I first came across the term “Middle Knowledge” only a couple of years ago. To put it in simple terms, this is basically the view that God’s omniscience encompasses things which — from our time-bound perspective — we would call counterfactuals. In other words, if I’d come straight home from work today instead of going to the grocery store first, what would I have done? What would I be doing now? If I’d added political science as a second major as an undergrad instead of linguistics, what would I have done after graduation? Etc.
I read about this in the context of a book on theology from the Arminian perspective, so I took this as a typical part of Arminian theology. Indeed, although pulling yourself out of the space-time continuum is quite a mind stretch, I think having Middle Knowledge as part of Arminian theology makes a lot of seeming contradictions go away. How does man choose God, but God chose man first? Because God created the particular world that would eventually lead to that man choosing God. Why do I give God all the ultimate glory and credit for something I physically did myself (ie., God didn’t supernaturally swoop down and do it for me)? Because He is ultimately responsible for every single factor that led to my success. The first time I heard about the Middle Knowledge concept, and thought it through a bit, I was overwhelmed by a sense of God’s omniscience and omnipotence, simply His greatness, in a way I probably hadn’t been in a long time (it’s easy to take that for granted as a long-time Christian). And, I suppose it’s something I’d always believed, but never really thought about it, certainly never thought through its implications.
So, I never really thought about whether Calvinists believe in Middle Knowledge. Recently though I came across this blog post, which provides a lengthy quote from noted Calvinist RC Sproul which indicates it is indeed a part of Calvinism. And, with only a half-second’s thought, it makes sense. This basically gets at the omniscience of God, and I certainly don’t believe orthodox Calvinists believe in any less (or more) of an omniscient God than orthodox Arminians do.
I suppose, then, it’s in the implications of Middle Knowledge where we differ. It seems to me that M.K. is less impactful (which is not to say less glorious or awe-inspiring!) within Calvinism, because God’s choosing of man is viewed much more “directly,” if that’s the word. In Arminianism, even if you apply M.K. in quite a deterministic way, you still have God permitting man a genuinely free choice (=he could have decided otherwise, but God, not bound by time, knew exactly which choice he would make in the particular world He created), whereas in Calvinism “freedom” is redefined to entail someone “freely” choosing what God has decreed he choose.
Just something I’ve been thinking about lately. As always, I’m looking forward to the day when we’re seated at Jesus’s feet and he corrects all of us. “Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!”