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De Moor IV:40: God's Knowledge not properly the Cause of Things

Artist's Depiction of Augustine

God’s Knowledge is not properly the Cause of Things, but rather God’s Will; even if His Knowledge also precedes a thing, and is not able to fail; so that God does not receive knowledge from things posited outside of Himself, knowing all things Of Himself, and the effect also follows infallibly upon the Foreknowledge of God: which certain Scholastics appear to have maintained, who out of Augustine affirm that things are, because God knows them: thus indeed AUGUSTINE has it in book XV de Trinitate, chapter XIII, opera, tome 8, column 697, “Now, all His creatures, both spiritual and corporeal, not because they are, therefore He knows them; but therefore they are, because He knows them. For He was not ignorant of what He was about to create. Therefore, because He knew, He created; not because He created, He knew. Neither did He them when created in any other way than He did when they were to be created: for nothing was added to His Wisdom by them; but, with them existing just as He required, and when He required, that wisdom remained as it was…. Therefore, our knowledge is quite different from this Knowledge.” Compare THOMAS AQUINAS’ Summam, part I, question XIV, article 8, “Conclusion: Since to be and to understand are not separated in God, it is necessary that He cause things by His Knowledge, yet with His Will conjoined. I respond that it is to be said that God’s Knowledge is the Cause of Things. For God’s Knowledge holds with respect to all created things, just as the knowledge of the artificer holds with respect to his artifices. But the knowledge of the artificer is the cause of his artifices in this, that the artificer works through his understanding. Whence it is necessary that the form of his understanding is the principium of his working, just as heat is the principium of heating. But it is to be considered that…the intelligible form does not denominate the principium of the action, as it is only in the mind, unless an inclination to the effect be joined to it, which happens through the Will…. Now, it is manifest that God by His understanding causes a thing: since His being is His understanding. Whence it is necessary that His Knowledge is the Cause of Things, as it has the Will conjoined. Whence the Knowledge of God, as it is the cause of things, was wont to be denominated the Knowledge of approbation.” While Knowledge presupposes its object to be knowable, it does not create it. A thing therefore is known, because it is knowable. A knowable things is therefore known as future, because it is future. And so the account of a future thing, and hence knowable as a future thing, is to be sought from a source other than the knowledge of it. And so the divine Knowledge is not properly called the Cause of Things, but rather an antecedent or a Cause sine qua non: for, unless God knew things, He could not have brought them to pass; neither is He able to determine anything for futurition, except with the His Intellect aware. The Understanding is the directing Principium, not the commanding or executing, which are the Will and Power respectively. Of course, things are properly by the word and commandment of the divine Will, Revelation 4:11: and, since God knows those things as Future, they are regarded as such by the Decree of the divine Will; while antecedently to the Decree they are considered to appear as mere Possibilities by Natural Knowledge. Compare ZANCHI’S book III de Natura Dei, chapter II, question 15, opera, tome 2, columns 221-224.

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Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
Apr 14, 2019

God knows the range of all possible things.

But it is not that Knowledge that determines what actually takes place (for God knows possibilities not actualized), but rather His Will.

Westminster Confession of Faith 3:2: ' Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions, yet hath He not decreed anything because He foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.'

WCF 3:1a: ' God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass...'

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