Divine Knowledge Theology Proper

My part of the conversation with Paul Helm regarding the validity of a Calvinist version of middle knowledge

In the Westminster Theological Journal, in the Fall of 2009 (437-54), Paul Helm and I published a conversation which was prompted by my previous article in WTJ (Fall 2007:345-66) in which I had argued that Calvinists should affirm middle knowledge even though they reject Molinism. My conversation with Paul Helm is not available to the public on line, and it would not be right for me to publish Paul Helm’s work, but I want to make my own contribution more easily accessible. So I have now posted it in pdf format, in a document entitled: “Does Calvinism Have Room for Middle Knowledge?” (my part).

Helm argued  that the answer is “No,” and he convinced me of this, so I stopped calling my model of divine providence a “middle knowledge Calvinist” model, and I now refer to it as “hypothetical knowledge Calvinism.” I now acknowledge that God’s knowledge of what moral creatures would do in hypothetical situations (counterfactuals) need only occur at a logically “middle” moment (as Molinists contend), if creatures are libertarianly free. As a soft compatibilist, I deny that God has given creatures libertarian freedom, and I deny that God could know counterfactuals of morally responsible creaturely action if those creatures had the power of alternative possibilities. (In other words, I accept the “grounding objection” to Molinism. But I remain thoroughly convinced that God makes very significant use of his natural knowledge of counterfactuals in his decision concerning which world he would actualize, from among of the many possible worlds which he could have chosen. This is an important plank in my compatibilist position.


By Terrance Tiessen

I am Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology and Ethics at Providence Theological Seminary, Canada.

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