Does anyone understand "Middle Knowledge?"

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by skypair, Feb 23, 2008.

  1. skypair

    skypair
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    Hey all,

    I'm reading a book* that seems to be over my head regarding predestination (at least Dave Hunt's explanation is WAY more than I can grapple with and he defends "simple predestination!")

    Anyway, William Lane Craig (WLC) defends a position wherein God foreknows all the "counterfactuals" before creation and before He issues His decrees regarding the future. An example of a counterfactual is "If I were a powerful politician in jeopardy of losing my position, I would let the people have their way at key moments to establish my authority." (This was not an example given in the book but 1) shows a "counterfactual" and 2) might even have been used by God in decreeing His Son's crucifxion.).

    WLC uses this "view" to explain God's foreknowledge and sovereignty while simultaneously averring man's free will and responsibility.

    skypair

    Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views IVP, 2001
     
  2. Martin

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    No, I can't help you. I took a class in seminary where we had to read a book by Douglas Groothuis called "Truth Decay". That book got into some of these type issues and it confused me to no end. That is why I have stayed clear of Philosophy.
     
  3. Grasshopper

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  4. skypair

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    Martin -- that's the way I feel! I don't feel they have "discovered" anything more than I can get from just reading the Bible!

    I hope we get some input to "process" here. :type:

    skypair
     
  5. skypair

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    Thanks, grasshopper. The site looks interesting. I'll go read it now.

    Yeah -- very interesting. Here's what I believe might be lacking in all of these theories: God can control those who have faith in Him. God can "guide" the future through those whom, by whatever means He convinces them, believe on Him or even trust Him to some degree.


    skypair
     
    #5 skypair, Feb 23, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 23, 2008
  6. Deacon

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    Re: Middle Knowledge

    You'd probably get more help asking Frodo.

    Rob
     
  7. TCGreek

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    Can you give an example from the book then that WLC used to illustrate his position?

    I find a number of things wrong with your illustration, and I don't know if it is fair to WLC's position.

    Thank you in advance. :thumbs:
     
  8. skypair

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    Let me get back to that, TC. I believe that the one I presented was similar to an example he gave because in doing so, he "piled on" the "counterfactuals" that must have been involved ending in the crucifixion of Christ! I mean Judas betrayal, the Pharisees, Pilate, the Herrod, the crowd, etc.

    I don't think it is perfect but I think also that it leaves our this one detail --- God CAN predestinate/control those that are His. And that is what all these models of predestination vs. free will leave out. I mean, doesn't that "help" God's "foreknowledge" or "middle knowledge" in the case of Moses, Noah, Jesus, Paul, etc.?

    skypair
     
  9. Benjamin

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    In much the same way the doctrines of Calvin have developed into today’s Calvinism. Or those of Arminius into the doctrines of Arminianism. The doctrines of Molina are also developing through philosophical explanations; possibly more today than in the past. You may not realize that Middle knowledge is not a recent “discovery”, but was introduced around the same time (shortly after) the aforementioned C and A by Luis De Molina (1535-1600) to reconcile predestination and man’s free will.

    As you have expressed, Molinism’s counterfactuals, or CCFs (counterfactuals of creaturely freedoms), is a very difficult concept to grasp and explain. I have literally gotten headaches trying to keep up with some of the philosophical arguments. The difficulty in using their specific terms may be one reason why many have not looked more deeply into it. It is much easier to adopt C or A, or just claim neither has successfully boxed God’s knowledge with a precise description which cannot be refuted. As you know many will agree we can’t put a finite explanation on God’s foreknowledge when logically explaining the compatiblist view of free will.

    Molinist believe God has not only necessary truths and contingent truths, but another kind of knowledge, deeper knowledge, which is philosophically explained in/with counterfactuals, that it does indeed exist. The Biblical support for these counterfactuals is very convincing IMO. The more I have researched this the more evidence I have come up with to support it, but I usually only throw an occasional monkey wrench into the gears rolling around here to see if someone might have an alternative explanation. Bringing this subject up here usually gets one accused of Open Theism concerning God’s foreknowledge, but it is not at all the same. Actually, OT opposes Molinism’s middle knowledge view. Personally, I have gotten into trying to figure how to explain that God could have more than one type of knowledge, which has often turned me to looking at the Trinitarian nature of God coinciding in a similar way.

    The “truth factors” of Molinism have caught my attention, and have greatly helped me to develop my theology in the last few years. I have found Molinism to be a useful tool, learned a lot by looking into it. Like the other views, I’ve found varying doctrines concerning it, but the whole of it has some very valid points.


    P.S. grasshopper's link to Ken Keathley's lecture gives a pretty good taste of the view.
     
  10. skypair

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    Benjamin,

    Thanks. I believe you are on to something with taking a Trinitarian perspective. For instance, Jesus said only the Father knows the "day and hour" of the Son's coming. This could certainly account, then, for one member of the trinity being "surprised" or "repenting," right?

    Another feature that I mentioned above that I bring in is divinie predestination. Though I don't agree with "divine foreknowldge" like C&A's, I can readily see that God can "control" believers, Rom 8:29, and thereby directly working out His plan (think of Noah, Abraham, Moses, etc.). I guess this view says that foreknowledge is not totally either model -- free will nor predeterminism.

    I also see a "counterfactual" in Adam that none of my reading has informed me on --- Adam didn't sin until there was Eve. In fact, that may have been the agency whereby God got Adam to sin. He gave Adam 2 rules: 1) don't eat the fruit and 2) leave father and mother for wife. She fell, then he fell/left. I don't know if that is insight to anything but it should grant insight into how God directs without "authoring" sin (in this case, Satan "authored" it and that through free will, right?).

    I like working with biblical models rather than philosophical ones mainly because God seems to use a variety of methods at once whereas man tries to "box" his models all up in one.

    I ran into Molinism in my reading. It definitely has some things going for it.

    skypair
     
  11. HankD

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    The answers to these issues are IMO unanswerable this side of heaven.

    I struggled with them as a young man until He gave me some Scripture:


    NKJV Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.

    NKJ Isaiah 55:9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.

    NKJ Psalm 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

    HankD​
     
  12. webdog

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    This is my approach, too. There are just too many passages in Scripture that allude to God changing His mind, not knowing certain things within the framework of time, etc. Fact is we don't know how God relates...or chooses to relate with His creation.
     
  13. Brandon C. Jones

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    I would add that the historical opponents of Molina, both Catholic and Reformed, dismissed middle knowledge because it was ontologically deficient. Molina rejects premotion and divine concursus and for his position to work one has to envision a possible world without God. This was and is a non-starter for many theologians.

    Everyone accepts the fact that God has knowledge of future contigency, but that is not technically the same as middle knowledge. Unfortunately, the modern debates add to this confusion because the middle knowledge advocates of today have not explored the ontological ramifications of the position. It comes up through the back door every now and then with the "grounding objection," but all that objection really gets at is ontology. Can one make any decisions without God's involvement of premotion and concursus? Middle knowledge requires this state of affairs. For many, the decrees stand in between God's natural and free knowledge, but Molina rejects this and replaces it with something else.

    My favorite quote about Molinism comes from Herbert McCabe: "Of this I will say nothing at present except that it seems to me to possess the unique merit of denying simultaneously both divine omnipotence and human freedom" (Faith Within Reason, 72).

    For more on historical Catholic arguments against Molina, namely Bannez, see what Boedder says here: http://maritain.nd.edu/jmc/etext/nath39.htm Boedder also points out how Molina's "supercomprehension" still doesn't get him where he needs to go because it is too determinative of free decisions.

    For the Reformed position, there is unfortunatly little helpful on the Internet about synchronic contingency, but in a nutshell many of them (especially in the era of Reformed Orthodoxy) believed that God worked through genuine human freedom, and they were not compatibilists despite what you may read through populist literature on them. There is some helpful stuff here that deals with Scotus's view of it, though.
     
    #13 Brandon C. Jones, Feb 24, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 24, 2008
  14. skypair

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    Yeah Brandon and webdog!

    Well said! I think you gotta just 1) believe what God says when He says something in scripture and 2) come to grips with the fact that many things in God's plan are "conditional" upon men's decisions/choices and 3) God CAN and does interject His sovereignty into human existence through BELIEVERS. It's as if when you are saved, you join God's army and, like the centurion of great faith knew, under the command authority of God.

    It's almost like I want to go back to my former assertion that men make decisions and God decides the outcomes (mercy or justice).

    skypair
     
  15. Grasshopper

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  16. HankD

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    That last sentence at least has some scriptural support :

    Proverbs 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.

    HankD
     
  17. russell55

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    Jeremy Pierce, whom I would consider to be a reasonable and fair and careful Christian philosopher, presents the five views of how God's omniscience fits with human freedom (one of which is Molinism) here. About Molinism, he says this:

    But the whole piece is an interesting read, and I'd recommend it.
     
  18. skypair

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    russ,

    Here's a point that I believe has some merit but the author doesn't.

    To me, God planned creation outside of time (atemporily) then created time in which to carry it out. So though He existed outside of time (eternity past when time was not), He now lives in the time He created and does commune with His creatures as to what is coming in time. He is still eternal but has given Himself an "Alpha and Omega" aspect -- Christ.

    Perhaps you can explain it better?

    skypair
     
  19. russell55

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    You may be defining atemporality differently than JP is. As he defines it, it is the view that "all of time is present to God, God is aware of all of time without knowing it in advance." God doesn't exist in time, but only outside of it.

    That means that those who view God as atemporal see him as existing only in a sort of eternal "now", where he experiences all moments in time as presently occurring. Under that system, there is no basis for human beings knowing the future if it involves the free choices of humans, as in the biblical prophesies, since God (who communicates the prophesy to them) only knows the free choices of humans "outside of time", not earlier in time.

    The system you put forward, as you've explained it, has God both outside of time and inside of time. But the people that hold to most of the viewpoints described in the article would probably object to your system because it has God planning creation outside of time and then carrying out that plan in time. They would object that "outside of time" planning or knowing by God as incompatible with true human freedom.
     
  20. skypair

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    You're probably right --- but I do tend to believe that God existed before He created time. As such, there was logically a "planning stage" to the creation of time.

    1) I can see where in that "planning stage," God knew all the "natural laws" that would apply.

    2) He had a plan regarding what was His purpose with creating time (IMO, to call Himself a "bride" -- a companion in every way that Eve was to be a "helpmeet" to Adam).

    3) He took to Himself foreknowledge of "how it would go" with "libertarian freedom" among His creation and how He would respond and direct His creation toward His purposes -- and there definitely ARE points at which God has to intervene. One of the ways, maybe the main way, He would "intervene" would be through BELIEVERS who were submissive to Him (This is where the philosopher and the theoretician get lost -- the don't allow a "mix" of free will and "servants.").

    4) So "time" turns out to be a confluence of a) God's predetermination and b) man's freedom of will.

    skypair
     

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