William Lane Craig’s The Only Wise God: The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom

I first encountered William Lane Craig’s views on “Molinism” or “middle knowledge” (in truth, I first encountered the terms “Molinism” and “middle knowledge”) through his essay “Middle Knowledge, A Calvinist-Arminian Rapprochement?” in The Grace of God and the Will of Man (edited by Clark Pinnock, Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1989, 141-164). Later, since The Only Wise God was out of print, I attempted to digest his scholarly treatment of the subject in Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom (New York: E.J. Brill, 1991), but quickly realized that I would obviously need to start somewhere else. Luckily, however, we now have The Only Wise God reprinted, and so something like a primer on Molinism is available to us once again.

But it’s more than just a primer on middle knowledge. Primarily, Craig is concerned with showing that God’s foreknowledge and our freedom can stand together. There is an old argument still being voiced by many in the Reformed camp that sees this as an impossibility. In short, if God foreknows what you will do, then you cannot do differently. The line I am fed rather consistently is that foreknowledge means more than merely “knowing in advance” it means “to know intimately.” Now, many who argue this won’t quite come out and say that foreknowledge is strictly synonymous with foreordination or predestination, but they should, because that is, in effect, their argument.

Craig is unimpressed. He attacks this line of reasoning in many ways. He argues, for instance, that there is no Biblical evidence to support the contention that “foreknow” and “foreordain” are synonymous (33). Furthermore, Craig asks the very important question, “Does God foreknow our sins? Then does this argument not make God the author of our sins?” (47) He also argues that there is a difference in saying something “will” happen and saying something “must” happen, even if the knower’s knowledge is infallible and inerrant. What is more, Craig makes the interesting argument that a cause and effect may have a logical relationship even though the former, of course, precedes the latter chronologically. Thus, while our actions can not be said to cause God’s foreknowledge, they do stand in a logical relationship, much like the relationship between an object and its shadow, and therefore remove the “cause/effect” notion that a naive understanding of chronological sequences can bring about. Ultimately, Craig argues in favor of “middle knowledge,” the theological position argued by the medieval Jesuit Luis de Molina.

Admittedly, this is heady stuff, and the book is not without its problems. Craig approaches the problem primarily as a philosopher. Indeed, he bemoans the lack of serious thinking on this subject that we find in most theological works. However, this approach leads him occasionally into realms of speculation that will bewilder the reader. The reader must be careful not to get lost in the details of Craig’s discussion of Newcomb’s Paradox, time travel or the parapsychological phenomena of precognition. His purpose in bringing up these items is to show that the evidence for rejecting theological fatalism is strengthened by its rejection in other fields. This book also does not answer all of the questions concerning Biblical predestination, but what book could?

Anybody who knows anything about Craig knows that he is not interested in taking us through a tour of speculative theology merely for its own sake. He is an imminently practical man who is concerned ultimately with Biblical truth. And if it should be objected that this is all too confusing, then I will reply, “Yes, it is! But that says much more about the church’s lack of critical thinking than it does about the book itself.” Read this book, be careful and prepare to be challenged.

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