De Moor VI:16: Things Possible, but not Future

[Moreover, the Decree of God is said to concern Matters Possible, but not Future.] That is, in the determination of their Non-Futurition, which was not able to be asserted antecedently to the Decree: and so the Decree of God concerns Possible, Non-Future Things, not only Negatively, as they say, which is a game of empty sound; but also Positively. That is, if you, having regard to the Act of Decreeing, should say that that holds itself negatively towards Non-Future Possibilities, you attribute to God a mere Non-Volition concerning the same, that is, you deny the act of the determining Will of God to concern, or to exercise itself with, mere Possible Things: but, if with respect to the argument of the Decree concerning Non-Future Possibilities you should say that it holds itself negatively, that is, that such Possible Things are determined by the same Decree for Non-Futurition, it is passable; but this implies a Positive Act of the determining Will (which sort is Nolition, in contradistinction with mere Non-Volition), whereby God separated Non-Future Possibilities from Future Possibilities; so that by the force of this divine Decree those Possible Things of the former sort are Non-Future and as such are able to be set forth, which is not able to be done antecedently to the Decree.


That this is superfluous, BURMANN[1] judges, Synopsi Theologiæ, book I, chapter XXI, § 21, tome I, page 118; neither is it strange, since he traces all Possibility back ultimately to the divine Will, which the more recent Philosophy identifies with the Power of God in concept: so that nothing is Possible, except what God by His Decree will to happen; whence it spontaneously follows that all things that God has not actually decreed as future are also absolutely impossible, and that a Positive Decree that would determine those things from a state of mere Possibility to a state of Non-Futurition is not required: see § 20, 21, chapter XXV, § 3, 4, while in chapter XXV, § 9, page 145, he also writes: “For some incorrectly make some things possible by their own nature without regard to the Decree of God, other things impossible, yet others necessary: since all things depend absolutely on the Decree of God, not only the existence of things, but also the entirety of their nature and Essence; nothing is necessary, not even possible, without regard to God’s will, or power, which is the same thing.” Which hypotheses have already been met, Chapter IV, § 16, 37.


But a far different view arises, if you conceive of Possible Things, not to be made such at length through the divine Decree, but to be such through the previous Sufficiency of God; so that whatever does not involve in its repugnance to existence by divine Power is Possible, just as we taught in Chapter IV, § 21. From this foundation VRIESIUS, Exercitatione Rationali XIX, § 15, with good reason confirms at length a Positive Decree of God concerning Possible, Non-Future Things.


1. All Possible things are able to be the Object of the divine Decree: but, as all intelligible things are the object of the divine Intellect, and all possible things of the divine Power; so it appears hardly to be consistent to remove the far greatest part of Possible Things (all which are determinable), as Non-Future, from the extent of the infinite Decree.


2. A Non-Future thing, says he, as more than a mere Possibility, hence also some foundation of Non-Futurition, beyond that which belongs to mere Possibility, comes to be acknowledged. For which mere non-action with respect to determination is not sufficient: for this does not distinguish a matter merely possible from a matter Non-Future as such; since the negation of the act of determination is also able to be considered antecedently to the Decree in the order of nature concerning whatever purely possible things.


3. Since it is beyond doubt that God knows Non-Future Things, we will say nothing more aptly than that God knows those things by the force of the Decree, whereby He will such things. If not so, it has to be considered that God must inspect, as it were, the series of events, things that are going to happen by the force of the Decree, so that thence He might finally conclude what is Non-Future from the opposite. But such a mode of knowing is altogether alien to His altogether perfect Knowledge. Compare also Examen van het Ontwerp van Tolerantie, part 6, pages 174-183.

[1] Frans Burman (1628-1679) was a Dutch Reformed theologian and a Cartesian. He served as Professor of Theology (1662-1671) and Professor of Church History (1671-1679) at Utrecht.

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