Tiessen on God on Middle Knowledge

I have long held on to two positions which, prima facie, are in tension: 1) a Calvin-esque theology, which at least means that God is providentially in control of all things, including human creatures and 2) the notion that God can know, indeed does know, counterfactuals (see 1 Sam 23:1-13 for one such instance). That said, I reject a full-blown Molinism (named after Luis de Molina), which involves God having “middle knowledge,” neatly summarized and ably defended by the formidable William Lane Craig:

The doctrine of divine middle knowledge (media scientia), first articulated by the Counter–Reformation theologian Luis de Molina in 1588, holds that God’s decree concerning which world to create is based upon and, hence, explanatorily posterior to His knowledge of what every free creature He could possibly create would do in any appropriately specified set of circumstances in which God might place him. Thus logically prior to His creative decree, God knows the truth of propositions describing how some creature would freely act in a specific set of circumstances, e.g., If Goldwater were to win the U.S. presidential election in 1964, he would order the invasion of North Viet Nam. The doctrine presupposes that there are such true counterfactuals and that their truth is logically independent of the divine decree. (Source)

My reasons for rejecting Molinism and middle knowledge are many. For example, subsequent to the Fall, humans no longer have libertarian freedom (see my “Augustine and Freedom: Some Tentative Philosophical Conclusions” in which I argue for a flavor of soft-determinism vis-à-vis libertarian freedom). A libertarian notion of freedom is an epistemic pillar for  embracing middle knowledge. Put differently, there are no Molinists who do not also hold to libertarian freedom. In addition, the grounding objection to middle knowledge (that counterfactuals have no truth-values and, therefore, cannot be known) seems to have merit and makes sense to me, in so far as I understand the complex metaphysics behind it. I’ve not yet read any grounding objection to Molinism’s grounding objection that convinces me otherwise.

How, then, can a theological Calvinist deny middle knowledge but affirm God’s knowledge of counterfactuals? Read Terrance Tiessen’s fine and clear explanation in his “Does Calvinism Have Room for Middle Knowledge?” (source).

Some of the main attractions of affirming God having knowledge of counterfactuals include: 1) it is faithful to a straight-forward, common sense reading of biblical texts that intimate God does have knowledge of counterfactuals while 2) sustaining a robust theology regarding God’s providential control and omniscience, and 3) maintaining an existentially viable position that affirms human freedom with moral responsibility. I heartily recommend Tiessen’s article and blog to you.

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