Book Review: Middle Knowledge
Author: John D. Laing
Publisher: Kregal Academic
Reading Level: High
In recent years, the philosophical concept of middle knowledge has become increasingly popular among Southern Baptists opposed to Calvinistic soteriology. While being a philosophical concept in origin with Luis de Molina (1535-1600), the concept has repeatedly been an intriguing participant in discussions of God's sovereignty and human responsibility.
In brief, middle knowledge is the postulated view of God's comprehensive "knowledge" of outcomes in history given a predicated set of conditions (these known outcomes being called counterfactuals). This knowledge is seated (for lack of better terms) between God's necessary knowledge (that which is decided by His nature) and His free knowledge (that which is decided by His will). This concept of known outcomes and conditions becomes an avenue of exploration on topics such as election, evil, human freedom, preservation or assurance of salvation, inspiration, and many other topics.
In Middle Knowledge: Human Freedom in Divine Sovereignty, John Laing (Phd, The Southern Theological Seminary) attempts to present middle knowledge in an evangelical-traditional manner. While acting as an introduction and defense of middle knowledge, Laing also works out its application to the extent of nearly being a systematic theology of evangelical Baptist Molinism. This is a viable flaw to the book. Many pages are dedicated to explanation or introduction of topics that have very little to do directly with middle knowledge (e.g. chapters on "Inerrancy and Inspiration" and "Science and Theology"). While application of middle knowledge—particularly in the realm of soteriology—is expected, Laing spends a tremendous amount of time communicating its value before even addressing if Scripture teaches it—"Molinism: The Biblical Evidence" is chapter nine!
Laing has provided a substantial service in putting all of this material in one book, but the presentation and ordering is lacking. The early chapters defending the philosophical qualities of middle knowledge against challenges is substantial and beneficial but disorienting in jumpiness. His attitude towards other theological views is to be praised for its graciousness and thoroughness but again some of the finer distinctions distract from the presentation of middle knowledge itself.
In conclusion, Middle Knowledge: Human Freedom in Divine Sovereignty is an intriguing but complicated book. The writing itself, while not poor, does not feel edited for publishing—reading more like lectures. Actual philosophical defenses of Molina's middle knowledge have been better articulated by Molina (On Divine Foreknowledge) and Thomas Flint (Divine Providence: The Molinist Account). Similarly, Alvin Plantinga's articulation to the issue of theodicy is superior (God, Freedom, and Evil).
What John Laing has provided is a porous evangelical, Baptist-traditionalist/Arminian-leaning systematic theology with middle knowledge at the center of every doctrine. However, Middle Knowledge: Human Freedom in Divine Sovereignty is neither ordered for a systematic theology nor in possession of the clarity of conclusion for a primer on its variant of Molinism.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.