De Moor VI:11: The Object of the Divine Decrees, Part 1

The Decrees of God are extended to All Things that come to pass in time: which, α. spontaneously follows from all the Reasons, wherewith in § 3 we proved the Existence of the Decrees in general: and, β. in addition it is expressly confirmed in the Sacred Books, Acts 15:18, γνωστὰ ἀπ᾽ αἰῶνός ἐστι τῷ Θεῷ πάντα τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ, known unto God are all His works from of old: but, if God knew all His Works from eternity, He also had to determine the same by His eternal Decree; since no foundation of eternal Foreknowledge of things future in time is granted, except the determination of the divine Will: compare this Chapter, § 6.


In Ephesians 1:11, κατὰ πρόθεσιν τοῦ τὰ πάντα ἐνεργοῦντος, κατὰ τὴν βουλὴν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ, according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will. Therefore, nothing is done in time through the actual Creation and Providence of God, without God previously establishing by His Counsel that it was going to be so, even indeed in one eternal act because of the Simplicity of God.


Among which things we also hold that there are Things Free and Contingent, against, following after many ancient Philosophers, the Stoics and Epicureans together,[1] however much they were otherwise cherishing diverse and opposite opinions; and against the Pelagians: see LEYDEKKER’S[2]Disputationem inauguralem de Providentia Dei, § 23, page 11, after his Facem Veritatis; VRIESIUS’ Exercitationem Rationalem XIX, § 18.


Against many Papists, at this point heading in all different directions, as it follows from those things that were said concerning God’s Middle Knowledge, Chapter IV, § 38, and are related concerning the Cooperation or Concursus of Providence, Chapter X, § 10. DESCARTES, in his Principis Philosophiæ, part I, § 40, 41, acknowledges that all things ever done by us are not only foreknown by God, but also foreordained; at the same time he asserts that God’s infinite power leaves the free actions of men undetermined: compare VAN MASTRICHT’S Gangrænam Novitatum Cartesianarum, posterior Section, chapter XXXIII, § 19, pages 511, 512.


Against the Socinians: see Socinus’ Prælectiones, chapters VI-VIII, opera, tome I, pages 542-546; Crellius’ de Deo et Attributis ejus, chapter XXIV, opera, tome 4, pages 67-71. This follows spontaneously from the denial of God’s eternal Foreknowledge of all Future Contingent and Free Things, concerning which above, Chapter IV, § 36. Vorstius also has in his Notis on Disputation VI de Deo, pages 307, 308: Therefore, a mistake is made here, that from this, that a general Decree of God, and the same generally Conditional (especially with respect to our salvation), was made before the world, it is immediately gathered, that absolutely all things appearing, whatever happens in the world, was similarly ordained by God from eternity…. Thus there would be no Contingency in the whole world, and no Freedom of Will. For, if absolutely all things were specifically determined this way or that from eternity; even if with respect to second causes many things perhaps might happen contingently, nevertheless with respect to the first cause all things actually happen necessarily, etc.

James Arminius

And against the Arminians: Arminus, in his Responsione ad XXXI Articulos, on Article VII, which thus reads, God by His eternal Decree has not determined Future Contingent Things one way or the other, responds, pages 98-101: “The language of Determination is ambiguous. For it signifies, either the determination of God, whereby he establishes that a thing shall be, indeed, such a determination, whereby, with whatever sort of action, motion, or impulse of God posited, second causes yet remain free with respect to power and the use of power, to do or not to do, so that they are able, if they will, to suspend their action; or such a determination, with which posited, second causes do not remain free, at least not with respect to the use of power, that it might be able to suspend its action, with the action, motion, and impulse of God posited; but from which it happens that it is necessarily inclined in one direction, with the indifference to either direction removed; before the determined act itself was produced by the free creature. If in the former manner the language of Determination is understood in the article posited, far be it from me that we should deny such a Determination of God, etc. But if in the second sense the language of Determination be take, this axiom in which it is said, that God has determined one way or the other Future Contingent Things (understand, which are accomplished by the free will of the creature) by His eternal Decree; I confess myself to abominate and to detest, etc., as false, absurd, and leading the way to manifold blasphemy.”


The πρῶτον ψεῦδος, fundamental error, is the Indifference and Independence of the Free Will, that otherwise all Contingency and Liberty obtaining in created things is taken away.


That by the same πρώτῳ ψεῦδει, fundamental error, many Lutherans differ from us at this point, you may learn from Eckhardus’[3] Fasciculum Controversiarum cum Calvino, chapter IX, pages 201-205 (against whom see ARNOLDI’S[4]Scopas dissolutas Eckhardi, pages 170-174), and from Buddeus’ Institutiones Theologiæ dogmaticæ, tome 1, book II, chapter I, § 22, pages 291, 293-295, in which he contends that Future Contingent Things, perfectly Foreknown, are not determined before God. Which he inculcates also in tome 2, book V, chapter II, § 7, page 1610, where you may read: “Although faith is produced in man by God Himself, each man is able either to resist divine Grace, or to give place to it. And that, since it is something contingent, it is not able to be affirmed that it depends upon the divine Decree; now, it is no hindrance, that God is able to foresee that.” That Future Free and Contingent Things have been predetermined by the absolute Decree of God, Jasper de Hartogh[5] also denies, Wegwyzer der Eenvuldigen, chapter I, page 33.


But, α. if All Things were foreordained by the Decree of God, as it was seen at the beginning of this section, the same must be said of Contingent and Free Things.


β. Manifest Examples of Contingent and Free Things, the determination of which is attributed to God, confirm this, Genesis 50:20, where the evil that Joseph’s brethren thought against him, he calls an evil that they decreed against him:[6] so also the Thought of God comes to be understood of His Decree, Acts 4:27, 28; John 19:36, 37, compared with verses 31-35.


γ. Otherwise, 1. the Immutability of God is not able to stand: for, if concerning Free and Contingent Things the divine Will from eternity remained indeterminate and in suspense; by the determination of the Will following thereafter, God, Perfectly Simple and who is said to be most pure act, has necessarily undergone change. 2. Otherwise, divine Independence also perishes, unless with all other things Free and Contingent Things also depend upon the determination of the divine Decree for their Futurition. Indeed,


δ. Unless future Free and Contingent Things are future by the Decree of God, they are altogether Independent, and the Will of the eternal Deity is to be subordinated to His creatures. But if they insist that these things are Foreknown, but not certainly predetermined, and this Foreknowledge is certain and unable to be deceived, they introduce Stoic Fate, and actually take away Contingency and Liberty, which they claim perishes by our opinion: since those things, not depending upon the determination of the divine Will, and yet infallibly foreknown as future, ought then to happen by inevitable necessity, flowing from an intrinsic and inevitable concatenation and connection of things.

Johannes a Marck

They offer by way of Objection, 1. Passages, in which it appears to be indicated that God has regard to Future Contingent and Free Things as perhaps future, Jeremiah 26:3; Luke 20:13. I Respond with our AUTHOR, α. That is done Anthropopathically: β. and the Uncertainty is to be referred, not to God, but to the Matters and to Men. For, from a comparison with Romans 9:18; Acts 11:18; 4:28; etc., it is evident, that in these passages there is a treatment of matters Foreknown and Certainly Determined by God; and so, α. this Uncertainty is to be referred, not to God, but to the Matters regarded in themselves and Men ignorant of the divine Counsel, as in Joel 2:14; Daniel 4:27, in comparison with Chapter XXIV, § 20, etc.: and, β. probable Expectation is attributed to God Anthropopathically, to indicate the Complacency of God and the Decency of the matter.


They offer by way of Objection, 2. that the Nature of Contingency and Liberty does not allow for a special/particular Decree of God, absolute, certainly determined from eternity according to His Will.


I Respond: Neither consists in absolute Indifference, on account of the solid reasons mentioned by our AUTHOR in his Compendio: compare Chapter IV, § 36, Responses to Objections 2, 3, Chapter X, § 16, 17, Chapter XIII, § 13; VOETIUS’[7]Dissertationem de Vitæ Termino, pages 43-46, Part V of Disputationum Selectarum.


But Contingency consists in the Non-Necessary Connection of Second Causes; in which there is not wanting a Connection of Second Causes, antecedent and consequent, but it is not Necessary by the natural conjunction of these things, in which sense we are wont to speak of Necessary Things, Chapter X, § 15: but by a concurrence of these things, fortuitous, or which is done accidentally, in which case, notwithstanding, by the connection of things the consequent is not able not to follow upon the antecedent, even if that Contingent Connection of Causes be unknown to us, which is to be said concerning most Contingent Things: for example, that smoke presents itself in some chamber, a physical Cause of this matter is presented in the hindering of the congruous motion of the air, etc., although the true cause be unknown to us: that the same food, as it appears, is at one time well digested by the stomach, at another time poorly, it has a physical Cause in the food, or in its preparation, or in the interior disposition of the body, although it be hidden from us: and this so much the more overthrows absolute Indifference, that there is no Contingency on God’s part, nor is there wanting the Connection of Second Causes on the part of the matter; but only that that Connection is not Necessary by the nature of the things, and sometimes escapes our Recognition; whence we are able also to hold as Contingent Things, what things are to be said to be truly Necessary.


Liberty consists in Rational Willing; which by the Decree of God is not excluded, but rather is produced; as it will be shown at length, in the passages already cited, Chapter X, § 17, Chapter XIII, § 13.


Whence many things are at the same time Contingent, Free, and Necessary: Contingent and Free on the part of the Creature, and relatively to second and proximate Causes; Necessary on the part of God, relatively to the Decree and provident operation of the first Cause. And so, with the determination of the divine Decree not withstanding, many things are able to be called Contingent and Free, since the denomination is wont to be made from second Causes. THOMAS, in his tractatu de Præscientia et Prædestinatione, chapter IV, says: Every effect in Necessity and Contingency follows its proximate Cause, and not its first Cause. Therefore, Contingency and Liberty do not repel all Necessity, not Objective Necessity, according to which a thing happens necessarily, because such a result is the Object of the divine Decree, which ought necessarily to be delivered for execution, and consequently of the efficacious Providence of God: not the Necessity of Infallibility, so that the Knowledge of God foreknowing such a thing or event is not able to be deceived: not the Necessity of Consequence, so that the effect necessary follows upon the determination of God, or from the supposition of some other antecedent; just as, with it supposed that all men after the fall are worthy of condemnation before God, it follows that the same ought to be affirmed concerning individuals also; if Christ has risen, it follows that all that belong to Christ are to be raised: not Hypothetical Necessity, through which a thing, although it be by its own nature Free and Contingent, is not able not to be upon the supposition of the divine Decree, because of Dependence upon the ordination of God, whose Will is not able to be changed, nor His Foreknowledge to be deceived: indeed, the certainty of the Event here does not arise from the nature of second Causes, which are and remain Free and Contingent; but extrinsically from the Immutability of the Decree, which determines the futurition of the Event, in such a way that it does not change the nature of things, but leaves necessary things to act necessarily, free things to act freely. And so, in every case, in this way a thing is able at the same time to be called Contingent, Free, and Necessary, because by such Necessity is introduced no opposition against Contingency and Freedom πρὸς τὸ αὐτὸ, unto the same, in the same respect; but what in one relation is Contingent and Free, in another relation is Necessary. To these is able to be added Necessity of Precept, as not repugnant to Contingency or Liberty, since it only indicates the Propriety of duty, undergirded with moral motives; but it does not declare the certitude of the event, much less compel one acting freely.


Contingency and Liberty only exclude Subjective Necessity, arising from the intrinsic nature of the acting Subject, that he is not able not to act, or to act otherwise; which hence is also called Necessity of Determination Intrinsic and of the Thing, on the part of second Causes, which are determined unto one thing in such a way that they are not able to act otherwise, as in the case of fire there is a necessity of burning; Necessity of the Consequent, so that this must of itself follow upon the Antecedent, because of the natural connection between these things, and because such a predicate necessarily agrees with its subject: thus man is contingently learned and honest, although all that are found to be such were destined to that by God’s Decree, whence the Necessity of the Consequence arises; a similar concursus of Contingency and Necessity obtains in this, that one at this time speaks, writes, walks; but by the Necessity of the Consequent Man is finite, visible rational: Necessity of Coaction, which arises from an external principle acting by violence; Absolute Necessity, not merely on the supposition of the divine Will, but by the intrinsic nature of a thing, just as in the highest decree Absolute Necessity is applicable to the Existence of the infinitely perfect Being, in opposition to the Contingent Existence of the whole created Universe: compare HOORNBEECK’S Socinianismum confutatum, tome I, book II, chapter VII, section I, pages 479-481.


They offer by way of Objection, 3. that thus a Neglect of Prayers and Means is Introduced, which would be Absurd: something of which sort with respect to Prayers a certain Prodicus with his followers was objecting already at the beginning of the third Century; see SPANHEIM, Historiam Ecclesiasticam, Century III, chapter VII, § 2, column 748. But our AUTHOR rightly rejects this Consequence as Absurd, since God decreed the Means adjoining the End, which therefore are to be applied, so that we might arrive at the End; which he also illustrates with Scriptural examples. The eternal Life is a free gift certainly destined to the Elect, Luke 12:32; nevertheless, use is to be made of the Means, so that we might arrive at the goal of our Calling, Luke 13:24: carefully compare ORIGEN, contra Celsum,[8]book II, pages 73 at the end, 74. Now, among those Means are especially Prayers also, with which intervening, God decreed to avert evils, and to lavish goods upon His people, Ezekiel 36:37: whence a revelation of the divine Decree concerning some particular event now known to us is not an argument for the omission of prayer, but rather redoubling our exertions in Prayer, 2 Samuel 7:27-29; neither are we able to pray with faith, unless we are certain from the divine promises concerning God’s Will to bestow these or those things upon us.


On the Objection concerning the introduction of Fate in this manner, see below, Chapter X, § 23.

[1] The Epicureans and Stoics were atomists, believing that all reality is ultimately composed of small, indivisible units of matter. The movements of atoms are determined by mechanical laws. [2] Melchior Leydekker (1642-1721) studied under Voetius at Utrecht, and Hoornbeeck and Cocceius at Leiden. He was appointed Professor of Theology at Utrecht (1676). [3] Heinrich Eckhard (1580-1624) was a German Lutheran Pastor and Theologian. [4] Nicolaus Arnoldi (1618-1680) was Professor of Theology at Franeker (1651-1680). [5] Jasper de Hartogh (1666-1727) was a Dutch Lutheran pastor. [6] Genesis 50:20: “But as for you, ye thought (חֲשַׁבְתֶּם) evil against me; but God meant it (חֲשָׁבָהּ) unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” חָשַׁב signifies to think, to devise, to plan. [7] Gisbertus Voetius (1589-1676) was a Dutch Reformed minister and theologian. In 1619, he attended the Synod of Dort as its youngest member. Some years later he was appointed as Professor of Theology at Utrecht (1636-1676). [8] Celsus was a second century Greek philosopher and opponent of Christianity. Excerpts from his The True Word are found in Origen’s Contra Celsum.

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