In Molinism, God knows what a human agent would freely do if put in a given situation. God causes the agent to do something by putting him in that situation. By instantiating those circumstances. Yet the agent is still a free agent, in the libertarian sense.
Molinists think that this is a solution to the problem of evil. Since the human agent is a free agent, in the libertarian sense, that lets God off the hook.
And this is set in invidious contrast to Calvinism, which makes God the “author of sin.” Mind you, those who bandy this label rarely define their terms. But however indefinable, it must be something pretty bad.
But is Molinism successful on its own terms? Let’s consider a few illustrations.
Revenge is a popular plot device. Jealousy is a popular plot device. Indeed, both revenge and jealousy are often combined in the same drama. A jealous lover may exact revenge on his romantic rival. Both guys want the same girl, but both guys can’t have her.
Suppose Prescott loves Tiffany. Both Prescott and Tiffany come from “good” families. Prescott is healthy, wealthy, and handsome. He’s a man of prospects.
He’s not a distinguished student. But dad has made some prudent donations to Harvard, so Prescott’s future is assured.
He’s got everything going for him except for one thing: Tiffany.
Tiffany is the most eligible girl in high school. For one thing, she’s the prettiest girl in high school. And, like Prescott, she also comes from money. So this would be a perfect match. The heavenly marriage of two blue chip portfolios.
Tiffany is the head cheerleader. But unfortunately for Prescott, Tiffany has suffered a lamentable lapse in taste and good breeding. You see, she as fallen for Jake, the hunky quarterback.
Jake is a working class dude. He will be going to the state university on a football scholarship.
But Jake has an Achilles’ heel. He’s a recovering junkie. He got addicted to painkillers after an injury. As such, Jake is on probation. He still plays football, but he’s subject to random drug-testing.
Prescott sees his opening. He invites Jake to accompany some of his buddies to a night out on the town. And it just so happens that they wind up at a wild party where drugs are freely circulating.
Prescott knows that if Jake is put in that situation, he will succumb to temptation and fall off the wagon.
The day after, Prescott takes the coach aside and, in a tone of deep concern, mentions a rumor about Jake attending a party where drugs were used.
Jake tests positive. He’s expelled from school. He loses his football scholarship. And Tiffany dumps him.
If you like, we could vary the scenario a bit. Prescott knows that Jake is insanely jealous. So Prescott arranges for a mutual friend to be seen in Tiffany’s company, in what appears to be a compromising situation.
When Jake witnesses this event, he feels betrayed. He assaults his friend so badly that his friend is hospitalized.
The next day, Jake is arrested. As a result, he’s expelled from school. He loses his football scholarship. Tiffany dumps him. And he does time in the prison.
This scenario raises two questions. Is Prescott complicit in Jake’s downfall? Prescott could defend himself by pointing out that he never made him take drugs. Jake did what he wanted to do. What is more, Prescott never made him want to take drugs. Jake was the ultimate source of his own overpowering desire. To Jake only has himself to blame.
Likewise, Prescott didn’t make him assault his friend. Prescott didn’t make him insanely jealous.
Prescott merely set the stage, then stood back and let things automatically unfold of their own accord.
But even if we think Jake is blameworthy, would we say that Jake is solely to blame? Intuitively speaking, doesn’t Prescott share the blame? Indeed, aren’t we inclined to feel sorry for Jake, while we single out Prescott as the real villain in this escapade?
But it raises another question as well. Even if Jake got what he deserved, would we say that Prescott was acting in Jake’s best interests? Did Prescott show his love for Jake? Or was that a malicious thing to do?
On the face of it, Molinism is a classic case of entrapment. And even though I’ve singled out Molinism, I could construct analogous scenarios for Arminianism. By making a world with foreseeable consequences, the Arminian God is doing much the same thing.