Is Middle Knowledge Biblical? An Explanation

"Among the more academic and influential contemporary advocates of Molinism are Alvin Plantinga and William Lane Craig (who has proposed that Molinism is the key to a Calvinist-Arminian rapprochement)....If you have not yet encountered it, there is a good chance that either you or one of the members of your church will. " - Ref21

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DLCreed's picture

Please post the second part when it comes out.

TylerR's picture

Editor

It's not biblical! Heh.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Mark_Smith's picture

TylerR wrote:

It's not biblical! Heh.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I'll be watching for it.

Maybe in the mean time I'll get caught up and actually understand it.

Edit... well, I think I get the gist of it. It's not clear to me why a form of knowledge on God's part would a problem. If Molinism is incorrect, it's not going to be because it accepts that God know's all the hypothetical contingencies that are possible in worlds containing beings who make choices. It would have to be for other reasons.

The article accepts that in both medieval and reformed theology, God's knowledge of counterfactuals is accepted.

So this isn't really about "middle knowledge" at all. It's about the nature of God's decree... and the relationship between His knowledge of all possibilities (including counterfactuals) and the choices made by human beings.

I suspect that in the end the core problem remains, if not unsolvable, certainly very difficult to solve with anything like a high level of confidence.

For those interested in reading further. You might find these of use...

TylerR's picture

Editor

If I remember correctly, WLC discusses Molinism at length in his Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview.  I always found it to be a transparent attempt to get around the idea of a sovereign decree. Psalm 32 is enough for me to reject it!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

There's a bit of it in his On Guard also, though he doesn't try to develop it much there. Different focus.

But, as for "transparent attempt to get around..."  I see it a bit differently. Though I haven't found William Lane Craig and many others persuasive on this point, what I've seen in many of them is a drive to hold to views that cohere. So there's a conviction that all truth that really is truth agrees with all other truth, and so it ought to be possible to get it all to harmonize. So they're passionate about harmonizing. I respect that. I just don't think, so far, that they have accomplished that.

(Of course, we all fall into the trap of attempting to harmonize our understanding of A with our understanding of B, and as a result, create disharmony with C... so the unity of truth is still not satisfied with that kind of "solution.")

TylerR's picture

Editor

To clarify, I don't think WLC (et al) are trying to be devious or have bad motives. I do believe WLC doesn't like Reformed theology, and that involves the idea of a decree. In his debate with Chris Hitchens, he asked WLC what form of Christianity he considered false. WLC mentioned Calvinism.

WLC is a formidable thinker. I just believe his philosophical bent drives his approach, rather than the Scriptures. I like him a lot. I just think he's too philosophical and divorced from the Scriptures. Compare he and JMac on Ben Shapiro's sunday special shows. Light and day on the approach!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Yes, agree that WLC is closer to "philosophy first" than to "theology first" or "Scripture first." Also enjoy and appreciate his intellectual vigor, though on that score, I have found Plantinga much more interesting. I haven't read Plantinga's thoughts on "middle knowledge," though, so if anyone can tell me which of his books that's in, it'll save me some legwork... and I'll get it on my reading list.

dmyers's picture

I recall hearing R.C. Sproul say at a conference (might have been John Piper -- they were both speakers -- but I think it was Sproul):  "God knows all contingencies, but He knows nothing contingently."

I only read the Ref21 article once, so may be posing a stupid question:  Doesn't Molinism founder (also?  regardless?) on pervasive depravity?  In other words, if none of us on our own will ever have the inclination or ability to turn to God for salvation, there are no alternative worlds/histories in which I "choose" to be saved. Isn't middle knowledge irrelevant as a result?

Additional question:  To the extent Molinism is an effort to absolve God of responsibility for all those people who remain unsaved, doesn't it fail at that as well?  If God knows/knew of an alternative world/history in which I would have chosen to be saved, but He then decrees a world/history where I won't choose to be saved, doesn't He still have some level of responsibility for my doom because He actually could have chosen the world/history where I'd be saved?

ScottS's picture

While there are obviously those here who disgree, I find views like middle-knowledge (there are a few varieties of it, I think) closer to what the Bible expresses is truth than either hard determinism or full, libertarian freedom.

The author of that article is attempting to frame the discussion in a way favorable to his view, but a way I believe needs to be rejected. To make God's foreknowledge be only His "visionary knowledge" is essentially making foreknowledge equate to predestination; but those two are distinct words and distinct ideas. God does predestine certain things, but He also foreknows certain things.

To equate the words robs God of His majesty of pre-knowing what creatures apart from Himself will do. And that is the crux of one issue with how Rennie frames the problem in the article.

First, we must maintain that the foundation of all of God's knowledge is His own essence and does not depend upon any thing other than Himself.

God created (i.e. He made creatures distinct, separate, apart from Himself); this was a predetermined choice on His part. So while I can agree that the "foundation of all of God's knowledge is His own essence," that does not mean to me that all His knowledge itself is independent of creatures that He chose to make apart from Himself. To me, the foundation of God's knowledge is His capacity to "know," that is what is His essence. His knowledge is of all reality, of which by God's choosing, part of that reality is distinct from God; if those realities distinct from God are not part of that knowledge, then to be His knowledge, all reality would be part of the essence of God, and we end up with pantheism. So His knowledge must "depend upon" things "other than Himself" because that knowledge is grounded in the reality of the many things "other" than God Himself.

Now in creating creatures distinct from Himself, some of those creatures God determined to give choices to (real choices, as in more than one direction is possible to choose). God controls the choices allowed, so He stays sovereign. So His foreknowledge is knowing beforehand (before even creating) what the creatures will choose of the choices God gives them. Then God controls the results of the choices He allows His creatures, so He stays sovereign. God can give choice, but maintain control. By Rennie trying to limit God's foreknowledge to be without reference to creatures' choices, he eliminates any true concept of foreknowledge, and reduces everything to a hard determinism. 

Scott Smith, Ph.D.

The goal now, the destiny to come, holiness like God—
Gen 1:27, Lev 19:2, 1 Pet 1:15-16