I am tempted by the claim that open theism is in a better position to respond to the problem of evil than is Molinism. Consider some particular evil e1 that has occurred at a particular time t2. A group of innocent German Jews is gunned down before a mass grave they have been forced to dig themselves, let’s say. On the open view, God knew at some time before t2 that e1 would occur. But God did not know that e1 would occur from time immemorial. It won’t be as if God has built e1 into the basic structure of the world, as it appears God does on Molinism. Intuitively, it seems to be easier to defend God’s failure to prevent e1 given that God becomes aware of its forthcoming occurrence at t1 rather than prior to the creation of the world. That, at least, is how it has seemed to me.
Against this intuitive appeal comes the “Molinist Retort”. The basic idea behind it is that whatever resources are available to the open theist to justify God’s permission of e1 at t1 are equally available to the molinist to justify God’s permission of it from before the creation of the world. Presumably the open theist will have to appeal to some kind of balancing of goods contingent upon free will over against the amount and gruesomeness of evils parasitic upon the goods. The molinist can claim to make appeal to these self-same considerations. I think this retort fails.
The Molinist Retort:
MR: There is no good reason to think that the justifications for permitting some evil (like e1) that are available to the Open God are not also available to the Molinist God. (I take David Hunt and Michaels Rea and Murray to have advanced MR).
My claim is that the Molinist retort fails to appreciate a difference between actual and merely possible values. The decision of the Molinist God to create a world containing e1 is based on a weighing of merely possible values. For, prior to God’s initial creative act, the only world-bound values are merely possible. By contrast, the Open God who discovers at t1 that e1 is impending at t2 must calculate with actual values of an existing world. Whereas the Molinist God, upon discovering the inevitability of e1 for a certain creative possibility, could have chosen simply not to actualize this world, the Open God could not. Of course, the open God could annihilate the world at t1. But in doing so, the Open God would thereby be destroying actual goods. This would be worse than merely failing to actualize them.
Thus, it is not true that the Molinist and the Openist will be able to make appeal to the same considerations in their efforts to justify God’s permission of e1. To see this, notice that the Openist will offer different justifications for God’s decision to create the world, on the one hand, and the decision to permit e1, on the other. The decision to create will have to be justified by appeal to considerations of possible goods. But permitting e1 will be at least partly justified in terms of the actual value of existing individuals plus further contingent possible goods. For the Molinist, however, the justification for permitting e1 will simply be an interpolation from considerations that justify the actualization or creation of the entire world.
The Molinist Retort is, then, strictly false. The justifications for permitting some evil that are available to the Open God are not also available to the Molinist God. Still, it is an open question whether or not this difference makes a difference. We must go on to ask if the fact that the Openist must appeal to actual values inhering in the world after creation generates an advantage in responding to the problem of evil. Does this axiological difference in the available resources make it more plausible that the Openist rather than the Molinist will be able to close the explanatory gap highlighted by the existence of evil?
The answer, I think, is yes. But I assume that many denizens of this blog will disagree.