Posts tagged ‘Middle Knowledge’

August 3rd, 2012

The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom Contra William Hasker

by Max Andrews

William Hasker is deeply committed to the position that man holds some level of libertarian freedom.  In his section on “Freedom, Necessity, and God,” Hasker takes the libertarian to task by challenging him with free will’s compatibility with divine foreknowledge.[1]  Hasker proposes an argument suggesting that divine foreknowledge is just as inconsistent with free will as predestination.[2]  Consider his argument:

1.  It is now true that I will have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow.  (Assumption)
2.  It is impossible that God should at any time believe anything false or fail to believe anything which is true (Assumption:  divine omniscience)
3.  Therefore God has always believed that I will have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow.  (Inference from 1 and 2)
4.  If God has always believed a certain thing, it is not in my power to bring it about that God has not always believed that thing.  (Assumption: the inalterability of the past)
5.  Therefore it is not in my power to bring it about that God has not always believed that I will have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow.  (Inference from 3 and 4)
6.  It is not possible for it to be true both that God has always believed that I will have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow, and that I do not in fact have one.  (Inference from 2)
7.  Therefore it is not in my power to refrain from having a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow.  (Inference from 5 and 6) So I do not have free will with respect to the decision whether or not to eat an omelet.[3]

June 8th, 2012

A Review of Salvation and Sovereignty (Journal Publication)

by Max Andrews

I did a review of Ken Keathley’s Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2010) in the Midwestern Journal of Theology 9 no. 2 (Fall 2010) issue.  Below is the first paragraph of the review and a link to download the whole PDF version (with appropriate copyright information).

Molinism seems to be a mere drop in the bucket of theological thought with little attention in Church history.  Ken Keathley’s Salvation and Sovereignty surely brings hope of resurgence to the little known school of thought.  With an exemplary effort to reconcile some of the most difficult theological doctrines.  Keathley demonstrates amazing consistency in his pursuit for a Biblical understanding of salvation and divine sovereignty.  Just as the Calvinist has his TULIP so does the Molinist have his ROSES.  The acronym may be understood as “R” for radical depravity, “O” for overcoming grace, “S” for sovereign election, “E” for eternal life, and “S” for singular redemption.

June 8th, 2012

The Molinism Directory

by Max Andrews

I’ve decided to gather all my posts on Molinism in one post for easy reference.

  1. Ebook: An Introduction to Molinism: Scripture, Reason, and All that God Has Ordered
  2. Middle Knowledge in a Nutshell
  3. A Review of Salvation and Sovereignty (Journal Publication)
  4. Review Essay: Four Views on Divine Providence
  5. Defining Omniscience
  6. Theological Elites and Their Dismissiveness of “Philosophy”
  7. Q&A 9: Layering Divine Middle Knowledge
  8. The Problem of Bad “Biblical” Rhetoric
  9. Why I’m Not an Arminian
  10. Why I’m Not a Calvinist
  11. The Incoherence of Theistic Determinism–Moral Responsibility
  12. Overpower–Is God Ultimately Responsible for Everything?
  13. The Singular Redemption View of the Atonement
  14. Is a Molinist Concept of Providence Discomforting?
    read more »

May 1st, 2012

Molinism and the Grounding Objection

by Max Andrews

The grounding objection asks the question: By what means or grounds does God know what he knows (particularly middle knowledge)?

Suppose I have an argument similar to the grounding argument from the grounding objection claiming that contingent truths are not self-explanatory but must simply exist, from all eternity, as an ungrounded, metaphysical surd.  How would I, as a Molinist, respond?

This objection is merely the result of misunderstanding the means by which God knows what he does.  God’s knowledge is wholly intuitive and relies on no existent entity and is completely compatible with divine aseity.  According to Luis de Molina,

God does not get his knowledge from things, but knows all things in himself and from himself; therefore, the existence of things, whether in time or eternity, contributes nothing to God’s knowing with certainty what is going to be or not to be… For prior to any existence on the part of the objects, God has within himself the means whereby he knows all things fully and perfectly; and this is why the existence of created things contributes no perfection to the cognition he has of them and does not cause any change in that cognition… [And] God does not need the existence of those things in his eternity in order to know them with certainty.[1]

April 28th, 2012

Middle Knowledge in the Bible

by Max Andrews

Any affirmation of counterfactuals does nothing if it is incompatible with biblical teaching.  The Bible acknowledges that God uses counterfactuals to achieve His will and that He knows the truth-value to hypothetical propositions.  An example of this would be in 1 Samuel 23.6-10.  This passage accounts for David’s inquiry to the Lord by means of a divining device called an ephod (which gave a “yes” or “no” answer).  David thus flees the city of Keilah so the predictions do not come true.  What the device had predicted to David was not simple foreknowledge (“Saul/the men of Keilah will do X”), by hypothetical knowledge (“If David stays, then Saul/the men of Keilah will do X”).  The answer given by the ephod were correct answers, even though the events did not come to pass, since the answers were indicative of what would happen under certain circumstances.[1]

Another example may be found in Jeremiah’s prophecy to King Zedekiah:

Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “Thus says the Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘If you will indeed go out to the officers of the king of Babylon, then you will live, this city will not be burned with fire, and you and your household will survive.  ‘But if you will not go out to the officers of the king of Babylon, then this city will be given over to the hand of the Chaldeans; and they will burn it with fire, and you yourself will not escape from their hand'” (Jer. 38.17-18).

February 16th, 2012

Can You Lose Your Salvation? A Molinist’s Perspective

by Max Andrews

FOCUS:  Can a born-again believer lose his or her salvation while simultaneously affirming God’s sovereignty and human free will while being consistent with Scripture?[1]

An Examination of the Perseverance of the Saints Doctrine

Apostolic warnings against apostasy pose a difficulty for the classic doctrine of perseverance of the saints because either the warnings seem superfluous or else it seems possible for the believer to fall away after all.  The attempt to construe the warnings as the means by which God effects perseverance fails to distinguish the classical doctrine from a Molinist doctrine, according to which believers can fall away but in fact will not due to God’s extrinsically efficacious grace.  A Molinist perspective is coherent and, unlike the classical doctrine does not render superfluous the apostolic admonitions.[2]

The traditional doctrine of perseverance states that not only will the saints maintain grace and salvation, but literally cannot fall from grace.  (It is very important to approach these and understand these texts in light of appropriate exegesis.) However, this seems to ignore numerous Scriptures, which warn the danger of apostasy of those who deliberately fall from grace:

Rom. 11:17-24; I Cor. 9:27; Gal. 5:4; Col. 1:23; I Thess. 3:5; I Tim. 1:19-20; II Tim. 2:17-18; Jas. 5:19-20; II Pet. 2:20-22; I Jn. 5:16

Perhaps the most prominent:

Therefore leaving the elementary teachings about the Christ, let us press on the maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the death and eternal judgment.  3And this we will do, if God permits.  4For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.  7For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings for the vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; 8but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed and it ends up being burned.  Heb. 6.1-8 (NASB)

February 13th, 2012

The Theological Advantages of Molinism

by Max Andrews

For a context of where I’m coming from concerning Molinism please see my previous posts:

  1. Middle Knowledge in a Nutshell
  2. Why I’m Not an Arminian
  3. Why I’m Not a Calvinist
  4. God Controls Everything–Good and Bad
  5. Overpower–Is God Ultimately Responsible for Everything?
  6. The Pelagian Equivocation
  7. The Singular Redemption View of the Atonement
  8. Does God Ever Literally Change His Mind?–Yes
  9. Is a Molinist Concept of Providence Discomforting?
  10. Word of the Week Wednesday: Supralapsarianism


  1. Holds a high view of God’s sovereignty while holding to an equal and uncompromising view of human free will.
  2. Provides a better model for understanding how it is simultaneously true that God’s decree of election while His rejection of the unbeliever is conditional.
  3. Affirms the genuine desire on the part of God for all to be saved in His universal salvific will  (which is problematic for the Calvinist) claiming that God loved the whole world (John 3:16) yet, Christ has a particular love for the Church (Eph. 5:25).
  4. God control’s all things, but does not cause all things.
    read more »

February 6th, 2012

Boethius on Reconciling Divine Foreknowledge and Human Free Will

by Max Andrews

Boethius discusses the problem in reconciling genuine human freedom with God’s foreknowledge in “Divine Foreknowledge and Freedom of the Will” (proses III-VI).  He bases his whole discussion on whether or not something that is foreknown happens by necessity.  He offers the disjunctive option of the necessity of either thing, which are going to happen be foreseen by God or that what God foresees will in fact happen—either way, he argues, human will is removed.  When discussing the uncertainty of future events he concludes that, for God, there must be no uncertainty in these events because it’s then reduced to possible conditionals, or could-counterfactuals.  Hence, the law of excluded middle is true for knowledge of future tensed events.  He makes an interesting point when discussing aspects about Cicero’s contribution to the problem.  If foreknowledge is removed then the events of human will are no longer necessary. Considering all of the discussion so far he believes that everything that happens does so by necessity.

September 19th, 2011

Middle Knowledge and Eternal Omniscience

by Max Andrews

The following is a guest blog post by Ryan Hedrich. Ryan is an undergraduate Public Policy major at Georgia Tech with an interest in epistemology and theology, subjects he writes about at his blog


“If God did not determine [an act], then there must be in the universe a determining force independent of God.”[1]

This argument, stated simply, has been and continues to be the crux upon which the legitimacy of Molinism is hinged. Can the biblical doctrine of an eternally omniscient God be harmonized with a theory that human choices [in particular] are self-determined?

The Molinist claims that God possesses middle knowledge, “…non-determinative knowledge of the realm of creaturely possibility, a foreknowledge of events which depend not on his decree but on the liberty or free choice of the creature.”[2] It is referred to as “middle” knowledge because it is said to logically reside in between – so to speak – God’s knowledge of both possibilities and logical necessities and God’s knowledge of what will be due to His free instantiation of a particular possible world.

In other words, although God’s knowledge is eternal, His “natural” knowledge of that which must and could be can be said to be a precondition for or logically prior to His middle knowledge of what one would freely choose – in the libertarian sense[3] – given individuating conditions of a possible world. In turn, God’s middle knowledge functions as the precondition for or logically prior to God’s “free” knowledge of that which will occur based on His unconditional decree by which He effects the conditions for a particular possible world.

The important idea is that divine middle knowledge as believed by Molinists is with respect to self-determined human choices which would be exercised given the conditions of a particular possible world (including this one). The important question, again, is whether or not an adequate explanation can be provided as to how God could from eternity know what humans would choose in a given possible world by means other than His own determination.

The “grounding objection” to Molinism has consistently been cited as the greatest obstacle to its acceptance. The issue is this: God doesn’t determine what humans freely choose; what possible conditions God could instantiate would not themselves determine what humans would freely choose, though they may limit what could be chosen. It is clear that if one possesses a libertarian free will, nothing extrinsic to him would cause what he would choose in a given possible world.

Hence, on the assumption that humans possess libertarian free will, the question is begged as to how a contingent object of divine middle knowledge – i.e. that person X would choose Y given particular antecedent conditions Z – is certain. An answer was provided by the father of Molinism, who wrote that middle knowledge is:

…the knowledge through which God, before he decides to create a being endowed with free choice, foresees what that being would do on the hypothesis that it should be placed in a particular order of things – this knowledge depends on the fact that the being in its freedom do this or that, and not the other way around.[4]

Human choices are self-determined. Thus, free choices to which God’s middle knowledge corresponds are the grounds for God’s middle knowledge itself. But this has an interesting implication:

…for Molina’s concept to function, the conditions standing prior to the contingent event must be understood as not merely possible, but as having some sort of actuality or quasi-actuality apart from the divine willing – inasmuch as the point is… that God knows what will occur contingently upon certain conditions lying outside of his will: these conditions are not mere possibility nor divinely will actuality, but foreknown conditions, foreknown as actual apart from the decree, at least for the sake of stating the contingency.[5]

That is, if a person’s choices are the result of libertarian free will, God knows what X would choose “on the hypothesis” of Z only if God quasi-instantiates Z such that X is in a position to, after deliberating possible alternatives, choose Y. [That God would quasi-instantiate Z rather than actually instantiate Z follows when it is remembered that God’s middle knowledge is under consideration, not His free knowledge]. Because Molinists believe in a doctrine of libertarian free will, man’s choice is naturally to be considered the means by which it becomes evident what X would choose from the sphere of what it would be possible for X to choose.

Perhaps the reader may think the grounding objection has now been defeated, since an account has been offered as to how God can know the truth value of a counter-factual of creaturely freedom. Parenthetically, it might even be relevant to the possibility of a multiverse, which is (from what I have read) a hot topic on this blog.

However, the explanation comes at an unaffordable price: “…things contingent, till they are determined to come to passe, or not to come to passe, are not knowable that they shall come to passe, nor are knowable that they shall not come to passe.”[6] It is trivial to observe that God’s middle knowledge is not natural knowledge, and one cannot argue that what a man would freely choose in a given possible world could be necessitated by factors external to the exercise of his own will. But on Molinism,

…there are two phases, as it were, of the divine knowing of an event prior to his willing it – namely, that God first knows an entire possible world in an indeterminate way, as containing (possibly!) both an event and its contrary (scientia necessaria), and then knows by scientia media the outcome of the contingency or free choice were he to actualize that world, with the result that God in (or, indeed, temporally subsequent to) his actualization can also introduce other factors into that world order that are consequent on his knowing of the particular outcome.[7]

The problem, then, is that prior to the point in quasi-instantiated Z at which it can be discerned that X would actually choose Y – viz. when X chooses Y – it can legitimately be claimed X could have chosen not-Y, for that is what libertarian free will entails. Arguing that God’s knowledge is predicated upon the outcome of what a person would choose in quasi-instantiated Z is just a roundabout way of saying that the purpose of the quasi-instantiation of Z is that God can observe and thereby learn that X would, in fact, determine to choose Y. This is, of course, incompatible with the biblical doctrine of an eternally omniscient God.

On the other hand, to insist God knew X would choose Y at the point it was possible that X could have chosen not-Y is intuitively untenable and can be quickly demonstrated. “There must be a causal determination that moves any future contingent from the realm of mere possibility into the realm of actuality…”[8] On Molinism, this causal determination is the free choice of X. What possibilities X could choose are eliminated only when X chooses Y given [quasi-]instantiated Z. Only at that point is it certain X would choose Y in Z.

This is why Molina recognized that the way in which God possesses determinate middle knowledge would be by “foresee[ing] what that being would do on the hypothesis that it should be placed in a particular order of things – this knowledge depends on the fact that the being in its freedom do this or that, and not the other way around.” These points are wholly contrary to the suggestion that God could know X would choose Y given Z apart from foreseeing the self-determination of such, as that would mean God’s knowledge is not dependent on anything external to Himself.

To conclude, there can be no middle knowledge, no human indeterminacy, and no eternal priority of contingencies to any facet of God’s knowledge.

[1] Gordon Clark, Predestination, pg. 39.

[2] Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics Volume III, pg. 417.

[3] cf. Luis de Molina, Concordia, Disputation 2.

[4] Luis de Molina, Concordia, Disputation 52.10.

[5] Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics Volume III, pg. 421.

[6] William Twisse, A Discovery of D. Jackson’s Vanity, pg. 338.

[7] Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics Volume III, pg. 430.

[8] Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics Volume III, pg. 424.

August 25th, 2011

The Incompatibility of Middle Knowledge and Libertarian Freedom

by Max Andrews

The following is a guest blog post by Roger Turner, a Philosophy Ph.D. candidate at the University of Tennessee.

If you’re a Molinist—at any rate, if you believe that God has middle knowledge—you believe that God knows whether or not any given counterfactual, or subjunctive conditional is true.  What’s more, you probably believe this because you think it helps make clear how it is possible that humans can act freely even though God knows, before they act, how they’ll act.  And you probably want to have some grasp on how all that works because you’re a libertarian with respect to freedom.  That is, you think that determinism and free will are incompatible, but you believe that divine foreknowledge and free will are compatible.  If you are a libertarian, you think that indeterminism is true.  In other words, you think that the theses ‘the conjunction of the past and laws of nature entails a unique future’ and ‘nobody has a choice about the future because nobody has a choice about what God foreknows’ are false.  So, the idea of middle knowledge seems to be the best way to duck and dodge the relevant snares.  But there’s a puzzle here.  There appears to be a significant tension between one’s being a libertarian about freedom, and one’s being a Molinist.  In what follows, I hope to illuminate the problem.

Take your friend, Jones.  If you believe God has middle knowledge, you probably believe that, if you were to ask God what Jones would do in such and such a circumstance, God would know the answer to your question.  God would respond, so you think, with something like the following:  “If Jones were in C, he would freely A.”  And you’d feel pretty confident that God’s having answered this way fails to undermine Jones’s freedom because you think that God’s belief about whether or not Jones A’s in C depends on Jones and whether or not Jones A’s in C and not the other way around (i.e. Jones’s Aing in C doesn’t depend on God’s knowing that, if Jones were in C, he would A).

Quick question, though: what is the truth value of a subjunctive conditional if indeterminism is true?  Here’s why I ask.  If a particular event is an indeterminate event (that is, the event is undetermined) the odds of that event’s happening are something like 50/50.  So, take Jones again and his being in C and whether or not he A’s.  If Jones’s Aing is undertermined, then he’s just as likely to A as he is to not-A given his being in C and an identical past up to the point of his being in C.  This is what indeterminism implies.  Given Jones’s past from t0 to the present moment, the moment just before he acts, Jones is supposed to be just as free to refrain from Aing as he is to A.  It can’t be the case, for example, that, if Jones is libertarianly free, he’d be more likely to A, given his past (or other conditions beyond his control), than he would be to refrain from Aing.  Because if that’s the case, then he’s got factors that are out of his control which bear on whether or not he A’s.  And this would absolve Jones of (at least part of) his responsibility for Aing (or refraining from A).  If we’re libertarians (and we usually are if we believe God has middle knowledge), then we think Jones has just as much chance of Aing, given that he’s in C, as he does refraining from A.

Okay, back to the question about the truth value of a subjunctive conditional given the truth of indeterminism.  The subjunctive conditional (this thing:  €®) expresses what would happen in the closest-by, relevant possible worlds.  So, take Jones again.  And express the proposition ‘if Jones were in C, he would freely A’ as follows:

JC nec. €→ A

The way this is typically read is something like this: in all the closest-by C worlds (i.e. the worlds in which Jones is in C), Jones A’s.  But this implies that it’s not indeterminate what Jones would do in C.  It’s not indeterminate because we can “zoom-out” and see which C worlds are the closest to the actual world.  And, just by doing that, we can see that in any C world that is most closely related to the actual world, Jones A’s.  The odds aren’t 50/50 given the truth of the subjunctive conditional; the closest-by C worlds are such that Jones A’s.  So, if Jones is in C, though it’s not necessary that he A—there are, after all, possible worlds where he’s in C but doesn’t A; they’re just further off—he’ll A.  He’ll A because there is a group of possible C worlds—those closest-by to the actual world—where he A’s.  And whether or not Jones is in a closest-by C world has nothing to do with Jones!  It’s beyond Jones’s control as to whether or not he’s in one of the closest-by C worlds.

But, wait.  On the libertarian view, indeterminism is true; that is, determinism is false.  Jones must, to be libertarianly free, be just as likely to A, in C, as he is to refrain from A.  That is, Jones must be equally likely to refrain from Aing as he is to A in all C worlds.  It can’t be the case that the proximity of the C world to the actual world determines whether or not Jones A’s.  But, if the subjunctive conditional (this bit:  JC nec. €→A) is true, then it can’t be that Jones was just as likely to refrain from Aing in C as he was to A in C.

So, if indeterminism is true, the subjunctive conditional must be false.  The answer, then, to the above question ‘what is the truth value of the subjunctive conditional if indeterminism is true?’: the truth value of the subjunctive conditional, if indeterminism is true, is False.  But this means that it’s false that if Jones were in C, then he would freely A.  And what’s more, it’s false that if Jones were in C, then he would freely refrain from Aing.  And since God can’t have any false beliefs, he can’t believe that if Jones were in C, then he would freely A is true, nor can he believe that if Jones were in C, then he would freely refrain from Aing.  He can’t believe this because it’s false that if Jones were in C he would freely A and it’s false that if Jones were in C he would freely refrain from Aing.  It’s false because there is no would to it; indeterminism implies that the proximity of the worlds in which Jones is in C has no bearing on whether or not Jones A’s.  It has no bearing because, in all C worlds, Jones is just as likely to refrain from Aing as he is to A.

The upshot of all this is that if it’s true that if Jones were in C, he would freely A, then Jones was not libertarianly free to A.  Some factor that wasn’t up to Jones made it the case that his particular C world was closer to the actual world than some other C world, some other C world where he refrains from Aing.  And this implies that, if it’s true that if Jones were in C, then he would freely A, then libertarianism is false.  At any rate, it implies that if the subjunctive conditional is true, then God’s middle knowledge rules out our acting in a libertarianly free way.

So, either you are a Molinist—at any rate, you believe that God has middle knowledge—or you are a libertarian.  But you can’t be both.  So the argument goes, anyway.