Everyday epiphanies from Milton's Eden and beyond

Milton the Molinist?

For my paper I tried to focus on predestination vs. free will in Paradise Lost (you know, the easy low-hanging fruit here, no pun intended). I spent a little bit of the paper explaining the philosophical/theological theory of Molinism that attempts to bridge the gap between Arminianism (free will) and Calvinism (predestination).

Molinism was developed by Luis de Molina in the mid 16th-century and is a theory that argues three types of God knowledge: natural, free, and middle. Natural knowledge is the stuff that holds the world together (1+1=2 and other fundamentals) and encompasses all the knowledge of these things that can be known. Free knowledge is based on God’s action and what He will do (create the earth, Adam and Eve, give them free will, etc.) and includes everything that will be. Finally there is this middle knowledge that is distinctive to Molinism; it claims that God knows everything that could potentially happen in any given situation but never actually becomes reality.

Middle knowledge is important because it retains God’s omniscience and omnipotence while still allowing libertarian free will for man (our actions are really ours, no strings attached). Think of it this way: before God created the earth, He saw the infinite amount of possibilities for earth but chose one specific reality to actually create. This reality He chose included man to have free-will. Therefore, while God chose the reality we live in and therefore predestined it “before the foundation of the world” for everything to happen exactly how it would, our actions our still ours because He simply chose the reality in which we would make those specific decisions.

To summarize: everything is in God’s hands, but it is up to us to make it happen. We are the conduit to His sovereign will.

This makes sense in Paradise Lost as we see God have foreknowledge of everything that will happen while also hearing from Raphael about what could happen to Adam and Eve if they remain obedient and don’t eat the fruit; Milton himself wondered about the infinite possibilities. The question is… why did God choose the world in which man falls? As C.S. Lewis famously wrote, “Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk.”

Thoughts on Molinism?

 

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1 Comment

  1. I think this is a really interesting idea! Philosophically speaking, the idea of living in a created universe where the creator is all-knowing, all-powerful, and everywhere kind of makes the idea of free will extraordinarily complicated, so I think Molinism is quite a unique way to look at it. I wonder what Milton would’ve thought? I could definitely see him being one but I can also seeing him having conflict with the premise of Molinism, given how determinedly he believed in the concept of free will and choice. It’s an interesting thought experiment for sure; You always write such thoughtful posts.

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