According to Molinists, scientia media, middle knowledge, is that knowledge by which God, prior to any absolute decree, but not without the supposition that He would decree, infallibly perceives free futurible acts of creatures. He knows what a man would do in any circumstances if He would decree to concur in them, before He makes any absolute decree establishing the situation.
Free futuribles are known by God prior to any absolute decree existing in Him; for, being only conditional existents, they presuppose only conditionally existing causes, a subjectively conditional decree in God, and conditionally existing human cooperation.
God's knowledge of futuribles had long been recognized, but the name scientia media applied to it first occurs explicitly in theological literature of the 16th century. Peter da fonseca (1528–99) in his commentaries on the Metaphysics of Aristotle speaks of scientia mista. Independent of Fonseca, who was never his teacher, Luis de molina made middle knowledge famous in his solution of problems connected with human freedom, on the one hand, and, on the other, God's foreknowledge and efficacious grace, proposed in his Concordia (1588).
Middle knowledge gets its name because it partakes partly of the nature of two extreme kinds of divine knowledge, while partly differing from them.
There is God's natural or necessary knowledge (called mere naturalis by Molina), prior to every decree, and inconceivable as absent from God (His knowledge of Himself); there is also His free, contingent knowledge (which Molina called mere libera ), presupposing an absolute decree, and conceivable as absent from God (His knowledge of human history). Because it is prior to every absolute decree, between these two is middle knowledge. It is like God's natural knowledge, being prior to any absolute decree, but unlike it, in being conceivably absent from God; it concerns contingent being. It is also like God's free knowledge, since both can be absent from God; but unlike it, because God's free knowledge presupposes an absolute decree that something be. Molina speaks of middle knowledge only in this sense.
There is also God's knowledge of simple intelligence, which represents things, but not as existing (possibles), and His knowledge of vision, which represents things as absolutely existing. Because its object is the free futurible, between these two is middle knowledge. It is like the former, since neither represents an object as absolutely existing, but unlike it, because knowledge of a futurible represents a conditionally existing thing. Also it is like knowledge of vision, since neither represents its object as merely possible; but unlike it, for vision represents its object as absolutely, not conditionally, existing.
This article has dealt with God's direct middle knowledge, by which He knows, prior to any absolute decree, what a free creature would do in any contingency. There is also God's reflex middle knowledge, by which He knows what He Himself would do in any circumstances. Such circumstances may depend upon God alone: "if I would create another universe, I would create so many angels"—God as it were reflects upon His own conditional action, "if I would create"; or circumstances may depend upon God and a creature: "if I would see Adam obeying, I would still send Christ"—here God reflects upon an object of His own direct middle knowledge, namely Adam obeying.
Direct middle knowledge is held by all Molinists, but not all admit reflex middle knowledge. Molinists also hold God's middle knowledge, together with that of simple intelligence, to be the cause of things only as directive of divine action.
See Also: grace, controversies on; molinism; free will and grace; omniscience; bÁÑez and baÑezianism.
Bibliography: e. vansteenberghe, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant, 15 v. (Paris 1903–50; Tables générales 1951–) 10.2:2094–2187. a. michel, ibid. 14.2:1598–1620. "Scientia Media," Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65); v. 9. a. whitacre, j. hastings, ed., Encyclopedia of Religion & Ethics, 13v. (Edinburgh 1908–27) 8:774–777. t. de diego diÉz, Theologia Naturalis (Santander 1955). j. hellÍn, Theologia Naturalis: Tractatus Metaphysicus (Madrid 1950). r. martÍnez del campo, Theologia Naturalis (Mexico City 1943). s. gonzÁlez and i. sagÜÉs, Sacrae theologiae summa, ed. Fathers of the Society of Jesus, Professors of the Theological Faculties in Spain, 4 v. (Madrid 1962) 3.3:264–328.
[f. l. sheerin]