Friday, January 18, 2019

Molinism and prophecy

Here’s a curious puzzle. Every theist—including the Molinist and the Open Theist—will presumably agree that this conditional is true:

  1. If God were to announce that Trump will freely refrain from tweeting tomorrow, then Trump would freely refrain from tweeting tomorrow.

After all, both presumably accept that God wouldn’t affirm what he didn’t know to be the case.

However, plainly, the truth of (1) isn’t enough to justify God in announcing that Trump will freely refrain from tweeting tomorrow. For, plainly, something like Molinist middle knowledge or mere foreknowledge or theistic compatibilism would be needed for God to be justified in issuing the prophecy. Something like (1) that holds independently of theories of divine foreknowledge is not going to do the trick.

Suppose now Molinism is true. It seems to be one of the advantages of Molinism that it can explain prophecy. But what relevant proposition beyond (1) does God know in the Molinist case that justifies his announcement?

Here is one possibility:

  1. Trump will freely refrain from tweeting tomorrow.

But God’s knowing (2) is insufficient to justify God’s announcement. For imagine that the reason why Trump will refrain from tweeting tomorrow is that Trump likes to surprise people and nobody predicted that he wouldn’t tweet tomorrow. Then (2) can still be true—but if that’s the reason why (2) is true, then the truth of (2) won’t justify God in announcing that Trump won’t tweet.

I think what we want to say is that on Molinism what justifies God’s announcement is something like this:

  1. Claim (1) holds not just because God’s announcements are always true.

But now here is the problem. If claim (1) holds not just because God’s announcements are always true, there must be some further explanation for why claim (1) is true other than just because God’s announcements are always true. But what is that explanation? Presumably it lies in the truth of some Molinist conditional. But it seems that the most relevant Molinist conditional is (1) itself, and that just won’t do.

Here’s another way of putting the point. The Molinist’s best response to the grounding objection is to say that Molinist conditionals are true but ungrounded. Such a Molinist has to say that the only reason (1) is ever true is that God doesn’t make untrue announcements. But, plausibly, if the only reason (1) is true is that God doesn’t make untrue announcements, then God isn’t justified in issuing the announcement. So God is never justified in issuing the announcement.

If I were a Molinist, I would say that God cannot make prophecies that end up being explanatorily prior to the prophesied actions. But if one makes that restriction, one might as well accept mere foreknowledge.


Walter Van den Acker said...


How would mere foreknowledge solve the problem?
Suppose God, using his mere foreknowledge sees Trump not tweeting.
What happens if he tells Trump?
If Trump has libertarian free will, then he might try to prove God wrong and decide to tweet tomorrow.
But that means God does not have mere foreknowlegde after all.
The bottom line is, I think, that it is impossible to have perfect foreknwoledge of a libertarian free choice. That would lead to open theism, I guess.

Alexander R Pruss said...

See the paper I link to. The mere foreknowledge solution restricts instances where an announcement can be issued to cases where the announcement is causally isolated from the action. Thus, God can't tell Trump. But he could tell someone who is causally isolated from Trump.

Heavenly Philosophy said...

Alexander R Pruss:
Yeah, but that fails to account for some instances. Like, God wants to choose a woman that will be sinless to be born of. Will that choice leave His knowledge open if it is explanatorily prior to Her being sinless throughout her entire life? Also, you would have to deny the secrets of Fatima, which I personally don't have a problem doing. Sr. Lucia says, "How can we ever be grateful enough to our kind heavenly Mother, who had already prepared us by promising, in the first Apparition, to take us to heaven." So, someone who is certainly not causally isolated was told about the event.

Walter Van den Acker said...

I cannot read the paper, but it seems to me that the fact that God can't tell Trump means that God can't have foreknowledge of what Trump will do.

'Merely foreknowledge' is only possible is there is something to 'merely foreknow', IOW if from some point of view (God's) the foretold events are present(or past). God would be like a time-traveller arriving from the future. If he tells you you will eat ice-cream tomorrow, then, unless there are seperate time-lines, you will eat ice-cream tomorrow. The fact that you are causally involved in the action should not make any difference if there is only one time-line. If there are more- time-lines, the time-traveller cannot predict anything about the other time-line.

Hence, it is impossible to have foreknowledge of a libertarian free choice.

BTW, you wouldn't only have to deny the secrets of fatima, you would also have to deny that God (Jesus) foretold Peter that he was going to betray Him.

Alexander R Pruss said...

The case of Jesus telling Peter that he was going to betray him is a case where Peter forgot the prophecy at the time of his free actions. He only remembered afterwards, and wept. The forgetting ensures that there is no causal loop, where Peter's actions would be influenced by his memory of the prophecy, which prophecy in turn would be infuenced by Peter's action.

Heavenly Philosophy said...

Alexander R Pruss:
So is the logical order of God like this? God creates, God knows Peter will deny Him, God reveals to Peter that He will deny Him. That seems strange. He knows some parts of creation logically before others.

How would you allow God's providential choice to choose a sinless woman to be His mother? Wouldn't that choice possibly affect whether or not she sins?

I've been thinking about theological compatibilism, but it's probably incompatible with the Council of Trent and Cum Occasione, so it's off-limits. I'm really struggling with understanding which view of divine providence/foreknowledge is correct.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Since creation has a logical order, it is not that surprising that God's knowledge of it does too.

I don't think God chose Mary *because* she was going to be sinless.

Heavenly Philosophy said...

Alexander R Pruss:
How would you respond to statements like these?
From the Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Ludwig Ott
God, by His Eternal Resolve of Will, has predetermined certain men to eternal blessedness. (De fide.)

This doctrine is proposed by the Ordinary and General Teaching of the Church as a truth of Revelation. The doctrinal definitions of the Council of Trent presuppose it . . . The reality of Predestination is clearly attested to in Rom 8:29 et seq: . . . cf. Mt 25:34, Jn 10:27 et seq., Acts 13:48, Eph 1:4 et seq. . . . Predestination is a part of the Eternal Divine Plan of Providence.

God, by an Eternal Resolve of His Will, predestines certain men, on account of their foreseen sins, to eternal rejection. (De fide.)

The reality of Reprobation is not formally defined, but it is the general teaching of the Church. The Synod of Valence (855) teaches: fatemur praedestinationem impiorum ad mortem (D 322). It is declared in Mt. 25:41: “Depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels,” and by Rom. 9:22: “Vessels of wrath, fitted for destruction.

Honestly, I don't know if what Ludwig Ott is saying what the Church teaches is actually what the Church teaches.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Well, on the damnation side, notice that it is explicitly said to be in light of the foreseen sins. So the foreseen sins come first in the order of explanation, and God's decree comes afterwards, even though of course God is outside of time.

Heavenly Philosophy said...

Yeah, you could definitely interpret it in an Arminian sense. Do you think Catholicism is compatible with compatibilism? Robert Koons said he didn't believe in a radical libertarianism.
I guess I just have some worries with canons four and five of the sixth session of the Council of Trent on justification and Cum Occasione.