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Book Review

Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views – A Response to William Lane Craig’s Middle-Knowledge View

A response to William Lane Craig’s chapter on middle-knowledge in Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views.

William Lane Craig is perhaps the most prolific modern philosopher to purport the middle knowledge view of divine foreknowledge today. In Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views, Craig displays this prowess by categorically defending Molinism. Among the other competing understandings of divine foreknowledge, the middle knowledge view stands out for several reasons. First of all, it expands the omniscience of God, while highlighting His relation to man as immanently personal yet distinctly transcendent. In addition, and perhaps most significantly, the Molinist view best corroborates the existence of creaturely free will alongside divine providence.

Observing the whole of Craig’s chapter in Four Views, one finds a constant and consistent application of Christian philosophy. Indeed, the author begins his section by addressing the concept of counterfactuals – a term not used in the Biblical text yet highly important throughout Scripture. These statements represent possibilities, of what would be if a certain action were taken. Thus understood in theology, counterfactuals represent real options a free creature would have taken if he or she were placed in a certain circumstance. God’s knowledge of these counterfactuals is understood by the Molinist as existing logically prior to the creative decree – in between God’s natural knowledge and free knowledge. Thus, this “middle knowledge” informs God of the decisions creatures would make if placed in circumstances, and allows him to actualize a world wherein the sum of freely made creaturely decisions ultimately allows God to accomplish His purposes. As William Lane Craig defines it, middle knowledge best synthesizes divine providence with human free will.

I would argue that William Lane Craig offers the best understanding of divine providence via Molinism. In addition to the solid logic previously expounded, the objections to middle knowledge seem unconvincing. Dr. Craig specifically addresses the grounding argument, wherein the truth of counterfactuals is disregarded as being without basis. Yet, as the author explains, this objection is far from sound. Perhaps counterfactuals are simply possibly true, or exist in the mind of God. One need not assert their existence as necessary, abstract objects. In the area of theology, arguments linking God’s foreknowledge to fatalistic preordination are simply implausible when one addresses, as Craig does, logical versus chronological priority. Very few solid objections against Molinism have surfaced, and the middle knowledge view is far from heretical.

In my opinion, the most convincing portion of Dr. Craig’s chapter is his defense of counterfactuals within Scripture. The author presents several circumstances, such as David’s experience with Keilah, wherein God himself clearly offers a counterfactual statement (cf. 1 Sam. 23). Certainly this validates the truth of such statements. Moreover, it seems to show the reality of human responsibility and reality of free will, wherein creaturely decisions truly affect future procession. God’s suggestion that Keliah would offer up David to Saul if David stayed in the city cannot be explained away by mere hyperbole. God allows David to choose between leaving or staying, knows the outcomes of each choice, and foreknows what David will actually choose. As Craig explains, the Bible does not explicitly address “divine middle knowledge” but it does indeed suggest the validity of this extension to God’s omniscience.

Finally, the practicality of a middle knowledge view cannot be dismissed. As previously mentioned, this view best synthesizes human free will with divine providence. Stemming from this conclusion is an exceptionally qualified theodicy. By God’s middle knowledge, one is able to recognize the Creator as wholly sovereign yet not responsible for the free actions of human beings. Thus, the responsibility for evils within our world are the result of our God-given ability to make truly free decisions. Even so, we know God has actualized a world wherein His plan will be fulfilled. Several additional theological issues can be better defined according to middle knowledge, such as God’s ability to answer all prayers and biblical inspiration.

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