On Incorporating Middle Knowledge Into Calvinism: A Theological/Metaphysical Muddle? -- By: Luke Van Horn

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 55:4 (Dec 2012)
Article: On Incorporating Middle Knowledge Into Calvinism: A Theological/Metaphysical Muddle?
Author: Luke Van Horn


On Incorporating Middle Knowledge Into Calvinism: A Theological/Metaphysical Muddle?

Luke Van Horn

Luke Van Horn resides at 214 S 68th Ave., Yakima, WA 98908.

As is well known, over the last thirty years or so there has been a revival of interest in the late medieval doctrine of divine scientia media, or middle knowledge, amongst philosophers of religion and theologians.1 Surprisingly, among theologians some of the more enthusiastic proponents of this doctrine are theological determinists. This has led to some controversy over whether or not theological determinism (hereafter TD) is consistent with middle knowledge (hereafter MK). As a result of this controversy, some former theological determinist proponents of MK are now renouncing the doctrine. In this paper, I will argue that both sides to this controversy are correct. More exactly, I will attempt to establish two theses: (1) if one assumes traditional Calvinism and the standard account of the truth conditions for counterfactuals, TD is inconsistent with MK; (2) nevertheless, there are at least prima facie ways of coherently combining Calvinism with MK. The former claim is not original, as several recent authors have also argued for it. However, in my opinion, these arguments need to be made more clearly. The way in which I advance the latter claim, on the other hand, is original. I shall not pretend to be comprehensive, but rather, will broadly sketch two such ways one might try to effect the harmonization.

I. Preliminaries

Before discussing these issues, it will be helpful to define certain key terms that will figure prominently in what follows. This is crucial, as many theologians use these terms in quite different ways than philosophers, often leading to confusion.

  • Incompatiblism: free will is incompatible with causal determinism (hereafter determinism)
  • Compatibilism: free will is compatible with determinism
  • Libertarianism: the conjunction of incompatibilism with the thesis that at least sometimes we act freely2

  • Determinism: every exercise of causal power E (or action, or event, if one prefers3) is caused by a (either temporally or logically) previous exercise of causal power E*, and E* is causally sufficient for E

  • Theological determinism (TD): every non-divine exercise of causal power (or action, or event) E is caused by a (either temporally or logically) previous exercise of divine causal power D, and D is causally sufficient for E<...
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