The Only Wise God

7 September 2007

In The Only Wise God, William Lane Craig attempts to demonstrate that human freedom and divine foreknowledge are perfectly compatible. He defends the Molinist view of divine foreknowledge to demonstrate that God can perfectly orchestrate His sovereign will through the free choices of His creatures.

One of the most common objections to classical theism is that it leaves no room for genuine human freedom. Here, we are defining human freedom in the libertarian, and not compatibilist sense. According to compatibilism, free will is compatible with determinism. Thus my actions may be completely determined by other factors (heredity, environment, upbringing, physical circumstance, mental states and desires, etc.), yet my decision to, say, vote for Hillary Clinton is free as long as there are no highly obtrusive external factors (for example, being held at gunpoint and forced to vote for Clinton) which are unduly compelling me to act.

Libertarian freedom, however, contends that genuine freedom requires alternative possibilities. On this account, I freely vote for Clinton only if, when I decide to vote, it is genuinely possible for me to either vote for Clinton or not. Causal factors alone do not determine a decision. The libertarian account of freedom strikes me as extraordinarily important both for the intelligibility of Christian doctrine as well as a sense of human meaning and worth.

In any case, the familiar question arises; if God foreknows what I will choose to do, then how can I be free?

To answer this problem, Craig first points out that this theological fatalism is simply a dressed-up version of Greek logical fatalism. Logical fatalism argues in the following form,

1.) Necessarily, if Jones is a bachelor, Jones is unmarried.
2.) Jones is a bachelor.
3.) Therefore, Jones is necessarily unmarried.

Craig points out that this argument is simply invalid, since the conclusion does not follow from the premises. All that follows from (1) and (2) is that Jones is unmarried, not that he is necessarily unmarried.

To support his anti-fatalistic analysis, Craig reviews the rejection of fatalistic reasoning in other areas of though; backward causation, time travel, paranormal studies, and Newcomb’s paradox. The Christian theist, therefore, finds herself in good company when she denies that God’s foreknowledge of the future entails a lack of human freedom.

Craig then defends a Molinist view of divine foreknowledge. According to this model, in the logical moment before the creation of the world, God knows what every possible free creature would do in any set of circumstances. Thus, for example, though it is logically possible that in a world relevantly similar to our own, Peter does not deny Christ, God cannot actualize this world because, in fact, Peter will freely decide to deny Christ three times. Of course, God could simply force Peter to not reject Christ, but then Peter is not really free.

Since God’s knowledge of these counterfactual truths is exhaustive, God can choose to create a world that works towards His purposes by creating free creatures and placing them in the appropriate circumstances so that His ultimate plans are realized. Molinism thus provides the Christian theist with a coherent account of absolute divine sovereignty without sacrificing the Biblical truth of human freedom.

Craig’s discussion of this fascinating topic is very illuminating. I think that every Christian can benefit from the content of this work, even if they disagree about its ultimate conclusions. In addition to demonstrating the fallacies of theological fatalism, The Only Wise God provides a great defense of the Molinist understanding of divine foreknowledge. This book is highly recommended for anyone who has wondered if foreknowledge and freedom can truly coexist.


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