Monday, January 12, 2009

Middle Knowledge

What is Middle Knowledge?

Middle knowledge entails God’s knowledge of all hypothetical situations, all contingencies, that is, all of the what-ifs.

What do Calvinists believe about Middle Knowledge?

Calvinist, R.C. Sproul, writes: "God's omniscience refers to God's total knowledge of all things actual and potential. God knows not only all that is, but everything that possibly could be. The expert chess player exemplifies a kind of omniscience, though it is limited to the options of chess play. He knows that his opponent can make move A, B, C, or D, and so forth. Each possible move opens up certain counter-moves. The more moves ahead the expert can consider, the more he can control his chess-game destiny. The more options and counter-options one considers, the more complex and difficult the reasoning. In reality no chess player is omniscient. God knows not only all available options, but also which option will be exercised. He knows the end from the beginning. God's omniscience excludes both ignorance and learning. If there is ignorance in the mind of God, then divine omniscience is a hollow, indeed fraudulent, phrase. Learning always presupposes a certain level of ignorance. One simply cannot learn what one already knows. There is no learning curve for God. Since no gaps exist in his knowledge, there is nothing for him to learn. For us to know what will happen tomorrow, we must guess concerning things that are contingent. If I say to a friend, 'What are you going to do tomorrow?' he might reply, 'That depends.' Those two words acknowledge that there are contingencies ahead and that what happens to us depends on these contingencies. It is said that God knows all contingencies, but none of them contingently. God never says to himself, 'That depends.' Nothing is contingent to him. He knows all things that will happen because he ordains everything that does happen. This is crucial to our understanding of God's omniscience. He does not know what will happen by virtue of exceedingly good guesswork about future events. He knows it with certainty because he has decreed it." (What is Reformed Theology?, pp.171-172)

Question: If God has Middle Knowledge, then why didn't He use it to save everyone, or to bring about His kingdom on earth, or to minimize sin?

Let's address this in 4 steps:

1) Do Calvinists agree with Arminians that God possesses Middle Knowledge?

Yes, based upon Sproul’s quote. However, the Calvinist perspective is that God’s Middle Knowledge is simply the logical result of an immutable decree, though nevertheless, both sides agree with the general concept of Middle Knowledge.

2) Why doesn’t God use His Middle Knowledge to limit sin?

According to Calvinism, God limits sin, to only those sins which are aligned to the sovereign purpose of God. (As previously discussed, that eliminates Compatibilism, and leaves room only enough for Hard Determinism.) Arminians insist that God does not ordain sin, or create sin for a purpose, or create sin by necessity, but rather that God takes the sin of others and uses it for a purpose, which is a big difference between God creating the fact of sin. Arminians believe that God created the fact of freedom, rather than the fact of sin, and then God uses men’s freedom, in order to initiate His own sovereign plans and desires.

3) Why doesn’t God use His Middle Knowledge to bring about the kingdom of God on earth?

Arminians believe that God used His Middle Knowledge of what Israel would have freely done, and planned Calvary accordingly (see Acts 2:23). The opposing Calvinist view affirms that God knows all contingencies (i.e. Middle Knowledge), but never knows anything contingently, and that is a major distinctive. In other words, according to Calvinism, God’s knowledge is not of what man would do, on his own, but what man would do, from the stand point of what necessarily follows from a predetermined, all-encompassing, decree.

4) Why doesn’t God use His Middle Knowledge to save everyone?

I may disagree slightly with most Arminians on this point, because I believe that God could save anyone and everyone, by their own free choice, if God simply applied sufficient pressure. In other words, think of someone who is the most “lost” and “depraved” person that you know, and imagine if Jesus appeared to them, just as Jesus appeared to Saul of Tarsus along the road to Damascus, and spoke with him, and blinded him for three days. You have to imagine that no matter how much a person is depraved, absolutely no one is too depraved for God to be able to reach. That doesn’t magnify man, but rather magnifies the ability of God to reach sinners, no matter how far off they may be. My understanding is that God does not give an irresistible grace, as per Calvinism, but rather that God gives a sufficient grace, that is, an enabling grace (i.e. Prevenient Grace), where someone is placed in a situation where they “can” receive Him, all by the divine intervention of God. The reason why one embraces or rejects this grace, thus depends upon the individual, and it’s not a matter of man seeking God, but God seeking man, and forcing the decision upon man. Man is therefore “passive” in terms of whether grace comes to him, and is only “active” in terms of whether he accepts or rejects the matter set before him, and on that account, is held accountable by God. There is also a strain of Calvinism, though is not the norm, that God uses His Middle Knowledge to bring about the salvation of His “elect.” There is also a strain of Arminianism that teaches that God used His Middle Knowledge to choose to effectuate the world in which the “most” amount of people would end up getting saved. (I do not subscribe to this view, but am studying it more carefully. It was taught by William Lane Craig and Ken Keathley. You can find Keathley’s presentation here. My next post will more fully address Keathley’s presentation on Molinism, in which he actually rejects both Calvinism and Arminianism.)

This issue was present in two prior Blogs:

The next Blog post will address Molinism, as taught by Ken Keathley.


Luke said...

In reading your post, my mind went in the direction of God's decrees. I've been working on this for some time and certainly am still not complete with what I offer but I would like to do so and see if it is another way of looking at the idea you are prodding with your post.

I see God as having two orders of decrees:
1. Inceptive Decree-God not only decrees, but the God also conceived of the idea.
2. Indulgent Decree-God decrees but man conceives of the idea.

I see this happening with Israel wanting a king for themselves like the rest of the nations. In relation to what I propose, God's choice of David as king would be Inceptive. The people's choice to have a king would be Indulgent. I propose I Samuel 16:12 and I Samuel 8:7-9 respectively as illustrations.

Be nice now, I'm still in my early stages with this.

Pastor Terry said...

This was a great article - air and balanced. You get a big "Amen!" from me!

Be blessed,
Terry Michaels
‘The preacher who hates religion and loves God’

Godismyjudge said...

Dear Richard,

I enjoyed your post.

I may disagree slightly with most Arminians on this point, because I believe that God could save anyone and everyoneby their own free choice, if God simply applied sufficient pressure.

Sometimes I think this, sometimes I don't.

In other words, think of someone who is the most “lost” and “depraved” person that you know, and imagine if Jesus appeared to them, just as Jesus appeared to Saul...

Right, but what about Judas or Satan. Presumably they had equivalent or greater revelation than Saul, yet they resisted.

God be with you,

Richard Coords said...

Hey Dan,

In terms of Judas and Satan, what if Jesus, at some point, sat down with Judas and did something unprecedented, and showed him his future, in Hell, and said, this is where you will end up. Just look at yourself in Hell, in torment, in the flames, and then look into Heaven, and see where the rest of the disciples are, and you missing out. Is this the path that you wish to continue on? I don't know if Jesus ever revealed the fulness of His middle knowledge with anyone in such a manner, but I imagine that it might have gotten Judas thinking, so that it's possible that he might not have rebelled. Perhaps God could have done the same with Satan, and showed him the big picture, of what his rebellion would ultimately cause, and where his final path in the lake of fire would end. Might it have made a difference? Yet, God chose not to do this, and allow Satan the freedom to rebel against Him, without such pressure so as to render obedience as irresistible. These are interesting things to ponder. Both sitations are interesting, because Judas is a part of prophecy, and Satan was an archangel, without total depravity, before his fall.

Richard Coords said...

Thanks Pastor Terry for the compliment.

Richard Coords said...

Hey Luke,

Those are some deep thoughts, as it intersects God's plans with ours. I would definitely like to see you develop those points. Clearly, Israel rejected both God and Samuel, in demanding a human king, like the other heathen nations had. Samuel even warned them of the consequences of having a king, and they could care less. They didn't want to have to trust in God. They wanted to have an earthly king protect them, and to provide security with an army. On the other hand, God permitted them the kind of king that they would want, and when he failed, God annointed the kind of king that He wanted. It's almost like, if you want a king, let me show you the kind of king that I would want for you to have, and David was a man after God's own heart, and a foreshadow of the King that God would put upon David's throne forever, being Jesus.

You have the things that man wants, and the things that God wants, and God uses the things that man wants, in order to demonstrate how God would have it.

Jugulum said...

"My understanding is that God does not give an irresistible grace, as per Calvinism, but rather that God gives a sufficient grace, that is, an enabling grace (i.e. Prevenient Grace), where someone is placed in a situation where they “can” receive Him, all by the divine intervention of God."

It's interesting that so many Calvinists prefer a term like "effectual call" to "irresistible grace". It seems like we could agree on that phrase--though there are still differences in the mechanics of God's exercise of sovereignty.

Troy said...

It's completely erroneous to claim God is schizoid having two wills to try to reconcile God wanting everyone to be saved but then not providing the means of salvation to everyone, whosoever is willing.

Though there may not be much difference in terms of world ensembles and God actualizing the one that saves the most and damns the least (according to Molinism and Middle Knowledge-see my final comment below about this), nonetheless, the god of calvinism is most heinous because he doesn't do all he can to provide salvation for everyone, for he does not give some the opportunity and coerces others allegedly totally depraved into accepting him without having a choice in the matter through irresistible grace.

What love is this? What gospel is this to say God died not for all? What love is this to give people false hope who according to calvinism are reprobated for hell without recourse?

It's not so much the actualized world (to reconcile God's infinite foreknowledge with free-will which calvinists don't have to do, because it is all premeditated not giving man the choice after or before he is totally depraved, depending on what kind of calvinist you are), but God's attitude in the process. The Bible says we shall know them by their fruit, for there are many false Christians out there worshiping false Christs with a false gospel and a false salvation.

Let us continue to pray for the calvinists to stop misrepresenting God of the Bible and to even give their lives to Christ, but this requires their repentance from calvinism. Without true repentance and belief in Christ before regeneration, how shall they be saved? To merely assume, by their own free-will, they were selected (and often can't even remember their alleged regeneration date so they vainly in their human depravity make it up they were selected) without repentance by their choice afforded to them by God's enabling grace, they are not one iota saved. It is most strange to deny free-will (true free-will unimposed) at the same time to employ that very same will to deny God's way of salvation.

I must state this clear fact as plainly as can be: a calvinist, though he may try to use Molinism, in the nuances you will still find it to be not actual Molinism and Middle Knowledge, because in the way the calvinist tries to use it, he will inevitably slip up because he misrepresents God's desire and will (e.g. two will theory). A discerning Christian will pick up on this.

I have a friend, Darryl, who put it best. We may not always know the details and even why something is wrong, but the Holy Spirit moves in us to tell us something is not right about calvinists or whatever. You may only have just a word to go on or some small intuitive sense, but it is enough to know something is very wrong in the state of Denmark. As time goes on, add to your spiritual discernment spiritual words as you gather additional information. Amen.