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De Moor VI:7: The Liberty of the Divine Decrees

Second, consummate and ἀνυπεύθυνος, not accountable to any other, Liberty is applicable to the Decrees, with respect to the Determination of the Decrees; and it is conversant, both with the Futurition of Things, and their Natures, and their Qualities. This is taught by:

α. The Spiritual and Independent Nature of God: since it is of the nature of Spirit to act freely and according to the good pleasure of its Will; it is of the nature of an Independent Spirit additionally to act in such a way that there is nothing upon which the act of its Will is suspended, as upon an object, or a procatarctic cause, or in any other manner: since nothing opposite outside of God, which does not depend upon His Will, is even able to be imagined. Indeed, since nothing of those things that are truly outside of God has any necessary connection with the altogether perfect divine Nature, the Independent Nature of God also argues that He wills this or that thing outside of Himself with perfect ἀδιαφορίᾳ/indifference.

β. Scripture confirms this Liberty of the decreeing God; which, 1. sets forth God as acting according to His mere Good Pleasure, Matthew 11:26; Ephesians 1:5, 9, 11. 2. It teaches that Creatures are likewise in the hand of God, like clay in the hand of the potter, who then is able to form whatever vessel, to destroy the same, to make something else again, as it pleases, Jeremiah 18:1-6; Romans 9:20, 21. 3. It teaches that God, altogether Sufficient unto Himself, is in need of absolutely nothing, and that from another source not anything, even the least thing, is able to be conferred to augment His Blessedness, Acts 17:25; Job 22:2, 3. Indeed, it affirms that all Creatures relatively to God are as nothing, even less than nothing and mere vanity, Isaiah 40:15, 17; Daniel 4:35. What then could all these confer for determining the Will of God concering their futurition, or non-futurition? compare BARTHOLOMEUS VAN VELSEN’S[1] Schriftuuriyke Philosophie, part I, chapter IX, pages 121-129.

Nevertheless, this Liberty of the Decrees does not prevent God from:

Johannes a Marck

[α. Necessarily determining or willing anything in general.] For, that the Act of the divine Will, who wills whatever He wills in a single Eternal Act, is not able to be removed from the infinitely Perfect spiritual Nature of God, I taught in § 5: and so at one and the same time the Decree is able to be said to be necessary with respect to the determining Act of the divine Will considered absolutely, or on the side of its origin, and to be free terminatively and on the side of its object. Neither is it prejudicial to the Liberty of the divine Decrees, that God is said to be obliged to determine something in general concerning the Possibilities appearing to Him, namely, that of those Possibilities He is going to produce at some point in act either something or nothing: with the Liberty of the Decree concerning the determination of Possible things, none or some, these or those, for futurition: see WESSELIUS, Nestorianismo et Adoptianismo redivivo confutato, chapters XVII, § 213. The Most Illustrious ODÉ, in his Theologia naturali, part II, pages 243-247, distinguishes between the Act and the Mode of determination, and asserts that the Indifference of the Decrees has regard to the Mode of the same.

[β. In certain things being led by His own Perfections to one or the other of Contradictories, for example, to the Punishment of Sin permitted by Himself:] As we saw this in Chapter IV, § 47, and showed that it is not overthrown by the Liberty of the divine Acts. And so in many things we acknowledge that the Liberty of Contradiction ought to be attributed to the divine Decree, in such a way that God had been able to determine the Act or not; for example, in the first Creation and the Preservation of all things, in the Permission of the Fall, etc.: but, with these decreed by the Will Indifferently Free, by His own Perfections the Deity is led in ἀνυπευθύνῳ, not accountable to any other, Spontaneity to decree the Directing of the Creatures to be produced and preserved, and the Punishment of the Sin to be permitted: see TRIGLAND’S Antapologiam, chapter IV, pages 68, 69.

[γ. Similarly necessarily attributing to things Perfections agreeing with His own Virtues and the Essences of things:] Whence, as the Liberty of the Decrees is not in all things the Liberty of Contradicition, to decree or not to decree; so neither is it in all things a Liberty of Contrariety, to decree this or its opposite. For example, on that wishes for form a Triangle ought to trace out a figure having three Angles: thus, when God indifferently wills to create Man or a rational animal, He is not able not to will the Rationality of the same; since otherwise He would not form a true Man, and so would not fulfill His intention. Similarly, God, willing to create Man, was not able not to will to creat him good and upright;[2] because otherwise He would not be a Creation worthy of God, and furnished with Qualities pleasing to God.

[δ. Immutably executing the same after the Decree:] Hence the same God, who was Indifferent to the determination of the production of things outside of Himself or not, and the production, etc., of these or those things; is not at all Indifferent to the execution of His perfectly Free Decree, because of the Immutability of the divine Will, concerning which more soon in § 10: SPANHEIM, Decadum Theologicarum VI, § 8, opera, tome 3, columns 1231, 1232.

[ε. Proposing an End to Himself, but the Ultimate End in Himself:] Proverbs 16:4. It is certainly not able to be attributed to the consummately Rational and altogether Wise Being, that He acts with no certain, predetermined End for Himself in the acting: whence with good reason we bid farewell to inept Spinoza, who in the Appendix, part I, of Ethicæ, page 36, asserts that all Final Causes, except those that are Human, are figments; compare SPANDAW, bedekte Sponosist ontdekt,[3]chapter VI, § 7, 8, page 90. However, God, in a manner far different than that of the Creature, intends an End. In the case of created things, it is called the Final Cause, which, by the weight of its own goodness represented to the mind, presses and impels the efficient cause to intend it: whence the created, rational efficient Cause, acting because of the End, is regarded as depending upon the motion of the End, and being in need of it. On the other hand, God does indeed propose to Himself an End, as in acting, so in decreeing, but the Ultimate End in Himself: since He, being Independent in all respects, does all things because of Himself; not as being in need of them, but in order to disclose to His Creatures the abundance of His Goodness through the communication of Himself, which Goodness is to be acknowledged and praised by Rational Creatures.

Hence, although God wills all things because of Himself and His Goodness, but wills Himself and His Goodness necessarily; it does not follow that with the same necessity God will all the other things that He wills outside of Himself: for God wills all created things because of Himself, not to be perfected, and His Goodness, not to be enriched, as if He were in need of them; but because of Himself, to be communicated, and His Goodness and Glory, to be made manifest in them: whence, because God was able to do without them without any detriment to His Goodness, with good reason He is said to will them freely.

Indeed, a number of other Ends outside of God of the Things that God decreed are also granted; but these belong more to the Thing, than to God, to the Work, than to the Worker.

And so this is the Liberty summarily: Good Pleasure and consummate Spontaneity, extending itself in many things even to Indifference, which admits no cause outside of God, either naturally leading, as in brutes, or impelling in any way, as in other rational creatures. Compare LULOFS’[4]Theologiam naturalem theoreticam, § 68.

The Liberty of Decrees now expounded is to be held against Spinoza, who to his brute God assigns an Immutable Decree, that is, a fatal necessity and eternal order of operation: but he does not at all prove his thesis, only pretends himself to prove it, appealing to his own Definition of God; but this Definition he likewise invents at will, but never proved it.

By the Immutable Decree, which he attributes to God, Spinoza understands fatal necessity and an eternal order of operation, because he denies to God Intellect and Will, neither does he acknowledge that God works according to the Freedom of His Will; indeed, he calls the Will of God, in the Appendix, part I, Ethicæ, page 37, a refuge for ignorance: see the Most Distinguished NIEUWENTYT,[5]Gronden van Zherheid, part IV, chapter XI, § 4, page 284, § 5. He pretends to prove this, his opinion in Proposition XVI, part I, Ethicæ, which stands so: From the necessity of the divine nature, infinite things in infinite modes (that is, all things that are able to fall under infinite intellect) must follow. He cites this Proposition continually, as if in it he had given proof that Liberty of Will is not applicable to God: but that all things with equal necessity follow only from the necessity or laws of the divine Nature, as it follows from the nature of a triangle that its three angles are equal to two right angles; that God also with the same necessity works as He exists; and that not otherwise nor in another order were all things able to be produced. But the whole Demonstration of this Proposition depends upon Definition VI of Part I, where he sets forth at his own pleasure what he understands by God: carefully review NIEUWENTYT, Gronden van Zherheid, part IV, chapter XIII, § 7-9, pages 300-305.

[1] Bartholomeus van Velson (1675-1733) was a Dutch Reformed minister and philosopher. [2] See Ecclesiastes 7:29. [3] Spandaw was a pastor of Oudelande. He was an opponent of Spinozism, and he accused Van Hattem of Spinozistic doctrine. [4] Johannes Lulofs (1711-1768) was a Dutch astronomer, mathematician, and physicist. [5] Bernard Nieuwentyt (1654-1718) was a Dutch Reformed theologian and Cartesian philosopher.

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