!! Isaac Hunter Podcast – Episode 008 !! Middle Knowledge !
Audio File Download: Episode 008
In this episode I wanted to talk in detail about the theological topic known as Middle Knowledge. I actually had never come across this term or the concept before until about a year ago when Dr. Heiser in his podcast pointed to 1 Sam 23:7-13 as an example of God knowing the outcome of an individual’s decision despite that decision not actually being made. He just mentioned it in passing, but after a little research I was excited to find out it had a prominent place in both theology and philosophy.
Of course, I was pretty quickly confronted with the reformed objection, though, as far as that stands, the grounds for such objects seems retaliatory rather than than substantive or even at all biblical.
There are really only a handful of positions taken on this issue: there is Progressive Theology, Open Theism, Middle Knowledge, Calvinism, and finally Fatalism. I’m not going to address formally any particular camp, but my discussion here will certainly weave in and out of all of them.
The main argument, of course, is about what God knows and when he knows it. It is also about the content of his knowledge and how he relates to that content; i.e. is he in control of it or ruled by it. Does he create (predestinate) it or is he simply aware of it.
As with most theological issues, this is driven by hermeneutical priority, or how one approaches a particular text and how serious they take the Bible as a whole (do you accept the text as it is or do you read into it your opinion).
So, let’s dive in and see exactly what this philosophical idea is all about…..
Letting the Scriptures Speak First
Too often we go to the Bible only after we’ve formed our theological position, having acquired it by intellect, human wisdom, or from tradition and folk theologies. But, it is crucial that we allow the Bible to speak for itself in a plain and straightforward way before we ever consider our presuppositions. So, let’s look at the verses often used in support of Middle Knowledge and also on how God knows things.
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.”
In this passage we see Jesus criticizing three cities because of their wickedness. He cites three examples from the Old Testament (Tyre/Sidon and Sodom/Gomorrah and Capernaum), claiming that if the “might works” that had been done in the these three cities had been done in the example cities they would have repented (obviously the two cities had not repented). In fact, Jesus presses this example further and makes a claim: it will be more tolerable for these examples cities at Judgment Day than it will be for these three cities he’s condeming. He also makes an additional statement: that if those “might works” had been done in Sodom, it would not have been destroyed but would have remained until today.
So, a few questions immediately come to mind. 1. Are these statements Jesus is making factual? 2. Does Jesus know the actual fates of these three cities if different variables had been changed (i.e. the “mighty works” had been done in them)? These kinds of statements are known as “counterfactual” since they are not according to what actually occurred or the “facts” of a particular situation. A modern example of this is a statement I often make, “If I had married my first fiancee we would be divorced today.” Of course, this is against “the facts” in at least two places. 1. I did not actually marry my first fiancee. We broke up after being engaged for a year. 2. I have no actual knowledge that indicates we would have divorced. I assume we would have divorced given the places we were both in back then (what kind of people we were), and given the state of the world in which we currently live. But I don’t know for certain my statement is accurate if we had actually married.
But, does God know? Isaiah 46:10 seems to indicate God knows everything that will happen ahead of time. But there is no reference that directly states God knows all possible outcomes of every possible given situation, even those outcomes that do not actually occur.
“…Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you by the way you should go. Oh, that you had heeded My commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea. Your descendants also would have been like the sand, and the offspring of your body like the grains of sand; his name would not have been cut off nor destroyed from before Me.”
In this passage God appears to know with some certainty what would happen to Israel if she had only heeded his commandments. 1. Their peace and righteousness would have been continual. 2. They would have prospered and grown in population.
Instead, his name was cut off from before God. This statement here is what actually occurred in the reality we know. But, how do we know the alternative statements are not just as real to God? How do we know that God does not experience all possible outcomes simultaneously in his mind? How do we know that he is not capable of processing all possible outcomes given all possible variables to any given situation?
I never considered this element of God’s knowledge or ability before Dr. Heiser pointing it out on his podcast. I do remember a discussion I had with a friend once where we were discussing past events and decisions made and how he wished he had been given different circumstances in his childhood. I responded by stating that this would be impossible since different circumstances would ultimately lead to my friend becoming a completely different person. Choices form us as we move through time. We change. We grow. We suffer damage. This, collectively, at any given moment, defines who we are as individuals. To change the past is to change us by adding and subtracting memories that we’ve used over the years as milestones and benchmarks.
But, references like Hebrews 4:13 never really made me consider that God might possibly know much more than just the beginning from the end.
“…there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account…”
No one can hide. As the previous verse states, he pierces us so deeply, so completely, even to the division of soul from spirit, whereas these are tethered together so intuitively that there is no division between them. But, this really just states that God knows everything we do, everything we will do, and everything we’ve done. It does not indicate anywhere that God knows what we would have done given the right circumstances.
“…all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified…”
Again, this passage talks about the things that occur in our lives, all the things (the good and the bad, every detail) “works together for good” for all those who love God. Those who love God are 1. called according to his purpose. 2. those he foreknew. 3. those he predestined to be conformed to Christ. If predestined then he called, if called then he justified, if justified then glorified.
This is laying out the reality that God has done everything beforehand for us. We are saved because God predestined us to be called, justified, and glorified. This is the work he has done in us, is doing in us, and will complete in us by the resurrection. But this says nothing about God knowing the outcomes of our decisions if we were given different stimuli than what we have actually been given.
“…we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them…”
Again, does not mention pre-cog abilities of alternate outcomes.
“Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes,
Did it bring forth wild grapes?”
Shockingly, it appears as if God expected good grapes here to grow (Israel’s righteousness), yet, instead, they brought forth wild grapes (lawlessness and sin). If God knows the beginning from the end, and knows everything we will ever do while alive (actually do), then how is it possible that he could not see this coming?
“…it did not come into my mind…”
How is it possible for God to put something out of his mind, to forget something, for something not to come into his mind. Yet, we’re okay with him forgetting something else, right? “For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Je 31:34). How is this possible if he knows everything that we’ve ever done?
” For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.”
Did God force Pharaoh into the actions he took? Did God look into the future and know Pharaoh would do these things before he did them? Moreover, did God look into the future and simulate different variables occurring to Pharaoh until he found the exact subset of variables needed to bring about what Pharaoh actually did?
“…My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them…”
Is this really telling us that God 1. forms us individually “in secret?” 2. we are formed “in the lowest parts of the earth?” 3. we are not only a “substance” but God knew that substance which equals “I” before I existed? 4. everything we have ever done or will ever do has been written beforehand in these “books?”
This statement pretty much eradicates the concept of free-will, at least from God’s perspective. How did God come to the knowledge of us he recorded in these books? Did he see it ahead of time through his foreknowledge (πρόγνωσις = prognosis)? Did he write it in the way a fiction writer creates characters and puts those characters in scenes and strings those scenes together to form a plot? This passage does not elaborate. The Bible does not actually answer these questions. It simply declares that God knows what we will do and, in fact, he knew (and apparently recorded) everything we would do before we even existed.
“If you say, “Surely we did not know this,” Does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?”
This passage seems to indicate that God will take into consideration all the elements of our circumstances. We will not be judged based on an arbitrary, one-size-fits-all set of standards, but he will “render” to each of us according to our deeds and will take into account what we were given to work with. Apparently, he will weigh “the heart.” Our intensions, or motivations, or deepest purposes. He is the keeper of our souls as we are a possession of the one who created us.
So far, though, we have not found really any verse or passage that directly indicates Middle Knowledge, or the idea that God knows the outcome of our decisions in every circumstance, given every variable possible. Until, of course, we come to:
1 Samuel 23:7-13
“Then David said, “Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul?” And the Lord said, “They will deliver you.” So David and his men, about six hundred, arose and departed from Keilah and went wherever they could go. Then it was told Saul that David had escaped from Keilah; so he halted the expedition.”
Here we see the exact example of a counterfactual. David asks if he would be turned over to Saul by the men of Keilah. God tells him, “They will deliver you.” Because of this insight by God, David chooses to depart from Keilah and this prompts Saul to stop looking for him there.
But, this passage is different than all the others (though it is similar to Matthew 11:21–23, except God present it as a certainty here where in Matthew it is present as a what if situation, almost a hypothetical. For David, this is no hypothetical. He is in jeapordy. Saul is searching for him and he is at the mercy of the men of Keilah. For whatever reason, he is suspicious of them, so much so that he inquires of the Lord. Similarly, God does not mince words. He is emphatic. He tells David, if he stays there, the men of Keilah WILL turn him over to Saul. It is fact. It will happen. But, this reality never actually transpires for David, since he took the information and used it to his advantage and fled. Saul never took David at Keilah. The men of Keilah never actually betrayed him.
Yet, God said “if” David stayed there it would happen. And this one passage, this one account of God’s knowledge opens for us a terrible can of worms.
This concept of Middle Knowledge is said to have originated from the sixteenth century Jesuit theologian Luis de Molina as a retort to Reformation Theology. This theology continued to develop and was eventually termed as Molinism after it’s founder.
But, when I refer to the term Middle Knowlege, I’m not actually including the whole of this Molinistic philosophy. Rather, I’m simply referring to the specific attribute of God to know every possible outcome based on every possible variable. Personally, I reject the moninist idea that each decision or outcome creates a separate and distinct world or reality. I also reject what developed into the belief that God was limited to only certain worlds based on given criteria (i.e. number of saved vs. amount of evil).
This reality in which we live is “the” reality. There are no alternative realities or worlds (or duplicates of this reality or this world but with slight variations). There is apparently different dimensionalities: the physical, material dimension, the supernatural dimension, etc (there are only these two that we know of, but there certainly could be more above or below these).
God works in these dimensions without limitation and, indeed, this is the best possible world created by God because it was actually created and also because it was created by God (both heaven and earth or the two distinct dimensionalities). But there is no evidence to support multiple duplications of the physical dimension based on decision made by humans.
Molinists would argue that God could not have created a world devoid of evil since they claim free creatures always have the ability to choose between good and evil. They argue that God was somehow obligated to create free creatures since this kind of world is better than a world without free creatures.
The problem with such arguments is its motivation. First, it is a direct response against predestination. Molinism (as distinct from the simple theory of Middle Knowledge) is a reaction to predestination or Reformed Theology by Free Will Christianity that insists there is no predestination and that humans are capable of choosing or rejecting God.
Second, God did not create a world where there are only free creatures. In fact, God created most of this world with non-autonomous creatures that operate entirely based on “hard wiring” in their brains and nervous systems. What creatures? Animals. Humans are the only creature on earth who have ever experienced self-awareness or self-reflection. Emotional faculties in animals is highly subjective, possibly anthropomorphistic. They certainly have no appearance of self-awareness, have no self-reflection, and likewise appear to have very limited capacity for long-term memory. Yet, all in the animal kingdom along with man have the “breath of life” or the spirit, the third part of the trichotomic anthropology.
Third, it is presumptuous of humans to assume or conclude that God is limited by anything. He is not limited by logic, by rational thinking, by what “makes sense” to us as Isaiah 55:8 makes it pretty clear, “…My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways.” In fact, God is the standard by which everything is judged, determined, assessed, or measured.
Lastly, there is a reason why “evil” was created in the world (and there is an argument to be made that God created evil – Isaiah 45:7) and it was not because God was required or strong armed to do it. In Romans 9:19-24 we see this very clearly, “…who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?”
Not only are we chastised for arguing against or questioning God, we are told the “potter has power over the clay.” This means it is impossible for God to be limited by human will or autonomy. As we’ve seen in multiple verses already, there is both foreknowledge and predestination on behalf of God. He not only designed us, each individually, before actually creating us, but that he preordained everything we would ever do or say before we even existed. There is even a record of all that we do or say or think written before we were created, and I wonder if there are books written that contain all the possible things we could or would do given all the possible variables available.
In creating evil, God wanted to show his wrath and make his power known. To who? Logically it would be to everyone. This seems to be the overarching purpose to much of the Old and New Testaments (Acts 9:15; Ex 9:16; Ps 106:8; Ro 9:17), for God to reveal himself to his creation.
To do this, he endured the “vessels of wrath” that were “prepared for destruction.” The lost were created for this particular purpose, to be destroyed. By doing so he would illustrate to the “riches of his glory” on the “vessels of mercy” and these individuals were prepared beforehand for glory. People often have a problem with this concept, that God created certain individuals (maybe even the vast majority of individuals) especially and solely for destruction or for his wrath as an example to the remnant that was created for his mercy. But, if you do have a problem with this then you are fighting against God and you know what Paul thought of this, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (He 10:31).
Predestination cannot be argued against biblically. And, though it does not eliminate from at least some level of causation (since we will all be held accountable for our deeds) it likewise in no way describes a free will of human volition in which God is limited in what he can do, what he has done since the beginning, or what he will do in the end.
Now, shifting gears a little, we see that there is a kind of preoccupation in Molinism with multiple worlds which are created by the volitional responses of individuals, where, at least in theory, each new world or reality is generated by every variation that signals a change in outcome. But, there is nothing in the biblical text to indicate any of this, which is why I distinguish between the theory of Middle Knowledge and the doctrine of Molinism.
This is not a separate, distinctly existing reality or parallel world in which everything is parallel to our existing reality (the one we are now in) except for a change in variables at a particular given outcome. David, in asking the question to God if the men of Keilah would betray him, did not at that moment create a different reality parallel to our own. I would argue that the instance of a reality where David stayed in Keilah and he was betrayed and handed over to Saul does exist as a hypothetical or a probability, but only in the mind of God. Just as each one of our lives existed as a probability in the mind of God before he created us, so too these counterfactuals exist in God’s memories (as he divines them and then as he remembers them), but they do not exist in the same way as we currently exist (unless, of course, we too in this reality exist only in the mind of God).
The decision of the men of Keilah did not spark a parallel universe. It is simply a different branch of this existing universe that, though has potential (being in the mind of god) remains unactualized. If David had decided instead to remain in Keilah, God states he would have been turned over to Saul. This is not counterfactual, it is fact, even though it never actually occurred. It is no less factual than the fact that David left Keilah and Saul stopped his pursuit of him. Both are factual because they both exist in God’s mind. One has been realized in the physical, material dimension while the other remains only as potentiality within a mental construct.
The same can be said of characters in my books. Does Christopher Ward really exist? Does he really receive an invitation to a monastery in the Canadian Rockies? Does Christopher exist while I’m reading him? Does he exist independent of my reading of him? Does he continue to exist when someone else is reading about him? Do we, when we read a book, read about someone or are we reading them, giving them life throughout our cognitive energy? Like the actions of the men of Keilah exist in God’s mind that exist nowhere else (they betray David), so too Christopher has had conversations and has done things that no one knows of? Are memories static and exist only when we shine a light of conscious consideration on them, or do they continue to exist independent of our conscious awareness? In the movie Free Guy the NPCs are programmed for certain actions and are limited to those actions (predestination). Guy, because of different programming included in his algorithm, he is triggered by Millie’s character because his code is based on the feelings of his code’s creator, Walter, who is in love with Millie. Free Guy becomes an independent thinker, is free to choose, but is still guided by his algorithm (predestination).
The question is, do NPCs carry on lives outside of our perview? Do book characters live lives and have experiences out side of the role, actions, scenes designated for them in the plot? Is our existence more like a book spawning more stories and books (without an author) or is it more like a choose-your-own-adventure, where all the possible scenarios are built into the text, but a different novel plot or narrative is created (as an overlay) depending on the decision you make (choose option A turn to pg 53. choose option B turn to page 165).
God did all the “tinkering” required before the foundation of the world. Every option is “baked into” the current existing reality. There are a multitude of potential outcomes based on the variables presented, but God already knows what each person will choose based on his will.
There are those in Molinism who would argue that if God created the world he should have done so without evil in it. As already discussed, though, a world without evil would not illustrate God’s power or wrath effectively. Likewise, many who argue this point have forgotten (or don’t believe) God has actually created / is actually creating a world without evil – the afterlife or the Kingdom. In this reality the former things (sin, death, evil) have passed away, they will be remembered no more. Likewise, we have no idea what life would actually be like on this earth without sickness and death. Imagine sickness without death. Imagine experiencing death without sickness (how much more we would suffer to lose).
Additionally, we are here presupposing God created a world in which it contained the current balance between good and evil. Molinism does not seem to take into account the creating influence fallen man has had on the world or the physical planet, nor does it take into account the limited natures of our thinking or our cosmic view. Evil may well have increased by other than God’s influence. Supernatural influence, demonic influence, these all carry the possibility of the increase and proliferation of evil.
The idea that God can only create certain worlds because of the decisions humans make limit him to certain worlds is shortsighted and a fundamental error. There are no worlds that are not feasible to God. He is unlimited in his power to design, to create, and to correct. We know this simply because he created this reality, this physical dimension from ex nihlo. There was nothing and then there was something. God knows how all possible people would respond to all possible given variables without having to create those variables, responses, or people. He has complete counterfactual freedom.
Is God Really Illogical?
One of the arguments against God’s ultimate limitlessness and control over literally everyone and every thing is that it is illogical. Molinists would place logic and reason above God, in that God cannot violate these laws of reality any more than we can.
The problem with this kind of thinking is that it limits a God who cannot be limited. Plus, logic and reason were both created and defined by God along with everything else, and everything originated from nothing by his sheer will and ability to create order.
To say 1+1=3 is illogical and incorrect. I would argue it is a non-factual since it is impossible for 3 to be a solution for 1+1 in any situation or any context. Except for 1. Before there were humans on the earth, God existed, correct? At that time, it would be illogical for God to say let the human do it, since there did not exist at that time a human to do it. Yet, God created the human from nothing and made him a living being, and, thus, the previous statement now is completely logical, “let the human do it.” The same is true for 1+1=3 can be correct only if and when God defines a circumstance in which 1+1 can equal 3. This can also be exampled in the sum of a triangle’s angels always equalling 180 degrees. This is true as long as the triangle is on a flat plane. But whenever the surface is curved, such as the earth, the total can be less or more than 180 degrees.
Humans are bound by the laws that govern the physical, material world we exist within. We exist within it and have no means to escape that reality. God, on the other hand, is not bound to the physical, material reality. He is not only the creator of that reality, but the reality in which he exists within operates on a different and distinct plane from the physical universe. Now, whether God is bound by any reality is open to debate. We know the Bible depicts God existing in at least two realities or dimensions: the physical dimension and the supernatural dimension. But, there are direct references to the fact that God created both dimensionalities. Does this mean God exists (or can exist) outside of dimensionality altogether? What is beyond or beneath or serves as a substraight for dimensionality? Is this substraight on which both dimensionalties rest considered God? Meaning, the foundations of heaven and earth are God, or possibly the mind of God or even the essence or substance that is God?
Molinism has a tendency, in it’s quest to preserve the free volition of humanity, to limit God by faulty human logic and limitations that apply to us. The problem here is that we cannot argue against predestination if we approach the Scripture and let it simply speak for itself. Predestination is present and quite clear. The same
cannot be said for free will or independent autonomy of human beings.
Logic cannot override what God claims is true. “Let God be true and every man a liar” (Romans 3:4). When descriptions of how the earth was created are provided in the Bible, too often it is discounted as overly simplistic or is spiritualized or allegorized away. But, the problem is not with the description. The problem is with our understanding of it because of the laws by which we are bound. The descriptions found in Job of how the earth was formed are essentially and specifically valid. They are also beyond our rational ability to comprehend. God is not illogical or irrational but supralogical and suprarational. He is the creator of logic and, thus, is not bound by the forces of either.
Another example is that of a square circle. We can envison a round circle, but not a square circle. We could even argue that the very idea of a quare circle is illogical. But, because God created everything ex nihlo in the beginning, there is an argument to be made that at one time everything was illogical (before it was made). The same is true for the square circle.
Just because there is no square circle now does not mean there won’t be one in the future. That which is impossible for man is possible for God (Lu 18:27). In fact, Matthew tells us, “All things are possible with God” (Ma 19:26). So to say a square circle is illogical or impossible is short-sighted. God doesn’t need to override necessary truths or violate the fundamental laws of logic simply because these essential elements of reality are created and maintained by God himself.
Molinists, in error, ascribe the same laws of reality to God that bind men. But, we can see in Matthew 19:26, this is not the case. What is impossible with humans is possible with God simply because, as Jesus said, “with God all things are possible.” God is beyond logic or rational thinking or human comprehension. He is above us and above our understanding. He is not obligated to the laws and processes of this reality as he and the angels prove again and again how they can move between our dimensionality and theirs without issue or difficulty.
I had a friend ask me once why God was cruel to do xyz. He couldn’t understand why God did what he did, why he allowed pain and suffering, why he allowed injustice. I responded by reminding my friend that God does what he does by the very act of his autonomous will. There is no one over God. No one superior to him. It is his determination and from the counsel of his own will that he acts, and from our persective, whatever it is God decides to do, it is good, purposeful, effecatious and right. If he wants to destroy the Egyptian army so that the Isrealites can flee to safety, this is righteous (despite the death and carnage inflicted on the Egyptian people). If he wants to favor Jacob over Esau, that was right and true. It defined and established that which was correct. As Paul states, “Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens” (Ro 9:18). Whatever it is God does, this is the objective will of God and is instantly, innately, irrefutably good and right and just. Man’s opinion or view of what God does has absolutely no bearing on the subject.
The Varied Attributes of God
We can see this autonomy in God’s many and varied attributes. It is in error to say God is all love and always loving since the Bible does not depict such a case. And especially for the times in which we live today, God has warned us, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).
God is a loving God, but he is also a jealous God and a wrathful God. He is a vengeful God and a relentless God. Molinists seem to assume that God is limited in his ability to prevent evil. But, in fact he is not willing to limit. Or he is limiting and we are too obtuse to see this for what it is. Is God then malevolent? Not in any way. Of course, the largest segment of the earth passes judgment on God wrongly. But, such opinions mean nothing to the creator of the universe. If God were to do an about face, finally give up his quest to redeem a remnant from the earth, and instead slaughtered everyone living on the earth and ventured into the underworld and destroyed all the disembodied souls waiting for resurrection and their final fates, removing all existence of soul or living being from the earth, if God were to then go after all the angels in heaven and in Tartarus, go after all the disembodied demons, and to remove all existence whether man or beast or supernatural being – just by doing this God would be righteously justified. If he chose to instead live and exist in utter isolation for eternity this would not only be his prerogative, but it would be his right and no judgment could be passed against him for doing so.
It cannot be as simple as many assume. One example illustrates this point. A young woman becomes a believer and prays to God for a believing husband. In college she meets a god-fearing and faithful man and after several years of dating/prayer, they marry. They serve together as missionaries, but then her husband cheats on her, withdraws more and more, until he eventually abandons her and they divorce. Now, the question is: was this God’s answer to the woman’s prayer? Was it God’s answer up until the point of divorce? Did God know in bringing the man to the woman that he would eventually abandon her? Is the man responsible because of his free will? Or, was he predestined to do this? Was there any way for the woman to know the man would do this ahead of time? Was God wrong in bringing these two together? Did God bring them together or was it just chance meeting? Did the woman delude herself into thinking the man was an answer to her prayers for a god-fearing husband? What lesson is to be learned?
I personally can relate to this woman’s situation. I received a lot of “encouragement” from family and people in the church to find a wife. I was told by pastors that my life would be much better if I married. I was cautioned that a desire to be single or celibate was abnormal and suspicious. So I prayed for a wife. I served the church. Several women came into my life that I was attracted to, and if any interest was returned I would first invite them to church or a Bible Study group or to meet with the elders of the church. Several women failed the first test. One was a very attractive woman, and I was very interested in pursuing a relationship with her, but she refused to meet with the elders and she was a non-believer. Another woman even invited me into an illicit relationship with her and another woman (I did not accept).
One, though, willingly attended the church I was affiliated with and we had long discussions about God and faith. My error was trusting in people, trusting what she said, assuming God would protect me. She renounced her religion and became a Christian and we were married and spent five years together as a family. But, unbeknownst to me, a fact she later admitted, she lied to me during our first talks, telling me what I wanted to hear.
It is hard for me to not assume God has no interest in my life at all. Either I’m on my own and everything is chance OR even this was used by God for my good. Because of my experience with marriage, I have not remarried or sought any kind of relationship since. It has been a great relief and comfort to me as my friends and family have all divorced and remarried and re-divorced around me, I remain as Paul encouraged and Jesus described – undistracted from the cares of this world, from the concerns of a wife.
We do know from examples like Exodus 32:7-14 and 1 Samuel 13:13-14 that God does change his mind. But, if this is the case, how could he know everything that would happen or even could happen and yet simultaneously change his mind about anything? It can be argued that God did not actually know in advance and so the actual outcomes were not as he might have predicted.
Yet, at the same time, we see people like Calvin claim that God can will evil to occur by men while simultaneously holding people accountable for it. This is encapsulated in Romans 9:18-21:
“…He will have mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?”
God is, according to Paul, in control and determines what is right and what is wrong, what is just and what is unjust. he likewise forms each of us according to his purpose, however he does what he does. There appear to be two distinct molds used: vessels of wrath and vessels of mercy. That’s it. We have no say. There is no free will in light of God’s sovereign purpose, yet simultaneously, we are held to account for everything we have ever done (Ro 14:12).
God Has No Control Over What He Created?
The other argument, of course, is that God has no control over truth propositions known by natural knowledge simply because they are necessarily true. He cannot invalidate their truthfulness and, in fact, he is bound by them.
We know counterfactuals can be true. Yet, how true can they be under the sway of an all-powerful, all-knowing God? We see him move in actualizing outcomes such as the raising up of Pharaoh or Cyrus (what would be termed weak actualization), but also more directly in the creation of the earth (strong actualization). Yet, in both, there seems to be a kind of continual conscious focus on the individual (Je 1:5; Isa 49:1-6) while simultaneously having no personal stake in any one individuals’ outcome.
If we take Jesus’ statement in Matt 11:22-24 as potentially false, in that it would not be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, then where else was Jesus incorrect? If this was not factual, what else was he mistaken about? Salvation? Assume this example is not factual. How do we determine going forward what is factual and not factual about the content of the Bible? Human wisdom? Human logic?
Overall, I reject any statement that assumes or concludes that God is somehow limited by the content of Middle Knowledge. It is ridiculous to assume that God can only create worlds that bring about his desired ends. God has no limitations. He creates ex nihilo which means there are no boundaries on the canvas from which he paints. His creation is beyond what we can even possibly comprehend, as the Psalmist attests in Psalm 104:28, when God gives the lion its food, despite this meaning a whildebeest’ doom.
God does what he does. He makes what he makes. He is above everything. He knows everything. Even that which is not realized in this physical dimensionality (or in any dimensionality). He knew us before we existed so it stands to reason that he knows everything, even that which does not exist.
I do want to make a statement concerning support as some listeners have for ways of supporting my work here and in life. Unfortunately, after considering a few options, I’ve concluded that the only means of support at this time is through purchasing one or more of my books on Amazon. I’ve looked at online processors like Stripe, but their requirements are too limiting for my particular situation. So, if you would like to help support this podcast and my research, please consider buying one or more of my novels. Just head over to the website and you can find them all listed there on the front page with excerpts and links to where they can be purchased.
There were no questions sent in this week so that is it for this episode. If you have any questions about the podcast or one of my books or if you have a Bible or theology or philosophy question you would like to ask me, or just want to leave me a comment you can do so by emailing me at email@example.com or your can leave a comment on the show notes post on the website at isaachunterthewriter.com.
Until we meet together again…..be well.
Please consider supporting my writing, my unschooled studies, and my hermitic lifestyle by purchasing one or more of my books. I’m not supported by academia or have a lucrative corporate job – I’m just a mystical modern-day hermit trying to live out the life I believe God has called me to. So, any support you choose to provide is GREATLY appreciated.
Excerpt from Sacred the Circle:
There was a knock at the door.
Campbell got up from the chair and crossed the small distance so he could open it.
A young man stood in the doorway, probably in his early twenties.
Campbell could tell he looked a little disheveled.
He had deep rings around his eyes, as if he hadn’t been sleeping much, and he kept checking the hallway in both directions, as if half expecting someone to be stalking him.
“Hey,” Campbell said.
The kid was stumbling over his own words.
Campbell leaned out into the hallway, checking to make sure there was no one else listening.
This guy wasn’t the only one who was becoming paranoid.
There were two students hanging out at the foyer, near the stairs, but the rest of the floor was clear.
“I’m sorry,” the kid said. “Must be the wrong place. I’m mistaken.”
He started to leave.
“Wait,” Campbell said, putting a hand out. “Hold on a second.”
The kid paused.
“What’s your name?”
He fidgeted with his collar.
“I know it sounds crazy, but – ”
“You’re not crazy, Lloyd,” Campbell said, grinning.
“Did you – ? ”
The kid paused, as if unsure if he should continue.
He looked back toward the stairs, then at Campbell.
“Did you know I was coming?” he finally asked. “I mean, that’s not possible, but, were you expecting me?”
Campbell chuckled to himself.
“What’s so funny?” Lloyd asked.
“Well – ”
Campbell pushed the door open all the way so Lloyd could see inside his dorm room.
The entire room was full of them, students, non-students, ranging from what looked like eighteen to even a few middle-aged men, scattered about the room, sitting wherever they could find a comfortable spot.
Lloyd’s mouth dropped open.
“I wasn’t really expecting them, either,” Campbell said. “So, I hope you don’t hold it against me when I tell you, I had no idea you’d be showing up here. Do you care to join us, anyway?”
Buy my book Sacred the Circle to find out what these men are hearing from the supernatural realm. Will they answer the questions tugging at them? What are the visions saying? Who are the Multitude? Why are all these men being brought together? By whom? And why, above all else, are they being convicted….to pray?
Get your copy of Sacred the Circle today! Get the upcoming sequel, Sacred the Sent as well so the story never ends !
But, trust me when I say, you’ll be white knuckling this one with every turn of the page!