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BOOK REVIEWS 663 Divine Providence: The Molinist Account. By THOMAS P. FLINf. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1998. Pp. 258. $35.00 (cloth). ISBN 0-80143450 -5. When one pulls too hard on one end of the cord in a parka or a windbreaker , the other will often disappear into the lining of the garment. The problem of reconciling divine providence and human freedom is much like that, for making too strong an assertion about either position will immediately bring about a problem in the other area. In Divine Providence: The MolinistAccountThomas P. Flint deftly makes the case for the position taken by the sixteenth-century Jesuit Luis de Molina. Although this reviewer continues to find himself more sympathetic with the Thomistic solution than with the recourse to middle knowledge offered by his order-brother Molina, it is only fair to praise a well-reported account of the whole debate and a temperately, argued counterposition. After rehearsing the twin bases of Molinism in terms of providence and freedom, Flint spends the greater portion of the book defending the Molinist account against the classical Thomistic objections as well as a new set of objections raised by various contemporary philosophers; he then provides four applications of the Molinist account, specifically in the areas of papal infallibility, prophecy, unanswered prayers, and praying for things to have happened. As Flint sets up the problem, a strong notion of divine providence necessarily involves seeing God as perfect in knowledge, love, and power and as exhibiting detailed control over creation by knowingly and lovingly directing each and every event that occurs for every creature, so that all creatures will be appropriately directed toward their divinely ordained ends. Flint explains his interest in working out the philosophical problems that emerge on this topic for believers who want to profess their Christian faith in an orthodox manner. As soon as it is clear that such an understanding of providence includes holding that God has (1) complete and certain knowledge (some might call it foreknowledge , but Flint explicitly refrains from any claims about God's relation to time) of what is still in the future for a human being, and (2) real sovereignty over the world (and not some deistic remove from the world once created), the gravity of the problem becomes clear. In particular, a person interested in preserving the standard and orthodox view of God (rather than, say, the imperfect but evolving God of process thought, or any view that makes God other than perfectly loving, truly omnipotent, or genuinely omniscient) will need to face the problem of human liberty. This will mean keeping in mind that God is not just "a good guesser" or the sort of knower who has to "wait and see what happens" but one who does know everything and who is deeply involved in every aspect of creation and not merely some sort of general or high-level administrator who is in charge of the big picture but leaves all the specific details for subordinates to work out. Flint's exposition of the Molinist resolution of the problem in terms of God's middle knowledge is delineated in the context of the philosophical need 664 BOOK REVIEWS to articulate a correlative account of human freedom. Since hard determinism (the denial of any freedom in human action) is so much at odds with our ordinary views of human agency, let alone with standard views about the necessary conditions for moral responsibility held by religious faith, Flint proposes that one must accept either some version of what has come to be known as the libertarian view of freedom (the view that there are some human actions that do not have ultimate external causes) or some version of what has been called the compatibilist view (the view that there is no incompatibility between freedom and complete determination, for some of our actions are free but all of our actions are ultimately determined externally). Judging that both strategies are philosophically possible and that the evidence for neither the one nor the other is conclusive, Flint notes that the ordinary believer who is philosophically attentive will want, if at all possible, to take a libertarian position...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 663-666
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-05
Open Access
No
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