What is middle knowledge and is it biblical?

by Matt Slick
6/16/2017
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According to Molinism, Middle Knowledge is the knowledge that God has about any free will choice any person might make at any time, in any circumstance. This means that God's knowledge about people is contingent on human free will choices in a libertarian sense. This is called middle knowledge because it is in between what is called God's natural knowledge and free knowledge. Natural knowledge is where God knows all things that are possible and logically necessary. Free knowledge is the knowledge that God naturally has due to his omnipresence so that he exhaustively knows all things that exist.

  1. "Middle Knowledge: God’s knowledge of what every possible free creature would do under any possible set of circumstances and, hence, knowledge of those possible worlds which God can make actual. The content of this knowledge is not essential to God." (Craig, William L., The Only Wise God: The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom (Kindle Locations 2039-2041). Wipf & Stock, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.)
  2. "Middle knowledge is God’s knowledge of all things that would happen in every possible set of circumstances, both things that are determined to occur by those circumstances and things that are not determined to occur by those circumstances...Significantly, middle knowledge includes God’s awareness of what every possible individual would freely do in any set of circumstances in which he or she finds himself or herself as well as how utterly random, chance events would turn out in every possible set of circumstances. Armed with this knowledge, God can create a world providentially planned to the last detail where his purposes are achieved through free creaturely decisions and random events." (MacGregor, Kirk R., Luis de Molina: The Life and Theology of the Founder of Middle Knowledge, Zondervan. Grand Rapids, MI, Kindle Edition, 2015, p. 11).
  3. "Middle knowledge lies logically in between these, which affirms that God knows all true counterfactual propositions, or possess hypothetical knowledge of future contingents." (MacGregor, Kirk R., Luis de Molina: The Life and Theology of the Founder of Middle Knowledge, Zondervan. Grand Rapids, MI, Kindle Edition, 2015, p. 95).

Libertarian free will is the freedom that an unbeliever has to make uncoerced, self-generating choices that are not completely incapacitated by his fallen nature. These choices, in particular, the act of receiving Christ, are made possible by God's prevenient grace, which when applied to an unbeliever's life, will result in the unbeliever's ability to choose to receive Christ or not. This foreseen knowledge of choice made by the unbeliever, which is possessed by God eternally, is called God's Middle Knowledge. Therefore, God's middle knowledge depends upon what he foresees people will choose to do under different circumstances when God's prevenient grace is involved.

Is Middle Knowledge biblical?

I certainly agree that God knows what any person will do in any situation. After all, God knows all things possible as well as all things actual. This is part of his nature to know everything (1 John 3:20; Psalm 139:1–4). However, Dr. William Lane Craig, a staunch defender of Molinism, says that God's knowledge of potential actions of people in different situations is not essential to God.

"God’s knowledge of what every possible free creature would do under any possible set of circumstances and, hence, knowledge of those possible worlds which God can make actual. The content of this knowledge is not essential to God." (Craig, William L., The Only Wise God: The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom (Kindle Locations 2039-2041). Wipf & Stock, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.)

In fact, Dr. Craig not only says that God's middle knowledge not essential to God, he also says, 

"The counterfactuals of creaturely freedom which confront Him [God] are outside His control. He has to play with the hand He has been dealt." (William Lane Craig, http://www.reasonablefaith.org/molinism-and-the-soteriological-problem-of-evil-once-more)

So, now we have things happening in the universe outside of God's sovereign control, and God must play with the hand dealt to him. As good as an apologist Dr. Craig is, I find his statement to be disturbing. how is anything that occurs in a universe that God created and which all things work after the counsel of his will, be outside of his control. Furthermore? A hand has been dealt to God and he must work with what has been given to him? The implication is that there is something outside the control and sovereignty of God to which God must submit. This is wrong.

  • Eph. 1:11, "also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will."
  • Dan. 4:35, "All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth. And no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, "What have You done?"
  • Lam. 3:37–38, " Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, Unless the Lord has commanded it? 38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High That both good and ill go forth?"
  • Psalm 33:14-15, "From His dwelling place He looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, 15 He who fashions the hearts of them all, he who understands all their works."
  • Psalm 135:6, "Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps."

The above Scriptures should convince us that God is not a reactionary being who lives in a world where things are outside of his control. Dr. Craig is wrong.

Now, regarding knowledge that is not essential to God's being.  The reason that Craig is saying this is because God's middle knowledge is dependent upon the foreseen libertarian free will choices that people will make. Therefore, God's knowledge has areas of contingency. But this makes no sense because whatever occurs does so because God has ordained it to happen. After all, nothing occurs without the will of God (Eph. 1:11; Prov. 16:33; Lam. 3:37-38). So, God knows what will happen because he ordains it. His knowledge is not contingent on the foreseen, sinful, libertarian free will choices of creatures.

Furthermore, such middle knowledge, which is based on God's perceived libertarian free will of creatures, risks violating God's aseity. This is the teaching that God is eternally independent, noncontingent, and self-sufficient in all that he is. But, Molinism says that God's Middle Knowledge is contingent upon God eternally knowing foreseen, human, libertarian free will choices. This is, in my opinion, heterodox.

In the same way, God's omniscience cannot include the foreseen libertarian free will choices where unbelievers receive Christ under different circumstances combined with God's application of prevenient grace. This is because the Scriptures clearly teach that unbelievers cannot and will not of their own free will receive Christ - with or without prevenient grace (Rom. 3:10-12; 1 Cor. 2:14; John 6:65, etc.) Therefore, Middle Knowledge is false because it assumes sinful, human ability in contradiction to scripture. For more information on this, please see Scriptures demonstrating the total inability of man and the necessary work of God in salvation.

Conclusion

Middle knowledge is not biblical because it requires that God's knowledge is, in some sense, contingent upon the libertarian free will choices of creatures. Therefore, God's knowledge is not absolute in all things but is contingent upon his creation. This violates God aseity which is his non-contingency in all things. And, libertarian free will violates Scripture by assuming that the unbeliever is capable, under the right circumstances, of freely receiving Christ. So, middle knowledge which is based on God's contingent knowledge libertarian free will creatures is false.

 

 

 

 
 

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.