Reformed Critique of Middle Knowledge (Molinism/Arminianism). Part 2 by Francis Turretin


Discussion by Francis Turretin (1623-1687). Institutes of Elenctic Theology vol. one (Presbyterian & Reformed, 1992), pp. 212-218.

Summary of Francis Turretin’s Argument Against Middle Knowledge.
Sect 1-4. Definitions

Natural Knowledge or knowledge of simple intelligence is indefinite. It is God’s knowledge of all things God could possibly do with his omnipotent power, irrespective of how God actually decides to exercise this power. Thus, God knows what he could do, if he so choses to do it.
Free Knowledge is God’s knowledge of future things (what God eventually and freely brings into being). It is definite as it refers to how God actually exercises of his omnipotent power by his decree.
Middle knowledge lies in between natural knowledge and free knowledge (the order is logical and not temporal). It is not based on God’s decree but on the autonomous free will of creatures.

Sect 5-8 What is the issue with middle knowledge?
What the question is not:
God knows future contingents. He knows them through either natural knowledge or free knowledge.

God’s knowledge of necessary future contingents by natural knowledge includes things that are true by definition (e.g. if the sun rises, it is day) and by free knowledge of things that are true by decree (e.g. if a man repents he will be saved).

The question is whether God knows what his rational creatures will freely do if placed under certain (hypothetical) circumstances prior to God’s special decree.

Section 9- 14 Six reasons for rejecting middle knowledge.
1) The two categories of knowledge are sufficient to cover all things that are either possible or actually future.
2) Things that are not true cannot be foreseen as true. Conditional future things depending on will of man are not true apart from the will or decree of God.
3) God’s exhaustive providence precludes the possibility that man’s will is indeterminate.
4) There is no uncertain knowledge in God. If God foresees man’s decision, it must be certain and consequently determinate not indeterminate,
5) Middle knowledge would remove God’s sovereignty over the creature as certain acts would have their futurition (actualization) not from God but from man’s autonomous will.
6) God’s freedom to base his decisions solely on his sovereign purpose and good pleasure (Rom. 9) would be undermined. God grace becomes a servant of human will rather than the mistress, the companion rather than the cause of salvation.

Section 15-17 Biblical proof texts against middle knowledge
1) 1 Samuel 23:11-12; 2) Matthew 11:21 and 3) 2 Samuel 12:8. Note that these verses are not really prooftexts for middle knowledge. They are better related to the free knowledge of God.

Section 18-23 Philosophical argument against middle knowledge
1) Two categories of knowledge are all that are required, because all true objects of knowledge are things possible or things actual.

2) It is denied that the coexistence of a free act on hypothesis can be conceived to be determinate antecedently to the decree. Untrue things cannot be foreseen as true. In other words, unless it is true that a man will do “X” in situation “Y”, God cannot foresee such a thing as true. Since divine providence is comprehensive (if it extends to men’s acts), men’s will cannot be said to be indeterminate.

3) The necessity of the first cause (God) does not take away the liberty of man. Yes, man has free will but his actions are infallibly certain in view of the first cause. Before God’s decree, what man chooses to do is indeterminate (they are at that point possibilities/contingencies). Secondary causes can concur with God to cause the existence of a certain thing but all secondary causes occur only in time. Futurition is determined from eternity by the decree of God, and therefore secondary causes can be foreknown to be free causes in time to bring about actions. Although these actions are contingent, God knows they will happen because of God’s permissive decree that they will. Future contingent action comes into fruition precisely because the contingencies are determined by God’s decree.

For all these reasons middle knowledge is unnecessary.


QUESTION: Is there a middle knowledge in God between the natural and the free? We deny against the Jesuits, Socinians and Remonstrants [Arminians]

The twofold middle knowledge
I. Although the knowledge of God is one and simple intrinsically no less than his essence, yet it can be considered in different ways extrinsically as to the objects. But it is commonly distinguished by theologians into the knowledge of simple intelligence (or natural and indefinite) and the knowledge of vision (or free and definite). The former is the knowledge of things merely possible and is therefore called indefinite because nothing on either hand is determined concerning them by God. The latter is the knowledge of future things and is called definite because future things are determined by the sure will of God. Hence they mutually differ: (1) in object because the natural knowledge is occupied with possible things, but the free about future things; (2) in foundation because the natural is founded on the omnipotence of God, but the free depends upon his will and decree by which things pass from a state of possibility to a state of futurition; (3) in order because the natural precedes the decree, but the free follows it because it beholds things future; now they are not future except by the decree.

The origin of the middle knowledge
Besides these two species of divine knowledge, a third was devised by the Jesuits, Fonseca, Lessius, Molina. It is not agreed among themselves who is the true parent of this fetus (foetus) (each claiming it for himself) which they called “middle” because it is between the natural and the free and differs from both. It differs from the indefinite and natural because it is occupied about future, but not about possible things. It differs from the free because it relates not to things certainly future, but only hypothetically so. The authors explain this middle knowledge to mean the foreknowledge of God about future conditional events whose truth depends not upon the free decree of God (being anterior to this), but upon the liberty of the creature (which God certainly foresees), whether in itself or in the thing (how it will determine itself if placed in certain given circumstances)…[pp. 212-213]

Statement of the question
V. The question is not whether God knows future contingencies (for all agree that God knows from eternity by a certain knowledge not only things themselves, but all their combinations and connections, whether present, past and future, or necessary and contingent). Rather the question is whether they belong to a kind of middle knowledge distinct from the natural and free. The latter we deny.

VI. The question does not concern necessary conditional future things, which on this or that given condition cannot but take place (as—if the sun rises, it will be day; if Peter heartily repents, he will be saved), for as these are necessarily connected together either from the nature of the thing or on the hypothesis of the divine decree, they fall under either the natural knowledge of God (if the condition is only possible) or the free (if it is future and decreed by him). Rather the inquiry relates to contingent conditional future things, which (the condition being posited) can be and not be; for example, if John would be of Lutetia, he would speak or would sin and the like. The inquiry relates to whether they can be certainly and determinately known antecedently to the decree of God; this we deny.

VII. The question is not whether the knowledge of conditional future things is in God antecedently to every decree (for our adversaries do not deny that a certain general decree precedes by which he has decreed to produce the second causes and is ready to afford at least a general and indifferent cooperation to the creature, as often as he willed that they should determine themselves to act). Rather the question is whether a special decree concerning the certain futurition of this or that thing precedes so that God may see that thing antecedently to such a decree (either in itself or in its causes). This they maintain; we deny.

VIII. Therefore the question is whether besides the natural knowledge (which is only of things possible) and the knowledge of vision (which is only of things future), there may be granted in God a certain third or middle knowledge concerning conditional future things by which God knows what men or angels will freely do without a special decree preceding (if placed with these or those circumstances in such an order of things). The Jesuits, Socinians and Remonstrants affirm this; the orthodox deny it.
Proof that no such middle knowledge can be granted.

IX. The reasons are: (1) Natural and free knowledge embrace all knowable things and entities and are not to be multiplied unnecessarily. There is nothing in the nature of things which is not possible or future; nor can future conditional things constitute a third order. For they are such either from a condition only possible or powerful, yet never to take place, or from a condition certainly future and decreed. In the former manner, they do not recede from the nature of possible things and belong to natural knowledge; in the latter, they are future and decreed by God and come under the free knowledge.

X. (2) Things not true cannot be foreknown as true. Now conditional future things are not true apart from the determination of the divine will; for example, the Sidonians would have repented if the powers had been supplied to them, for they would have been indifferently disposed in their nature to repent or not to repent, those powers being given; therefore from some other source ought to come the truth that they would repent, those powers being posited, if it is at all true. But no cause of this thing can be imagined except the will of God. There was nothing from eternity which could be the cause of the determination of a thing indifferent to either part except the will of God; not his essence or knowledge, for neither can operate ad extra separated from the will. Therefore, as no effect can be understood as future (whether absolutely or hypothetically) without the divine decree (because no creature can be in the world without the divine causality), so no future conditional thing can be knowable before the decree.

XI. (3) If all the acts of the created will fall under the divine providence so that none are independent and indeterminate, no middle knowledge can be granted (which is supposed to have for its object the free determination of the will, depending upon no superior cause). Now that there is such a subjection of the created will is evident from the dependence between the first cause and second causes, between the Creator and creatures. Nor can it suffice to save that dependence that the will may be said to be created and its liberty given by God for it would not cease to be the principle of its own determination, if its acts did not depend upon some decree. It would not be indeed the first being, but yet it would be the first operator (nor any more the second, but the first cause because if it depended in being upon God, it would not depend upon him in operation).

XII. (4) No uncertain knowledge should be ascribed to God. The middle knowledge can have no certainty because it is occupied about an uncertain and contingent object (viz., the indifference [adiaphorian] of the will). I ask, therefore, whence can God certainly know what will or will not take place? For either this can be done from the nature of the things themselves when he regards them (either in their causes or in themselves) as free acts in a created will (which pleases Bellarmine)—but how can an uncertain thing afford foundation to certain knowledge—or this can be done from the infinity of divine knowledge, which certainly foreknows in what direction moral persuasion will incline the will (otherwise free) to the opposite (which Vasquez and Suarez hold); but how could infirmity of knowledge change the nature of things and see a thing as certainly to take place which is contingent? Again knowledge either makes the event certain or foresees it as certain. If it makes it so, how can it foreknow it as such; where then is the indifference of the will? If it foresees it as certain, how could the foresight of an uncertain and indifferent thing be itself certain? Or from the eternal existence of things by which they are said to be present to God (as others prefer); but since they could have no real being from eternity (but only an intentional), they cannot be said to have existed from eternity otherwise than by reason of the decree in which they obtain their futurition. Since, therefore, the certain necessity of the event cannot be founded on the contingent connection of the ends or on the knowledge which recognizes but does not make the thing, it follows that it is only from the efficacious decree of the connector. Thomas Aquinas says most satisfactorily, “He who knows an effect contingent in its own cause only and not in some superior cause certainly determining it, has only a conjectural knowledge concerning it; since from an indifferent cause as far as it is indifferent, a determinate act cannot flow; and for the same reason from a contingent antecedent, as far as it is contingent, a necessary conclusion cannot flow before the decree of the divine will” (ST, I, Q. 14, Art. 13, p. 83).

XIII. (5) This middle knowledge takes away the dominion of God over free acts because according to it the acts of the will are supposed to be antecedent to the decree and therefore have their futurition not from God, but from itself. Indeed God would seem rather to depend upon the creature while he could decree or dispose nothing, unless a determination of the human will were posited which God would see in such a connection of things. Nor ought the reply to be made that the dominion of God is not therefore taken away because he can remove that connection or some circumstance of it; for example, in the foreknowledge by which God knew that Peter would deny Christ if placed in a certain condition, God could hinder him from denying Christ by taking away some foreseen circumstance (for instance, the fear of death) or by adding greater light in the intellect and a greater inclination in the will to confession, and the like. For it is not sufficient for the support of the dominion of God that he could hinder Peter from denying Christ, for he might have deprived Peter of life before the apprehension of Christ (but this would be to have dominion over the life of Peter, not over his free will); but it is requisite that the free acts of Peter, of denying or not denying Christ, should depend upon him (which is denied on the supposition of this knowledge). In fine, if God can take away one foreseen circumstance, he can therefore change the event of the thing: if he can by a decree change the event of a thing, therefore it also pertains to the decree to procure it; for he who hinders the event by a removal of some circumstance ought to cause it by supplying the circumstances…[pp. 213-216]

XVIII. It is one thing for God to foresee or know the connection of one thing with another (for example, of sin with death and of righteousness with life); another to know connection as future in such a subject placed in this or that state. This requires some decree to determine what ought to be done concerning that subject; but the former can be founded on possibility alone and the mutual habitude of things.

XIX. It is one thing for God to know all the connections of all things as necessary and the causes of things about to happen through them antecedently to the decree; another to know the contingent connections of events and of all possibly future things. If the former were granted, it would favor the middle knowledge, but it is false that God knows all the connections of all things as necessary and about to produce infallibly the event of things (especially in free acts) antecedently to the decree upon which all the futurition of things depends. But the latter, which we allow, does not countenance the middle knowledge because contingent connections of this kind belong only to natural knowledge, when considered antecedently to the decree, determining the certain futurition of their connections or means.

XX. What is conceived to be determinately from God can also be pronounced to be determinately; but what is conceived only to be possibly can be pronounced to be only possibly. Now it is denied that the coexistence of a free act on hypothesis can be conceived to be determinately antecedently to the decree; it is granted that it may be possibly. So it is true that Peter would possibly sin if placed in a given order of things antecedently to the decree; but not determinately so as to make it true that Peter would actually and in fact sin if placed in such an order of things. This could not be certain unless from a permissive decree of God.

XXI. Necessity and contingency have a different relation in simple terms from what they have in complex. In the first manner, being is divided into necessary and contingent, nor can they belong to the same; but in the second (inasmuch as they arise from the diverse habitude of causes to their effects) so far coincide that what in respect to the first cause is necessary with respect to the second can be contingent, the first cause so disposing it. This not only insures the existence of the thing, but in its own manner that it is a necessary thing necessarily, a contingent contingently. Yet that necessity as to the first cause does not take away the liberty of free will because it is not a necessity of coaction, but of consequence or infallibility which best conspires with liberty.

XXII. Although God antecedently to his decree can know of the various means which can be used to move the will (that this or that can have a greater influence than others if employed), yet he cannot know that they will actually persuade antecedently to the will of giving those means and of moving the will efficaciously to produce the effect. Nor has the illustration drawn from fire any force, which God knows to be possessed of the property of making warm antecedently to the will of creating fire which will actually warm. For the reason of natural agents determined in their nature to one thing is different from that of free agents, which can be inclined to one or the other of opposite things.

XXIII. The cause of the existence of things differs from the cause of their futurition. Second causes can concur with God to cause the existence of a certain thing because they exist and are active at the same time with God. But no second cause can concur with him to cause the futurition of things because futurition was made from eternity, while all second causes are only in time. Hence it is evident that the futurition of things depends upon nothing but the decree of God, and therefore can be foreknown only from the decree. [217-218]

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Reformed Critique of Middle Knowledge (Molinism/Arminianism). Part 1 by Petrus van Mastricht

Reformed Critique of Middle Knowledge (Molinism/Arminianism). Foreknowledge and Future Contingents

Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 6/7 – Distinction Between Necessity of the Consequent and Necessity of the Consequence