Sunday, November 15, 2009

Middle Knowledge and 1 Samuel 23

“And Saul summoned all the people to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men. David knew that Saul was plotting harm against him. And he said to Abiathar the priest, ‘Bring the ephod here.’ Then said David, ‘O LORD, the God of Israel, your servant has surely heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah, to destroy the city on my account. Will the men of Keilah surrender me into his hand? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O LORD, the God of Israel, please tell your servant.’ And the LORD said, ‘He will come down.’ Then David said, ‘Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?’ And the LORD said, ‘They will surrender you.’ Then David and his men...departed from Keilah....And Saul sought him every day, but God did not give him into his hand” (1 Samuel 23:8-14).

Bruce Ware, in his book, “God’s Greater Glory,” provides a description of middle knowledge:

“Molina, a Jesuit theologian in the post-Reformation period, argued that God has three logical moments of knowledge prior to creating the universe. God not only possesses knowledge of what COULD be, i.e., knowledge of all bare possibilities and logical necessities (what Molina calls ‘natural knowledge’), and knowledge of what WILL be, i.e., knowledge of all future actualities, or exact and detailed knowledge of the way the world, when created, will be (what Molina calls ‘free knowledge’), but importantly, God also possesses knowledge of what WOULD be if circumstances were different from what they in fact will be in the actual world, i.e., knowledge of those possible states of affairs which would have become actual had circumstances other than those in the real world obtained (what Molina calls ‘middle knowledge’)” (“God’s Greater Glory: The Exalted God of Scripture and the Christian Faith.” Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004, page 110).

According to the middle knowledge view, God has three types of knowledge: (a) natural, (b) free, and (c) middle. Middle knowledge relates to what “could have happened” in another world.

Taking middle knowledge into account, God demonstrates His middle knowledge when He tells David that “you will be handed over and killed.” David doesn’t actually get killed, but God tells him what would have happened if he had stayed in Keilah, thereby demonstrating His knowledge of possibilities.

However, the question that we should ask ourselves is, “Why does David go to the Lord in the first place?” Why does he even ask the Lord about the news he’s heard? Because he desires to save his life. David asks about the news he’s heard because he wants to know what he needs to do—whether to STAY or GO.

So he prays to God to know WHICH ACTION TO TAKE—in other words, he had two options or alternatives as courses of action; he needed to choose one course of action, and he prays to God so that he can know which option would be the right one. But why would David pray if his decision was already DETERMINED?

And this brings up another point: why did David not just go to God and say, “Lord, tell me what to do”? Why did he just ask God about what the men of Keilah and Saul would do? Why did he even care about their decisions, if it was determined? The very fact that David asks God for knowledge of the future, which would require an action from him, demonstrates libertarian freedom (which requires more than one option). In this respect, Bruce Ware’s belief in “freedom of inclination” is quite misguided.

This view of middle knowledge actually leaves room for libertarian freedom. As Bruce Ware states,

“According to this theory(sometimes referred to as Molinism), God knows all possible states of affairs, and he also knows what free creatures WOULD do in various possible sets of circumstances. Although God does not and cannot control what free creatures do in any set of circumstances (they retain libertarian freedom in Molinism), he is able to control certain aspects of the circumstances themselves and by this he can regulate which choices and actions ACTUALLY obtain from among all those that are possible. Now while God can control these sets of circumstances, He cannot necessarily guarantee that the choice of action he wants a free creature to perform will be done” (111).

Bruce Ware disagrees with libertarian freedom. He is an advocate of Middle Knowledge, but not the kind that includes libertarian freedom. Why does he disagree? I’ll reveal that in tomorrow’s post.

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