The Problems With Denying Middle Knowledge




It occurs to me that if one truly wants to affirm the absolute omniscience of God, he should be a Molinist. Not only does Molinism does an even better job of reconciling God’s sovereignty with genuine human freedom (although Arminianism does an okay job of it, Molinism just does it even better), Molinism truly presents a robust doctrine of God’s omniscience (all knowingness). By the way, if you’re new to Molinism and don’t know exactly what this view teaches, click on this link, where I explain the basis tenets ofMolinist theology. Denying middle knowledge has a couple of problems that immediately come to mind.

1: It Makes God Ignorant

In my humble opinion, denying middle knowledge creates problems for God's omniscience. For example, if I ask God "If I were to ask Jennifer out of a date, how *would* she respond?" If God doesn't have middle knowledge (knowledge of what a person *would* do under a given circumstance), it seems His answer would have to be "I don't know." God would respond "I don't know how she would react. I only know how she will react to things that will happen to her in the future, but I have no knowledge of how she'd act under various hypothetical circumstances".

Any view that makes it where God could honestly answer "I don't know" seems very problematic. To be truly omniscient, it seems like God should know everything there is to know about everything. If He can say “I don’t know” to any question, wouldn’t it seem like he’s less than all-knowing?

What if I were to ask God “How would Judas Iscariot have turned out if he grew up in 16th century Japan?” If God doesn’t have middle knowledge, God wouldn’t be able to answer that question. Denying middle knowledge appears to have worse consequences than affirming it. The denial of middle knowledge makes God unable to answer many questions regarding hypotheticals and counterfactuals. It makes him ignorant. We might as well affirm open theism. Their God is ignorant of many things too (i.e future events).

If God does have middle knowledge, then the answer to the question “If I were to ask Jennifer to go on a date with me, how would she respond?” might be “She would say yes, but only if you serenade her. Sing this particular song from this particular band outside her window and not only will she go out on a date with you, but she’ll fall madly in love you with you. She goes gaga over this stuff.” Or….He might say “She would turn you down in all possible worlds. There’s nothing you could do to make her be your girlfriend.” Transworld heartbreak! lol There might be any number of answers God could give to this answer. But the point is, He would know the answer for sure, if He has middle knowledge, how Jennifer would respond to you in any given circumstance in any possible world.

2: It Appears God Is Lucky That Biblical History Worked Out The Way It Did.

This problem was pointed out by Max Andrews in his article “Why I’m Not An Arminian”. While most Molinists agree with Arminians on 98% of the things Arminians believe, Classical Arminians believe that God only has two logical moments of knowledge (natural and free) rather than three logical moments of knowledge (natural, middle, and free).

In His article “Why I’m Not An Arminian”, Max Andrews writes “My objection with Arminianism is… If God has merely two logical moments of knowledge (natural and free) then logically prior to God’s decree of creation he did not know what the world would be like.  He could know all possible worlds prior to the decree but he would not know the actual world until logically-post his creative decree (via simple foreknowledge).”

William Lane Craig writes
On such a view [no middle knowledge] of God [he has], logically prior to the divine decree, only natural knowledge of all possible scenarios but no knowledge of what would happen under any circumstances.  Thus, logically posterior to the divine decree, God must consider himself extraordinarily lucky to find that this world happened to exist.  “What a break!” we can imagine God’s saying to himself, “Herod and Pilate and all those people each reacted just perfectly!”  Actually, the situation is much worse than that, for God had no idea whether Herod or Pilate or the Israelite nation or the Roman Empire would even exist posterior to the divine decree.  Indeed, God must be astonished to find himself existing in a world, out of all the possible worlds he could have created, in which mankind falls into sin and God himself enters human history as a substitionary sacrificial offering!”

My friend Brennon Hartshorn wrote "If His counterfactual knowledge is just part of His free knowledge, which doesn't really make sense to me, but if it's limited to after His decision to create, then I don't see how He in any sense providentially guided creation. He (in logical priority) didn't have any knowledge except His necessary knowledge. Then He decided to create. Only then did His knowledge of His creation come into play. But at that point what is going to happen is set, even given His action in the world in response to things. But I don't know how He'd even have a response to things, given He didn't know them until He created. His knowledge of how someone would act outside of the situation there would be useless. And if He only has necessary and free knowledge, then I don't see how He'd have any counterfactual knowledge of anyone given that would entail different people being born.

But if at any point He did have knowledge prior to creation in order to say, "okay I'm going to place so and so here," or, "okay, I'm going to stop Abraham from doing this given I know He would if I didn't stop him" then He's using knowledge prior to creation decision, which is therefore middle knowledge. And in that sense, I don't see how the logical implications don't carry to knowledge of all possible and feasible worlds given omniscience.
The problems with simple foreknowledge are pretty bizarre, and I think every Arminian deep down is a Molinist." 

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Max Andrews points out in "Why I'm not an Arminian" that the Calvinist recognizes the problem (that the William Lane Craig and Brennon Hartshorn quotes point out) as well—The Calvinist’s solution, though, is determinism. Andrews says that while it’s true that the events in history are not by accident (Isaiah 46:9-10; Ephesians 10; 3.9, 11; 2 Timothy 1:9-10), and that, yes, God will be interacting by means of providing grace and revelation to manage his creation, but that he doesn’t (and I don’t either) find this to be as vigorous an understanding of sovereignty as Molinism does. 

Determinism is a view that all Christians should reject. There are both theological and philosophical reasons why all Christians should reject determinism as I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts (i.e “If God Determined Everything, How Could He Be Worthy Of Worship”, “The Incompatibility Of Compatiblism”, and “Why No One Should Worship God If Calvinism Is True”).  If God does have exhaustive knowledge, including a second moment (i.e middle knowledge), then God knows all possible and feasible worlds (including the actual world).