"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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  • « Complete Sovereignty in One Verse | Main | The Key to Spiritual Growth »

    God’s Sovereignty Part 3 by Marco Gonzalez

    In my previous articles, we discussed God’s control over everything and compatibilism between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. We learned that Libertarian Freedom, in itself, inadequately relieves this tension. Libertarians, however, are well aware of this and have adapted their views to what has been called: “Middle Knowledge”. In this view, supporters still claim the Libertarian freedom of man, but they integrate Middle Knowledge into their construct. Like most things in theology Middle Knowledge is not new. William Lane Craig, apologist and philosopher, is one of the foremost contemporary theologians who hold this view. As we will see, middle knowledge is simply another venue to human autonomy, the indeterminate view of God, and Libertarian freedom.

    I have shown how God decrees all events, brings them about, and his absolute sovereign control over all things. We also know that God’s omniscience presupposes comprehensive knowledge. But what about passages that appear conditional? For example, If David leaves or stays in Keilah. Remember Saul is seeking his life and David has remained in Keilah. David prays to the Lord, seeking his guidance, as to whether he should remain there. The Lord responds:

    [12] Then David said, “Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?” And the LORD said, “They will surrender you.”
    (1 Samuel 23:12 ESV)

    Two options have now been presented to David. First, if he remains, the Keilahites will betray him. Second, if he leaves, he will free himself of their betrayal. God, therefore, knows both the possibilities and actualities of any circumstance. God’s comprehensive knowledge not only includes what will actually happen in the past, present, and future, but possibilities that never occur.

    In Matthew 11:20-24, we have a similar circumstance. In this passage, Jesus says that if Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom had seen his miracles they would have repented. Jesus knows what would have happened given another state of circumstances. It is noteworthy to mention Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum after seeing his miracles still rejected him.

    "[20] Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. [21] “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. [22] But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. [23] And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. [24] But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

    (Matthew 11:20-24 ESV)

    I am hoping my more observant readers, will make the connection to Libertarian Freedom. God’s knowledge of these possibilities, given another state of circumstances, and the ability to “choose contrary” create the need for Libertarian Freedom. But if God knows all the possibilities of any circumstance, doesn’t this contradict his eternal plans? No, it is abundantly clear from scripture that God knows all the possibilities of any event. Of course, there are many possibilities that God can bring about, but has sovereignly determined not to. God’s knowledge of what is possible is called:

    Necessary Knowledge or Natural Knowledge- God’s knowledge of possibilities is grounded in himself.

    God knows all the possibilities because he knows himself and his nature. Since God knows himself, this knowledge cannot be imparted or influenced by his creatures. His knowledge is above and beyond man, because he knows himself. When God, however, brings about an actual event, meaning a possibility becomes an actuality, it is called:

    Free Knowledge- God’s knowledge of actualities are the things he has decided to bring about.

    Free knowledge refers to God’s eternal decree. It is a free act because God has determined, independently of any influence, to create and bring about his purposes. These acts are free and are not necessary, since it is based in himself. His purpose in these free acts is to display and magnify his worth. These two categories clearly and thoroughly explain God’s knowledge.

    Subsequently, the idea of Middle Knowledge was created by Spanish Jesuit Luis Molina (1535-1600). His ideas have been adopted by Jesuits, Lutherans, and Arminians. Middle Knowledge, introduced a third category to God’s knowledge. William Lane Craig, in his book The Only Wise God, has explained the three categories, as follows:

    1. Natural Knowledge: God’s knowledge of all possible worlds. The content of this knowledge is essential to God.

    2. Middle Knowledge: God’s knowledge of what every possible free creatures would do under any possible set of circumstances and, hence, knowledge of those possible worlds which God can make actual. The content of this knowledge is not essential to God.

    3. Free Knowledge: God’s knowledge of the actual world. The content of this knowledge is not essential to God.

    Craig is attempting to reconcile the conditional passages of human responsibility and divine sovereignty. Even Israel, the chosen people of God, was given conditions of blessings and cursing based on their obedience. If the idea of Middle Knowledge was simply to explain the conditional connection between future events, with the connection determined by God, I would have no objection. But this connection is not what Craig has in mind or is trying to reconcile. Origen, an early church father once said, “Things do not occur because God knows them, but God foreknows them because they are going to occur.” This is exactly what Craig has in mind and his sequence of God’s knowledge allows it. God begins with Natural Knowledge, then consider the possibilities of Middle Knowledge, and creates with Free knowledge. With this sequence, God does not derive his knowledge of the free actions of men from himself, his eternal decree, but from creatures.

    Take a look at definitions 1 and 2. Why separate “possible worlds” and “knowledge of what every possible free creatures would do under any possible set of circumstances” under distinct categories, when God knows both. God knows all possible words, assuming he is omniscient, and therefore he knows all creatures and their possible actions. God’s knowledge of contingencies belongs in his necessary knowledge and a third category is not needed. In my definition of necessary knowledge, I have included both.

    This is why each category also states-“The content of this knowledge is not essential to God.” God’s knowledge does not originate with himself, or his nature, or his decree. At the root, when Middle Knowledge refers to “free creatures”, it means Libertarian freedom. I would refer the reader to see my post on Libertarian freedom here. Remember Libertarian freedom allows for the influence of an event, but the agent can always choose contrary, given any set of conditions. When God knows all the possible worlds, and makes one possible, that actual world must come to pass and will infringe upon human freedom. God has determined that all the events of that actual world must come to pass. If God is to have middle knowledge than he can’t know what choices humans will make. If God knows all the possibilities, given a set of circumstances, he cannot possible know human decisions because the circumstances or conditions never determine human choices. This is where Open Theist’s are absolutely correct, as they are well aware that if God chooses a possibility he is still determining all events. The act of an actual word is God foreordaining all events of that world. This is why I have excluded middle knowledge as a separate category.

    It is interesting to note that both definitions of God’s knowledge and man’s choice are corresponding. God’s knows all possibilities, given a state of circumstances, and actualizes the world we choose. Yet man’s ability to choose is “the ability to choose contrary” given a state of circumstances. This is what Craig means when he says “free creatures” in definition 2. The need for Libertarian freedom is at the heart of middle knowledge. But we learned already about the inadequacy of Libertarian freedom. In our final analysis, we can’t agree with a middle knowledge that advocates Libertarian freedom.

    Posted by Marco on June 2, 2014 11:06 PM


    Can't seem to get around this verse:

    Job 37:7 He seals up the hand of every man, that all men whom he made may know it.

    The LXX: Job 37:7 He seals up the hand of every man, that every man may know his own weakness.

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