Middle Knowledge

Someone asked me about middle knowledge after I made mention of the term in a recent post at The Preacher’s Library. I say on page 389 of my book The Other Side of Calvinism that middle knowledge is “knowledge of what will or could or would happen.” This is also called Molinism, after Luis de Molina (1535-1600), who taught that through God’s middle knowledge, “in virtue of the most profound and inscrutable comprehension of each faculty of free choice, He saw in His own essence what each such faculty would do with its innate freedom were it to be placed in this or in that or, indeed, in infinitely many orders of things—even though it would really be able, if its so willed, to do the opposite.”

I was introduced to the term via William Lane Craig’s The Only Wise God: The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom (Baker, 1987). The more recent and notable books on the subject of middle knowledge are, from a philosophical point of view, Molinism: The Contemporary Debate, edited by Ken Perszyk (Oxford, 2011). From the religious perspective there is Middle Knowledge: Human Freedom in Divine Sovereignty, by John D. Laing (Kregel, 2018). I recommend Luis de Molina: The Life and Theology of the Founder of Middle Knowledge, by Kirk R. MacGregor (Zondervan, 2018), and William Lane Craig’s contribution to Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views, edited by James Beilby and Paul R. Eddy (IVP Academic, 2001).

Do We Need John Goldingay’s Book?

John Goldingay is an Anglican Old Testament scholar, and is the David Allan Hubbard Professor Emertius of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary. I have his new commentary on Genesis (2020) in the Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Pentateuch series. I have his massive (1033 pages) new commentary on Jeremiah (2021) in The New International Commentary on the Old Testament series published by Eerdmans. I also have his volume on Daniel (1989) in the Word Biblical Commentary series, but it is not worth consulting, as will be evident by the end of this post.

I recently read Goldingay’s book Do We Need the New Testament? Letting the Old Testament Speak for Itself (InterVarsity Press, 2015). The relationship between the Old and New Testaments is an area of special interest to me, and I have many books on this subject. Goldingay’s book is not one I will be keeping. Most of the chapters are based on papers given at theological conferences. I have heard many papers delivered at such conferences. I would certainly have slept through Goldingay’s. He maintains that there is little that is distinctive or unique about the New Testament. He dislikes the term “Old Testament,” and prefers “First Testament.” Because Goldingay is about as far from a dispensationalist as one can be, even though he is a revered Old Testament scholar, he really has no clue how to interpret the Old Testament. His book Do We Need the New Testament? shows us that he has no clue about how to interpret the New Testament either.

Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology

Zondervan recently published the second edition of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Bible Doctrine. The first edition was published in 1994, and sold (according to the publisher) over 750,000 copies. This is a massive book of over 1,600 pages. Grudem, formerly of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, is distinguished research professor of theology and biblical studies at Phoenix Seminary in Phoenix, Arizona, and author of many books. He holds degrees from Harvard, Westminster Seminary, and Cambridge.

I want to focus on the differences between the first and second editions, which mainly consist of additional material. I am glad to see that the preface to the second edition has a list of the additional material, which increases the size of the book by “about 16 percent.” The additional material—some good and some bad—includes completely updated bibliographies, all Scripture quotations changed from RSV to ESV, additional discussion of specific “problem verses” for biblical inerrancy, a more extensive critique of open theism, a new discussion and critique of middle knowledge, an extensive discussion of Free Grace theology, a “completely revised, stronger chapter” on creation and evolution, a critique of the New Perspective on Paul and its view of justification, a contemporary worship song added at the end of each chapter, a critique of preterism, and the indexing of topics covered in twenty-one new systematic theology texts published since 1993.

Grudem is a Calvinist, hence his critique of middle knowledge and Free Grace theology. Grudem is very good on theistic evolution, but don’t let his “completely revised, stronger chapter” on creation and evolution fool you. Grudem says that he now believes in an earth and a universe that are billions of years old. Same for his critique of preterism. It is good, but Grudem is a historic premillennialist and rejects dispensationalism. The best change in the second edition is Grudem’s new defense of the translation of “only begotten” rather than “only” in John 3:16 and elsewhere (pgs. 293-296).

Since Grudem is a Baptist, Baptists in particular will want to read his chapters on church government and baptism. Back when I taught theology, I owned at least twenty books titled Systematic Theology. Which one is the best? Hard to say. Even though it is dated, I still recommend Lectures in Systematic Theology by Henry C. Thiessen (Eerdmans, 1949). It is Baptist, orthodox, dispensational, and premillennial. This was revised by Vernon D. Doerksen (Eerdmans, 1979), some of it rather extensively.

Christ All in All

I learn something new about books almost every day. The latest addition to my library is Christ All in All (Reiner Publications, 1976) by Philip Henry, the father of Matthew Henry the famed commentator. I had no idea that Philip Henry or this book even existed until I came across the book, which was originally written in 1691. The manuscript was not published until 1830. The book contains 380 pages after a memoir of the author. The book is based on the last part of Colossians 3:11, “Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.” It contains 41 short chapters on things like Christ is our hope, our refuge, our righteousness, our light, our life, our peace, our wisdom, our way, our example, our shield, our strength, our song, our sanctification, etc.