Why Calvinists Should Believe In Divine Middle Knowledge, Although They Reject Molinism -- By: Terrance L. Tiessen

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 69:2 (Fall 2007)
Article: Why Calvinists Should Believe In Divine Middle Knowledge, Although They Reject Molinism
Author: Terrance L. Tiessen


Why Calvinists Should Believe In Divine Middle Knowledge, Although They Reject Molinism

Terrance L. Tiessen

Terrance L. Tiessen is Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology and Ethics at Providence Theological Seminary, Otterburne, Manitoba, Canada.

I. Introduction

In Providence and Prayer: How Does God Work in the World? I proposed a model of divine providence that I dubbed “middle knowledge Calvinism.”1 More recently, Bruce Ware has argued for the same position, which he identifies as “compatibilist middle knowledge.”2 As William Lane Craig has observed,

Christian theologians have typically affirmed that in virtue of his omniscience, God possesses counterfactual knowledge.. .. Not until Friedrich Schleiermacher and the advent of modern theology did theologians think to deny God knowledge of true counterfactuals. Everyone who had considered the issue agreed that God has such knowledge.3

What theologians disputed was “so to speak, when God has such counterfactual knowledge.”4

It is possible that some of the confusion about “when” God has the knowledge of counterfactuals derives from a definitional ambiguity. I am using the term as Craig does when he says that “counterfactuals are conditional statements in the subjunctive mood.”5 One might assume that the term refers only to events which never happen but which would have happened if circumstances had been different, that is, that no counterfactual ever actually occurs. By this very strict definition of a “counterfactual,” both Molinists and Calvinists would have to assert that God knows counterfactuals only in his free knowledge, since

they could not be known, by definition, until after God had chosen a particular world and thereby decided what would actually occur.

Response to the middle knowledge Calvinist proposal has indicated both misunderstanding and disagreement. Some have argued that God’s knowledge of counterfactuals (that is, of purely hypothetical events, the knowledge of what creatures would do in particular circumstances, which may or may not ever be realized) is part of his necessary or natural knowledge, and others have argued that it is part of God’s free knowledge. In either case, it is contended, there is no reason to posit divine middle knowledge. In this article, I will examine particularly the class...

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