Suarez on Individuation

Suarez, Francisco. trans. Gracia, Jorge. Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1982.

While his prose is incredibly technical and dense, the question before the house is quite straightforward: do I as an individual add anything to “human nature?’ Scotus said the individual adds a real mode to human nature.  Nominalism says it adds nothing.   Suarez argues that something real is added to human nature, but not of human nature.  The individual adds a conceptual distinction.

A similar problem plagued Trinitarian discussions: if all three persons are God, then why isn’t the divine nature a fourth hypostasis?  (The answer could only come by the doctrine of personal properties and eternal generation. Also, a person must be defined as a mode of the essence).

His argument hinges on the premise that that by which an entity is individualized is the same by which it is unified. Entity and unity are correlative.  This makes sense.  In the manner of a disputatio, Suarez works through the various options for how we can distinguish entities.

For example, quantity can’t be that by which we individuate something. Suarez says it is accidental and extrinsic to the entity.  Quantity can only distinguish by place (Suarez 86).  This is also the case because I can gain and lose matter yet still be an individual entity (think of the Ship of Theseus problem).

Towards a solution: Suarez hints that a combination of matter and form is the principle of individual unity (133).  Form causes the specific difference, but individual form causes the individual difference.  Very true, but I am not sure how clear the clause “individual form causes the individual difference” is.  That seems true by definition.  I think Suarez is back to his earlier claim that the individual form adds a “conceptual difference” (see translators note on p.137).

What is a “substantial form,” or why is it important?  

Conclusion: the principle of entitas is matter, form, and union (section 6).  The mode is the unity of matter and form.


Even by scholastic standards, this is an extremely difficult text.  We give high praise to Jorge Gracias for lucid notes and a wonderful glossary of scholastic terms.


Augustine’s Confessions

For the most part I will try to avoid some of the more memorable scenes. You probably already know them.

Augustine begins by lamenting his learning of Virgil. Why should he weep over Dido when his teachers did not know enough for him to weep over his own soul? This might seem that Augustine is condemning classical learning, and he probably thought he was, but Augustine’s own life mirrors Aeneas’s, so there is that.

Like Aeneas, Augustine arrives in Carthage. And like Aeneas, Augustine succumbs to its pleasures. He failed to understand that true love was a calm “communion of minds” (2.2). Rather, he sought only to be in love with love.

We also get a profound meditation on the proper ordering of goods. There isn’t just one “flat” good thing in our lives. There is a gradation of goods. We sin by desiring lower goods at the expense of higher. This anticipates his later claim that evil is a lack and/or a perversion of the good.

In books three and four he meets a number of important people. He meets Cicero in a book, and Cicero teaches him to seek after higher things. Unfortunately, he also becomes a Manichee. From the Manichees he learned wrong ideas of God and evil. He thought substances must be physical, and so he could not imagine an immaterial substance (3.7).

He also met Faustus, the leader of the Manichees. Ironically, this would lead him out of Manicheanism. He was underwhelmed. Most importantly, he meets Ambrose in Italy, and in Ambrose’s rhetoric he sees that form = substance.

Although in book seven he was still struggling with Manicheanism, he found the Platonists’ books. This reoriented him to the possibility of immaterial substances. He now saw reality as a chain of being. Things are good, and the lower a good is, the more susceptible to corruption it is. This was a breakthrough. Evil couldn’t exist unless there was already a good for it to corrupt. Evil, therefore, is a lack.

Book 8 contains his famous conversion scene. It is dramatic psychology. You’ll have to read it. It also takes place in a garden. That is typology and very important.

Book 9 contains the baptisms of him, his son, Nebredius (I think), and Alypius.

Books 10-13 are extended meditations on memory, time, and creation.

In terms of reading and appreciating the Great Christian Tradition, this is the classic text with which to start.

Review: Aristotle’s Organon

Included within this larger work are several major treatises.  Every critical thinker would do well to study “Categories,” “On Interpretation” and the first and last parts of “Topics.”  Posterior Analytics is interesting while Prior Analytics is highly technical.

Categories is the intro text to Aristotle’s Metaphysics, or so said some essay from Plato.Stanford.Edu said.  Good enough for me.  It is short and clear.  It also gives us the grammar for later Christian theology.

Some things are predicable of a subject but never in a subject.  By “being present in a subject” Aristotle means “incapable of existence apart from a subject” (2, 1a).

Substance is that which is neither predicable of a subject nor present in a subject.  

  • Primary: The individual man or horse. (this-ness)
  • Secondary: the species man; the genus animal.

Key point: everything except primary substances is either predicable of a primary substance or present in a primary substance.  The proposition “the man is an animal” is necessarily true, but not the reverse.  Further, the species is to the genus as the subject is to predicate.

A primary substance has no contrary, for what can be the contrary to an individual man? Yet, while remaining numerically one it can admit contrary qualities.

Chapter 6: What is Quantity?

It is either discrete or continuous.  Time, for example, is a continuous quantity.

Chapter 10: Opposites

Things are opposed in four ways:

  1. Correlatives
  2. Contraries
  3. Privatives to positives
  4. Affirmatives to negatives

Chapter 12: Being “prior’

There are four senses in which a thing can be “prior:”

  1. Time.
  2. Numerical sequence
  3. Order in a list
  4. Natural priority

On Interpretation

Every proposition must contain a subject and a verb.  

Contradictories: the opposite denial of an affirmation. The affirmation is of a universal character.  The denial is not. One must be true and the other must be false.

Universal: that which is of such a nature that can be predicated of many subjects

Contrary: the positive/negative proposition of a universal character.

Prior Analytics

Goal: state the moods and nature of the syllogism made from possible premises.

A perfect syllogism: when the last term is contained in the middle premise as a whole, and the middle is either contained in, or excluded from, the first as in or from a whole, the extrames must be related (24a 34).

Major term: the term in which the middle is contained.

All premises in the mode of possibility are convertible to each other (32a 24). “It is not possible” = “it is impossible” = “it is necessary not to belong.”

Posterior Analytics

This is a more readable treatise than the previous one.  His thesis is that not all knowledge is demonstrative.  Our knowledge of immediate (i.e., not mediate) premises is independent of demonstration (72b).  Logical demonstration is an inference from necessary premises.

From there Aristotle moves to some comments on essences.

Essential attribute: it belongs to its subject as an essential element (like a line in a triangle).  They “inhere” in the subject.  This gets tricky. When Aristotle says “inherence,” does he mean they exist “within” the subject?  

With this knowledge Aristotle explores how a middle term in a syllogism, one that is necessary, leads to universal knowledge (75b).

Every syllogism is affected by means of three terms.  For example, A inheres in C by means of A’s inhering in B and B’s inhering in C.

More on substance-language.  Predicates which signify substance signify that the subject is identical with the predicate or a species of the predicate.  For example, if A is a quality of B, then B cannot be a quality of A.  You can’t have a quality of a quality.

The Heart of the Matter is the Middle Term

“Quick wit is the faculty of hitting upon the middle term instantaneously” (89b). The middle term in a syllogism can sometimes be seen as the “Cause.”

Sophistical Refutations

This is a guidebook on how to refute Hellenic sophists.  Very technical.

Schaff: Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity


The Nicene world gives us the good and bad of Christian praxis.  We get Athanasius and the worship of relics, the deity of Christ and prayers to Mary.  But Schaff doesn’t scorn the papacy in its infancy.  The early popes functioned akin to the law for Israel: they tutored the barbarians, kept Eastern heresies at bay, and provided the foundation for church governments in Europe. Schaff’s style, as well as his content, reflects that “manliness of spirit” for liberty and legitimate human development.  We find a similar style in W.G.T. Shedd and Edward Gibbon.

Section 88.  Miracles.  Schaff takes a balanced view on continuing miracles.  Unlike the Deist, he acknowledges that they can (and probably do) happen today.  He even notes there is no text saying they stopped.

Nonetheless, he does contrast gospel miracles with “monkish miracles.”  Gospel miracles are above the law of nature.  Monkish ones are often against the law of nature (463).  The latter do not serve to confirm the Christian faith, but rather the ascetic life (see John Cassian for an example).

He ends this section with a rather perceptive comment: “[B]etween the proper miracle and the fraud there lie many intermediate steps of self-deception, clairvoyance, magnetic phenomena and cures, unusual states of the human soul, which is full of deep mysteries, and stands nearer the invisible spiritual world than the everyday mind of the multitude suspects” (465).

In other words, the Deist wants to reduce every miracle to “Confirming God’s Revelation, aka the Bible, which has now stopped.”  Of course, that redefines the word miracle to something foreign to the New Testament, and in any case is an arbitrary definition.  On the other hand, the Kingdom Empowered Believer must realize that not everything is a miracle.  We are only beginning to tap the depths of the human soul.

Nicene Doctrine of the Trinity

essence/ousia: “denote a genus or a species” (672).  Not unum in numero, sed ens unum in multis.  All men partake of the same substance.  This can be tricky: the divine ousia is a numerical unity (one God), yet human ousia is more of a generic unity in Chalcedon.

“Nature is the totality of powers which constitute a person” (751).

Person: the Ego, the self-conscious, self-asserting, and acting subject” (751).

There is no person without nature, but there can be natures without a person.  The human nature of Christ has no independent personality of its own

Section 91.  Sacraments in General.

Augustine: sacraments work grace/condemnation according to the condition of the believer (De Bapt. Contra Donat.).  Not their efficacy, but their result.

Section 157: Augustine’s doctrine of Grace.  Roman Catholics can legitimately claim Augustine on grace.  It is a creative power of God that transforms men from within (844-845).  It produces the negative effect of forgiveness of sins, then the positive communication of a new principle of life.  It “makes” men righteous.  This is *not* what Protestantism teaches.

Notes on the Divine Essence, from Muller

Notes on Muller, PRRD 3

Simplicity in pre-Reformation

The scholastic understanding of “identity” assumes various levels of identity (essential and formal), so the term “identity” does not indicate radical equation in every sense posssible (40 n. 63).

The goal is “to argue a certain manner of distinction (for the sake of manifesting the three) while at the very same time denying other kinds of distinction (for the sake of confessing the one)” (41).

Normally speaking essence and existence are not identified. The essence “humanity” is not synonymous with any one human (52).

Simplicity and Predication

Many critique absolute divine simplicity as eliminating the possibility of any real predication (on our part) of the divine essence. But when medievals used this term, all they meant was that God is not composite (54-55)

Plurality in God is secundum rationem, not secundum re (55).

Development and Decline of late orthodoxy

Interestingly, the medievals viewed “space” and time,” not as things but as relations (148).

Existence and knowledge of God

The orthodox followed three ways of approach to the problem of the knowledge of God (166):

  1. via causationes (a cause can be known in some manner from its effects)

  2. via emimentiae(we attribute to God all the perfections known to creataures)

  3. via negationis (we remove from God the imperfections known to creatures)

Rules of predication

“Predication is the logical act of attribution by which a subject is united with a predicate” (197).

Disproportionality between finite and infinite.

How does natura apply to God? Some qualities are considered “natural” in him (208).

The attributes of God are his perfections (213).

attribute: a characteristic or quality attributed to or predicated of an object, where as a property is a characteristic that belongs to an object (215). God can only have essential properties.

The Divine Essence

ens a se: self-grounded essence (237)

numerical unity: threeness of person does not contradict numerical unity of essence—there is no class of beings (whether genus or species) identifiable as “god” to which the divine persons belong and the divine unity is not a composite unity such as belongs to the several members of a genus or species (242).

genus: a universal or form, incompletely expressing essence, that can be predicated of specifically distinct subjects in species.

Species: a universal or form completely expressing essence, that can be predicated of a series of subjects distinct in number

Divine Names

The Reformed interest in the divine names is primarily exegetical and not nominalist (246).

see the note on Gillespie in PRRD II, 7.3B

Back to Simplicity

The point is to deny in God only those distinctions that imply composition and to point toward the proper distinctions that do subsist among the attributes and between the attributes and essence (278).

Persons are not distinct in essence, degree, condition, or dignity but they are distinct in order, number, manner of working, etc (281).

“three persons applied to the Godhead indicate the communicability of the sole, infinite, individual and singular divine essence to these three without division (283).”

transcendentals: the properties of being can be identified as “transcendentals.” These are properties which must be predicated of all and, therefore, also of each and every being. Being is transcendent: it is the ultimate principle and/or category of all beings. Being is not a “thing” and so there cannot be a “real” distinction between being and things (284-285).

  • ens

  • res

  • aliud; other

  • aliquid; being something

  • unum; a being is one in itself

  • verum; it is true in that it corresponds with its goal

  • bonum; it is good because it moves toward its goal

This allows the Reformed to work through the problem of realiter predication: all of these “transcendentals” reduce to one another without becoming synonymous with one another. Yet they do allow distinctions—a being is other than not-being; a being is other than not-itself.

realiter distinction is a distinction between two things. Being, though, is not a thing and so is not reduced to realiter distinctions. A virtualiter distinction …

Epistemology, Distinctions, and the Divine Decree

(The Reformed structure this discussion) “Around the epistemological problem of the finitum no capax infiniti and its resolution in the explication of the eternal decree and its execution of the sovereign will of God in and for the temporal economy. Here we see both a statement of the non capax and an approach to the divine relatedness: the mind cannot conceive of the way in which the attributes belong to the utter simplicity of the divine essence; nonetheless, the distinct attributes are coorectly distinguished by reason in the effects and operations of God in the world—and these effects and operations rightly and genuinely reveal the identity of God, indeed, the invisible essence of the utterly simple Godhead. The effect of this distinction, like the effet of the distinction between the decree and the execution, is to direct attention away from the divine essence toward the divine economy” (298).


Does not imply that God is inactive, but that God has not been moved from potency to actuality (309). It is an absence of negative passions.

God and Time

The denial of change and succession is made for affirming a specific relationship between God and the creatures—indeed, of affirming that both God and creatures have duration, the divine duration being non-successive, the creaturely duration, successive (355).

Divine Foreknowledge

Divine willing establishes freedom and contingency (402). Foreknowledge itself is not causal. Knowledge is related to causality by means of the divine will.

Necessary and Free knowledge in God

Necessary: the knowledge that God has of himself and all possibilities ad extra (407).

Free knowledge: knowledge of all those possibilities that God freely wills to actualize.

Problem of Middle Knowledge

definition: a divine knowledge lying between God’s indeterminate knowledge of all possibilities and his determinate foreknowledge of the necessary and certain effects of his decree (417-418). God is reacting to the result of a finite contingency.

Reformed critique: the notion of a certain divine foreknowledge of future conditionals is a rather unstable concept: in order for God to know the conditional conditionally, he would have to be ignorant of its resolution in actuality. In short, there can be no being independent of the divine decree (421). The problem for such a view appears when the question is asked, “How shall such a thing exist?”

Will and Freedom

necessity and freedom are neither contraries nor contradictories: the contrary of necessity is impossibility; the contrary of freedom is coercion (434n. 360).

When God wills, the contrary remains possible—a resident possiblity in the divine scientia necessaria. God cannot equally will and not will a certain object; he can, however, will a certain object and know the possiblity of not-willing it (448).

The divine will is not determined by its objects. It was not necessary that God will object-a since the possibility of object non-a existed in God’s mind (449).

Even God’s necessary willing is free in a sense: it is not subject to external compulsion (455).

The “Biola” Turn in Christian Philosophy

Or, a return from relativism.

I have several goals in this paper.  I utilize Dallas Willard’s metaphysical realism to rebut post-Kantian idealism.  I also challenge James K. A. Smith’s quasi-Derridean view of interpretation.

In “How Concepts Relate the Mind to its Objects: The God’s Eye View Vindicated,” Dallas Willard defends a robust realism in the face of various post-Kantian proposals.  While criticisms of Kant are common and always welcome, this paper takes a different turn. It is a response to the various “creational hermeneutics” by men like James K. A. Smith who appear to posit an endless deferral of meaning.  To be fair, Smith doesn’t advocate a strict Derridean view. He assumes meaning is possible. Rather, he advocates that every hermeneutical event is always (already?) situated by our finitude. We never approach the realm of “pure interpretation.”

Further, Smith isn’t a Kantian.  He isn’t saying (as far as I am aware) that our minds create reality.  In this case, many of Willard’s remarks won’t directly apply to him. There are some parallels, though.  Both Kant and Smith function as though there is a “wall” between our minds and reality.

On one level that seems true enough. I don’t even know what a pure interpretation unsullied by presuppositions would look like.  I think there is something more, though. It’s not enough that Smith wants to avoid a Derridean relativism or something like an endless deferral of meaning.  Well and good. I fear, though, that his epistemology is underdeveloped and if pursued consistently, will in fact lead to relativism.

In a new chapter to Fall of Interpretation Smith responds to criticisms of Derrida.  He says Derrida does affirm that communication takes place. However, it only takes place within “communal discernment” (Smith 215-216). Indeed, communities “fix meanings.”  We will come back to this claim later.

Dallas Willard’s article provides a summary of how the mental process works. He discusses what a concept is and how the nature of a concept (which always includes intentionality, relations, etc) avoids what he calls the “Midas touch” of post-Kantianism. Followers of Kant see the concept as an activity of the mind.  As Willard explains, “It [the Kantian view] always turns the ‘mediation’ of the relation between the mind and world into a form of making: the object which comes to stand before the mind is in some essential way made by a ‘grasping’ of something other” (Willard 2-3).

The Structure of the Knowing Act

While Willard’s article decisively rebuts Kantianism, it does have a small payout for the “Derridean Christian Philosophers.”  If what Willard says is true on how the mind knows, then it doesn’t matter if we posit that our knowledge is “mediated” or “structured” by communal knowings.

Survey of the Material

Kant: what comes before the mind as objects are products of the action of the mind (Willard 4).  Evidently, there is some amorphous sludge that is present before our mind. Our mind then categorizes it and “out comes the perceived object.”

Beginning of the Case

Willard’s main argument is that all knowing acts involve “intentionality,” which is the “about-ness” or “of-ness” of something.  If I know a dog, this dog, then “there must be something about each of the terms (my thought of my dog, my dog) that my thought of my dog is “together with” or pairs up with my dog” (5).

What is a Concept? 

A concept is acquired, applies to or is “of” something (extension), has intension (inherent properties), is transpersonal.  If there is anything that “mediates” between our minds and the outside objects, it is concepts, not endless linguistic deferrals or “communal” interpretations. 

Further, concepts are properties, not acts or events.  As such, they don’t “do” anything. A concept also has a “nature.”  This means it has properties, relations, and an overall place “in the scheme of things” (8).  Since it is a universal, it is exemplified in time and space but itself is not in time or space.  

With all of this in mind (no pun intended), we can see that intentional properties are concepts which form a bridge between thought and its object.  I do not think of the intentional properties but “of what is before my mind through them” (10). The intentional properties of a concept are not identical with “the properties which things must have to fall under the concept” (11).

We can try to say it another way: there is an intentional affinity (the of-ness or about-ness of a concept) between the concept and the properties of the concept. They are related in such a way that the intensional properties “always come to mind upon the instancing of the property which is the concept, but not by being instanced in the thought along with the concept” (12).  In other words, the concept is before our mind, not simply the inherent structure of the concept. The following diagram might help:

Thought of a dog (exemplifies) concept of a dog (has natural affinity with) properties making up caninity (exemplified in) Dogs (Fido, etc). (Willard 13).

The Pay off

If the above is true then the objects of thought do not take on any character. They aren’t changed in structure from an amorphous sludge to a dog.  Therefore, we are not “locked inside language” (14).

How does this work with the Radical Orthodox type crowd which posits an intermediate communal meaning?  At the most basic level it makes it irrelevant. Let’s take the concept of a dog. I read about a dog in a text.  How does placing “the communal interpretation of the faith-community” between myself and the dog “make” the text correct?  

That might be somewhat trivial.  Let’s take a theological dictum. If all the RO guys are saying is that we must read in conjunction with fellow believers, then there really isn’t a problem. A more hard-line approach would be “the church’s interpretation is our interpretation.”  Only Protestant converts to Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy say anything that silly. It’s common enough, though. Let’s look at it. What mediates the church’s reading of the text and the text itself? It doesn’t work to say the church, for that is no different from their own characterization of Protestantism writ-large.  Further, it’s no different from the very foundationalism they eschew.

But if the church doesn’t mediate between the church’s interpretation and a given fact of experience, then who does?  We are then thrown back to the individual believer’s responsibility to interpret the world, receive data, and make judgments.  These judgments aren’t infallible, but they are still warranted. He can accept many of them as basic beliefs (in the absence of overriding defeaters).  



John Locke: Essay Concerning Human Understanding

Image result for john locke

Locke should have put Book IV first, not because of order of argument but of style.  Books 1-3 are so badly written and tedious, whereas Book IV is interesting and occasionally funny.  Be that as it may.

The how of knowledge

(1) At the risk of oversimplification, ideas for Locke are sense-impressions.  If I see a tree, light waves from the tree reach my eye, go to my brain/mind, and from there form a mental image of a tree in my mind. An idea is the object of understanding when a man thinks.  The power to produce any idea is a quality (II.8.7). Ideas are in the mind, qualities the body.

On the Soul

problem of identity: the soul cannot be reduced to physical causes/objects, otherwise how does one account for personal identity if we are just matter in motion (II.1.12)

  • primary qualities are inseparable from a body: solidity, extension, figure.
  • secondary qualities are that which produce various sensations in us by means of the primary qualities: colors, sounds, tastes.

Substance: combinations of simple ideas representing distinct things subsisting in themselves (II.8.6)

Modes of thinking:  

  • thinking: when the mind contemplates itself (II.19.1)
  • sensation: the entrance of any idea into the understanding by the senses (II.1.24).
  • intention: the mind focusing on an object

Thinking is the action of the soul, not its essence.  Otherwise, when we stop thinking we stop having a soul (implications for pro-life arguments).   

On Free Will

power: the possibility of acting change.

  • The will is a power.
  • we can’t speak of free will.
    • Liberty is a power that belongs to agents (II.21.14).
    • It doesn’t make sense to ask if one power has another power.
  • will is the ability to choose.
    • the mind operates the will.  
    • faculty, ability, and power are names of the same thing.
    • The mind determines the will (II.21.29).
  • Uneasiness: psychological determination of the will (II.21.34-40).  Locke has a very perceptive chapter on the difficulty of “willing ourselves to be better.”  A drunkard knows his decisions are destructive, but he is habituated in them. A direct charge to change won’t do anything for him.  
    • The good cannot determine our wills (practically, psychologically) because we are so overwhelmed with desire and unease.
    • There might be some spiritual import to this.  Fasting and other disciplines “turn down the volume” of the flesh.  
    • Our wills are only truly free when we suspend the desire.  
  • Psychological remarks (very perceptive)
    • We cannot directly change our beliefs (doxastic voluntarism), but we can change the surroundings which condition our beliefs (II.21.62).
    • The pain anyone actually feels is the most intense of any possibly present pains.
    • Future pleasure (absent good) is usually unable to prevent uneasiness/wrongdoing. This is why social justice programs have universally failed to reformed poverty-stricken neighborhoods.


Essence is “the very being of anything, whereby it is, what it is” (III.iii.15).  Locke held to the corpuscular hypothesis: the constitutions of things consists of minute particles of some sort, and that their workings are entirely due to such configurations (IV.iii.25).


The Ethics of Belief (Courtesy of Wolterstorff)

(2) Our assent is regulated by the grounds of probability (IV.16.1).

Doxastic Duty

Book IV. 17.24

“Faith is nothing but a firm assent of the mind…regulated…as is our duty, cannot be afforded to anything but good reason…He that believes without having reason for believing…neither seeks truth as he ought nor pays the obedience due to his Maker.”

(3) For Locke epistemology is linked with doxastic duty.  

Epistemic justification is deontological justification.  Is this Knowledge as Justified, True Belief? Maybe; however, Locke applies duty to belief, not knowledge.


(~1) Is Locke’s account of belief-formation really how the mind works?  Following the godly and right-thinking Mr Reid, we offer the critique: “idea” is a visual term.  How does Locke’s project work when we take a non-visual sensation like “touch?” How does the mind form an “image” of a non-imagery sensation?

(~2) This seems true and it is probably a wise way to live, but as later thinkers have pointed out (Wm. James, Wolterstorff, Plantinga, Kelly James Clark), what is the evidence for this claim?

Aristotle: Physics (Review)


While I am normally hostile to Hellenism, I’ll give Aristotle credit on this point: he was a fairly good communicator.  He also set the stage for later scholastic thought (for better or worse).

We do not know a thing until we know its first principles (184 a10).  

Substance is not a predicate.  An attribute is that which belongs to the subject (186 b20).

“Being itself.”  Substance could mean:

  • Form
  • Matter
  • Complex of both

“The form is indeed the nature rather than the matter”   

  • form:  actuality
  • matter:  potentiality .

Cause:  that out of which a thing comes to be 

  • Formal
  • Material
  • Final: first in intention; last in operation.  

Book III

Nature–defined as the principle of motion and change.  Motion is the fulfilment of what exists potentially (201 a10). It appears he rejects the idea of a transcendent infinite because there is “no such sensible body” (205 b30).

Container notion of space

Dealing with the infinite, Aristotle notes “Nothing is complete which has no end” (207 a14). This rules out Christian theism, for God has no limit yet he is complete and perfect. Aristotle’s discussion on potential infinity, while since surpassed by Cantors, is important for his own time.  Further, the infinite, such as it is, is contained (24).

What is a container?  The form is that which contains. A place is the boundary between the body and the container (211 b20). This contact creates an organic union “when both become actually one” (213 a9).  This is the false view that Thomas Torrance so devastatingly refuted.

Time is a measure of motion and of being moved (221a). Aristotle says that all motion takes place “during a time” (227 b25).  Just curious: is there motion in heaven? Heaven’s outside of time. What would it be like to exist in a realm that has neither motion nor time?  Contrast that with the Hebrew prophets. I think that is what Aristotle is saying. He notes that “it is impossible for a thing to undergo a finite motion in an infinite time, since time and motion are correlative.  In other words, the motion will “max out” the time. Aristotle just rejected the Christian view of heaven, whether biblical or even Platonic (237 b25).

Key argument: everything that is in motion must be moved by something else (242 a17). You can see the later arguments for the existence of God.  Something unmoved must already be in place to get the motion going. Book VIII has his famous line of the unmoved mover (260 a19). While I can grant Aristotle’s point that there is an eternal existent, we have no reason to think that it (no need to use personal pronouns) cares for you or would bother to reveal itself by speaking.

Properties and Attributes

Old post of mine.  Might shed some light on the covenantal properties controversy.

Why is this important?  Understanding that this is what “makes up” a human being is crucial in apologetics, evangelism, and the pro-life cause.

JP Moreland (either works by Moreland or about Moreland) :

property: a universal (Moreland and Craig, 219), that which can be instantiated in more than one place at once.  It would still exist apart from the substance. A substance “owns” a property (215).  Properties always come together in groups.

Gould and Wallace clarify Moreland’s position by saying a property is an instantiation of an abstract object (Gould and Wallace 24).

substance: more basic than properties. Substances do the having, properties the “had.”  “A substance is a deep unity of properties, parts and capacities.”

Richard Muller:

attributum: the attributes identify what the thing is and are inseparable from its substance (Muller 50).

proprietas: pertaining to God, it is an incommunicable attribute.  More specifically, that which is uniquely predicated of the person.  Regarding the doctrine of man, what is predicated of an individual (250).

Alvin Plantinga:

property: Plantinga broadens the discussion to where he can say “God has a nature–a property he has essentially that includes each property essential to him” (Plantinga 7).  So, God has the property of having a nature.  Plantinga seems to have reversed the relation between property and attribute.


On one hand, properties are had by the person, attributes by the essence.  Or rather, attributes are predicated of the essence.  Yet J. P. Moreland says properties are had by the substance.  Is Moreland confusing substance and person?  Maybe not.  In the West substance wasn’t necessarily identical with “essence” or ousia.  Substance denotes a standing under, which points to the idea of person.

Yet it is also important to realize that properties are explanatorily prior to the things that have them (Gould and Wallace 25).  The easiest conclusion is that attributes are predicated of the essence, properties of the person, provided we also see properties functioning as universals.

Works Cited

Gould, Paul and Wallace, Stan.  “On what there is: theism, platonism, and explanation” in Eds. Gould, Paul and Davis, Richard Brian. Loving God with Your Mind: Essays in Honor of J.P. Moreland.  Chicago: Moody Press, 2010.

Moreland, J. P. and Craig, William Lane.   Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview.  Downers Grove, IL: Inter Varsity Press, 2003.

Muller, Richard A. Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, reprint [1995].

Study notes on Caspar Olevian and Substance

I will write a formal review later.  R. Scott Clark has several fascinating sections reconstructing German Calvinism in the 16th century, along with rebutting the Heppe-thesis and such.  The review will cover those parts. This book is so useful on justification and covenant, that it could  serve the brethren and sisteren if its better quotes were put in an easily accessible bullet-point format.


The Basic Argument

“Considered objectively, the substance of the covenant is comprised of God’s saving acts in Christ and the explanation of those acts in Christian theology” (Clark xviii). The double benefit refers to the objective work of Christ for us and the sanctifying work of Christ in us.


The first few chapters place Olevian in his humanist and scholastic context.  It’s important at this point to get his Aristotelian terminology understood.

Primary substance: indivisible substances extra intellectum (Clark 60).  Think this-man, that-tree.

Secondary substance: think classes and kinds.  God is a primary substance.  The primary substance, if you will.  More importantly, “God” is not a genus, so he can’t be a secondary substance.

Olevian on Substance and God

Substance of the covenant: objective truths of the Christian religion summarized in Apostles’ Creed (67).


Olevian’s Trinitarian Doctrine of God

“Medieval soteriology….thought of infused grace (gratia infusa) as the means of final justification, Calvin made it the office of God the Spirit to infuse the elect, subsequent to justification, with the grace of sanctification” (83).

A person, as per the Trinity, is a subsistence “unsustained by any other” (97).

Trinity, Creation, and Substance

Substance is defined as “being’ because ‘being proper’ belongs to it” (101). Yet for Olevian substance is shorthand for “all that God has done for us in Christ. It was shorthand for the twofold benefit” (102).  The substance of the covenant describes the special relations between God and the elect.

Olevian’s Federalist Christology

Contrast with Lutheran Christology

  • genus maiestaticum: Christ’s humanity transformed by personal union with his deity (107).

Reformed Christology

  • Christ’s taking the form of a servant meant he had to take a true human nature, with all of its frailties (111).
  • extra calvinist

Brevis Admonitio: A Christological Federalism

“Olevian assumed a distinction between deity and humanity on the basis of his understanding of natura.  Chemnitz, on the other hand, assumed the possibility of different relations between Christ’s humanity and divinity on the basis of his understanding of degree (gradus) and class (genus)” (121).

Christ died as “sponsio” of the New Testament (130).

Justification: The First Benefit of the Covenant of Grace

Justification: First Part of the Double Benefit

  1. “Forgiveness of sins (remissio peccatorum) is the first “offered benefit” (oblatum beneficium) which is received by faith” (151).
  2. Christ’s righteousness is the ground of our justification, and is externally imputed to the believer.

Romanist View

Per Canisius:

  1. Justification is an ontological matter, a transformation (Clark 156).
  2. The beginning of justice is sufficient to satisfy God.  God “holds his judgment in abeyance until final justification or sanctification is achieved” (meritum de condigno; 156).
  3. Justification is a result of the mediation of grace.
  4. These benefits are applied in baptism (158). They are complex, not duplex.
  5. Christ fulfills these internally in us.  For Olevian, Christ has already fulfilled all righteousness (159).

Olevian’s Response

  1. Christ has already fulfilled all righteousness and we benefit through faith.
  2. “The voice of nature or law of the covenant requires that justice before God must be either completely proper or alien to oneself” (159).
  3. “Justification cannot be something accomplished within us, since Christ has already accomplished it externally” (160).

Sanctification: The Second Part of the Double Benefit

Our “renovatio was also promised on prevenient, unmerited divine mercy” (185).

Key point: Olevian’s Trinitarianism and “focus on God the Spirit, combined with the use of the covenant which had the effect of creating a locus in his theology for a doctrine of evangelical obedience without threatening his doctrine of justification by imputation” (187).

In other words, Olevian’s strong sanctification theology never fell to the dangers of Federal Visionism.


He held to a monergism in justification but saw a mutuality in the administration of the covenant of grace (190).

Means of Grace

“Because repentance is sanctification, it cannot be a condition of the remission of sins” (198).

There is an organic relationship between the sign and substance, so that “the signs themselves entail covenant stipulationes” (200).

Children are in the covenant, but the Lord’s Supper is a feast of covenant renewal, and infants are not eligible for it (205).