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Middle Knowledge and Biblical Interpretation

Luis de Molina, Herman Bavinck, and William Lane Craig

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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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Preface

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Christian theologians and philosophers have a long history of attempting to reconcile the perceived tension between the doctrine of God’s foreknowledge on the one hand and human free will and responsibility on the other. Throughout the centuries various solutions have been proposed as to how to retain both concepts in a coherent way. One of these solutions focuses on the concept of middle knowledge: apart from “natural knowledge” of necessary truths and “free knowledge” of God’s own actions, God also knows counterfactuals of creaturely freedom. That is, God knows what any human being would freely do given a set of conditions x, y and z. God can then manage the conditions that apply in such a way that God’s providential plans are realized without human (libertarian) freedom being compromised. This theory originates with the Spanish Jesuit Luis de Molina (1535–1600), was contested by Reformed theologians such as Herman Bavinck (1854–1921), and makes a remarkable comeback among present-day analytical philosophers such as William Lane Craig (1949-).

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. For example, Molina appeals to Ps. 139:3–4, Isa. 41:23, 48:5, Jn. 14:29 and Heb. 4:13 to support his understanding of divine foreknowledge of future contingents, and argues that 1 Sam. 23:6–13 and Matt. 11:20–24 are direct Scriptural indications of middle knowledge....

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