Divine Will, Human Choice; notes 5 (Scholastic Approaches to Necessity)


Scholastic Approaches to Necessity

Contingency and necessity must be understood at both levels of causality, primary and secondary (212). God executes his decree through the “instrumentality of causes that are themselves not necessary but contingent or free” (213).

Gomarus advances the discussion by making a distinction between free acts and freedom itself. A free act is free to the kind of act it is.  Free choice is a potency flowing from the essence of the soul.  Freedom belongs to the rational agent regardless of whether he is engaged in the act (223).

Wiliam Twisse argued that while God knows everything in one moment through his divine essence, we can still understand him to know and will possibles “in a logical ordering, indeed, in a sequence of non-temporal instants of nature” (226).  Prior to God’s willing, in the in actu primo, “there is a simultaneity of potencies.”

Later Reformed writers rejected the current Jesuit view of a liberty of indifference.  This is impossible because man is not a completely autonomous, abstract individual.  Even in a state before the fall, man was dependent on God. There is an indifference in the will regarded as a potency in primary actuality, but not in its operation (244).

Men like Voetius could even argue for a co-causality between God and man.   God wills A, B, and C to occur by both God and a human being.  God in his absolutely free governance wills B, removing his indifference to A and C “in the composite sense.”  The human was initially indifferent to A, B, and C, but in his “dependent freedom” wills B, which removes his indifference to A and C (245).


Speak ye not of Calvin

I’ve read through the Institutes 3 times.  It’s good, I guess.  I just don’t really resonate towards Calvin.  And until 1800, that was more or less the impression in the Reformed world.  So why are people so concerned to tag us as Calvinists?  I debated Orthodox Bridge on this point 3 years ago.  They couldn’t even understand the question.

Where Calvin is interesting is not predestination.  You can find the same thing in Aquinas (and harder and more stern).  He’s interesting on union with Christ and church government.

Rutherford is a good example:

John Coffey notes in his glorious study on Rutherford concerning how marginal Calvin was for Reformed scholastics:

“Yet contrary to the common assumption, Calvin did not tower above all other Reformed theologians in importance. In *Pro Divina Gratia* Rutherford referred to Calvin only four times. William Twisse…was referred to 12 times… “Rutherford never called himself a Calvinist” (Coffey, *Politics, Religion, and the British Revolution*, p. 75)