24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2003
Flint's rigorous, scholarly defense of the Molinist account of Divine Providence is one of the more welcome additions to the latter-day debate over this tendentious issue. Flint has given us a book brimming over with rigorous argument, served in a style of writing that is much more readable than one could ever expect in such a densely philosophical work.
Flint's work will serve as an excellent introduction to Molinism for the patient layman unfamiliar with the literature. It also goes a long way in explicating why Molinists believe as they do, and will force philosophers in other traditions to sharpen their arguments against Molinism. One other contribution to the current debate on free will and divine providence that Flint could have made, but didn't, is also significant: He sends no new fur a-flying. His tone is warm and genial, even huorous at times, thoughout. Thank you Prof. Flint!
In the end, I don't think Prof. Flint ultimately succeeds in his task of justifying Molinism. Despite his rigorous argumentation, I still find highly implausible the idea that we can somehow be responsible for the truth or falsehood of "counterfactuals of freedom" that were true or false billions of years before we were born. (Or true from all eternity, or whatever) Only a completely airtight argument could convince me of this, and as Flint himself admits, his argument is not completely airtight. Flint says in a couple of places that Molinism has may have its problems, but it is still the theory of Divine Providence that he embraces because he finds the other theories' problems to be so much worse. I think this is a judgement call on Prof. Flint's part (and I think he may agree with me) and, unfortunately, I have a different judgement. And so, still, after reading Flint's fine book, I am not a Molinist.
Nevertheless, "Divine Providence" is worth your time if you are interested in the current free will/providence debate. This book might not bring you into the Molinist camp either, but it will deepen your understanding of the Molinist position, and maybe even deepen your understanding of your own position.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on November 10, 2008
In "Divine Providence: The Molinist Account", Catholic theologian Thomas Flint endeavors to explicate and defend a particular view of God's foreknowledge and providence. The theory, which takes its title from the 16th century Jesuit theologian Luis de Molina, attempts to reconcile the notions of divine providence and creaturely freedom.
Molinism contends that there are three logical moments of God's knowledge. In the first moment, God knows all logical possibilities. This includes every logically possible choice that every possible free agent could make in every possible situation. This conceptual stage of God's knowledge is known as natural knowledge. In the second moment, God knows all contingent truths that God does not determine Himself. Such truths include the free choices of agents endowed with free will. For example, a truth such as "If Adam is placed in the garden, he will freely sin" is included in this category. Herein lies the crucial notion of middle knowledge.
Middle knowledge does two important things. First of all, it limits the range of worlds God can create. For example, God may desire to create a world in which Adam is in the garden and Adam freely refrains from sinning. Yet, if Adam freely decides to sin when placed in the garden, then God cannot actualize such a world. Surely, He could override Adam's free will and force him to avoid sinning. But, then we wouldn't be talking about the same world. The second important function of middle knowledge is closely related to the first. This knowledge aids God in His decision-making and providential control of the world. For, God knows infallibly what every possible free creature would do in every possible circumstance. Thus, He can so create the world to have the desired effects by creating the right free creatures in the right physical circumstances to guarantee that His plans are achieved. Using this information, God freely decides to create the actual world. This brings us to the third stage of God's knowledge- what is known as free knowledge. This knowledge consists of all the facts about the actual world- past, present, and future. It is named `free knowledge' because it is based upon God's free creative decision.
Molinism is an extremely attractive account of providence for the Christian, argues Flint, because it allows us the possibility of upholding both a strong account of providence and a libertarian conception of free will. Other accounts tend to eliminate or severely restrict these key notions. For example, the open theism model strongly affirms libertarian free will. Yet, by denying that God has exhaustive foreknowledge of the future, this account greatly restricts the notion of God's providence. The Thomist account upholds a strong view of providence by affirming that God determines the truth value of all contingent facts. Yet, such a view must sacrifice any (plausible) account of libertarian freedom.
Flint separates the book into three sections. The first section is an explication of the Molinist account, where he explains in some detail the specific tenets and implications of the view. In the second section, Flint undertakes a detailed defense of the theory. His defense includes critiques of the three primary alternatives to Molinism, as well as responses to the main objections lodged against the account. This includes detailed discussions of the arguments offered by William Hasker and Robert Adams- perhaps the foremost contemporary critics of the Molinist account of providence.
Having responded to the serious objections leveled against it, Flint proceeds to examine some practical applications of the Molinist account in the third section. He applies the concept of middle knowledge to the issues of papal infallibility, prophecy, unanswered prayer, and retrospective prayer. In each case, Flint contends that the doctrine of middle knowledge can help us gain important insight into these doctrines. The issues here get a bit technical at times, but the discussion is certainly fruitful, and it demonstrates that Molinism is a powerful account that can prove very useful for understanding the Christian faith.
On the whole, I heartily recommend "Divine Providence". Flint's witty writing style and clever examples make the book fun to read. Nevertheless, the discussion is high-level and proves to be intellectually challenging. For the Christian who has struggled with the issue of divine foreknowledge and human freedom, Flint's book should be a compelling read.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 26, 2011
This book should be in the shelve of everyone who wants to understand Molinism. Other important books on Molinism is Craig's The Only Wise God, Keathley's Salvation and Sovereignty and Luis de Molina's On Divine Foreknowlegde.
If you are interested in Molinism, start with Craig's book.
A side note, William Lane Craig also has a lot of readable papers on Molinism in his website - just google his name :)
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2012
Flint's writing styles is amazingly readable, many philosophy texts end up unnecessarily dense. Philosophically speaking, it was rigorous and provided a well-thought-out defense of Molinism. This was my introduction to Molinism, & I was quite able to follow without further research & a little help from others more well-versed than I.
As it has been almost a year since I read this text, much of the specifics have escaped my memory. However, there are a few things I do remember. As one might expect, Flint is particularly interested in Catholic doctrines - many of his examples are drawn from the Catholic tradition. Of course, plenty of this examples are more denominationally neutral, ensuring that his conclusions have versatility.
You'll have to judge his arguments for yourself - I would hate to deprive anyone of that joy!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 16, 2014
I just finished my BA in Theology and had to write a 40 page thesis. My topic incorporated Molinism and so I bought this book to use as one of my sources as suggest by William Lane Craig. I was not let down. Although some of the material can be dense, Flint does a great job of plotting out the Molinist view of Divine providence. His comparison to other types of Divine providence is well executed with a plethora of quotes from documents from such traditions such as the Westminster confession. After establishing the Molinist account and comparing it to others, he ends in a very practical way with the application. How does this related to prayer? prophecy? papal infallibility? etc... Although I'm not of the catholic tradition, I still hold to this view because I find it to be the most biblical with affirming God's sovereignty while leaving mankind's freewill still in tact.
If you haven't looked into Molinism at all, I'd start of by reading some of William Lane Craig's work on his site ReasonableFaith.org
on December 17, 2013
I really enjoyed this book, and found it both philosophically and theologically rich. I can't say that I buy the Molinist solution, but Flint does an impressive job of defending it from some objections, and much of what he says is interesting even if you don't buy his thesis. Of particular note is the section in which he applies the doctrine, and shows that it is not as straightforward as it may at first appear, but that one can get some interesting results by working through it. I spoke to one person who was planning on skipping that section, but I really recommend against it. There has been, of course, much ink spilled on Molinism since this book was published, but it offers a good introduction to what I find one of the most intriguing questions in philosophical theology. It should also be noted that on the whole, I think that the book is very readable even for a non-philosopher. There are some sections that are particularly detailed, but Flint does a good job, on the whole, of leading the reader through his defense of the doctrine. I highly recommend this for anyone interested in how we can reconcile God's providence with human responsibility.
on December 8, 2014
Divine Providence has always been an interest of mine. For years I've been questioned: Are you a Calvinist or an Arminianism when it comes to this issue. This is a new, refreshing take on the idea that allows for creaturely freedom and keeps God's sovereignty left intact. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in the topic of divine providence, because it is a great theological and philosophical work that takes the bible honestly and seriously in dealing with seemingly contradictory passages. It is a bit difficult for the average church goer, but with concentration and patience, I believe this to be a very readable work authored by one of the greatest biblical scholars of our time.
on March 12, 2015
This is a great book with a lot of technical detail, but be advised - this book is primarily written to discuss and defend Molinism from the perspective of the in-house debate between Molinists and Thomists. If you're an evangelical/Protestant interested in Molinism, this is still a good resource but some of the material may be unfamiliar.