It’s the Thought that counts ‘Middle Knowledge’ 18.9.2020
The Following thought for the day was written by Brother Richard Morgan and provides insight and encouragement for those seeking to serve the God of Israel.
In today’s reading from Luke 10, Jesus presents us with what looks like a moral dilemma. He sent out seventy of his disciples to preach to the towns of Galilee. While they were going, he said the following – “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.” (v13).
The question is, why didn’t God do such mighty works in Tyre and Sidon? If they would have repented then surely an opportunity was missed? Didn’t God care about them?
What Jesus says here relates to the principle called middle knowledge in academic theological circles. It is an attempt to explain the paradox of divine foreknowledge, and reconciling it with free will. The term middle knowledge was first coined by the Jesuit theologian Luis de Molina in the 16th century, and the broader philosophy is called Molinism, named after him.
The theory proposes that there are three kinds of divine knowledge – natural, middle and free. Natural knowledge is everything that God knows could happen. Middle knowledge is everything that God knows would happen (under differing circumstances), and free knowledge is everything that God knows will happen. Molinism then says that God created a world having established all the things that would happen under various scenarios, choosing the world that best fit His eternal purpose.
Molinism says that in the beginning, God knew that if He sent His Son to Tyre and Sidon (or performed signs there in a similar way), they would have repented, and this is what Jesus is saying in Luke 10.
So why didn’t He? Why didn’t God create a world in which the signs Jesus performed were done in Tyre and Sidon as well? Why weren’t they given this opportunity to repent?
However, the same question could be asked of anywhere else in the world at any moment in time. Why didn’t God send His Son to 15th century Peru to preach to the Incas, for instance? Instead, God let them believe in a pantheon of false gods. Is that fair?
But we could take things a step further. Why didn’t Jesus try harder to get through to the people of Capernaum and Bethsaida? They rejected the gospel, but Jesus moved on to other towns. Why didn’t God have Jesus go on a more extended ministry to save more people?
Questions like this abound when we try to look at God’s purpose from our human angle of fairness. When it comes down to it, however, God isn’t looking to save everybody. He has a specific purpose with saving His children. But salvation is not the be-all and end-all of what God is doing.
The message for us is to understand what middle knowledge means. By giving us the bible, God has given us some of that middle knowledge. For instance, we have been given the knowledge to be able to ask ourselves what would happen if I submitted to the will of God or resisted it? We’ve been given insight into God’s free knowledge – what will happen. God has given us His purpose, and He has given us the free will to choose. It will happen with or without us. God knew what would happen (middle knowledge) if He sent His Son to Tyre and Sidon. But He chose not too, and that is His prerogative. God has a specific purpose, and it’s not merely to save as many people as He can. He chose not to offer salvation to the people of Tyre and Sidon. But he has offered it to us, and we’ve been privileged to be armed with the knowledge of God’s will. Are we going to take that opportunity or waste it like the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida?
Simi Hills, CA
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