus necessary while also being morally praiseworthy."
For one thing, though God cannot commit evil, God can act in contrary manners about one person, as about Job the forty years when the Devil tempted him and about Job after it. So, the capacity of acting in contrary fashion actually does contribute to the praises He gets from us (when saved for eternity in Heaven or when saved in mortal life from a calamity), or we get from Him, if He says "Come, ye blessed of my Father".
Being self determined is not incompatible with freedom. God is self determined in so far as His nature is totally good. But being determined by one's nature is not quite as straightforward with man. Man before the final confirmation of his choices is by nature "capax boni et mali", capable of chosing both good and evil.
This means that man needs to act well according to his nature the occasion for chosing so freely. In Heaven, we shall, when and if we get there, no longer be able to chose evil. In Hell, those there are no longer able to chose good.
So, unlike God, man has a need of a story in which he has occasion to chose.
This story is guaranteed by God to include sufficient freedom for our choices making a difference.
Now, what is Middle Knowledge like? I think being a novelist gives a hint. I think some persons who occur in novels are person God could have created and didn't - and allowed some novelist to create. And that person, in each case, and in each case according to its mode of real or novelistic or dreamt or envisaged about oneself or about other, is a person with free choice, since created in the image of God.
But since novelists cannot confer real consciousness on their characters, they are inferior and God has done more, He has chosen to show He can live in a story as well as being author of it. It is called "Incarnation" and involved certain moments not so comfortable, like 40 days without food in desert or Gethsemane or 3 hours on the Cross. Not to mentions very many provocations from Pharisees who were very annoying, and to show His friendship surviving some friends being annoying too (Luke 24:25, Matthew 6:30, Matthew 8:26, Matthew 16:8).
Hans Georg Lundahl
St Jerome's Burial Day