De Moor VI:5: The General Nature of the Divine Decrees

With respect to the general nature of the Decrees, it is to be held,


Johannes Hoornbeeck

1. That they are not Accidental Properties in God, distinct from His Essence in reality; as the Socinians maintain, like Crellius,[1] libro de Deo et Attributis ejus, chapter XXXII, opera, tome 4, pages 115, 116: compare HOORNBEECK, Socinianismo confutato, tome I, book II, chapter VII, section I, page 468, chapter IV, section III, pages 383, 384. According to Vorstius,[2]Exegese Apologetica, chapter X, pages 40-45: see TRIGLAND’S[3] Kerckelycke Geschiedenissen, volume 4, page 576, and his Notas on Disputation III, de Deo, page 208: compare HOORNBEECK, Socinianismo confutato, tome I, book II, chapter IV, section I, pages 373, 374. To which some Remonstrants are also added, like Episcopius,[4] Institutionibus Theologicis, book IV, section II, chapter XVIII, § 4-11, pages 101-103. The πρῶτα ψεύδη, fundamental errors, are, a false conception of God making determinations after the likeness of man, and a denial of the Simplicity of God. The Scope/Goal: to overthrow the Eternity of the Decrees.


[Because of, α. the Perfect Simplicity in God.] Which we presented as proven in Chapter IV, § 24. But with whom Accidental Properties are consistent, he is not absolutely Simple; but a composite of subject and accident. But the Simplicity of God implies that the Essence of God is not really distinguished from His Will, nor the Act of willing itself from either.


[β. And His Immutable Perfection] Since God is Immutable, as much in Will as in Essence: hence He does not admit anything Accidental that is able to be present with, or to be taken from, God, and hence posits a mutable God: neither does He receive anything Accidental, which might make for His further perfection, since the divine Essence and Will is infinitely and immutably perfect in itself from all eternity, as it was seen in Chapter IV, § 18, 26.


Therefore, if, α. Decrees are predicated of God, this does not imply a real distinction of the same from God: for, in a similar manner, Attributes are predicated of God, which nevertheless are really identified with God Himself; but it only argues the imperfection of our understanding and speech.


If, β. Multiple Decrees of God are conceptualized; this is done with respect the Objects of volition, according to the number of which the divine Acts are multiplied, as it were, according to the manner of our comprehension: while at the same time we know that in God the matter is not actually so, in whom there is only one, simple, and undivided Act of Will. That it is not necessary that the Acts of the determining Will be multiplied according to the multitude of Objects with which the determining God is concerned; is able to be demonstrated by an argument from parity, taken from the actuosity of the divine Intellect: for divine Knowledge is not multiplied according the number of the Objects of knowledge, neither does God know Peter in one act, and Paul in another, and James and John in yet another; but it is one simple act, by which He knows all these and all other things besides: and the matter holds in a similar manner with the Determining Will as well.


If, γ. you should say, that the Decrees of God are Free, but Essence is Necessary, and so these ought really to differ from one another;


I Respond: In the divine Decrees are to be distinctly conceived,


1. God’s willing Essence, or the Act of the determining Will considered absolutely; which is able to be considered here after the manner of a Principium.


2. The Tendency of this Act ad extra without any internal addition or change, since this asserts nothing except an external respect, σχέσιν/ relation, and bearing toward creatures; which is after the manner of a relation.


3. The Object or matter decreed, which has to do with the End/ Goal: compare MARESIUS’ Decadem Assertionum theologicarum, § 8, in Sylloge Disputationum, part II, pages 223, 224.


In the second and third respect, God’s Decrees are Free; but this brings in, or adds nothing real to God’s Essence. In the first mode, they are the very Essence of God willing or the Act of the Will itself, which Act with respect to this, His Absolute Existence, is necessary, and flows spontaneously from the Spiritual and most actuose Essence of the Living God. For the divine Nature is not able to hold itself indifferently toward the exercise of the Act of willing. Indeed, God is absolutely not able not to will, who at least is not able not to will Himself. Also, if the Acting of willing be not a Perfection in itself, it would on no occasion whatsoever be able to be consistent with the altogether perfect Being: but, if it be a Perfection in itself, it is inseparable from that nature, which comprehends in itself with consummate fullness every sort of perfection. But, since the Act of willing is only one in the altogether Simple God, it follows that it is necessary with respect to His absolute Existence; and at the same time that it is Free and indifference with respect to the termination of this necessary Act upon this or that object, contingent in itself: compare HOORNBEECK, Socinianismo confutato, tome I, book II, chapter IV, section III, pages 383, 384, chapter VII, section I, pages 476-478, section II, pages 484-489, section III, pages 511-514.


2. Also, that these are not mere Ideas of things, α. whether existing Outside the Divine Essence from eternity, which sort in the Platonists are often condemned, but whether rightly or not our AUTHOR does not inquire. For this reason, Plato was buffeted by his disciple Aristotle: but the Learned doubt, says MARESIUS, Systemate Theologico, locus IV, § 3, number a, page 138, whether Aristotle expresses the true opinion of Plato. JUSTIN MARTYR, in Parænesi I ad Græcos, page 7, condemns in Plato, that he located the Ideas, as things separated from the Essence of God, in the first orb of the highest heaven. Contrariwise, CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA, book V of Stromata, page 553, teaches that Plato placed the Ideas in God Himself, as the ἐννόημα τοῦ Θεοῦ, notion, understanding of God. Thus THEODORET, de curatione Græcarum Affectionum, sermon IV, opera, tome 4, page 536, says, that to Plato the Idea is the ἔννοιαν τοῦ Θεοῦ, concept of God: with other things agreeing, which are able to be harmonized with each other out of Plato’s opinion being less consistent with itself, according to JUSTIN, Parænesi I ad Græcos, page 8: see HEINRICH ALTING,[5]Problematica Theologia nova, locus IV, problem III, page 243; PETAVIUS’[6]Dogmata theologica, tome 1, book IV, chapter IX, pages 187-191. However that may be, it is certain that the Ideas of things do not exist eternally Outside of God, since by ths they would be Independent; that any such thing exists besides God, involves a contradiction.


β. Or In the very Essence of God; to which by no means are able to be assigned the intelligible appearances of things, abstracted from the things themselves, which sort of Ideas are found in us: for the Understanding of God is not instructed by another source, which is incompatible with His Independence; He also knows all things from eternity, before anything besides Him in the nature of things actually existed. Nevertheless, since it belongs to the consummately Rational Being to act from a previous concept, with good reason do we attribute to God the Ideas of all things from eternity, which things He works or is able to work in time: which will be nothing other than what the divine Mind conceives as the divine Perfections expressible in some measure outside of God by His Power. Now, as these Ideas are extended to all Possible things, so they do not imply their Futurition: they are only the exemplary Cause of the things that come to pass in time; as in all divine operations the Understanding is contemplated as the directing principium, Power as the executing principium, but the Will as the commanding principium.


3. At the same time, our AUTHOR observes that the Decrees of God are not the very Will of God, considered in itself formally, absolutely, and abstractly, because hence nothing is placed outside of God. But that they are:


4. Acts of the divine Will, extending toward the existence of the things understood by the Ideas, their future in time, and their just ends; or the Will itself extending to this. For, although there is in God no faculty or potency distinct in reality from act, in our manner of conceptualization are able to be distinguished, α. the Will of God, as it is that whereby He will, the faculty of willing: in which sense we are able to take θέλημα/will, when it is considered as a subject to which εὐδοκία/good-pleasure and βουλὴ/counsel are attributed, Ephesians 1:5,[7] 11.[8] β. The Volition itself or the Act of willing, which is βουλὴ/counsel in the passaged cited, βούλημα/will in Romans 9:19, θέλημα/will in John 6:39, 40. γ. The Matter willed or the Object of the Volition; whether the matter is to be called such with respect to the Decree, or with respect to the divine Precept, Acts 21:14; Matthew 6:10. Not so much the first or the third signification, as the second, here obtains; since the Decree of God is to be considered as the very Volition of God: not, therefore, by way of the Faculty of the spiritual Essence, which sort is Will; but by way of Vital Act flowing from that Faculty. Not insofar as that Act is directed ad intra, as the God wills Himself, the Father loves the Son: but insofar as it tends ad extra, and concerns objects that God determined to make outside of Himself, and which He produces in time by His own Power. This is sufficiently evident from the many passages that treat of the Determining Will of God, and several of which you might see cited by our AUTHOR, § 2, while more also must be cited in what follows.


For the illustration of this § 5, Examen van het Ontwerp van Tolerantie, part 6, pages 159-194, is worthy of consultation.

[1] Johannes Crellius (1590-1633) was a one of the Polish Brethren and an influential Socinian theologian. His son and grandson were also proponents of Socinian views. [2] Conradus Vorstius (1569-1622) was a Dutch Arminian, condemned by the Synod of Dort and banished. It is reported that he openly embraced Socinianism at the end of his life. [3] Jacobus Trigland the Younger (1652-1705) was a Dutch Reformed Theologian. Beginning in 1686, he served as Professor of Theology at Leiden. [4] Simon Episcopius (1583-1643) was a Dutch theologian. He studied at the University of Leiden under Jacobus Arminius, and embraced his teacher’s distinctive doctrines. He became a leader among the Remonstrants, playing a significant role at the Synod of Dort (1618). [5] Heinrich Alting (1583-1644) was a German Reformed divine, specializing in Ecclesiastical History and Historical Theology. He served as Professor of Theology at Heidelberg (1613-1622), and then Professor of Historical Theology at Groningen (1627-1644). [6] Denis Petau (1583-1652) was a French Jesuit churchman and scholar. [7] Ephesians 1:5: “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will (κατὰ τὴν εὐδοκίαν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ)…” [8] Ephesians 1:11: “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will (κατὰ τὴν βουλὴν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ)…”

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