Middle Knowledge, Divine Providence, and the Minor Prophets

The doctrine of middle knowledge has, in recent years, grown in popularity among evangelicals, though it is not without its critics. Both Calvinists and Open Theists have challenged middle knowledge on several grounds, most notably the truth of counterfactuals of libertarian freedom and its biblical basis. This latter critique is of particular concern to evangelicals; if middle knowledge is based more in philosophy than the Bible—as some Calvinists have charged—then it may need to be abandoned.
In previous writings, I have examined several of the biblical bases of middle knowledge. In particular, I argued that the structure and language of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants make most sense when interpreted through a Molinist framework, and that the conditions needed for the establishment of the Mosaic covenant required divine use of middle knowledge. I also argued that a Molinist reading offers the best explanation of Samuel’s replacement language in God’s judgment upon Saul. In this paper, as part of a larger project of offering a Molinist biblical theology, I will examine some representative works from the minor prophets. Specifically, I will argue that a middle knowledge approach to divine omniscience and providence can be seen in Jonah, Habakkuk, and Haggai.
I will argue that the concept of true counterfactuals of freedom (divine and human) undergirds the whole story of Jonah, from Jonah’s fear that the Ninevites will repent upon hearing of God’s judgment (counterfactual of human freedom), to his fear that God will show mercy upon their repentance (counterfactual of divine freedom). It is implicit in God’s call to Jonah, in God’s judgment upon Jonah, and in God’s mission for Jonah. God knew how Jonah would respond to his call, how Jonah would respond to judgment, the kind of judgment required to get the desired free response from Jonah, how the Ninevites would respond if Jonah were to come and preach, and (perhaps) the necessary conditions for them to freely repent.
I will also argue that middle knowledge sits at the heart of God’s answer to Habakkuk’s complaints and at God’s encouragement through Haggai to the returning exiles. God’s use of the Babylonians as an instrument of judgment upon Judah is a shocking answer to Habakkuk’s first complaint, because it seems to call God’s goodness and justice into question. God’s answer that he will judge the Babylonians for their sin in executing his judgment suggests a middle knowledge approach to divine providence, though his response also includes a challenge to Habakkuk’s assumption that Judah is more righteous than Babylon. In his encouragement to returning exiles, Haggai notes that, just as God moved the Egyptians to give riches to the departing Israelites, so he will move Cyrus to provide funds for Temple construction, and just as God used pagan nations to judge Israel, so also he will use a pagan (Darius) to pay for Temple reconstruction. This parallelism suggests divine use of counterfactuals of freedom in God’s providential work.

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