Archive for the ‘Middle Knowledge’ Category

Craig’s Dilemma – Escape for Aseity, but Hello Grounding Objection

May 12, 2014

William Lane Craig says he doesn’t think aseity is threatened by middle knowledge, because he is an anti-realist with respect to abstract objects including possible worlds.  In other words, he views possible worlds as non-existent.  Thus, God’s middle knowledge is not dependent on something outside himself.

While that’s an understandable response, it runs smack into the grounding objection (discussed in more detail here).  By definition, middle knowledge is neither based on God’s nature (or else it would be natural knowledge) nor based on God’s volition (or else it would be free knowledge).

So, either what is called middle knowledge is based on something in God himself (in which case it is really free or natural knowledge, and there is no middle knowledge as such) or middle knowledge is based on something outside God (in which case we have the aseity problem).  It does not seem possible that grounds could be something that is outside God but that doesn’t exist, since – by definition – nothing meets that definition.


Don’t Conflate Middle Knowledge and Knowledge of Contingents of Creaturely Freedom

January 8, 2013

Alfred J. Freddoso in his lengthy introduction to his translation of Molina’s “On Divine Knowledge,” provides some advice that would be well taken by his fellow Molinists (p. 23):

Molina claims that infinitely many conditional future contingents obtained from eternity and that from eternity God had comprehensive knowledge of them. However — and this is very important, though not widely appreciated — neither of these claims distinguishes him from his Bañezian antagonists.[fn35 For an unambiguous admission of the point in question by a Bañezian, see Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., The One God (St. Louis, 1943), pp. 461-462 (n. 134) and 471. It is hard to overemphasize the importance of this point, given a marked tendency among recent writers to err by simply identifying the Molinist doctrine of middle knowledge with the claim that God has knowledge of conditional future contingents (or so-called counter-factuals of freedom). This claim, to repeat, is not a distinctively Molinist one, and, indeed, it was never in dispute in the rancorous sixteenth-century debates between Molinists and Bañezians.] What is distinctive about Molina is his controversial claim that God’s knowledge of conditional future contingents is prevolitional rather than, as the Bañezians would have it, postvolitional.

I would add that Calvinists in the tradition of the real Francis Turretin agree with Bañezians on this point.  Thus, when Dan (who clearly has good taste) argues for Middle Knowledge in Exodus 3:19 by simply arguing that God shows knowledge of a conditional future contingent, or makes similar arguments as “I Told You So Molinism” from Deuteronomy 7:3-4 and 1 Kings 11:2 & 9, he is missing the point.

Rather, he is missing an argument for the distinctively Molinistic view as contrasted with a Bañezians (aka Thomistic) or Calvinistic view.  In other words, we firmly agree that God knows future contingents that are contingent on creaturely freedom (the so-called counter-factuals of freedom).  We simply affirm that God knows those future contingents postvolitionally.

Nothing in or about the cited verses suggests a prevolitional knowledge, and thus appeals to these verses continue to leave Molinism without support as to its distinctive assertions.  We recognize that some Molinists, such as William Lane Craig, are content to acknowledge that Molinism is not something taught by Scripture, and we think that all Molinists ought to join with him in this important concession.



On the difference between prevolitional and postvolitional:

Prevolitional: This term refers to God’s knowledge logically prior to God’s decree of what will be.
Postvolitional: This term refers to God’s knowledge logically following God’s decree of what will be.

In other words, Calvinists say that God knows what a man would freely do or will freely do because God has decided what they would do or will do.  Thus, to take a pedestrian example, if it is true that Dan would eat pepperoni pizza if I offered to him, that is true because God decided that it is true.  Thus, God’s knowledge of this truth is post-volitional – it arises from God’s deciding it to be so.  By contrast, in Molinism God does not decide whether Dan would eat pepperoni pizza if I offered it to him.  This leads to a grounding problem, which I’ve discussed at length elsewhere (link to discussion).

However, contrary to some apparent Molinist thinking, the Calvinistic model does not assume that God decides what would be apparent from means.  Thus, for example, God has decreed what sort of person Dan is, his cultural background, his tastes, and so forth – all of which contribute to Dan’s decision to accept (or not) my offer of pepperoni pizza in our hypothetical.  And my examples of what God has decreed are far too limited: God has decreed just what pepperoni pizza will smell like and how well Dan’s nose will smell that, as well as whether this discussion is making you as hungry as it is making me.

Responding to Wes Widner

November 6, 2009

I had been planning to respond to Wes Widner’s critique of Dr. White on Molonism (critique here) but then I noticed Steve Hays’ response to Widner (Steve Hays’ response here).

Steve Hays does a great job, so for a detailed response, see his comments. I’ll add a few thoughts of my own by way of supplement to what Steve has already said.

Wes Widner states: “Middle Knowledge (and William Lane Craig in particular) does not teach that God’s soverignty is trumped or determined by man’s free will or by God’s Middle Knowledge of man’s free will.”

Yes, it does. Consider Craig’s claim:

What I am simply saying is that God’s aims in this life, in this world, are for a maximum number of people to come to know God and His salvation as fully as possible. And it is possible that that would not be achieved in a world that did not involve as much suffering and evil as this world does. Far from being counter-intuitive, I find that very plausible.


That’s at least a conditional trumping claim. There’s no claim that God is required to create, but if he does, and if he creates free will beings, and if he wishes to save the maximum number of people (as Craig insists), he is restricted to actualizing worlds in which their is suffering and evil on account of the free will of the creatures.

Wes Widner also states: “It is disingenuous to claim that Molinism is a philosophy whereas causal determinism isn’t.”

That’s a mischaracterization of the situation. Molinism is merely philosophical. Causal determinism oozes from Scripture. It is provable from Scripture – making it a Biblical, and not merely a philosophical, position. Of course, causal determinism is a metaphysical claim. That’s not the issue.

Wed Widner futher states: “You misrepresent Molinism as a doctrine wholly based on the freedom of man’s will.”

The foundation of Molinism is the novel concept of “middle knowledge.” Middle knowledge is defined based on the actions of “free” creatures, especially men. So, to deny that Molinism is a doctrine wholly based on the freedom of man’s will is only a plausible comment if one is using the terms “wholly” or “man” in a way that is stronger than anything the critics of Molinism would intend. As such, the assertion of misrepresentation is unfounded.

I’ll limit my comments to those points in view of Steve’s fuller discussion.


Middle Knowledge – Video Series

April 20, 2009

I have now concluded the series on Middle Knowledge and specifically of Turretin’s treatment of it, in his Institutes of Elenctic Theology. I should note that a summary of the section that I addressed has been created and can be found at the following link (link). I didn’t consult this list specifically in the preparation of my videos, but I hope you will find it agrees fairly well with them.

Should you wish to play all the videos in the Middle Knowledge series together, here you go (nothing new in this, just the six videos of the series played one after the other):

If you would like to see a critique of Middle Knowledge from a slightly different perspective (although he does find his way to Turretin around pp. 29-30), Travis Campbell has provided an interesting article, which one can find at the following link (link). I should point out that he seems to give rather more attention to Bruce Ware and Terrance Tiessen than they deserve on this topic and seems to conclude with them that there are “true counterfactuals of creaturely freedom” – a significant and (in my view) unnecessary concession to William Lane Craig, one of the leading Molinists today (although I should qualify this comment by noting that there are some latent ambiguities in the terminology that Mr. Campbell uses, which may actually place him closer to the position I hold than it would at first appear).


Middle Knowledge – Part 6

April 19, 2009

This is the sixth and final section on Turretin’s discussion of Middle Knowledge. This section delves into the philosophical arguments that undermine the concept of middle knowledge, demonstrating that the concept of middle knowledge leads to inevitable self-contradictions.

1. Two categories of knowledge are all that are required, because all true objects of knowledge are things possible or things actual (in Turretin’s terms, “future”).

2. Untrue things cannot be foreseen as true. In other words, unless it is true that a man will do “X” in situation “Y”, God cannot foresee such a thing as true.

3. If divine providence is comprehensive (if it extends to men’s acts) then men’s will cannot be said to be indeterminate.

4. God’s knowledge cannot be said to be uncertain. Therefore, if God foresees “X” as certain, then it cannot be said to be uncertain.

5. Middle Knowledge removes God’s sovereignty over the creature, because it suggests that God is in essence depending on man’s fortuitous cooperation in obtaining the ends he wishes.

6. Middle Knowledge removes God’s freedom to base decisions solely on his own good pleasure, thereby contradicting the view of God presented in Romans 9.


Middle Knowledge – Part 5

April 18, 2009

This is the fifth video in the series, of which (for those already weary of the series) there are six videos. This section deals with alleged proof texts of Middle Knowledge:

(1) 1 Samuel 23:11-12

This is the place where David asked God whether the men of the city would deliver David up if David stayed in the city, and God told him they would, so David left the city. Turretin notes that this was simply a question about the men’s plans, not specifically about a future contingency.

(2) Matthew 11:21

This is the place where Jesus compares those who failed to believe after many miracles were done in their midst by comparing them to Tyre and Sidon and saying that the men of Tyre and Sidon would have already repented if the miracles done had been done in them. Turretin notes that this is hyperbole, much as one might say that if a person had been beating on rocks as long as he had been beating on a judge for justice the rocks would have been broken, or that if a donkey had been taught as long as a very slow pupil that the donkey would be able to understand already.

(3) 2 Samuel 12:8

This is a place where God notes additional blessings that would have come to David if David had obeyed. Turretin notes that these blessings are conditional promises, and consequently they are based on a decree of God necessarily.

Additionally, we noted that in each case the verses relate to God’s knowledge after the decree, and consequently they are not really prooftexts for any kind of middle knowledge, because they do not relate to the knowledge of God before the decree of futurition.


Middle Knowledge – Part 4

April 17, 2009

This is the fourth section of the discussion of Middle Knowledge taken from Turretin’s Institutes. This section deals with Turretin’s six main objections to Middle Knowledge:

(1) Two categories of knowledge are enough, because all things are either merely possible or actually future,

(2) Untrue things cannot be foreseen as true,

(3) God’s exhaustive providence precludes the possibility that mans’ will is indeterminate,

(4) No uncertain knowledge belongs to God, therefore if God foresees men’s decision, they must be certain and consequently determinate not indeterminate,

(5) Middle Knowledge would remove God’s sovereignty over the creature, and

(6) Gods’ freedom to base his decisions solely on his own good pleasure would be undermined.


Middle Knowledge – Part 3

April 16, 2009

This is the third video in the series on Middle Knowledge. This section presents the “state of the question.” That is to say, it helps describe what exactly is under consideration. Thus, in this video we distinguish the issue from the issue of God knowing all possible contingent things, of God knowing necessarily contingent things (like “if the sun rises, it is day” or “if a person heartily repents, he will be saved”), and from the issue of God knowing freely contingent things prior to ALL decrees.

Instead, the question is whether God knows what men or angels (rational creatures) will freely do without a special decree preceding (if placed with these or those circumstances and in such-and-thus an order of things).


Middle Knowledge – Part 2

April 15, 2009

This is part 2 of the series. The first part of the series can be found here (link). The first part discussed the true doctrine of the knowledge of God, but this section defines the erroneous doctrine of middle knowledge and describes its history. As is discussed in the video, Molinism was the brainchild of Lessius, Fonseca, and/or Molina (three Jesuits who couldn’t decide among themselves who invented the doctrine) in opposition to Dominicans who held to a view of free will that is similar to that of Calvinists.

The Jesuits were seeking to make God’s election to be based on foreseen faith and good works, as well as to defend their view of man’s free will as autonomous. The only way they saw around the Dominicans’ observation that God’s will consists of natural and free knowledge was to invent a third category of knowledge that they designated “middle knowledge.”

This “middle knowledge” is allegedly different from natural knowledge in that it is indeterminate, not being based on the nature of God, but on a decree. This “middle knowledge” is allegedly different from free knowledge, however, in that it is not about things certainly future, or – to put it another way – it is not based on God’s decrees but on the decrees of creatures.


Middle Knowledge – Part 1

April 14, 2009

This is the first part of what is planned as a multi-part discussion on middle knowledge and free will. This part discusses the fact that God’s knowledge is intrinsically simple (undivided) but can be divided extrinsically (as to its objects) into two categories: natural and free. These two categories exhaust all the objects of God’s knowledge.

To summarize what I’ve put in the video, the following are the main points:

1) God’s knowledge is, in and of itself, simple and undivided.

2) God’s knowledge can be, however, considered by us (theologians) in relation to its objects as either natural or free.

3) Natural Knowledge is God’s knowledge of the extent of his own power without considering how God plans to exercise this power. Thus, God knows what God could do, if God so chose to do it. He knows every way that he could exercise his own power, if he wished to exercise it.

4) Free Knowledge is God’s knowledge of the actual exercise of his power. That is to say, Free Knowledge is God’s knowledge about the world that he has made and the history that he has brought into being, as well as the future that remains to be seen.


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