How Can God Know the Future and there be Free Will

This is another common objection raised by non-theists. It is a complex question but one that I think is best answered with Molinism

First, let me begin by saying that Molinism is unnecessary to solve this problem. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy has an exceptional article explaining how arguments which attempt to show a contradiction between free will and divine foreknowledge commit a fallacy in modal logic. However, this is quite technical and can be difficult for many to follow. It was for me until I really dug down and worked with modal logic and its symbolic form. I think there is an easier explanation if one takes Molinism to be true.

Briefly, Molinism is the belief that God’s omniscience includes knowledge of “subjunctive conditionals of creaturely freedom”. What are “subjunctive conditionals of creaturely freedom”? Well, they look something like this…

  • If Sally would go to the party tonight, then she would freely choose to drink too much.
  • If Johnny sees the car wreck, then he would freely choose to run to save the victims

Basically, it is a claim that if a person were in some situation, they would freely behave in one way or another. This type of knowledge is also called “Middle Knowledge” as it is neither God’s natural knowledge (mathematical and logical truths, for example) which he possesses before creation, nor his free knowledge of the creation he manifests. Rather, it sits between these two types of knowledge. Now, I will not get into arguments here as to whether Middle Knowledge exists. While I wouldn’t say that it is terribly controversial, it is disputed.

So, how does Middle Knowledge or Molinism answer this question about Divine Foreknowledge and Free Will? Well, one could imagine God could create an infinite number of possible universes. However, God desires to choose universes that have free will, since free will is essential to moral significance (if we don’t have free will, then there is no moral responsibility, we are just glorified puppets).

Let’s delineate all worlds from those that have free will as possible worlds vs. feasible worlds. We can now imagine God surveying all feasible worlds that he could create (worlds that are consistent with free creatures). He can then select to create a world that meets his particular desires, knowing all the outcomes, but where every decision made by a person in that world is a choice freely made. In actualizing this world, God has complete foreknowledge, in fact complete providence, but at the same time every act by creatures is freely made. The decision of Jon in this world to rob a bank is freely made, but God also knew this would happen.

Thus, we can unravel the mystery of Free Will and Divine Foreknowledge with Molinism.

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