Hodge on the Freedom of the Divine Will

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Stowaway

Puritan Board Freshman
Grace and peace!

I have a tremendous amount of respect for Charles Hodge, and I think that his Systematic Theology is an outstanding work. However, I came across something today that I have to take exception to in the section entitled "The Freedom of the Divine Will" (Chap. V, Sec. 9.B). Hodge stated the following:

"An agent is said to be free, (1.) When he is at liberty to act or not to act, according to his good pleasure. This is liberty in acting. (2.) He is free as to his volitions, when they are determined by his own sense of what is wise, right, or desirable." Then he went on to assert, "God is free in acting, as in creating and preserving, because these acts do not arise from the necessity of his nature."

Here's my reasoning:

Good pleasure (GP) can be defined to include God's sense of "what is wise, right, or desirable."

1. If A is an free act, then GP (good pleasure) determines A.
2. If P (some principle) determines A, then A arises from P.
3. GP is a determining principle.
4. If A is an free act, then A arises from GP.
5. If A is a free act, A does not arise from N (the necessity of God's nature).

Give free act f:
f arises from GP.
f does not arise from N.

Therefore, according to Hodge, it seems we must conclude that the necessity of God's nature cannot be equated with His good pleasure, if good pleasure is understood as to include His sense of what is wise, right, or desirable.

6. N is not GP.

Since all of God's acts are free, the "necessity of God's nature" doesn't determine any acts.

Assume N determines f.
7. f arises from N. (from 2)
8. f does not arise from N (from 5)
9. N does not determine f. (Law of non-contradiction)

Let's consider God's nature (C) as somehow distinct from the "necessity of God's nature" (N). According to my understanding of the terms, God's good pleasure is as it is because it is rooted in His nature. Therefore, His nature determines His good pleasure, which in turn determines His acts:

10. C (God's nature) determines GP.
11. If P1 determines P2, and P2 determines A, then P1 determines A.
12. C determines A. (but not necessarily)

Assume N determines GP.
13. N determines A. (from 11 and 1)
14. N does not determine A. (from 9)
15. N does not determine GP. (Law of non-contradiction)

[NOTE: I later found that Hodge also rejects contingency by distinguishing between necessity and moral necessity. The similarity of the concepts led to my misunderstanding.]

If we assume that God's nature determines His good pleasure, and consequently, His acts arise out of His nature, then, according to Hodge, they must arise out of His nature only contingently and not necessarily. It therefore seems possible that a given free act may arise that is not determined by God's nature. That would also imply that His good pleasure is sometimes either undetermined or determined by something other than His nature. In that case, I'd like to know what would be determining it.

I agreed with Hodge's first definition of a free agent, but unless I've made some error in my reasoning, I believe that he was mistaken with the second proposition: "God is free in acting, as in creating and preserving, because these acts do not arise from the necessity of his nature." I don't know of any biblical support that he could provide to justify that assertion.

Thanks!
Mike
 
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Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
Certainly God's good pleasure (that which He loves and accordingly wills, along the lines of His love) is consonant with His nature, but it is not identified with his nature. If that were so, He would have no freedom at all, for His willing would be as essential to Him as His nature.

God has no necessity external to Him to create and preserve. Is such consonant, then, with His nature, or necessitated by His nature? If it is necessary for Him to create and preserve, this denies His aseity and makes Him dependent on the creature. This cannot be. On the other hand, His creating and presrving does very much reflect the kind of God that He is: the inter-Trinitarian communion of persons is such a world of love that there is a fitting, yet not mandatory to God, overflow of that expression of love in the will to create and preserve. Creating and preserving is a freely chosen act by God (neither anything external compelled him nor did His nature necessitate it, as if He lacked something), properly consonant with who He is, love overflowing from the mutual giving of the persons one to another, fittingly expressed in a creating and preserving that, outside of the Blessed Holy Undivided Trinity, can give further expression to the love of God, not only to Himself but to the whole of His creation.

Hodge is right. God's nature does not necessitate His creating and preserving (any number of Bible passages assert the aseity and utter incomparability of God: think Isaiah), but given the kind of God that He is, given that essential nature that He has, it is certainly consonant with such a nature, it is truly fitting, that such a loving God not only give within Himself (the perichoresis of the three persons), but give out of Himself. Is He compelled to do so? If He were, He would be dependent and He is the one upon whom all things depend though He depends upon none.

Peace,
Alan
 

Stowaway

Puritan Board Freshman
Thank you for the response, Rev. Strange.

Essentially it seems you're agreeing with my conclusion, but instead of using the word "contingency," you're speaking of "consonance." In either case, it appears that you are agreeing that God's actions are still being determined contingently, i.e. not by necessity.

After giving it some thought, I thought that maybe I should have defined C as a "contingency in God's nature" to stick closer to Hodge's wording of a "necessity of God's nature." So in your case, we might speak of a "unnecessitated consonance with with God's nature." And I'll assume that you agree with my deduction:

10. C (consonance) determines GP.
11. If P1 determines P2, and P2 determines A, then P1 determines A.
12. C determines A. (consonance determines God's acts.)

We can define lower-case "c" to represent God's free act of creation:

16. C possibly determines GP1. (the good pleasure to create)
17. GP1 determines c.
18. C possibly determines c.

Now, since consonance is not necessary, then it's also possible that:

19. C possibly determines GP2. (the good pleasure not to create)
20. GP2 determines not c.
21. C possibly determines not c.

Therefore, faced with the decision to create or not create, it couldn't have been consonance alone that determined the outcome. Since we know that God did create, then there must have been some other determining factor, X, which ultimately determined the decision between GP1 and GP2:

22. X determines c.

What is X? I don't know what that could possibly be. It could be total randomness (the creation was an undetermined product of chance), for instance, because the Bible gives no support to the idea that God's decisions are ultimately determined by some unknown factor distinct from His nature. The Bible also doesn't support the idea that God could have more than one conflicting "good pleasure," as if God could be lost in indecision. In fact, that idea is condemned as a sinful characteristic in man. (See: "double minded" James 1:8, James 4:8, "disorder"/"confusion" James 3:16, "double heart" Psalm 12:2) Finally, I think your theory would violate the aseity of God by making Him dependent on some X-factor.

I believe that the Bible teaches that true freedom is freedom from contingency. It is the freedom to act, not just in consonance to a godly will, but to have that godly will fully determine those decisions. Anything else enslaves us to sinfulness, foreign determinations or chaotic randomness.

I thought your argument about aseity was interesting, but I fail to see your logic:

23. If N determines c, then God is dependent on c.

I believe that the creation is the product of God freely acting completely in accordance to His nature. However, you seem to be presupposing a principle that God's free acts somehow put Him in subjection to those acts. I don't know where you get that idea, but it seems more likely that God's X-determined acts put him in subjection to X. Therefore His free acts put him in subjection to freedom, i.e. free him from all subjection and thus establish his aseity rather than destroy it.

Thanks,
Mike
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
It is obviously the case that man, as a time-bound and dependent creature, chooses in accord with his nature because man's choices are governed by succession. Technically, though, were man able to make all his choices in one intuitive moment, including his own being, this idea of choosing according to one's "nature" would be redundant, because the "nature" at any moment in time would be precisely what man had willed it to be. Now this is a metaphysical impossibility for man, but it is a transcendent reality for God.
 

Stowaway

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks for your comments, Rev. Winzer.

I'm afraid I don't know what you mean. One thing that you said got my attention:

"...because the 'nature' at any moment in time would be precisely what man had willed it to be."

That seems to assume that man has (or would have) some ability to determine his own nature, but I don't know how to fit that in with my understanding of the Bible. Quite the contrary, I believe the Bible teaches that only God can change our nature.

So are you suggesting that God could change His own nature? And if so, such a change would be determined by what? Some meta-nature?

I'm afraid what you're saying appears more like speculative philosophy that theology.

Thanks,
Mike
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
That seems to assume that man has (or would have) some ability to determine his own nature, but I don't know how to fit that in with my understanding of the Bible. Quite the contrary, I believe the Bible teaches that only God can change our nature.

That is why I said it is a metaphysical impossibility for man. But what is impossible for man is a transcendent reality for God.

The problem here is that man is trying to measure God in terms of his own limited capacities. Man chooses from his nature because he is created with a nature and that nature is what it is at the time each successive choice is made. But there is no succession in God. He did not come into Being. He was and is and is to come. Hence there is no pre-established nature from which He wills. His will is His nature.
 

Stowaway

Puritan Board Freshman
His will is His nature.

I really have no argument with respect to that, nor do I have any strong opinion either way. The only reason I made the distinction between God's will (His good pleasure) and His nature, was to avoid asserting that Hodge contradicted himself. From what I said before:

Given free act f:
f arises from GP.
f does not arise from N.

If we equate GP with N, it suggests a contradiction.
 
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Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
His will is His nature

Matthew:

We both know that this statement could be taken in an essentialist direction (in which God has no freedom) or a voluntarist direction (in which God is freedom and has no nature).

I would assume, for a variety of reasons, that you would not go in an essentialist direction. How do you keep, then, from the opposite problem--voluntarism (and the nominalism that gives rise to it)? I assume that you would do something like distinguish necessary and free will in God, but I think it would be helpful to all here if you could briefly clarify that for us.

Peace,
Alan
 

Stowaway

Puritan Board Freshman
... for His willing would be as essential to Him as His nature.

Hello Rev. Strange,

It's good to see you came back.

Your phrase that I just cited above seems to really get to the heart of the issue: the relationship between God's nature and His will. Of course you deny identifying the two, and you deny a necessary connection between them. As far as I can see that only leaves contingency which seems to entail the mysterious X factor.

I'm really trying to figure out if there is a way to deny necessity and the X factor both, but I just don't see it. However while thinking about it, I was reminded of Jesus' words in the garden of Gethsemane:

"Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine be done." (Luke 22:24)

So the question that I asked myself was whether or not the cross was essential to God. I know the obvious response is that He didn't have to save anybody. However that forces me to imagine the possible scenario of no creation, because without the cross, the creation seems next to meaningless. Does that then imply the possibility of the God of love not expressing His love, or expressing it with plan B, which may not have been as good (but consonant with His nature). Or another possible scenario is a plan B that is just as good (to the infinitesimal degree) as the creation and the cross. Then I'm back to the X factor that has to decide between two plans. It also makes me wonder why Christ died if plan B could have avoided it.

Maybe that question is obvious to you, but it's not obvious to me. It seems to be that it must be essential to God to express His essence in the best way possible. For that reason, I tend to agree with Leibniz's theory that this is the best world possible. And it's also hard for me accept Plantinga's approach, contemplating other possible worlds, because I can't figure out in what sense they are possible. The whole subject of possibility seems to imply ignorance. Humans need the concept of possibility because we're ignorant, but God doesn't because He knows all things. So why couldn't he have chosen plan B and saved Christ from that suffering? Why couldn't He abstain from all expressions of love just to prove that no expressions of His nature were as essential as that nature itself?

I know people may label me as a fatalist, but I can't seem to associate the concepts of freedom and contingency. They just don't fit together well. I certainly can't imagine wanting contingency in my own decision making. That would be a nightmare, kind of like driving a car with a loose tie rod: "Yeah, It's going in the general direction that I want to go, but it would be better to keep the sidewalks clear." So why would I imagine that God would want to conduct His affairs that way?

I'm really trying to sort through this. Sometimes it seems like our approach to this question is a little artificial, but I have no idea what that could possibly mean.

Thanks!
Mike
 
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moral necessity

Puritan Board Junior
I know people may label me as a fatalist, but I can't seem to associate the concepts of freedom and contingency. They just don't fit together well. I certainly can't imagine wanting contingency in my own decision making. That would be a nightmare, kind of like driving a car with a loose tie rod: "Yeah, It's going in the general direction that I want to go, but it would be better to keep the sidewalks clear." So why would I imagine that God would want to conduct His affairs that way?

I'm really trying to sort through this. Sometimes it seems like our approach to this question is a little artificial, but I have know idea what that could possibly mean.

Thanks!
Mike

It may be of interest for you to read R.L. Dabney's thoughts on Free Agency & The Will in his Systematic Theology, Chapter 7, if you haven't already.
You'll find it here http://www.ntslibrary.com/PDF Books II/Dabney - Systematic Theology.pdf
Begin at p.144.

Blessings and prayers,
 

Stowaway

Puritan Board Freshman
It may be of interest for you to read R.L. Dabney's thoughts on Free Agency & The Will in his Systematic Theology, Chapter 7, if you haven't already.

I used to have Dabney's Systematic Theology before I moved to Brazil, but I left a lot of books behind. It looks like his view is essentially the same as mine. What he calls the "true doctrine" is described as follows:

"But it asserts that this spontaneity, like all other forces in the universe, acts according to law; that this law is the connection between the soul’s own states and its own choices, the former being as much of its own spontaneity as the latter; that therefore volitions are not uncaused, but always follow the actual state of judgment and feeling (single or complex), at the time being; and that this connection is not contingent, but efficient and certain. And this certainty is all that they mean by moral necessity."

Thanks!
Mike
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
Any attempt to assign a cause to the will of God is essentially wrong-headed. Calvin doesn't hesitate to call it impious.

These observations would be amply sufficient for the pious and modest, and such as remember that they are men. But because many are the species of blasphemy which these virulent dogs utter against God, we shall, as far as the case admits, give an answer to each. Foolish men raise many grounds of quarrel with God, as if they held him subject to their accusations. First, they ask why God is offended with his creatures who have not provoked him by any previous offense; for to devote to destruction whomsoever he pleases, more resembles the caprice of a tyrant than the legal sentence of a judge; and, therefore, there is reason to expostulate with God, if at his mere pleasure men are, without any desert of their own, predestinated to eternal death. If at any time thoughts of this kind come into the minds of the pious, they will be sufficiently armed to repress them, by considering how sinful it is to insist on knowing the causes of the divine will, since it is itself, and justly ought to be, the cause of all that exists. For if his will has any cause, there must be something antecedent to it, and to which it is annexed; this it were impious to imagine. The will of God is the supreme rule of righteousness, so that everything which he wills must be held to be righteous by the mere fact of his willing it. Therefore, when it is asked why the Lord did so, we must answer, Because he pleased. But if you proceed farther to ask why he pleased, you ask for something greater and more sublime than the will of God, and nothing such can be found. Let human temerity then be quiet, and cease to inquire after what exists not, lest perhaps it fails to find what does exist. This, I say, will be sufficient to restrain any one who would reverently contemplate the secret things of God. Against the audacity of the wicked, who hesitate not openly to blaspheme, God will sufficiently defend himself by his own righteousness, without our assistance, when depriving their consciences of all means of evasion, he shall hold them under conviction, and make them feel their guilt. We, however, give no countenance to the fiction of absolute power, which, as it is heathenish, so it ought justly to be held in detestation by us. We do not imagine God to be lawless. He is a law to himself; because, as Plato says, men laboring under the influence of concupiscence need law; but the will of God is not only free from all vice, but is the supreme standard of perfection, the law of all laws. But we deny that he is bound to give an account of his procedure; and we moreover deny that we are fit of our own ability to give judgment in such a case. Wherefore, when we are tempted to go farther than we ought, let this consideration deter us, Thou shalt be “justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest,” (Psalm 51:4.)
(Institutes, III.23.2)
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
How do you keep, then, from the opposite problem--voluntarism (and the nominalism that gives rise to it)?

Prof. Strange, I don't see voluntarism as a problem, and to a certain extent, because it is God's word which gives being to all things, a certain kind of nominalism is to be expected, although for us creatures our constitution binds us into being necessarian and realists.
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
Prof. Strange, I don't see voluntarism as a problem
.

I'll just address this part of your answer, first, Matthew. Could you clarify for me what you mean by this? Do you mean that you don't see that what you've said could be taken in a voluntarist direction by someone or you don't see voluntarism itself as a problem?

And you've said a lot, Mike, more than I have time at the moment to respond to. Maybe one helpful thing is to recall that philosophy is only, always, and ever, to be in the service of theology and never the opposite. When we put theology in the service of philosophy we fall into some sort of error, generally some sort of rationalism on the part of those who are or seek to be orthodox.

I'll stop here for now.

Peace,
Alan
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Do you mean that you don't see that what you've said could be taken in a voluntarist direction by someone or you don't see voluntarism itself as a problem?

I don't see voluntarism itself as a problem. It is plainly taught in Scripture and articulated in the Westminster Confession. God does as He pleases, all things that are created are for His pleasure, He works all things after the counsel of His own will, has a right to do with His own what He will, is not obliged to give account of Himself to men, humbles Himself to see things below, blesses the creature by voluntary condescension, is not profited by the good works of His creatures, remains blessed in Himself regardless of the relation men bear to Him, etc., etc.
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
Matthew:

Very interesting.

I agree with everything that you say, beginning with the third sentence ("God does as He pleases...") and following. Perhaps you are using voluntarism in a soft sense, perhaps as a synonym for something like "divine command theory," with which I have no problem, even as I have no problem in answering the Euthyphro dilemma (on all of which we doubtless agree).

I don't agree that what you set forth amounts to what I am calling "voluntarism," as in the great medieval debate between that and "intellectualism." I regard them both as philosophical extremes (even as I do "realism" and "nominalism") that chop off some part of the witness of revelation, absolutizing their position so that the voluntarist, for example, tends to reduce God to will. I know that you don't reduce Him to will because we both believe that God has an essence that is identical with His properties or attributes and those attributes include intellectual attributes, moral attributes, attributes of sovereignty, etc. This is the full biblical witness and I believe that voluntarism as historically defined truncates that full witness and gets only part of it.

Peace,
Alan
 
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Stowaway

Puritan Board Freshman
Maybe one helpful thing is to recall that philosophy is only, always, and ever, to be in the service of theology and never the opposite.

I think it would be best if you left philosophy out of it. Let's try to stick to the Bible and the question I presented in Hodge's theology.

Thanks!
Mike
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
I think it would be best if you left philosophy out of it.

Are you being serious here? Your original post was full of philosophy, of course. I don't fault you for your exercise in logic, mind you. As I said, we need to make sure that it's always in the service of theology. Another way of putting it is that all of our reasoning is to be ministerial (in the service of Scripture) and never magisterial, in which we seek to bring Scripture into line with our reasoning.

Peace,
Alan
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Prof. Strange, We may be using terms differently. As the term was not used by earlier scholastics to describe their own views it is likely that it admits of some elasticity. The association with Scotus is probably the historical identifier for voluntarism. I would see any attachment to "divine command theory" as basically voluntarist in orientation. From the reformed perspective with its emphasis on the sufficiency of divine revelation I am afraid (and rightly so, I believe) to peer behind revelation to search out the hidden depths of the divine essence and nature. Apart from revelation I cannot know the nature of God. My creaturely relationship to the Creator is entirely dependent on what God wills to make known of Himself to me.
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
Matthew:

I quite agree that the divine essence and nature is entirely incomprehensible. At the same time we don't suppose that God is essentially different than He reveals Himself to be; it's just that all revelation involves accomodation and never, for a moment, do we imagine that we know God as only He knows himself or that any single point of our knowledge is univocal with His (it is always analogical).

And yet, with all the limitations involved, we speak of God's properties or attributes and believe that He has not only attributes of will or sovereignty but also ones that are intellectual, moral, spiritual, etc. as well as natural or incommunicable properties like aseity, infinity, immutability, etc. We believe that He does have an essence; that He does have a nature; that he can be spoken of as a certain sort of being (this is the presupposition of WSC 4 in saying "what" instead of "who"). Having said that, I do believe apophatic theology plays a large role here and so much of what we say about Him is what He is not.

I agree with every word in your previous post, except that I think that Scotus goes too far in philosophical speculation and is not willing to allow theology its primacy at points, as are you, especially with that last beautiful sentence: "My creaturely relationship to the Creator is entirely dependent on what God wills to make known of Himself to me." I agree, and it's always accommodated for finite, and still sinful (though renewed), creatures.

Peace,
Alan
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
Ruben:

It is proper metaphysically to say that God has an essence and a nature. It is more specific, given the particular case, to say that He is His essence and nature, since God, unlike any other being, is eternally fully self-actualized (Matthew got at this, if I recall, in his first couple of posts).

Peace,
Alan
 

Stowaway

Puritan Board Freshman
I think it would be best if you left philosophy out of it.

Are you being serious here? Your original post was full of philosophy, of course.

Grace and peace, Rev. Strange,

I'm very serious. In what way was my post philosophical? No proposition, whose truth is not rooted in the truth of God's revealed will as contained in the sacred Scriptures, has any place in theology. My position has always been very straightforward, and I believe it is in close adherence to the reformed standards. I'll resume my position just to make that clear.

I believe that God's actions are determined by His good pleasure and according to the counsel of His will:

"Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:" Ephesians 1:9

"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: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ." Ephesians 1:11,12

I believe that these acts are also a reflection of the divine nature and thus determined by it:

"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." Romans 1:20, NIV

Whereas the NIV translates τὰ ἀόρατα αὐτοῦ as the divine nature, it literally means "His invisible things" as translated in the King James Version:

"Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:" Romans 1:20

However, even without this verse, God's nature can be thought of as a general way of speaking of His various attributes, to which the Scripture ascribe the basis of His actions. This verse in particular seems to draw a clear distinction between God's attributes (nature) and His good pleasure:

"But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD." Jeremiah 9:24

That has been my view all along, but then Hodge denied necessity, which according to my understanding implies contingency (I will clarify this point toward the end of the post). Your response concerning God's aseity was interesting, but however we define aseity, I believe we can't conclude that it denies God's ability to fully determine His actions without supposing a multitude of equivalent possibilities. Jesus' words in Gethsemane seem to establish that point. The Son of God was praying to God the Father for an alternative possibility if there could be such an alternative in the divine will. However, the fact that Christ went on to be crucified appears that this verse is teaching us that there is no such alternative. The cross was the best of all possible plans and there was no other:

"Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine be done." Luke 22:24

Jesus did not teach that freedom lies in a multitude of possibilities, but rather in the definitive truth of God:

"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:32

As I showed before, the idea of contingency also seems to imply double-mindedness which is also soundly rejected by Scripture:

"A double minded man is unstable in all his ways." James 1:8

"Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded." James 4:8

This concept of contingency which opens the door to worldly philosophy, alternate universes, causes foreign to the divine nature, etc. Calvin strongly spoke out against it:

"What, then, you will say, does nothing happen fortuitously, nothing contingently? I answer, it was a true saying of Basil the Great, that Fortune and Chance are heathen terms; the meaning of which ought not to occupy pious minds." Calvin (Institutes, I.16.8)

As already cited in this post, Calvin also called it impious to seek causes for the divine will:

"...how sinful it is to insist on knowing the causes of the divine will, since it is itself, and justly ought to be, the cause of all that exists." Calvin (Institutes, III.23.2)

Of course that must be understood as causes other than God's nature, because Calvin himself attributed God's actions to His wisdom. In so doing, he also rejected any opinion which attributes to God "some blind and equivocal movement," which would be the same sort of thing I was calling the "X factor":

"My intention now is, to refute an opinion which has very generally obtained—an opinion which, while it concedes to God some blind and equivocal movement, withholds what is of principal moment—viz. the disposing and directing of every thing to its proper end by incomprehensible wisdom." Calvin (Institutes, I.16.4)

As already pointed out, Dabney also denies contingency:

"But it asserts that this spontaneity, like all other forces in the universe, acts according to law; that this law is the connection between the soul’s own states and its own choices, the former being as much of its own spontaneity as the latter; that therefore volitions are not uncaused, but always follow the actual state of judgment and feeling (single or complex), at the time being; and that this connection is not contingent, but efficient and certain. And this certainty is all that they mean by moral necessity." Dabney

After investigating Hodge's position more, I discovered that he also rejects contingency by means of a third concept, that of certainty:

"Although the doctrine of necessity subverts the foundation of all morality and religion, our present concern is with the doctrine of contingency. We wish simply to state the case as between certainty and uncertainty. The doctrine of necessity, in the proper sense of the word, is antichristian; but the Christian world is, and ever has been divided between the advocates and opponents of the doctrine of contingency. All Augustinians maintain that a free act may be inevitably certain as to its occurrence" Hodge (Vol. 2, Chap. 9, Sec. 3)

It's kind of confusing, because he rejects necessity as distinct from certainty, but sometimes uses the word necessity to speak of the will. The following passage describes how he understands man's free actions, and he believed that we should attribute the same freedom to the divine will:

"[The sun] shines from the necessity of its nature. We think from a like necessity; but we can think of one thing or another, changing the current of our thoughts at pleasure. And thus we are free in exercising the power of thought." Hodge (Vol. 1, Chap. 10, Sec. E.2)

Notice that he said "a like necessity." However the following clarifies his point:

"Arguing against necessity, they frequently do not discriminate between physical and moral necessity." Hodge (Vol. 2, Chap. 9, Sec. 1.3)

"We have already proved that this is a fair statement of the case; that the advocates of moral necessity mean thereby certainty; and that the advocates of contingency mean thereby uncertainty." Hodge (Vol. 2, Chap. 9, Sec. 3)

Therefore the moral of the story is that when reading Hodge, it's essential to know the difference between physical necessity, moral necessity/certainty and contingency.

Thanks!
Mike
 
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MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Prof. Strange, I appreciate your warning against extreme nominalism. We do not want to end up saying the attributes of God are mere words and have no reality. But I think it is sufficient to guard against this by affirming that this is what God really is to us. This is what He has willed to reveal of Himself to us and this revelation is true. What I have in my creaturely experience of God should suffice me as a creature. I do not need to deify creation or quantify the Deity in order to be blessed in Him.

If I use terms of negation to describe God I am effectively saying He transcends my experience. If I use terms of eminence to describe God I am effectively saying that He transcends my experience even in those things where we appear to have a likeness. By the end of the discussion I should be led to the doxology, To God alone be the glory. This means I must regard Him as being alone and that there is none like Him.

I find the language of univocal, equivocal, and analogical to be somewhat meaningless. Even the term analogical presupposes there is something univocal at one point which is equivocal at other points. One would have to posit an analogy of being in order to establish an analogical knowledge. Here again, the very fact God has chosen to reveal Himself in terms that humans can understand should suffice me. I do not need to ascend up to heaven or descend into the depths. The word is nigh me. I only need to trust it.
 

Stowaway

Puritan Board Freshman
I find the language of univocal, equivocal, and analogical to be somewhat meaningless. Even the term analogical presupposes there is something univocal at one point which is equivocal at other points. One would have to posit an analogy of being in order to establish an analogical knowledge.

Grace and peace, Rev. Winzer,

Not that I'm really trying to get into your conversation, but I just happened to notice what you said and thought I'd try to offer another perspective: Doesn't any attempt to provide an univocal definition to analogical knowledge presuppose that it's not really analogical since it could be reduced to univocal knowledge? If analogical knowledge exists as a qualitatively different type of knowledge, no such definition would be possible.

Mike
 
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aadebayo

Puritan Board Freshman
Certainly God's good pleasure (that which He loves and accordingly wills, along the lines of His love) is consonant with His nature, but it is not identified with his nature. If that were so, He would have no freedom at all, for His willing would be as essential to Him as His nature.

God has no necessity external to Him to create and preserve. Is such consonant, then, with His nature, or necessitated by His nature? If it is necessary for Him to create and preserve, this denies His aseity and makes Him dependent on the creature. This cannot be. On the other hand, His creating and presrving does very much reflect the kind of God that He is: the inter-Trinitarian communion of persons is such a world of love that there is a fitting, yet not mandatory to God, overflow of that expression of love in the will to create and preserve. Creating and preserving is a freely chosen act by God (neither anything external compelled him nor did His nature necessitate it, as if He lacked something), properly consonant with who He is, love overflowing from the mutual giving of the persons one to another, fittingly expressed in a creating and preserving that, outside of the Blessed Holy Undivided Trinity, can give further expression to the love of God, not only to Himself but to the whole of His creation.

Hodge is right. God's nature does not necessitate His creating and preserving (any number of Bible passages assert the aseity and utter incomparability of God: think Isaiah), but given the kind of God that He is, given that essential nature that He has, it is certainly consonant with such a nature, it is truly fitting, that such a loving God not only give within Himself (the perichoresis of the three persons), but give out of Himself. Is He compelled to do so? If He were, He would be dependent and He is the one upon whom all things depend though He depends upon none.

Peace,
Alan

Thanks for your brief but detailed explanation of God, in the exercise of His free will.
 

Stowaway

Puritan Board Freshman
Is such consonant, then, with His nature, or necessitated by His nature? If it is necessary for Him to create and preserve, this denies His aseity and makes Him dependent on the creature. This cannot be.

Grace and peace, Rev. Strange,

According to Hodge, it is necessitated by His nature in the sense of moral necessity or certainty. Although you say you agree with Hodge the statement above suggests that you may be falling into the same error that Hodge, Calvin, Dabney and other have rejected. The main point of this thread was the question of contingency, and you never really answered the question. Instead you brought in the term "consonant" which could be confused with contingency.

Can you clarify?

Thank!
Mike
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Not that I'm really trying to get into your conversation, but I just happened to notice what you said and thought I'd try to offer another perspective: Doesn't any attempt to provide an univocal definition to analogical knowledge presuppose that it's not really analogical since it could be reduced to univocal knowledge? If analogical knowledge exists as a qualitatively different type of knowledge, no such definition would be possible.

Mike, that's an interesting question. If no such definition is possible, how does one define "analogical?" An analogy by definition must have a point of resemblance.

The whole qualitative-quantitative debate is redundant once we confess, From everlasting to everlasting Thou art God. We know this because He has revealed it to us. At that point in time there is communion in the truth. However, the Subject knowing the truth is wholly other. He knows it independently and freely. If one attempts to place any limitation or constraint on eternal knowledge he ends up denying the very thing he confesses.
 

Stowaway

Puritan Board Freshman
If no such definition is possible, how does one define "analogical?" An analogy by definition must have a point of resemblance.

I don't know how to answer that question. My original idea about that was that "analogy" would have to be defined analogically, but I couldn't imagine what that could possibly mean or if it was just nonsense.

I originally came up with the idea because a Clarkian was claiming that the concept of analogical knowledge was self-defeating, but I realized that his conclusion was based on the presupposition that it could be defined univocally. In other words, he was presupposing a contradiction. However, in and of itself, it doesn't seem like the concept of a qualitatively different type of knowledge is impossible.

With respect to this difference between Clark and Van Til, and I remain unpersuaded either way.
 
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Stowaway

Puritan Board Freshman
... consonant with His nature

Grace and peace,

I found the following in Clark H. Pinnock's book "The Grace of God, the Will of Man: A Case for Arminianism":

"By means of his middle knowledge, God is able to construct a possible world that is both within his power to actualize and is consonant with his will." William L. Craig
 
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