top of page

Wendelin's "Christian Theology": Secondary Attributes of God, Part 1



THESIS XIV: Hitherto the divine properties of the first class: Of the second class are those that are applicable to God in such a way that their express images are found in creatures, and which represent to us God as the principium of action.

EXPLANATION: I. The attributes of God are divided by some into communicable and incommunicable: In which it is to be observed that the term, communicable, is ambiguous. For, a certain thing is said to be communicable in two ways: either what is communicated to another, being the same in number and kind: or what is communicated, being the same by analogy, because it bears a certain resemblance to the other, yet is really diverse in number and kind. In the former manner, no attribute of God is communicable to the creature; because all are immense, and the same with the divine essence. In the latter manner, certain attributes of God are communicable; insofar as God communicates certain effects similar to His own attributes, and applicable in the formal to creatures, especially rational and intelligent creatures; as it will be evident from what follows.

* II. It is proven, that no properties of God are communicable, in such a way that the same in number or kind are able to be communicated to any creature. 1. Because all are infinite: but to a finite thing, of which sort a creature is, an inhering infinite is not able to be joined. 2. Because the properties of God are really one with each other and with the essence of God: and so all to what one belongs, all belong together with the divine essence. 3. If these properties could be communicated with the creature, all the acts of God could also be common with the creature: and so the creature might do whatever God might do. But this is altogether false.


THESIS XV: The principium of action in God is considered in itself, or in its subject, as it were, according to our measure of conception.


THESIS XVI: The principium of action, considered in itself, is threefold: (1.) directing, (2.) commanding, (3.) executing.


THESIS XVII: The principium directing action is the intellect, which in God is the same with divine knowledge and wisdom, which is a property of God, whereby God knows Himself in Himself, and all things outside of Him, not only those things that are, either necessary or contigent; either past or future; either thought or spoken, either good or bad; but also those things that are not future, even indeed all things most truly and infallibly, without any error.

EXPLANATION: I. The Intellect is called the directing principium: because an intelligent nature wills and executes nothing, except what the intellect knows in some measure and proposes to the will. In man they differ, intellectus/intellect, as the faculty; scientia/knowledge, as the habit of intellect/ understanding; cognitio/cognition, as an act proceeding from the faculty by habit. In God all are one, and are distinguished only in our manner of conception. God always understand all things in act, not by faculty, or habit, but by His own essence, which to Him is all, and indeed understands all thing by one indivisible, immutable, eternal act: For all other modes of knowing include some imperfection.

Let the reasons be briefly observed, on account of which God is said to understand all things at once by a single intuition, one act of understanding:

(1.) Because the act is altogether simple and infinite: but if He did not understand all things at once by a single intuition, He would now be in act, now in potency, and would not have infinite knowledge in act, since that would only extend itself at once either to one thing, or to certain things.

(2.) Because in God there is no succession of prior and posterior; since eternity excludes that. But it He understood one thing after another, there would be in Him succession of prior and posterior.

(3.) Because there is in God an altogether perfect power of understanding: therefore, He does not learn and understand one thing after another, as we do through our imperfection, but all things at once.

(4.) Because the act and knowledge of the understanding God is God’s understanding essence itself. Therefore, as the essence of God is one, so also His knowledge is one, embracing all things at once: For, if the notions and ideas of things were diverse in number and succeeding one another, there would also be essences diverse in number.

(5.) Because God in one act understands and comprehends His whole essence. Therefore, He comprehends all things at once. Because God’s one essence makes available at once all things knowable in act.

(6.) The Sun illuminates at once all illuminable things in one act: Therefore also the eye of God, which is infinitely clearer and more penetrating than the sun, sees at once all things knowable and visible.

II. Scripture in a general way attributes this Omniscience to God, John 21:17, Lord, thou knowest all things; Hebrews 4:13, all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him. Whence God’s understanding is said to be without number, Psalm 147:5.[1]

But, in particular, God knows:

(1.) Himself, Matthew 11:27, no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him: 1 Corinthians 2:10, the Spirit searcheth all things, even the deep things of God.

(2.) Universals and particulars. Concerning universals, that is, generic natures, of which sort are, angel, man, brute, plant, stone, body, etc., no Theologian or Philosopher ever doubted. Concerning particulars, of which sort are, this angel, this man, this plant, etc., of old have many Philosophers doubted; but the truth is manifest: for God created particulars: He exercises judgments concerning particulars: He renders to each according to his works:[2] He distinguishes individual things from each other, good men from bad: He tells the number of the stars, and calls each by its name, Psalm 147:4. Among the numbered, He has the hairs of our head, Matthew 10:30, and our tears, Psalm 56:8. The whole of Psalm 147 pertains to this.

(3.) Things necessary and thing contingent: the former of which by causes natural and ordinary, defined in nature by God, are not able not to be or to happen: like the motion of the stars, and those things that necessarily depend on it in the sublunary world. The latter are or happen in such a way that, with respect to second causes, they are able not to be or to happen, or to be or to happen otherwise: like the works proceeding from the free will of men, or those things that are vulgarly said to happen by chance or accidentally.

It is beyond question that both sorts are known by God: because by Him they are and are governed: as it will be evident from the doctrine concerning the providence of God.

(4.) Things past, present, and future. Concerning things past and present there is no doubt. Concerning things future the matter is likewise plain: Because He has quite frequently foretold future things through His Prophets: neither is any thing future, without God decreeing to effect or to permit it. Whence that saying in Acts 15:18, known unto God are all His works from eternity. Ecclesiasticus 23:20, He knew all things ere ever they were created; so also after they were perfected He looked upon them all. In Psalm 139:2, God is said to understand thought afar off, that is, long before they enter the soul.

(5.) Things spoken and things thought. Concerning the former the matter is evident: because concerning every idle word men are going to give account in the final judgment, Matthew 12:36. Concerning the latter the testimonies of Scripture are manifest, which attribute to God καρδιογνωσίαν, knowledge of the heart, Genesis 6:5; Psalm 90:8; 94:11, Jehovah knoweth the thoughts of men, that they are vanity. Psalm 139:4, When the word is not yet on my tongue, lo, O Jehovah, thou knowest it altogether. Romans 8:27, He searcheth the hearts. Revelation 2:23, He searcheth the reins and hearts.

(6.) Good things and evil things. Concerning good things there is no doubt: for He is the author of these: concerning evil things the matter is also evident, because He is the avenger of them. Psalm 69:5, O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hidden from thee: Psalm 90:8, thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secrets in the light of thy countenance. Now, God knows an evil, through the opposite good, the privation of which the evil is. We also understand privation though the opposite form of which it is the privation. Whence the ready response to the objection:

A non-entity is not known.

An evil is a non-entity.

Therefore, it is not known.

Response to the Major: A non-entity is not known of itself and by its own appearance, but it is known through the being, the privation or negation of which it is.

An additional exception is taken:

The eyes of the Lord are pure, so that they look not upon evil, Habakkuk 1:13.

Therefore, evil does not fall under the divine cognition.

Response: The Consequence is denied. Because the Prophet speaks of the knowledge or cognition, or vision, of approbation, which is conjoined with the decree of the will: not of the cognition of bare intelligence, or vision per se. Of the former cognition of approbation, that saying of Christ is also able to be taken, I never knew you, Matthew 25:12.

(7.) Those things that are not, and are not going to be, yet are able to be by omnipotence, in which respect, with respect to the objects, the wisdom of God is infinite: because those things that are able to be through the omnipotence of God are not able to be defined by number. But it is evident that God knows these also: because He knows the infinity of His power: therefore, He knows all the objects to which it is able to be extended, even if they are never going to be. Indeed, He also knows those things that He is not able to do: as they are evil.

Note: The Knowledge of God, whereby God knows even those things that are able to happen, even if there are never going to happen, is called the knowledge of simple intelligence: but that whereby He knows those things that are going to happen is called the knowledge of vision. Besides these two sorts,the Jesuits have fabricated a third, which they call conditional, and middle, whereby God is said to foresee this or that following upon this or that condition, even if He Himself has not decreed that. This knowledge was devised by the Jesuits, so that they might reconcile the liberty of the will with the infallibility of divine foreknowledge and predestination. The absurdity of this figment the most illustrious Master Maccovius, among others, in his Volume Thesium Theologicarum, part I, disputation 23; see also Twisse,[3] who wrote a whole volume concerning his knowledge;[4] Ames, in his Rescriptione, chapter 14.

III. It is asked, by what means does God know all things?

Response: It is the received opinion in the schools of the Theologians: that God knows all things through His own essence, not by intelligible appearances of things distinct from His essence. Now, there are intelligible appearances of things, images abstracted and removed, as it were, from the sensible appearances upon the external senses, and from these transferred to the internal senses, and thence translated to the intellect, through which images things are understood, as, for example, by images emitted from visible objects upon the eyes they are seen. That God does not understand by means of appearances of this sort, is confessed by all. That all things are known by God through His own divine essence, is wont to be proven with many argument: among which are the following:

(1.) God knows all things from eternity.

Therefore, by His own essence.

The rationale of the consequence: That there was nothing else from eternity, whereby He was able to understand.

(2.) The essence of God is the altogether perfect idea of all things.

Therefore, it most perfectly supplies the negation or absence of intelligible appearances abstracted from things.

(3.) If God understands not by essence, but by something diverse from His essence: that would be either an accidental property, or substance. Not an accidental property: because there is none in God. Not a substance: because it was not uncreated, being diverse from the essence of God: nor created, because created substance was not from eternity.

(4.) If God understands through something distinct from His essence, certainly something distinct from God would be to Him the cause of knowing.

But this is absurd.

See Zanchi, de natura Dei, book 3, chapters 2, 9, 10.

Yet others think and speak concerning this matter a little differently. More specifically, that God by natural knowledge knows all possible creatures immediately in Himself. The reason is: because they are thus knowable. But He does not know in Himself as in a primary object previously known. The reason is: because God in Himself is a being altogether absolute, neither does He have any real relation, or order, to possible creatures. Whence, by knowing Himself after the manner of an object, He does not necessarily know in Himself, as a known object, possible creatures. Nevertheless, we at the same time concede, that God does know those things in Himself as in word of His mind, or an appearance express and representing. But they say that this express and representing appearance in nothing other than the actual knowledge of God, which intellectually represents all known things. Therefore, for God to know creatures in Himself is the same thing to those as for Him to know them in His own cognition, as actual appearance express and representing. See Becanus,[5] Theologiæ Scholasticæ, tractate 1, chapter 10, question 4. Yet I doubt whether this latter opinion is going to hold the applause of many in the theater of the learned.

IV. It is asked, finally, whether the contingency of things is able to consist with the infallible prescience of God?

Response: That it is able to consist, is evident from the Scripture, which teaches both, 1. that men’s actions, thoughts, goings, etc., are free, and so contingent; 2. that all these things are infallibly foreknown by God.

It is thus argued unto the contrary position:

They are contingent, what things are indifferent and indeterminate, that is, what things are able to be and not to be.

But, what things are infallibly known as future are not indifferent and indeterminate.

Therefore, what things are infallibly known as future are not contingent: and hence contingent things are not able to be infallibly foreknown.

Response: The Major is not true in a simple way: for these two things are able to consist together in diverse respects, that a certain effect is contingent, and that the same is determinately future. It is said to be contingent, because of the indifference of the cause, which, considered in itself, is able to produce or not to produce the effect: but also determinately future, because the cause, which of itself is indifferent to work or not to work, is actually going to work, and is thus foreknown as going to work.

V. Finally, some things are to be observed here:

(1.) With respect to divine prescience all things happen necessarily, exactly as God foreknows them: Since God in His foreknowledge is not able to be deceived. But with respect to secondary and proximate causes some future things are necessary, which have necessary and determinate causes: but some are contingent, the causes of which are indifferent to work and not to work, and that according to the ordination of God, who, as He makes of causes some necessary, some contigent, so also He wills to be produced by them effects, some necessary, some contingent.

(2.) Necessity is distinguished into antecedent and consequent. The former is what arises from a necessary antecedent cause: with which posited, the effect is necessarily posited. The latter is what arises, not from the antecedent cause, but from the very positing of the effect, even if it be of a contingent and free cause. The former necessity removes contingency and liberty: the latter leaves it intact. For, those things that happen freely and contingently, by that very fact that they are, are not able not to be: because of the evident contradiction that would otherwise be implied.

(3.) With respect to order, the will or willing of God is prior to the knowledge of future things. For, God foreknows this or that future thing, because He Himself from eternity decreed to effect or to permit it; if it be without this will of effecting or permitting, nothing would be, and nothing would be foreknown as future. Calvin and Beza were not the first to teach this, but a long while before them it was taught by the Fathers, Augustine, Hilary,[6] and Gregory: and by the Scholastics, Albert the Great,[7] Thomas,[8] Scotus, Alexander of Hales,[9] Richard,[10] Durandus.[11] See Zumel, Pontifical Doctor,[12] Variarum Disputationum, disputation 1 on part 1, page 10. The contrary opinion is altogether absurd: See Exercitation 25, § 6, where the harsh sentence of Luther is repeated, concerning the divine foreknowledge as the cause of the things foreknown.

[1] Psalm 147:5: “Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite (לִ֜תְבוּנָת֗וֹ אֵ֣ין מִסְפָּֽר׃, with respect to His understanding there is no number).” [2] See Matthew 16:27; 2 Corinthians 11:15; 2 Timothy 4:14. [3] William Twisse (1578-1646) was an English Puritan. He served as the prolocutor of the Westminster Assembly until his death in 1646. He is remembered for his exposition and defense of Supralapsarian Calvinism. [4]Dissertatio de Scientia media tribus libris absoluta. [5] Martinus Becanus (1563-1624) was a Flemish Jesuit priest and controversialist. He taught theology at Würzburg, Mainz, and Vienna. [6] Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers (died 368), was, among the Latin Fathers, one of the chief defenders of the Nicean theology against Arianism. [7] Albert (c. 1193-1280) was a German Dominican friar and bishop, a noted Aristotlean philosopher, and teacher of Thomas Aquinas. [8] Thomas Aquinas (c. 1224-1274) was perhaps the greatest of the mediæval scholastic theologians. [9] Alexander of Hales (c. 1185-1245), the Doctor Irrefragibilis and Theologorum Monarcha, was a Franciscan theologian. He is an important figure in the development of Scholasticism, being among the first to make use of Aristotle, organizing the teaching of theology around Lombard’s Sentences, and training the next generation of Franciscan theologians. [10] Richard of Middleton (c. 1249-c. 1308) was a Franciscan theologian and philosopher, serving as the provincial master of his order in France. He wrote two commentaries on Lombard’s Sentences, in which the influence of Aristotle, Aquinas, and Bonaventure is evident. [11] Durandus of Saint-Pourçain (c. 1275-c. 1332) was a French Dominican philosopher and theologian. He lectured and wrote commentaries on Lombard’s Sentences. In some matters, he differed from the great Dominican theologian, Thomas Aquinas, and became known as the Doctor Resolutissimus for his firm adherence to his novel positions. [12] Francisco Zumel (c. 1540-1607) was a Spanish theologian and philosopher. He served as superior general of the Mercedarian Order, and as Professor of Physics and Moral Philosophy at Salamanca. A committed Thomist, he commented on Aquinas’ Summa, and wrote against the Molinists.

74 views3 comments
bottom of page