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Middle Knowledge and Biblical Interpretation

Luis de Molina, Herman Bavinck, and William Lane Craig


Sze Sze Chiew

If God knows human actions in advance, do humans really have freedom of choice? Throughout the centuries various solutions have been offered as to how to retain or reconcile both the concepts of divine omniscience and human freedom. One solution focuses on the idea of middle knowledge. This theory originates with the Spanish Jesuit Luis de Molina, was contested by Reformed theologians such as Herman Bavinck, and makes a remarkable comeback among present-day analytical philosophers such as William Lane Craig.
Apart from a wealth of philosophical considerations, the appeal to biblical texts also plays an important role in the work on middle knowledge by each of these thinkers. The book examines their writings and investigates how contemporary biblical scholars interpret the biblical texts used by them. The author elaborates a creative proposal as to how these gained insights apply to the theory of middle knowledge and what this means for our overall evaluation of this theory.
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How can our human actions be free and really our actions if God knows in advance what we are going to do? Apparently, if God knew yesterday – and even for all eternity – that I will be going to make a big donation to some charity tomorrow, or that I will be going to steal a car, it seems absolutely certain that I will make that big donation or steal that car. For clearly, everything which God knows must be true. If it is already certain in advance, however, that I will perform one of these actions, then obviously I cannot refrain from performing them. I cannot decide not to perform them – and therefore, so it seems, I am forced to perform them. And since it belongs to the most basic tenets of Christian and other theistic beliefs that God is omniscient, God must know even the tiniest details of my life. Thus, arguably, it follows from God’s being omniscient that I don’t have any real choices to make. Everything I do is predetermined already. We might only avoid this conclusion by turning the argument upside down: if I can make free choices and perform actions which I can really call ‘my own’, then it follows that God is not omniscient.

Or does it? Theologians and philosophers have intensely studied the conundrum of foreknowledge and freedom through the centuries, and they have come up with a wide variety of solutions. Some have argued that we should drop...

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