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Middle Knowledge: How does that work?
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Author:  ForeverFaithful [ Thu Aug 30, 2018 10:41 am ]
Post subject:  Middle Knowledge: How does that work?

It is De Fide that God can not change. If God can not change, than the creature can not have an effect on God.

But God has middle knowledge.

And thou Capharnaum, shalt thou be exalted up to heaven? thou shalt go down even unto hell. For if in Sodom had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in thee, perhaps it had remained unto this day. (Matt 11:23)

So God knows what the people of Sodom would have done had miracles (like those Christ preformed in Capharnaum) were done there.

If, however, it can not be said that the wills of the people of Sodom affect God so as to change what He knows; in what sense does God know what they would have willed in an alternative situation?

Does it make sense to say "If more miracles had been done in Sodom, God would have caused the people of Sodom to freely will repentance"?

Author:  Obi-Wan Kenobi [ Thu Aug 30, 2018 10:54 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Middle Knowledge:How does that work?

That's not middle knowledge. That's knowledge of future conditionals.

Author:  ForeverFaithful [ Thu Aug 30, 2018 11:13 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Middle Knowledge:How does that work?

Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
That's not middle knowledge. That's knowledge of future conditionals.


Is Middle Knowledge distinct from knowledge of future conditionals that pertain the the human (angelic?) will?

Author:  ThomisticCajunAggie [ Thu Aug 30, 2018 2:26 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Middle Knowledge: How does that work?

Oooo! Easy question! Since I'm a Thomist rather than a Molinist, I can say definitively: "it doesn't".

Seriously, though, Middle Knowledge (scientia media) was a kind of knowledge Molina posited in order to justify his bizarre doctrine of grace. He held that God has a knowledge of how people would act if they were given certain graces, and then He gives grace based on that knowledge. This knowledge is neither a knowledge of what actually is nor of what potentially could be, but is somehow in between those and so it is a middle knowledge. At least - that is my understanding of his position.

Author:  theJack [ Thu Aug 30, 2018 3:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Middle Knowledge: How does that work?

Per TCA's comments above, middle knowledge is just a model to explain how God can know what would have been. It's a misnomer to think of it is a specific type of knowledge. We can (and should) simply say that God knows all actualities and all potentialities. Of course, if anything is actual, it is because God, as the act of acts, so wills it; and if anything is potential, it is because God gave said potentiality its actuality (i.e., its actual potential), again, as the act of acts. The further question of how God can cause all actualities and at the same time assert that humans (and angels) have a free will is just the old sovereignty/free-will debate; Molina, via middle knowledge, offered an answer that, in my assessment, just contradicts God's immutability and makes Him (as you note) contingent. For the life of me, I don't understand why it hasn't been at least condemned as stated even without ruling officially on a specific "mechanism" to resolve the issue. But what do I know?

Bottom line, there's just no reason to try to work out how middle knowledge is consistent with classical theology, because it isn't, and classical theists rightfully just don't appeal to it.

Author:  ForeverFaithful [ Thu Aug 30, 2018 3:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Middle Knowledge: How does that work?

ThomisticCajunAggie wrote:
Oooo! Easy question! Since I'm a Thomist rather than a Molinist, I can say definitively: "it doesn't".

Seriously, though, Middle Knowledge (scientia media) was a kind of knowledge Molina posited in order to justify his bizarre doctrine of grace. He held that God has a knowledge of how people would act if they were given certain graces, and then He gives grace based on that knowledge. This knowledge is neither a knowledge of what actually is nor of what potentially could be, but is somehow in between those and so it is a middle knowledge. At least - that is my understanding of his position.


Christ does know how the Sodomites would have responded to particular circumstances. How is that different from what Molina was referring to?

Author:  Obi-Wan Kenobi [ Thu Aug 30, 2018 4:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Middle Knowledge: How does that work?

Ott (who overemphasizes Molinism/Congruism, IMHO) holds that it is de fide that God "by the light of vision (scientia visionis) ["light" is a terrible translation of "scientia", but that's how it's translated in the book] ... also foresees the future free acts of the rational creatures with infallible certainty." He cites Vat. I De Filius, cap. 1, as his authority.

He then adds: "God also knows the conditioned future free actions with infallible certainty (scientia futuribilium)" and calls this "sent. communis." I think he overstates that; he acknowledges that Molinists and Thomists would view this proposition differently. Thomists would deny that this is a distinct category of divine knowledge.

Author:  ForeverFaithful [ Thu Aug 30, 2018 5:39 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Middle Knowledge: How does that work?

So my main concern is that I keep seeing Father William Most's idea of unconditional election but conditional reprobation being prompted say on Called to Communion or Shameless Popper

So for Fr Most, God for sees infallibility who will resist grace and who will not (in a metaphysical zero sense) resist grace.

But if God's knowledge is the cause of the act of willing than I am not sure how to make sense of Fr Most's position.

Author:  ForeverFaithful [ Thu Aug 30, 2018 5:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Middle Knowledge: How does that work?

Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
Ott (who overemphasizes Molinism/Congruism, IMHO) holds that it is de fide that God "by the light of vision (scientia visionis) ["light" is a terrible translation of "scientia", but that's how it's translated in the book] ... also foresees the future free acts of the rational creatures with infallible certainty." He cites Vat. I De Filius, cap. 1, as his authority.

He then adds: "God also knows the conditioned future free actions with infallible certainty (scientia futuribilium)" and calls this "sent. communis." I think he overstates that; he acknowledges that Molinists and Thomists would view this proposition differently. Thomists would deny that this is a distinct category of divine knowledge.


Is Congruism really committed to a categorical distinction?

Perhaps I misunderstanding the Thomist position but I thought the idea was our wills are moved infallibly by internal graces, unlike Molinists who believe it is all external circumstances.

If it is a matter of internal grace not circumstances, however, I do not understand what the miracles being preformed would have changed for the Sodomites.

Author:  Obi-Wan Kenobi [ Thu Aug 30, 2018 6:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Middle Knowledge: How does that work?

Unconditional election and conditional repudiation is orthodox (in fact, I'm pretty sure it's de fide, but I'll have to wait to get home to check). That is not where Most went astray.

Author:  ForeverFaithful [ Thu Aug 30, 2018 8:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Middle Knowledge: How does that work?

Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
Unconditional election and conditional repudiation is orthodox (in fact, I'm pretty sure it's de fide, but I'll have to wait to get home to check). That is not where Most went astray.


I think conditional election is permitted since that's what the Molinists believe to my understanding.

The CathEn treats conditional repudiation as doctrine.

But my point is I do not understand what does it mean to say God forsees the free acts of creatures. How does one explain it while keeping reprobation conditional and God's knowledge neccesary

Author:  Obi-Wan Kenobi [ Thu Aug 30, 2018 8:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Middle Knowledge: How does that work?

Reprobation has to be conditional (on account of foreseen demerits) or God condemns people to Hell through no fault of their own, which is manifestly unjust.

Ott does say both parts are de fide, though he's on a little shakier ground with conditional reprobation. Neither he nor I doubt that it's true, but it's never been the object of a formal declaration. The closest approach is Trent, Sess. VI, can. 17 (D827/1567):

    If anyone says that the grace of justification is shared by those only who are predestined to life, but that all others who are called are called indeed but receive not grace, as if they are by divine power predestined to evil, let him be anathema.

As to how it works, from a Thomist point of view it's simple enough. God's will and providence are not opposed to free will, but instead work to bring about free acts. Therefore God knows in and of Himself what those free works are going to be and is not dependent on anything external to know them.

Author:  theJack [ Thu Aug 30, 2018 10:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Middle Knowledge: How does that work?

ForeverFaithful wrote:
But my point is I do not understand what does it mean to say God forsees the free acts of creatures. How does one explain it while keeping reprobation conditional and God's knowledge neccesary

This is the big question, isn't it? How can we assert that God knows and moves our will and yet also that our will is free? As Obi pointed out, the Thomistic answer is simply that God moves things according to their nature, so He moves voluntary things to happen voluntarily and necessary things to happen necessarily. I, for one, have never been satisfied with that answer, not because I think it's wrong (I don't--I think it's exactly correct), but because I think it's trivial. I think Thomas' answer is just restating the paradox, for lack of a better word. All he is saying is, "God sovereignly calls us to will freely." But the question is, how does God sovereignly will us to move freely? Merely asserting that He does--even with the caveat that He moves everything in accordance with its nature--is no answer. If the answer is just, "It's a mystery," then fine. There are real and important senses that we can't grasp or conceptualize what it means to be God. But I wish Thomists would stop acting like they have an answer to this; they don't. Molinists do, it's just that their answer is, in my opinion, utter heresy, and thus is a non-answer. Compatabilists have an answer, but I think it's also heresy. To the Thomists' credit, they've not said anything wrong. In my opinion, they've just stated the essential facts about as clearly as they can be stated and have offered absolutely zero comment on just what that really means. I have my own ideas, but that's about as useful as *insert something useless*.

Author:  ForeverFaithful [ Thu Aug 30, 2018 10:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Middle Knowledge: How does that work?

Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
Reprobation has to be conditional (on account of foreseen demerits) or God condemns people to Hell through no fault of their own, which is manifestly unjust.

Ott does say both parts are de fide, though he's on a little shakier ground with conditional reprobation. Neither he nor I doubt that it's true, but it's never been the object of a formal declaration. The closest approach is Trent, Sess. VI, can. 17 (D827/1567):

    If anyone says that the grace of justification is shared by those only who are predestined to life, but that all others who are called are called indeed but receive not grace, as if they are by divine power predestined to evil, let him be anathema.

As to how it works, from a Thomist point of view it's simple enough. God's will and providence are not opposed to free will, but instead work to bring about free acts. Therefore God knows in and of Himself what those free works are going to be and is not dependent on anything external to know them.


Maybe I'm slow but let's see if I can articulate the difficulty:

Scenario 1 (actual)
Sodom sins
God does not preform the miracles that Christ would later preform at Capharnaum
The Sodomites do not repent

Scenario 2 (conditional)
Sodom sins
God does preform the miracles that Christ would later preform at Capharaum
The Sodomites do repent.

The Molinist can say this is an example of God knowing with middle knowledge: then we only have the problem of how to reconcile middle knowledge with the immutability of God.

What does the Thomist say? If God's knowledge is the cause of scenario 1 (rather than the effect) had scenario 2 been brought about it would have been the cause as well.

If God is internally moving the wills of the Sodomites, than what difference would the miracle make?

Author:  Obi-Wan Kenobi [ Thu Aug 30, 2018 11:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Middle Knowledge: How does that work?

(* perform)

The miracle is part of how God moves the will.

Author:  theJack [ Thu Aug 30, 2018 11:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Middle Knowledge: How does that work?

Also, for your reading pleasure, here's a bit I wrote many years ago that might (or might not) illuminate your question a bit more clearly. If it helps, good. If not, I won't be bothered if you ignore it. :)

--------------------------------

One of the most difficult problems, admitted by some proponents of divine simplicity, lies in the fact that simplicity seems to entail a sort of theological determinism that may contradict Scripture. There are several ways of demonstrating the problem, but most are based on the fact of God’s supreme sovereignty. For instance, it seems obvious that God was not required to have created the world. Christianity has always claimed that He did so freely, but as some have pointed out, it is not obvious how a simple, sovereign God could choose from alternatives, as such a view leaves the origin and nature of those alternatives unexplained.

Moreland explains the difficulty well:

    If God is identical with his essence, then God cannot know or do anything different from what he knows and does. He can have no contingent knowledge or action, for everything about him is essential to him. But in that case all modal distinctions collapse and everything becomes necessary. Since God knows that p is logically equivalent to p is true, the necessity of the former entails the necessity of the latter. Thus divine simplicity leads to an extreme fatalism, according to which everything that happens does so, not with temporal necessity, but with logical necessity.

The argument is clear enough. If God necessarily exists how He does, and He is not capable of existing any other way, then it seems obvious enough that His knowledge of the created world must likewise necessarily be the way it is. But if that is the case, it follows that the created world necessarily exists the way it does. If one is to insist on God’s aseity, it further follows that the world exists the way it does because God exists the way He does. That is, it is not the case that the world must exist this way, and therefore God knows it, but rather, since God must exist the way He does, then the world, as His creation, must exist in the way that He does. But this is what Moreland above called “extreme fatalism,” or what Richards calls “of a grand theologically determined system.”

This is a problem that Jeffrey Brower, a contemporary proponent of divine simplicity, has recognized. He points out that “Apart from questions about its coherence, the main contemporary objection to divine simplicity has focused on its apparent exclusion of contingent divine volition and knowledge. "He points out that theists have traditionally affirmed statements such as “God knows that p, where p is a contingent truth.” For instance, the fact that human beings exist is clearly a contingent truth, and God certainly knows it to be the case. Typically, statements like this are used to argue that God’s knowledge is at least in some sense contingent and not necessary as simplicity and aseity would require. Yet Brower can account for God’s knowledge of this contingent truth without rendering God’s knowledge contingent by arguing that humans only exist because God freely willed it. Therefore, God’s knowledge of the contingent truth of human existence is not dependent on human existence, but rather only on His own choice, which preserves God’s aseity.

A more serious problem arises, though, when one considers statements such as “John freely chose to mow his lawn.” If one attempts to explain God’s knowledge of this contingent truth in the same way that Brower explained God’s knowledge of the contingent truth of human existence, one would be forced to argue that John chose to mow his lawn only because God so willed it. But in that case, libertarian free will is destroyed. The choices, then, for the proponent of divine simplicity and aseity are uncomfortable. Either give up divine simplicity or accept a compatibilist account of human freedom. Brower opts for the latter, insisting that though some will see it as

    sufficient grounds . . . for rejecting divine simplicity . . . such an attitude would be justified if compatibilism were obviously incoherent, absurd, or false. But it isn’t. Compatibilism has a rich history of supporters, both within and outside of traditional philosophical theology. Indeed, the former often see compatibilism as a natural consequence of theological doctrines just as well established as that of creation (most notably, providence, foreknowledge, predestination, and election).

Proponents of simplicity, therefore, have a serious dilemma on their hands. In the first place, they want to affirm God’s freedom to act however He wills. Even Aquinas plainly stated, “We must simply say that God can do other things that those He has done. ”Yet if God is absolutely sovereign by virtue of His absolute aseity and pure actuality, then it seems such an affirmation is simply impossible. All acts of God would be necessary, which would mean that all actions in the created world would be necessary, and therefore strictly determined. Whatever compatibilism’s rich history, any advocate will have to deal with the fact that the Bible insists that both God and man are apparently really free, and as such, simplicity may prove to have a difficult time reconciling itself with Scripture.

--------------------------------

I think the first part of this problem is easily solvable. I think you are really getting at the second part, the problem of God's knowledge and movement of man's freely made choices (and, by virtue, of man's own contingent knowledge based on those freely made choices). Laying out the problem this way helped me quite a bit in coming to a satisfactory answer in my own mind.

Author:  ForeverFaithful [ Thu Aug 30, 2018 11:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Middle Knowledge: How does that work?

Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
(* perform)

The miracle is part of how God moves the will.


So then why not be a Congruist? I can't figure out the different between Suarez and the Thomist school.

Author:  Obi-Wan Kenobi [ Thu Aug 30, 2018 11:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Middle Knowledge: How does that work?

In the Congruist model, God doesn't know until He mentally tries it, so to speak.

Author:  ForeverFaithful [ Fri Aug 31, 2018 10:29 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Middle Knowledge: How does that work?

Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
In the Congruist model, God doesn't know until He mentally tries it, so to speak.


So let's see if I get the logical order correctly

Thomist:
1. God knows the people of Sodom will sin
2. God causes them (negatively I suppose?) to remain unrepentant by not moving their wills
3. God does not send them the miracles needed move them to overcome their resistance to His still sufficient (even if foreknowingly inefficient) grace

Congruist:
1. God knows the people of Sodom will sin
2. God determines what miracles and internal graces would be needed to overcome their obstinancy
3. God does not (without injustice since they do not deserve it) send these graces.

Does that make sense?

Author:  Obi-Wan Kenobi [ Fri Aug 31, 2018 11:01 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Middle Knowledge: How does that work?

I would substitute the word "allows" for "causes" in Thomist point #2, but otherwise, while I could quibble, that's a reasonable approximation.

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