The purpose of this paper is to enquire into a topic of immense interest to the writer. In brief, the writer will outline the doctrine of mere Molinism (mere because a full outlining and apologia of this doctrine in argument is beyond the scope of this paper) and inquire into how a feature of this doctrine can be attributed to Christology.
Molinism is a little known and often neglected concept within theology. This doctrine was discovered by Luis De Molina who was a Jesuit Priest and counter-reformer who sought to reconcile God’s sovereignty with man’s libertarian freedom of the will. In brief, to simplify this doctrine, it claims that an omniscient (and omnipotent) God possesses something known as Middle Knowledge. As the name implies, this knowledge is founded logically between God’s Natural Knowledge (God’s infinite knowledge of Himself prior to creating. This includes God’s knowledge of all possible worlds within an omnipotent God’s power to actualize. The content of this knowledge is essential to God) and (after His creative decree) His Free Knowledge (God’s absolute and exhaustive knowledge of all things pertaining to the actual world, the content of which is not essential to God). These two ‘stages’ of God’s knowledge are generally not contested within the realm of Theology (unless one denies God’s Omniscience pertaining to the latter ‘stage’, whereas one would affirm a view akin to Open Theism). This doctrine, likewise, conforms to God’s Omni attributes as it is a causal subset of God’s Omniscience.
Middle Knowledge (MK) is the doctrine that posits, prior to creating, and logically posterior (I say logically because we are finite, and this is the best way for us to understand God’s knowledge), God has an infinite amount of knowledge pertaining to counterfactuals of creaturely freedom (CCF’s). Or, as per Stratton, MK is, “God’s knowledge of what every possible free creature would do under any possible set of circumstances, and, hence, knowledge of those possible worlds which God can make actual.”
God, being omnipotent, has freedom of the will in the libertarian sense (LFW), as He possesses the power to create creatures who also possess libertarian freedom of the will; even if He never does (ergo, given God’s omnipotence implies His libertarian freedom). This means, God can create beings who can choose between an array of competing options (e.g., A or -A) even if He never does. In conforming to God’s Omni attributes, this knowledge is, indeed, infinite, and exhaustive. That is to say, prior to creating, God knows (to an infinite degree) what a creature, who thus possesses libertarian freedom, would freely do if placed in any possible freedom-permitting circumstances. To simplify, one can refer to possible world semantics. If I were to ask God if He had placed me in China would I still be a Christian. God would be able to give me a detailed and exhaustive analysis into that possible world. It must be noted that possible worlds in philosophy are not to be equated with multiverse theory. The latter asserts actualized existence while the former claims nonexistence. Possible worlds are thus propositional knowledge God possesses to an infinite degree pertaining to the free actions His creatures would commit if
To simplify as per the Molinist scheme, God’s:
1. Natural Knowledge: What could be.
2. Middle Knowledge: What would be.
–God’s creative decree–
3. Free Knowledge: What will be.
In short, mere Molinism is the doctrine that entails two pillars:
i. God possesses Middle Knowledge.
ii. Man has libertarian freedom of the will.
Thus far we have maintained an outlining of God’s possession of infinite knowledge pertaining to CCF’s. But what of Jesus during his 33 years on Earth? As mentioned above, an apologia and full outlining of this doctrine is beyond the scope of this paper. With that said, this doctrine is not explicitly taught in Scripture, so one must turn to Theology to work out its implications being implied by Scripture.
As for Biblical support: 1st Samuel 23:6-14; Jeremiah 38:17-18; a consideration of Deuteronomy 18:22 (test of a true prophet) and Isaiah 38:1-5; Amos 7:1-6; Jonah 3:1-10. And, indeed, Jesus Himself: John 15:22-24; John 18:36; Matthew 26:24 (Note, this list is not exhaustive).
Considering our Christology, the question is: does Christ Jesus also possess knowledge of counterfactuals? If He does, to what degree (exhaustively, minimally, to a human’s extent, or as the Holy Spirit as sent from the Father provides)?
As mentioned above, Jesus does in fact utter counterfactual statements as recorded in Scripture. Considering the sinlessness of Christ, we can rule out the possibility of such statements being lies or mere bluffs. In assessing this notion, one must turn to the Son’s Hypostatic Union. Christ is, in fact, the God/Man. That is to say, He is a hybrid of being fully Man and fully God (John 1:1-5; 1 John 1:1-3 ff.). Therefore, as far as His divine side is concerned, He is from eternity and Omniscient without beginning and thus would have middle knowledge. However, as far as His human side is concerned, He is limited. If we define His roll via the Divine Triunity of the Godhead as merely to provide a means of Salvation for all, one is left to wonder if it is at all necessary for Christ to have such knowledge of CCF’s. Perhaps in his emptying (Kenosis Theory) of Himself, the shedding of such knowledge was necessary to fully experience humanity. But then what about the counterfactual statements Jesus spoke?
MacGregor notes that Molina argues that (concerning salvation of individuals), considering Matt. 11:20-24, John 15:22-24, and John 18:36, Jesus does in fact have knowledge of true CCF’s; at least pertaining to soteriology. Likewise, in 1 Cor. 2:8, Paul also shows signs of such knowledge. However, Paul was obviously enlightened by the Holy Spirit, and consequentially was not a divine, rather the Divine was working through him (the same goes for David and the ephod in 1st Samuel 23: 6-14, and any other prophetic utterance declared by anyone other than Jesus). Jesus is the Divine. Humans can only be enlightened briefly by the Holy Spirit, or display a mere best guess pertaining to the validity of counterfactuals. However, concerning God, if these statements were mere foreknowledge “they would self-contradictorily be mistakes on the part of a God who cannot err, since the consequent or “then” clause of these statements did not come to pass. On the other hand, these statements cannot be stating mere possibilities, since they affirm what would happen, not what could happen, under certain conditions different than those which in fact materialized.”
In conclusion, the theological hypothesis pertaining to Jesus Christ and His Omniscient ability in relation to counterfactuals of creaturely freedom is an often neglected one; even more so than the doctrine of Molinism. Even though there is Biblical warrant to justify such a belief, it is still shrouded in many questions, presuppositions, and assumptions as such a feat requires careful scrutinization at a scholarly level. This doctrine, pertaining to Christ, is littered with concepts related to Trinitarian doctrines, Christology, philosophical inquiries into possible world semantics, libertarian freedom of the will (and its limits), soteriological understandings, etc. Such work has been done; others are hopefully forthcoming. Nonetheless, the writer is of the belief that Christ does in fact exhibit at least some knowledge pertaining to true counterfactuals in relation to creaturely freedom and soteriology as per Biblical evidence warrants. What that means in relation to God’s Omniscient nature and to the doctrine of Middle Knowledge as per the Molinist scheme is yet to be contested.
(1) Timothy A. Stratton, Human Freedom, Divine Knowledge, and Mere Molinism: A Biblical, Historical, Theological, and Philosophical Analysis (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2020), 214.
(2) See, Stratton, Mere Molinism, pg. 214.
(3) See, Stratton, Mere Molinism, pg. 214.
(6) Kirk R. MacGregor, Luis De Molina: the Life and Theology of the Founder of Middle Knowledge (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 82-84.
(7) See, MacGregor, Molina, pg.84.
– Stratton, Timothy A. Human Freedom, Divine Knowledge, and Mere Molinism: A Biblical, Historical, Theological, and Philosophical Analysis. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2020.
– MacGregor, Kirk R. Luis De Molina: the Life and Theology of the Founder of Middle Knowledge. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015.
For further reading
MacGregor, Kirk R. A Molinist-Anabaptist Systematic Theology. Lanham, Maryland: Univ. Press of America, 2007.
Craig, William Lane. The Only Wise God: The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2000.