MacGregor’s Argument for God’s Middle Knowledge

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

|

July 25, 2017

In my humble opinion, Dr. Kirk MacGregor is the world’s leading authority regarding Luis de Molina and his work concerning what God knows. Molina was a theologian from the Reformation era and the founder of the doctrine of God’s Middle Knowledge. Those who affirm Molina’s ideas are now referred to as “Molinists.” MacGregor has devoted much of his academic career to understanding Molina’s work — most of which has never been translated from the original Latin (William Lane Craig once remarked that “Kirk reads Latin the way I read English and is making available many of the untranslated materials from Molina in order to tell us about his life.”) MacGregor is the author of several scholarly works including, Luis de Molina: The Life and Theology of the Founder of Middle Knowledge.

Needless to say, MacGregor is a top-notch scholar, philosopher, and theologian! I have learned much from him and I encourage all to study his work. He has paved the way for many of my arguments supporting Molina’s views regarding God’s middle knowledge (See “Proving the Two Pillars” and “Questions for Calvinists”). Moreover, MacGregor recently shared an argument with me that he presents to his students at McPherson College in Kansas.[1]

Consider a new argument for God’s middle knowledge:

1. God either possesses his counterfactual knowledge logically prior or logically posterior to his creative decree.

2. If humans possess soft libertarian freedom, then God possesses his counterfactual knowledge logically prior to his creative decree.

3. Humans possess soft libertarian freedom (they sometimes have a range of options from which they can choose, even if that range consists of all bad options, all good options, some bad and some good, etc.).

4. Therefore, God possesses his counterfactual knowledge logically prior to his creative decree [This is Middle Knowledge].

Defending the Argument 

Step (4) is a deductive conclusion which logically follows from the premises if the premises are true. With that in mind, examine the premises to see if they can be supported as true. When some Calvinists object to (3), MacGregor offers a (non-exhaustive) list of Scriptures that prove soft libertarian freedom. Here is some of the Biblical data to consider:

Gen 4:6-7; Deut 30:11-20; Josh 24:14-15, 22; Psalm 119:108-109; Isa 5:3-4; Prov 1:23, 28; Jer 26:2-4; Jer 36:3, 7, 17-20; Ezek 18:21-24, 30-32; Ezek 33:11; Zech 1:2-4; Matt 23:37-39; Acts 5:4; 1 Cor 7:37; 1 Cor 10:13; Rev 2:21. (Consider the article “Molinism is Biblical” for more.)

Given the Biblical data for soft libertarian free will (soft-LFW), if a Christian wants to deny that humans possesses the ability to choose among options in accord with their nature, then they hold an anti-biblical view! Thus, if a Christian is going to affirm the authority of God’s Word, they must also affirm the third premise of this syllogism.

In defense of premise (2), MacGregor notes,

“Suppose God possesses his counterfactual knowledge logically posterior to his creative decree. Then it is God who decrees what every possible individual would do in any possible circumstances. In that case, no possible individual has soft libertarian freedom (a range of options from which they can choose). For any circumstance, God has locked them into one course of action. From these considerations (2) follows.”

Consider this scenario: If humanity does not possess (at the least) soft-LFW then it would be impossible for an unregenerate sinner to ever choose between sinful options (say choosing between robbing a bank or robbing a liquor store). It would be impossible for a Christian to choose to take his or her thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) or to choose to resist temptation to sin when they are tempted to sin (1 Corinthians 10:13). If no one possesses soft-LFW, then even Christians do not possess an ability to choose between reading a red Bible or a blue Bible? That is to say, if John Piper reads a red Bible, he could not have chosen otherwise and read a blue Bible. If he does not possess soft-LFW, then Piper is causally determined to read the red Bible and it was impossible for him to read the blue Bible.

Finally, if we do not possess soft-LFW, then Christians do not possess the libertarian freedom to deliberate and rationally think things through to reach conclusions like, “Calvinism is probably true,” or “Molinism is the inference to the best explanation.” No, all of our thoughts — whatever they are — are not up to us and they could not be otherwise. Even your thought about that last sentence is causally determined if soft-LFW does not exist.

Now, if the Bible is true, and soft-LFW is possessed by humans, then if the (FW) “free will” really means “free will,” then, these free choices are not causally determined by God. For example, then, it follows that God would possess counterfactual knowledge of what would have happened if an agent would have freely chosen to eat at McDonald’s instead of Burger King (or vice versa) prior to His creative decree. If God does not possess this eternal omniscience (prior to creation), then the person who eats a Big Mac simply was determined to do so and could not have done otherwise and eaten a Whopper! Thus, God’s so-called counterfactual knowledge would be based upon what He could have chosen to do — not based on the counterfactual of the creature’s freedom to choose.

Since premises (3) and (2) are both supported and seem (at the least plausibly) true, the soundness of the deductive conclusion now rests upon the first premise. The Bible is clear that God possesses counterfactual knowledge (1 Sam 23:6-14; Jer 38:17-18; Deut 18:22; Isaiah 38:1-5; Amos 7:1-6; Jonah 3: 1-10; John 15:22; 24; John 18:36; Matt 26:24; Mark 4:10-12). Based on the logical law of the excluded middle, God either possesses omniscient knowledge of counterfactuals prior to His creative decree or God gains this knowledge after His creative decree.[2]

Pick your poison! If one affirms that God is truly omniscient and possesses perfect counterfactual knowledge, then the question is raised: Is God eternally omniscient or does God gain knowledge? It is either one or the other. Thus, premise (2) MUST be true.

Conclusion

It seems as if all the premises in this valid argument are true. Thus, we have good reason to believe the conclusion is sound: “God possesses his counterfactual knowledge logically prior to his creative decree.” Therefore, God possesses Middle Knowledge! One is free to disagree with this logically deductive conclusion supported by Scripture, or one can always…

Stay reasonable (Isaiah 1:18),

Tim Stratton


Notes

[1] I would like to thank Kirk MacGregor for granting me permission to be the first to officially publish his argument on any website, blog, or journal. Also, thank you for permission to use the image of Molina (which is from the cover of his book).

[2] Since the decree is not a logical moment of knowledge but an intervening act of will, nothing can be logically (i.e., explanatorily) simultaneous with it. In other words, some element of knowledge is either prior to the act of will or a result of the act of will. Indeed, some have asserted that God, as part of his creative decree, freely assigned truth values to all counterfactual statements. This, however, does not mean that counterfactual knowledge is logically simultaneous with His decree. It means that God’s decree explains his counterfactual knowledge and that the counterfactual knowledge is therefore logically posterior to His decree on this view.

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About the Author

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

Tim pursued his undergraduate studies at the University of Nebraska-Kearney (B.A. 1997) and after working in full-time ministry for several years went on to attain his graduate degree from Biola University (M.A. 2014). Tim was recently accepted at North West University to pursue his Ph.D. in systematic theology with a focus on metaphysics.

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