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Review: Middle Knowledge

Kregel Academic, 2018. 366 pp.
For many Christians, the issue of reconciling God’s sovereignty and human responsibility is in tension. In other words, how do Christians justify the biblical evidence that God controls the entire world, yet he has given humans free will? Various theological models have arisen, including Calvinism, Arminianism, Process Theism, and Open Theism, with each tipping the scale heavier toward either sovereignty or responsibility. Instead, theologian John Laing, in his new book Middle Knowledge: Human Freedom in Divine Sovereignty (Kregel Academic, 2018), suggests that the sixteenth-century doctrine of middle knowledge (scientia media) best explains this dichotomy.

Laing provides an introduction to the doctrine of middle knowledge, also referred to as Molinism (after its pioneer, Luis de Molina). He first surveys the prevailing theories of providence and argues for the superiority of Molinism and its centrism. Laing then addresses common objections to Molinism and its application to issues in systematic theology (including the doctrines of salvation, inspiration, and evil). To Laing, Molinism is best equipped to justify God’s control in the midst of human actions, as he knows all possible worlds (counterfactuals) that could exist and chooses the best world to enact.

There exists a substantial existing body of literature on Molinism; however, Laing offers a compact and sweeping introduction to the basics of the issue. He interacts with philosophers, theologians, and contemporary thinkers—often with a dash of humor—to provide a lucid defense of middle knowledge. He also emphasizes the biblical support for Molinism, rather than limiting his logic exclusively to verbose philosophy. At times, this book is incredibly dense and requires prior knowledge of church history and historical theology. However, for a seminary student or pastor-theologian who is interested in this via media approach to providence, Middle Knowledge will be a valuable read and will certainly quench one’s philosophical appetite.

Buy this book

(My thanks are given to Kregel for providing a complimentary review copy in exchange for an honest review.)

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