Maximal Greatness & Middle Knowledge



(The FreeThinking Theist)


January 7, 2019

Why think that Mere Molinism is true? If this view corresponds to reality, then two other propositions must also be true: (i) Logically prior to God’s decision to create the world, God knew everything that would happen in any possible scenario He could create (entails God’s middle knowledge). (ii) As beings created in God’s image, humans, like God, possess the categorical ability to choose between a range of options, each of which is consistent with their nature.

If the second pillar is true, then it follows that humans possess libertarian freedom (limited to some things some of the time). If the first pillar corresponds to reality, then it logically follows that God possesses middle knowledge. Molinists have provided a “three-punch combo for freedom” with arguments utilizing metaphysics, theology, and biblical data to demonstrate that humans possess libertarian freedom. Molinists have also offered several arguments demonstrating that God has middle knowledge of how humans would freely choose logically prior to His decision to actually create humans (See the Mere Molinism Argument and Kirk MacGregor’s Argument for God’s Middle Knowledge). In this article, however, one simple — but strong — argument for God’s limitless and beginningless knowledge is offered.

This argument is based on Anselm’s Perfect Being Theology. God, by definition, is a being in which nothing greater can be conceived. With the definition of God in mind — as a Maximally Great Being — Jacobus Erasmus and I (Perichoresis Volume 16:2) have offered an argument for God’s middle knowledge demonstrating that a being who possesses middle knowledge is greater than a being who lacks middle knowledge. The syllogism goes as follows:

(1) If God lacks middle knowledge, then God is not a maximally great being.

(2) God is a maximally great being.

(3) Therefore, God has middle knowledge.

The Molinist and the divine determinist both typically strive to affirm (2), rendering the crucial premise to scrutinize (1). But why should one affirm (1)? It seems obvious that a being whose knowledge of counterfactuals does not depend on the being’s prior will, decisions, or actions is greater than a being whose knowledge of counterfactuals does depend on these. Consider the following thought experiment for clarification.

Suppose that both Tim and Tia know that (B) If Ethan were to run for President of the United States, that Ethan would win the election and actually become President of the United States. Suppose further that Ethan will eventually run for POTUS and win, such that (B) is true, and that Tim and Tia know (B) before Ethan runs for POTUS. Additionally, suppose that Tim knows (B) only because he has rigged the election in such a way that Ethan would win if he runs for POTUS. In this case, Tim’s knowledge of (B) is not amazing. Why should anyone be impressed by the fact that Tim knows (B), since we know that he intentionally performed actions that would guarantee (B)? Tim’s knowledge of (B) is merely grounded on his prior knowledge of the rigged election. What is the big deal? The only thing that might be slightly impressive here is Tim’s ability to rig the election, but nothing is remarkable about the fact that Tim knows what will occur based on his “rigging.”

However, suppose that, unlike Tim, Tia has not rigged the election and she knows (B) simply by virtue of her nature. Hence, Tia’s knowledge of (B) does not depend on her prior knowledge or actions. In this case, Tia’s knowledge of (B) is jaw-dropping! Indeed, we should be quite amazed that Tia has the ability to know (B) without having to do anything (she simply knows). Thus, it seems clear that Tia’s knowledge of (B) is greater than Tim’s knowledge of (B) precisely because Tia’s knowledge does not depend on her prior will, decisions, or actions, whereas Tim’s knowledge does depend on his prior will, decisions, or actions.

This thought experiment shows that a being whose knowledge of counterfactuals does not depend on the being’s prior will, decisions, or actions is greater than a being whose knowledge of counterfactuals does depend on one or more of these. Since a maximally great being is omniscient, this being will know all counterfactuals either prior to its will (have middle knowledge) or posterior to its will (lack middle knowledge). However, as we have seen, it is greater to know all counterfactuals prior to one’s will; therefore, a maximally great being must have middle knowledge.

Since Christians affirm that God is a maximally great being, it follows that Christians should also affirm that God has middle knowledge.

Stay reasonable (Acts 17:2),

Tim Stratton


About the Author



(The FreeThinking Theist)

Timothy A. Stratton (PhD, North-West University) is a professor at Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary. As a former youth pastor, he is now devoted to answering deep theological and philosophical questions he first encountered from inquisitive teens in his church youth group. Stratton is founder and president of FreeThinking Ministries, a web-based apologetics ministry. Stratton speaks on church and college campuses around the country and offers regular videos on FreeThinking Ministries’ YouTube channel.

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