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Middle Knowledge and Open Theism

Posted by Matt Postiff July 30, 2009 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Theology 

I plan to work on a lengthy paper critiquing the doctrine of middle knowledge. A question that arose in my studies relates to the relationship of open theism to middle knowledge. One reason that this question arose is when people ask me what middle knowledge means, they often assume it is related to open theism. It also interested me that two authors (David Basinger and William Hasker) wrote in both Clark Pinnock et al., The Openness of God as well as Hasker, Basinger, and Eef Dekker (eds.), Middle Knowledge: Theory and Applications. Why would they write in both books if there was not some kind of relationship between the doctrines?

My conclusion: Open Theism has nothing to do with Middle Knowledge (hereafter referred to as OT and MK), except that OT proponents must discuss MK because it is a competing theory as to how God knows things and yet maintains human libertarian freedom. The relationship between the two doctrines is actually an adversarial one, for two reasons.

First, OT proponents cannot accept that God knows everything in advance-and that is a basic proposition in the MK system. Basinger writes, "However, proponents of the open view do not believe that God possesses middle knowledge--that God always knows beforehand what would happen, given each option open to us. In fact, we do not even believe that God always knows beforehand exactly how things will turn out in the future--that God possesses simple foreknowledge. " (The Openness of God, p. 163). He continues on the same page, "But since we believe that God can know only what can be known and that what humans will freely do in the future cannot be known beforehand, we believe that God can never know with certainty what will happen in any context involving freedom of choice." Obviously, OT cannot accept MK because of this belief. MK implies that God takes no risks, but OT proponents such as Sanders believes God does take risks because He does not know the future exhaustively.

Second, OT proponents believe there are logical and philosophical problems with the idea of MK. Sanders writes, "Open theists find middle knowledge unattractive due to the philosophical problems and questions surrounding its practical usefulness. " (John Sanders, The God Who Risks, p. 220). Among these are the too-strong view of providence and its handling of the problem of evil (see Hasker, Openness, pp. 145-47). We could add other objections to MK: the grounding objection, the question of the truth of counterfactuals of creaturely freedom, the very question of whether such knowledge actually exists, and if God could possess it if it did exist.


  • Hasker, William, David Basinger, and Eef Dekker, eds. Middle Knowledge: Theory and Applications. Frankfurt am Main; New York: Peter Lang, 2000.
  • Pinnock, Clark, Richard Rice, John Sanders, William Hasker, and David Basinger. The Openness of God. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994.
  • Sanders, John. The God Who Risks: A Theology of Divine Providence. Revised Edition. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007.

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