I’ve had an interesting exchange on a BioLogos thread about C S Lewis with its author, David Williams, and some others. The most striking comment would take us way off-topic if I raised it there, and that was Beaglelady’s one-liner (which she’s used before, actually) concerning the argument about how much evolution actualises God’s purposes, for example in producing mankind as we are rather than as a mollusc:
Clearly, God wanted a white male fundagelicall!
It’s very tempting to analyse this sentence critically and point out that the the first four words are regrettably irreverent, the fifth racist, the sixth sexist, the first half of the seventh what Jim Packer described as a “theological swearword” back in the fifties (and Alvin Plantinga demolishes at greater length here), and the last part mis-spelled. It’s even more remarkable that her remark was made to defend the views of Kenneth Miller, a white male, though a Catholic rather than a “fundagelicall”. Seldom in the field of human conflict was so much said in so few words. I think Winston Churchill said that. It would have been sad to have let such an achievement go completely unrecognised.
More worthy of lengthy discussion was a tangential remark by David Williams, which discussion would again take us off-topic on BioLogos:
For instance, one might take a Molinist tack and say that God chose to actualize the possible world which He foresaw as producing homo sapiens via evolution.
As I understand it, the main purpose of Molinism was to attempt a via media between Augustinian and Arminian views of free will. Notice that David has been unconsciously drawn into the TE habit of applying free-will arguments to evolution, essentially to explain contingency, even though he doesn’t embrace the “freedom of creation” ideas to any degree. It only shows how easy it is to pick up bad habits in this field.
Yet it was a throwaway remark, and I don’t want to read anything at all about David’s own position into it. But it is worth looking at what the Molinist view described actually contributes theologically to creation doctrine. I think the answer is “less than you might suppose.”
First let’s look at some assumptions in the statement. The first is that the randomness in creation is genuinely random, with respect to God. That is, he doesn’t decree the outcome of, say, a mutational event – he plays dice with the Universe. Interestingly he first has to create “chance” to do it.
Second, though, he has perfect foresight of every outcome throughout time and space, so that he can choose which alternative Universe to actualise and so achieve his purposes.
Thirdly, we’ll add the orthodox truth that God sustains, and is therefore the primary cause of, every event – in this context, he is the one who tosses the coins as well as underpinning the lawlike events. Molinism is not Deism.
So let’s envisage God at his drawing board before creation began, viewing the blueprints of possible Universes #1 through #10^n. We can’t really say he “foresees” the results, as none of them actually exists except in his imagination. It’s like my deciding which of half a dozen play manuscripts on my desk I will put into production – not one actually exists in reality until I make that decision.
So what kind of decision is he making? “Shall I create, rule and sustain in being this possible Universe, or shall I create, rule and sustain in being that possible Universe? Given that my purposes for creation are these (a through n), only that particular blueprint will do the job. I will create it, and therefore I foresee that all I purpose will come to pass.”
Take one single example of how that works out. He decides to create the one Universe in which the random mutations he’s empowering and sustaining throw a “six” rather than a “five” on 14th August, 543,827BC, in order that a key component of the evolutionary path to man arises. But how does that actually differ from his decreeing from eternity, “Let a six be thrown at that event”? Well, you may say, the indeterminacy of “chance” was maintained. Well, OK – though as I said he had to actualise chance at the same moment he actualised the creation… only that’s the very moment when he didn‘t actualise every possible outcome of chance except those he determined should occur in order to fulfil his will. And the difference is what, exactly? It sounds like sovereign creation to me.
I’ll go beyond my self-imposed brief and throw in Molinist free-will as well for nothing, on the undertanding that you don’t drag it into the discussion of the non-rational creation, in which “free-will” is a meaningless concept (at least, if it’s not, not a single person I’ve asked about it in the last two years has ever given me any idea of what they mean by it).
So the problem to be addressed is that if God decrees, or infallibly foresees, that Judas will be damned, then Judas does not have freedom to choose. So the Molinists say that there were, before the creation, an infinite number of blueprints in which Judas actually freely chooses the path of life. Presumably in some of those potential Universes God’s prophets foretell his sainthood, whilst others stick to the current prophetic Scriptures and God ends up getting it wrong. If I were God I wouldn’t actualise those, but modern scholars seem to think he did, so I suppose they’re not Molinists. But in any case, Judas retains his free choice … except that none of the other free choices he might have made ever got off the drawing board in God’s mind and will, the only actual Judas that God created, and sustained in existence, being the one who was foretold to betray Jesus, and actually did so.
Do you see where I’m going with this?