Does God Know & Not Know Simultaneously?

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

|

July 8, 2019

Question:

Dear Tim,

On the framework of Molinism God possesses knowledge in different “logical moments” (natural, middle, and free knowledge) prior to creation. These logical moments are not to me confused with chronological moments. However,  if there are multiple “logical moments” of God’s knowledge, then would this not imply that God knows and does not know a truth simultaneously? If so, is this not a contradiction nullifying the entire idea of middle knowledge and Molinism?

– Anonymous


Tim’s Response:

The concept of God’s middle knowledge is not easy to grasp. It took me months of study before it finally “clicked” (but I am not always the sharpest tool in the shed)! Be that as it may, after some concepts are clarified, one can see that the ideas of middle knowledge and Molinism continue to stand strong.

It is important to note that if God is, in fact, omniscient (which most Christian theologians affirm), then there is no state of affairs in which God does not know all truth values to all propositions. He is the perfect standard of knowledge. Humans, on the other hand, can gain limited amounts of knowledge and deliberate over time. God, however, deliberates “all at once” apart from time and logically prior to the first moment of dynamic time (or the second state of affairs).

What does this “divine deliberation” look like?

Consider the state of affairs that I refer to as “God’s static state of aseity.” This simply refers to the state in which God exists and nothing else actually exists and no ontological change of affairs has occurred or is occurring. This means that nothing has happened in a chronological sense (one event following another). God exists necessarily and without beginning in this state of affairs and possesses the Big 3 of omni-attributes: Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Omnibenevolence.

With God’s “omni-attributes” in mind, we can reach some mind-expanding conclusions. Since God is omnipotent (the ability to do all things possible), He has an infinite array of options available. That is to say,  God could do many things or actualize many “possible worlds.” Given God’s omniscience, He knows exactly what all of these options are and what would happen if He used His omnipotent power to actualize any of these possibilities. That is to say, God knows all that He could do and all that would happen if He did it!

Theologians refer to the knowledge God has of what He “could do” as “natural knowledge.” We refer to God’s knowledge of what “would happen if” (even if God never does it), as His “middle knowledge.”

The parenthetical phrase “even if God never does it” is vital because it places this knowledge of what God knows He could do and what would happen if He did it logically prior to the creative decree. This is what makes this specific kind of knowledge middle knowledge. So, unless one wants to affirm that God is not omniscient logically prior to His creative decree (or His creative act), then God must possess middle knowledge. This middle knowledge is something impossible for humans to possess since we are contingent upon God’s creative act.[1] Unlike humans, since God possesses all propositional knowledge all at once, He also deliberates (so-to-speak) all at once and apart from the first change. God knows all He could do and what would happen if He did it. He chooses a world — seemingly a tied for the best possible world or best feasible world (given God’s economy) — “and then” (to use temporal language) issues in the first chronological change of ontological affairs which has led to the changing state of affairs in which we find ourselves.

It is nonsensical to claim that God knows X and does not know X simultaneously. It is simply accurate to state that in God’s static state of aseity logically prior to His creative decree/act, God knows all He could do and He also knows all that would happen if He did one thing or an infinite amount of other things.

Stay reasonable (Isaiah 1:18),

Tim Stratton


Notes

[1] Perhaps the recent Avengers movies have offered a scenario where a human possesses a form of middle knowledge. See the following two articles:

Avengers: Infinity War & Possible Worlds

Avengers: Endgame, Middle Knowledge, & the Destruction of the Problem of Evil

Tagged with:
Share:

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 is currently enrolled at North-West University pursuing his Ph.D. in systematic theology with a focus on metaphysics, history, and biblical data.

Learn More