Am I a Calvinist? Not Exactly

Recently I received this note from a friend on Facebook:

Dr. Geivett,

What is your view on Calvinism, election, and free will? Do you have any good resources you could recommend?

Since I am occasionally asked this question, I thought it might be helpful to others to post my reply here, together with Amazon links for the reading I recommend:

Hi . . . ,

I’m not a Calvinist. I’m a libertarian regarding human freedom, and I reconcile human freedom and divine sovereignty on the basis of the doctrine of divine middle knowledge. I can recommend several books on this:

(1) Luis de Molina, On Divine Foreknowledge

This is an early primary source for the doctrine of divine middle knowledge. Luis de Molina was the first to develop the doctrine systematically. This is Alfred J. Freddoso’s translation from the Latin text. Freddoso’s lengthy introduction to the volume is an excellent sympathetic introduction to the doctrine. This is the ideal place to begin your study of middle knowledge if you’re prepared to read a fairly sophisticated treatment of the topic.

(2) William Lane Craig, The Only Wise God

William Lane Craig is an evangelical Christian apologist and a leading proponent of the doctrine of divine middle knowledge. This book explains the doctrine, contrasts it with alternative views of the relation between divine sovereignty and human freedom (e.g., Calvinist views), and includes careful examination of the relevant texts of Scripture. If you read only one book on this topic, this is the book to study. The topic is complex, so any exposition of the doctrine and related issues will generally be written above the popular level. This is the most accessible detailed treatment of the topic (at a very reasonable price).

(3) Thomas P. Flint, Divine Providence: The Molinist Account

This is an exceptional treatment of the doctrine of divine middle knowledge by a prominent Catholic philosopher of religion. Exposition and defense of the doctrine is more developed here than in William Lane Craig’s book, so it’s a good place to go next if you plan further study of the topic.

(4) Dennis L. Okholm and Timothy R. Phillips, eds., View Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World

For an application of the doctrine of divine middle knowledge to the question of the fate of the unevangelized, see the contributions in this book that I co-authored with Gary Phillips. Another source for this material is my chapter in the book Jesus Under Fire (see below).

(5) Michael J. Wilkins and JP Moreland, Jesus Under Fire

My concluding chapter to this volume presents the same material contained in my contribution to the book Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World, on the fate of the unevangelized (see above).

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About Doug Geivett
University Professor; PhD in philosophy; author; conference speaker. Hobbies include motorcycling, travel, kayaking, sailing.

3 Responses to Am I a Calvinist? Not Exactly

  1. Paul says:

    Yes indeed. I’m unconvinced of “compatibilist middle knowledge.” As I recall, Helm addresses Craig’s view of middle knowledge in his The Providence of God (chapter 2) and says that if one can present a “no risk” view of middle knowledge in relation to God’s sovereignty, then it would be promising. Yet I’m not sure that Helm is in favor of middle knowledge at the expense of upholding some kind of indeterministic notion of human freedom.

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  2. Doug Geivett says:

    Paul Helm is, of course, a Calvinist. He’s a thoughtful and otherwise exemplary one, at that. I quite agree with his assessment of “compatibilist middle knowledge.” The doctrine of middle knowledge is of no use to the Calvinist. That is, unless one is selective in his conception of human freedom in relation to divine sovereignty and holds that humans exercise linertarian freedom with respect to some of their actions and ‘compatibilist freedom’ with regard to other actions. But such a hybrid would do little to solve the rather severe problems Bruce Ware hopes to solve with “compatibilist middle knowledge.”

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  3. Paul says:

    I, too, am a fan of middle knowledge as I think it best represents a biblically faithful, philosophically defensible position. Could I suggest, too, Paul Helm’s thoughts?

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