What Is Molinism?

Molinism, also known as middle knowledge, was invented by the Catholic theologian Luis de Molina in response to the theology of John Calvin. Middle knowledge is the philosophical concept that God has a special kind of knowledge that falls between his free and natural knowledge. Free knowledge is God’s knowledge of all that will actually take place in history because he freely chose to create the world this way. Natural knowledge is God’s necessary knowledge of all possible worlds or events that could take place and includes his free knowledge. Middle knowledge is God’s knowledge of what free creatures would do given an infinite number of circumstances. This is not the same as God’s counterfactual knowledge which is God’s knowledge of all that could hypothetically take place since this is part of his natural knowledge.

In light of this, proponents of middle knowledge argue that the future God has ordained is the one in which the maximum number of people come to salvation without violating their free will. God could not have ordained a future where more people are saved and still allow for man to have libertarian free will. Some argue that those who die among the unevangelized never would have accepted the gospel even if it had been presented to them. There was no possible world in which these individuals would have accepted the gospel of their own free will and therefore God allowed them to live and die without hearing it.

While middle knowledge may appear to be a middle path between Calvinism and Arminianism, it is still dependent on the concept of man’s free will after the fall in contrast to Calvinism’s teaching on the bondage of man’s will because of sin. This is another example of why getting the doctrine of the depravity of fallen man right is essential for a correct understanding of salvation. Fallen man before salvation does not have libertarian free will, but is a slave to his sins (John 8:34). After regeneration, his desires are changed so that he no longer desires sin in the same way he did before conversion. After glorification, it is impossible for him to desire sin because his will is now perfectly conformed to the will of God. Man’s choices are determined by his set of desires or will and therefore no man after the fall has a will that is truly free because it is always being acted on by the effects of the fall or the Holy Spirit.

The irony of middle knowledge is that while it was developed by a Catholic theologian, very few Catholics believe in it. On the other hand, many Protestants have embraced it as a way to respond to the arguments of Calvinism because they don’t want to believe that the future is foreordained by the free will of God (Eph 1:11). May we all get our theology from the Bible instead of philosophical speculation.

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