Questions on Divine Simplicity

Knight

Puritan Board Freshman
Having mostly refrained from comment in this thread to see the direction in which the conversation would flow, I do have several thoughts and questions about divine simplicity on which I would be happy to receive feedback from wiser brothers.

God is without parts. I take this to mean that there are no prior, more fundamental existents or things of which God is "composed" as well as that God is not divisible. This is apophatic language with which I have no issue.

It is when one attempts a positive description of divine simplicity that I tend to have questions - not that I think the project is necessarily ill-advised. If that were the case, I might end my post here. However, I have yet to read a construction that leaves me without questions. In such cases, it helps when I understand the motivations behind various proposals.

For instance, I understood at least some of the motivations underlying Ulster Fry's view in the other thread: for him, the doctrine of divine simplicity is trivially true, for he holds an anti-realist view of abstract objects. As I mentioned in that thread, given this view, there are no "parts" of which God even could be composed (except bodily, I suppose - but God is obviously without a body).

While I also have some understanding of the motivations for this position, at the same time, this sort of "deflationary" metaphysic leaves me with Christological questions, such as if anti-realism is committed to some strain of Neo-Apollinarianism that William Lane Craig accepts (cf. this series, particularly part 5).

I also understand some of the motivations for accepting a "strong" view of divine simplicity on which all that is said to be "in" God is identical to God. Existence = essence, nature = will, no real distinction between "attributes," actus purus, and so forth. Prima facie, this "strong" view coheres with other Christian doctrines: monotheism, the Creator-creation distinction, divine immutability, etc. I am not yet convinced that it is the only position that coheres with these doctrines, though, and this is mostly due to unresolved questions I have. Among them:

1. At least one representative of this position, James Dolezal, says, "creatorhood belongs to God in His eternal essence" (All That Is In God, pg. 98). Given "strong" divine simplicity, I can understand why Dolezal would say this. The worry I have is that this seems to entail a blurring of the very Creator-creature distinction the "strong" view of divine simplicity ironically claims to protect. If such necessitarianism is true, there appears to be a mutual dependency between Creator and creature analogous to, say, the mutual dependency between the Father and the Son. In both cases, the former cannot exist without the latter. Relatedly (if not repeatedly) at stake is the question of divine self-sufficiency.

2. I don't mean to multiply questions unnecessarily, but to mention one more: I understand that on a "strong" view of divine simplicity, univocal predication would collapse the Creator-creature distinction. For example, on this view, it could not be the case that my "knowledge" and God's "knowledge" (with which He is identical) are univocal, for I am neither identical with my knowledge nor (more importantly) with God['s knowledge]. With that being said, there is an ontological and epistemological dimension to the following, interrelated questions:

If the "strong" model of divine simplicity is correct, in what way can it be truly said that men are images of God?
If the "strong" model of divine simplicity is correct, in what way can skepticism be avoided since what we know is not univocal with what God knows?

In the other thread, I confessed to having sympathies with Gordon Clark, not because I think we (or our knowledge) are identical to God (or His knowledge), but because I am genuinely perplexed by the answers to these questions I've read which typically appeal to ideas of "analogy," "archetype/ectype," etc. I genuinely don't follow the reasoning that accompanies these appeals.

In short, do these ideas suggest similarity between the "analogues"? If not, then the appeals appear empty. On the other hand, if these ideas do suggest similarity between the "analogues," I have a difficult time understanding how a "strong" view of divine simplicity could harmonize with that. Doesn't "similarity" presuppose real distinctions, ways in which one subject is like (yet also unlike) another?

Since I mentioned Clark earlier, here is one quote from his Language and Theology that might clarify why I don't understand how appeals to "analogy," "archetype/ectype," etc. sufficiently address the concerns of the questions:

If the doctrine of the atonement were clearly known, a preacher might use a pleasing analogy or illustration that might attract his congregation and help fix the meaning in their minds. But suppose none of them has the least literal notion of what doctrine X means. This might not be the case with some well instructed congregations, but it was certainly true on many foreign mission fields in the ninth or nineteenth century. Now, then, says the missionary, I want to explain to you doctrine X. None of them had even heard the word X before. So the missionary says, X is like the dawning of the morning. One of his audience thinks, X is an event that happens approximately every twenty-four hours. Another in the audience thinks, X is something reddish-orange. A third guesses that X is a work of art, though not necessarily reddish-orange. A fourth supposes that X is a method of locating east. But since none of them has any knowledge of the literal meaning of X, they have no way of determining in what respects X is like the dawn and in what respects it is not. Analogies require but do not furnish information.

The above questions probably read as more polemical than is my intention. This is a good point to stop and reiterate that I am only sincerely attempting to understand available responses to these questions.

Finally: in the thread I linked to at the beginning of this post, one comment was made that discussions might be more fruitful if all cards were laid on the table at the outset. I agree. At the risk of making this unbearably long, I will try to briefly summarize my own, current thought.

Regarding "abstract objects," I find myself attracted to theistic conceptual realism (theistic propositional realism might be a more appropriate moniker) on which propositions are divine thoughts. Contrary to Gordon Clark, these thoughts are not identical to God.

Regarding the intelligibility of allowing for real distinctions between divine attributes without also advocating for composition, I would attempt an analogy: on page 120 of Dolezal's All That Is in God, he writes (footnote 31):

Some critics of the doctrine of divine simplicity, such as R. T. Mullins, mistakenly believe divine simplicity means there are "no real distinctions in the simple God" and that "God has no distinctions." For Mullins, simplicity is thus obviously at offs with any affirmation of a real distinction among the divine persons. The End of the Timeless God (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 184. But divine simplicity does not deny distinction in the Godhead - not even real distinctions - but only such distinctions as would entail composition and so undermine God's pure actuality.

Okay: if the divine persons may be really distinct without entailing composition, why might not the divine attributes be really distinct without entailing composition?

Separately, is not the distinction between scientia simplicis and scientia libera real (unless one really is willing to accept necessitarianism and reject the latter)? Or would those who accept the "strong" view of divine simplicity regard these distinctions as within the realm of "ectype" rather than "archetype"? That would return us to the question of whether ectype is meaningfully "like" archetype: in what positive sense are we (or our knowledge) like God (and His knowledge) without introducing real distinctions?

Granted, these moves more so rely on tu quoque appeals than substantively undercut potential objections, but at least within intra-Trinitarian dialogue, I feel comfortable in making these sorts of arguments from parity of reasoning (since we all agree, for example, that the Trinitarian persons are really distinct).

I hope the heart of the post is apparent. Thanks in advance for any replies.
 
Ryan, thank you for the thoughtful post and penetrating questions. There were some very good questions raised on the other thread also that it would be good to tackle at some point.

I'm in something of a rush this morning, and hampered because my PRRD is at my study not my house. There's a helpful discussion of the sorts of distinctions that can be made: real, rational, and rational but with a basis outside of the analyzing subject. In the meantime, here's a quote I did have to hand:

In our finite minds, we divide the will of God, as the Scripture itself does, "according to the diversity of its objects." [quoting from Pictet, Theologia christiana, II.vi.3] To make the point as forcefully as possible, the distinctions in the divine will serve the purpose, not of dividing the will, but, explicitly, of preserving the sense of its unity: it is the Arminian, not the Reformed theology, that argued two wills in God.
[PRRD I:450-451]

I've quoted this before, but Steven J. Duby's referentially identical but denotatively diverse is such an elegant way to express how we think of God's attributes that I can't help repeating the line.

And that leads me to say that I think Duby's two books might provide quite a lot of help. Divine Simplicity: A Dogmatic Account is an excellent work with very clear and precise formulations. I think he could have expressed his exegetical case a little bit more forcefully, but when I read it a few years ago, I found it very helpful. His newer book, God in Himself was not as compelling to me, but to be fair I also read it under far less advantageous circumstances. It's certainly a worthy dialogue partner in thinking about the doctrine of God in relation to metaphysical commitments.
 
@Knight - Thanks for the thoughtful post.

I'm wondering out loud if you might benefit from reading Muller's PRRd 1 if you find the archetypal/ectypal discussion confusing.

Sometimes I think that the real barrier to laying hold of a theological idea is trying to figure out if it's in a domain of knowledge that we have access to.

Clark's example of analogy is a good example where it seems like, for some, if something cannot be apprehended by a form of Cartesian logic then language fails to communicate a theological truth.

It seems to me that archetypal and ectypal distinctions are simply trying to get at the very basic idea that God's ways are not our ways and His thoughts not our thoughts. If you read my post on that discussion, you'll even notice that ectypal theology included how Christ, in His humanity, had a perfect ectypal theology that is distinct from our own.

It also gets to the issue of whether or not theology is science or wisdom and the competing voices there and they might have different answers.

Perhaps the best I can answer as I'm wrapping my mind around your questions is that you could describe all that we could know in theology as a house with different portions of that house, maybe walls, floors, furniture, etc. Some theological methods would limit all the objects that could be known to something that they can fully describe propositional within certain philosophical rules. It seems to me, however, that the Reformed orthodox took varied approaches and certain of those elements in the house were "received" as much as something they could reason should be there. They might then use tools of reason to describe inter-relationships to theological truths but not all theological truths were reducible to something they could fully apprehend.

I don't know if I'm making any sense in how I'm wrestling with it, but it seems like all theologians are trying to get at maybe the same idea of simplicity and some stop at a certain level of saying "we probably shouldn't say any more than that because this allows us to adore this truth". Others seem to be saying: "No, we can't just stop there "and continue to describe and sub-divide the idea to say more about it.

I think what I enjoyed about PRRD1 was how Muller sort of shows you how different groups tackled the problem. That said, I don't think one will adequately understand what they're trying to get at with archetypal/ectypal theology if the topic is treated strictly according to philosophical ideas of analogy, and using polemics against analogy, in general, will sort of miss the point.
 
Greetings, brethren.

Ryan, in addressing the assertion by Dolezal that "creatorhood belongs to God in His eternal essence", I am reminded of a past thread wherein this issue was hashed out with considerable detail (https://www.puritanboard.com/threads/was-god-creator-before-creation.89463/). In one of his replies, Reverend Winzer offered this piece of wisdom that I think rightly grounds our knowledge of God as Creator:

Q: "If God did not move from potentially a Creator to actually a Creator (since God is pure act), then does that mean God must have eternally been Creator?"

A: "It could only entail this if creation was an essential attribute of God, which it is not. It is a free act of His will which has been accomplished for the manifestation of His goodness, wisdom, and power. The difference between essential glory and manifestative glory is quite important to understanding how God relates to creation. If His essential glory were immanently affected by the creation it would mean that sin actually lessens the glory of God and righteousness adds to it. This would be tantamount to saying that God is in process with the creation. Having said that, it is important to note that there is an essential 'relation' in God that is pure act with no potentiality, which is nothing other than the Three in Unity relating to each other according to personal properties. It is this personal and relational God which creates personally and relationally, as we clearly see in Genesis One. So there is an essential and eternal act which underlies the free act of creation and constitutes it a real manifestation of God's glory."

I take the above question as implicitly tendering a "strong" or Thomistic view of divine simplicity and immutability, that, as you note, tends towards necessitarianism on the part of God. Rev. Winzer's answer, at least as I understand it, helps clarify why such an abstruse view of God's simplicity does not square with the testimony furnished by Holy Writ as to the revelatory purpose of creation as well as the self-sufficiency and freedom inherent in the divine nature (Psalm 19:1, Psalm 102:25-57, Psalm 115:3, Jeremiah 51:15, Romans 1:20, Hebrews 11:3). I heartily recommend a thorough read-through of that thread.

With respect to your second thesis questioning the coherence of DDS as regards the relationship between ectypal and archetypal knowledge, am I right in saying that, per Clark, analogical uses of language must inevitably involve some real degree of correspondence between the two 'analogues', such that a shared 'sense' of literal meaning is a prerequisite? In other words, in order to communicate how two things may be similarly compared or contrasted, a univocal (one-to-one) understanding of their contextual sameness needs to exist in the minds of the interlocutors? Thus, knowledge of the atonement as received by the believer through Scripture and the Holy Spirit's witness must, in some sense, be univocal (one-to-one) with God's knowledge, in order for the communication of its meaning to be authentic? Do I have that right?

@py3ak, Thank you for recommending Duby's material. I will certainly check him out.
 
At least one representative of this position, James Dolezal, says, "creatorhood belongs to God in His eternal essence" (All That Is In God, pg. 98).

I really don't know why Dolezal or some other modern theologians claim this. It seems to be a new claim for advocates of simplicity. Yet the actual sources of the traditional doctrine all deny what Dolezal asserts.

Muller helps express one aspect of my frustration on this topic (3:25), that the wider context beyond isolated short sections about simplicity matters to its interpretation:
There is a distinct problem caused by the use of Aquinas for modern philosophical purposes...as is often the case, the examination of portions of his Summa theologiae apart from the larger corpus of his writings... The assumption of much of this writing appears to be that Aquinas is the representative thinker par excellence of medieval theology and that the Summa theologiae is the most complete expression of his thought on nearly all points, when in fact, his views often exemplify only one position in a major medieval debate and the fullest exposition of his ideas occurs in another document, such as his commentary on the Sentences. This problem is nowhere more evident than in the modern debate over the doctrine of divine simplicity.

See for example, Aquinas, ST I Q. 13 A. 7. It is in the chapter about divine names, rather than on simplicity. But it denotes and then explicitly addresses the concept relating to simplicity, about if God is eternally creator - which Aquinas explicitly denies.
Whether Names Which Imply Relation to Creatures Are Predicated of God Temporally?
Objection 1: It seems that names which imply relation to creatures are not predicated of God temporally. For such names signify the divine substance, as is universally held...Now the divine substance is not temporal, but eternal. Therefore these names are not applied to God temporally, but eternally.
...
On the contrary, Augustine says (De Trin. V) that this relative appellation "Lord" is applied to God temporally.
I answer that, The names which import relation to creatures are applied to God temporally, and not from eternity.
...Since therefore God is outside the whole order of creation, and all creatures are ordered to Him, and not conversely, it is manifest that creatures are really related to God Himself; whereas in God there is no real relation to creatures, but a relation only in idea, inasmuch as creatures are referred to Him. Thus there is nothing to prevent these names which import relation to the creature from being predicated of God temporally, not by reason of any change in Him, but by reason of the change of the creature; as a column is on the right of an animal, without change in itself, but by change in the animal.

I won't type the whole thing out, or include all his responses. I think it is worth considering that since Aquinas displays awareness of the question/objection, and takes the time to respond to it, he is probably the best expositor of what his own doctrine of simplicity has to say on it. He could be contradicting himself, but I think the better interpretation is that this section is a clarification of and expansion upon other comments regarding simplicity (and thus this is part of his doctrine of simplicity). In other words, Dolezal has a "stronger" view of simplicity than Aquinas does.

Just to be clear, I am not advocating above for agreeing with Aquinas' doctrine. I'm trying to point out that if Dolezal claims he is representing the traditional doctrine with eternal creatorhood, he is making a false claim, which the so-called strongest advocate of traditional simplicity explicitly denies. That creatorhood (or any relation with creatures) is an essential/eternal attribute of God is not in the traditional doctrine of simplicity.

Duby's book on simplicity is good. I also recommend Muller's PRRD. But, for a shorter read than Muller, see https://www.academia.edu/9502894/Sc...ical_and_Philosophical_Distinctions_and_Rules
 
1. At least one representative of this position, James Dolezal, says, "creatorhood belongs to God in His eternal essence" (All That Is In God, pg. 98).
Ryan, your post really deserves a long, meandering, and humane reply. But if that post is inside somewhere, it still hasn't reached my fingers! There is such an interface between presuppositions, methods, and expectations that finding the thread of that discourse is taking longer than I had expected. For now, I'll just tackle two things that stood out to me in your post.

I haven't read Dolezal, so I don't know what he means by "creatorhood" here. This is not language I would use, even if when carefully parsed it is capable of a proper meaning.

In whatever terms this may be managed, a distinction ad intra and ad extra is tremendously important. Nothing ad extra implies change in God. To illustrate great things with small, I don't become a different person by going five miles north of my current location. Spatial change is not essential change. Of course the relation between God and the created universe/individual elements within the created universe changes; but those relative changes don't alter God's identity.

Okay: if the divine persons may be really distinct without entailing composition, why might not the divine attributes be really distinct without entailing composition?
There are two things here to comment on. First is that really can be used as a substitute for genuinely, and wherever that's all it means there's not much room for disagreement within orthodoxy. The divine persons are genuinely distinct, because the Father is not the Son and so on. But really is also used in a more narrow sense, distinguishing one thing (res) from another. Sometimes people see real and don't grasp that this is a specific kind of distinction. I don't imagine you do that, but I wanted to be clear going in that it's not a question for me of questioning the genuineness of distinction.

Second, what are we distinguishing? There is the question of distinguishing persons from essence; that distinction is not real (in the narrow sense), but modal. The distinction between the persons is called real, but carefully qualified to add that this real distinction is incomprehensible, that it is "notional," and that it is personal not essential. As Heinrich Heppe explains:

8.—First of all then each of the three persons is according to its nature the ONE living and perfect God. But just as real and essential as the oneness in nature of the three persons is the distinction of persons in the divine nature.—POLANUS III, viii, 5–6: “The persons of the deity according to essence are one thing. Compared with each other they are pares seu aequales, holding in common an essential perfection, which is entire (tota) in all and each of the personae. Entire Deity is equal in the perfection of itself.—The persons of the Deity are distinguished among themselves not essentially (according to the esse common to them all) but nevertheless really; because one persona is produced by another. And at once they differ in their incommunicable attribute, i.e., according to the subsistence peculiar to each persona. Hence in the Trinity there is alius et alius, but not aliud et aliud. The Father is one, the Son another, the H. Spirit another (alius); because the persona of the Father is one, that of the Son another; that of the H. Spirit another (alia). But the Father is not one thing, the Son another thing, the H. Spirit another thing (aliud). Because there is not one essence of the Father, another of the Son and another of the H. Spirit. But there is the numerically one essence. The Father’s esse is the esse of the Son and of the H. Spirit: therefore the essence of the Father is the Son and the H. Spirit. But to be the Father is not to be the Son or the H. Spirit. As there is a supreme and single (individua) unity of the divine essence in the three personae, so there is a real and discrete distinction of the persons in the unity of the essence. The divine nature is God; therefore it is common to all three personae of the divine nature as the appellation God. The divine nature of the Father is the Father, the divine nature of the Son is the Son, and the divine nature of the H. Spirit is the H. Spirit. The nature is viewed as being determined and subsistent in the persona; each is unifold, both nature and person, yet they are both distinct ratione [in function?]; while the personae are distinct realiter. Therefore Father, Son and Spirit differ personally, not essentially.”

9.—The oneness, or the communio personarum divinarum is to be considered as ὁμοουσία, as ἰσότης, and as περιχώρησις ἐνάλληλος.—“The ὁμοουσία or consubstantialitas or coessentialitas of the divine persons is that whereby the three persons are of one and the same substance or essence, but singular and sole (unicae) numerically; or whereby they are one thing according to essence, the essence of all of them is one, and by no means one for the Father, another for the Son and another for the H. Spirit, 1 John 5:7 (the Spirit is the truth) John 10:30 (I and the Father are one).—ἰσότης of the divine persons is that by which the three persons are equal to each other by the essential attributes of Deity, by the act of subsisting, and in works and dignity and honour.—Περιχώρησις or ἐμπεριχώρησις ἐνάλληλος in the divine persons is the completely close union, whereby one person is in another, not like an accident in a subject, but in the way in which one person permeates and embraces in every direction the whole of another always and inseparably because of the numerically one and same essence, the whole of which the separate persons possess, Jn. 1:1 (in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God) 10:38 … know and understand that the Father is in me and I in the Father) 14:10f. (believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I say unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father biding in me doeth the works)” (POLAN III, 8).
The distinction of the persons is a twofold one; the persons are to be distinguished from the essence of the Deity and from each other. From the essence of Deity they are distinguished not realiter nor yet rationaliter, but modaliter, that is, in the manner of their subsisting.—KECKERMANN 59: “(Persons) are distinguished from essence, not sola ratione nor by a real distinction, nor even formally, as the Thomists in fact would have it—but modally or by a modal distinction, which is between the ens and the order or mode of the ens.”—RIISSEN IV. 6: “The divine personae differ from the essence not really, i.e., essentially, like thing and thing; but modally, like mode from thing. The personal attributes, by which the personae are distinguished from the essence, are definite modes by which the essence is characterised, not formally and strictly as in creatures which are affected by modes, but eminently (as limiting or extreme instances) and analogically, all imperfections being removed.”

10.—From each other the three persons of the Trinity are distinguished, not essentialiter nor rationaliter, but realiter (though incomprehensibly).—BUCAN I, 8: “This discrimen [discrimination] is not essential as in creatures, where each one has its own definite, measurable esse: there is not one essence of the Father, another of the Son, another of the H. Spirit, but one and the same one, which the Father communicates entire to the Son, and Father and Son communicate to the H. Spirit. It is not rational, because it is not ἐπινοίᾳ or verbally that one speaks of Father, Son and H. Spirit. Nor do we say this respective, in the relative sense in which a man may be and is called a father and a son. It is a real and yet incomprehensible discrimen. Each persona has its own peculiar definition or subsistent and incommunicable attribute, and differs from another not οὐσίᾳ, but τρόπῳ ὑπάρξεως.
Erroneous conceptions are (RIISSEN IV, 7): “1. Sabellianism, from Sabellius of Pentapolis, who came from the Egyptian city of Ptolemais, introduced about A.D. 260, later followed by Praxeas Asiaticus and Hermogenes Afer and some centuries later by Michael Servetus, who put only the distinction of ratio between the persons, so that there is but a single persona, which because of the various results is now called the Father, now the Son, now the H. Spirit. 2. The tritheism of Philoponus and Valentinus Gentilis, which out of the three personae fashions three eternal and unequal spirits, mutually distinct in essence.”—A DIEST 18: “Distinction of the personae is partly from the essence, partly among themselves. The former is one of ratio as between mode and thing, the latter real, as between mode and mode.”

11.—[The persons then differ not οὐσίᾳ but τρόπῳ ὑπάρξεως.]—“Distinction of persons is that by which one person is distinguished from the other persons by a fixed notion (certa notione).” This distinction depends upon the relation in which the three persons stand to each other. “The relation of the divine persons is the τρόπος ὑπάρξεως, the mode of existence, proper to each person and incommunicable, which does not compose the person, but composition apart constitutes it and distinguishes it from other persons.” Hence the relatio or notio personalis of the Father is paternitas, that of the Son filiatio or nativitas, that of the H. Spirit processio.—BUCAN III, 12: “(The attributes by which they are persons and really distinct from each other): (1) Ἀγεννησία or paternitas is the incommunicable attribute of the first persona of the Trinity, by which it comes about that the Father is a nullo but a seipso, not made, not begotten, but begetting the Son ab aeterno. (2) Γέννησις generatio or filiatio, in the passive sense of course, by which the Son receives and has in himself his whole and complete essence from the Father. (3) Ἐκπόρευσις, emanation or processio, also in the passive sense, by which the H. Spirit from eternity receives the same complete essence from Father and Son, not when he is sent or outpoured upon the house of David, but in respect of the essence which he receives from eternity, imparted to Him by Father and Son.”

12.—This intrapersonal relationship results in the distinction of the divine persons according to origin, order and operation. The origin of the divine personae is the procession of one person from another. In this respect the Father is described as the fons totius divinitatis, as God καθʼ ὑπεροχήν. Order of persons means that one person is, not a prius—in eternity a prius and a posterius are not to be looked for, CALVIN (I, xiii, 18)—but prior by nature or by cause: in this sense a first, second and third person is spoken of. The distinction of persons resting upon this according to operation is a twofold one, namely according to order and the mode of action in essential operations and according to personal operation.—Order of operations in the divine personae is the same in action as it is in existing. As therefore the Son has His existence from the Father, and the H. Spirit His from the Father and from the Son, so too in divine action the Father’s will takes precedence, so that the Son’s will follows; and similarly the H. Spirit follows the will of the Father and of the Son, yet not in time but in order.—The modus agendi in opera essentialia is as follows. The Father acts through the Son in the H. Spirit. Also the Father acts a nullo. The Son acts a Patre Gen. 19:24 [? 49:24 From thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel?] Jn. 5:19 (the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father doing: for what things soever he doeth, these the Son also doeth in like manner) 30 (I can of myself do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is righteous; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of him that sent me) 8:28 (when ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am, and I do nothing of myself; but as the Father taught me, I speak these things). The H. Spirit acts ab utroque John 16:13 (when He, the Spirit of truth is come, he shall guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak from himself; but what things soever he shall hear, these shall he speak; and he shall declare unto you the things that are to come).—KECKERMANN 71: “As is the order of existing, so also is the order of acting in the personae of the sacrosanct Trinity. The Father acts a sese, the Son a Patre and the H. Spirit ab utroque. As regards the essence, which is the first principle of action, all the persons act a sese. But as regards the order and determination of action they do not all act a sese, because they do not all possess their mode of existence a sese Jn. 5:14.”
Reformed Dogmatics, ed. Ernst Bizer, trans. G. T. Thomson (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2007), 112–116.

I wish I had a better source available for easy quotation than Heppe. Apart from the barbarous formatting and the misunderstandings sometime present in Heppe, or in Bizer, or in Thomson, the nature of the work as a farrago of interpreted quotations makes it difficult to see how any one author handled objections or if there was a difference in precision between them.
 
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Wendelin's Christian Theology has a fairly long and detailed discussion on some of the matters raised in the OP.


For instance, note this which is relevant to the question of creatorhood:
The Socinians take exception, that some attributes of God are essential, others non-essential; as when God is called the Judge and avenger of sins, etc. They deny the attributes of the latter sort to be identical with the essence of God: because God is able to be without them: For, if there were not sins, which are able not to be, He would not be the judge and avenger of sins. So also to be creator is an attribute that is not identical with God: for God would have been, even if He were not the creator: for He was able not to create the world.

Response: In the divine attributes that are called non-essential, three things are to be distinguished: 1. the formal principle of acting itself, whereby God judges, avenges, creates, etc.; 2. the Termination of that principle, or its application to an object, which is judged, created, etc.; 3. the Relation, which arises from the application, between the cause and the effect.

The first properly has the relation of a divine attribute, and is the same with the divine essence, and an essential attribute, for example, righteousness, wisdom, power, etc. The second and third are not properly attributes: But they are applicable to God only through an extrinsic denomination from created things, and are not in God, but in the creatures: and so in no manner do they impede divine simplicity, nor undermine the rule, there is nothing in GOD that is not GOD Himself, which rule displeases the Socinians.
Or this, which is relevant to whether God willing himself necessarily and other things freely means there are two wills in God:
(4.) The will of God is not the very essence of God: but it is really distinct from it:

Therefore, there is in God a subject and an attribute, really distinct from the subject; and by consequence a real composition.

The Antecedent is proven: Because the will of God is free: the essence of God is not free, but necessary.


Response: I deny the Antecedent. In proof, I answer: Concerning the will of GOD (the same is the reason for the divine decrees), three things are to be regarded and distinguished: 1. The Essence of GOD, considered in terms of power and vital action, and insofar as it is necessarily directed toward, and terminated upon, the love of the divine goodness itself. 2. The Termination of that essence upon the production, government, and love of creatures. 3. The Relation of reason, which results from that termination.

Whence it is evident in what respect both God’s will and essence are free and necessary. Namely, whether His essence or His will be considered in the first way, it is necessary. In the second way, both are free: for no creature is absolutely necessary: Whence neither God’s will nor essence, considered in terms of vital principle, is necessarily terminated upon the creature. In the third way, both are partly necessary and partly free: for a relation necessarily results, with a termination posited upon a created thing: but it is not able to result, if the termination does not precede. But, you say, the decrees of God are many, according to the multitude of objects concerning which they are made: the divine essence is one: Therefore, they are not able to be the same as the divine essence: for one thing and many things are not one thing.

Response to the Major: The decrees of GOD are said to be many, not with respect to the acts of God, internal, eternal, various in number and distinct; for God decreed all things by one, internal and eternal act: But with respect to objects, with which the act of the divine decree is conversant, from which, by external denomination, a multitude is attributed to it, without that internal multiplication of it: just as a center is not multiplied, although many line extend from it to the circumference; neither are the line confounded, although all concur in it.
 
Thank you for the various responses. It has been one of the more busy work weeks I can recall. I hope to be in a place to more peaceably digest everyone's thoughts soon.
 
Thank you all for having patience. Your posts required serious reflection.

Firstly, I want to acknowledge a point made by @83r17h: "actual sources of the traditional doctrine all deny what Dolezal asserts." I defer to your and others’ judgments on whether Dolezal’s affirmation that "creatorhood belongs to God in His eternal essence" is out of step with the very tradition of which Dolezal would consider himself to be a member.

To clarify, my question is not whether Dolezal is in step with his own tradition (which is aligned with the "strong" view of divine simplicity) but rather whether Dolezal's affirmation is a logical consequence of said tradition. Nevertheless, I do want to point out that a quote of Wendelin by @py3ak seems to support Dolezal, however:

In the divine attributes that are called non-essential, three things are to be distinguished: 1. the formal principle of acting itself, whereby God judges, avenges, creates, etc. …

The first properly has the relation of a divine attribute, and is the same with the divine essence, and an essential attribute, for example, righteousness, wisdom, power, etc.

I don’t know how else to interpret this than as support for Dolezal.

Granted, in the second quote @py3ak provides, Wendelin denies that any “creature is absolutely necessary.” But he does this by suggesting that there is a difference in that towards which God’s will is “directed” or “terminated” upon:

The Essence of GOD, considered in terms of power and vital action, and insofar as it is necessarily directed toward, and terminated upon, the love of the divine goodness itself. 2. The Termination of that essence upon the production, government, and love of creatures.

Assuredly, there are different objects upon which God’s “power and vital action” terminates. But in the first place, if the “power and vital action” of God is the very essence of God - i.e. if God is pure act – then is not the “power and vital action” of God one and the same regardless of the objects upon which it “terminates” or is “directed toward”? If so, then I am left wondering how “The Essence of GOD, considered in terms of power and vital action… is” not also “necessarily directed toward… the production, government, and love of creatures.”

Compare the affirmation that God is pure act to Matthew Winzer's 7th post in this thread which @Afterthought and @Laborer for the Lord recommended. In response to a question in which it was asked, “What about God's will and decree being eternal? Does this then make God's act of creating an eternal act (as it is an act of God), and so God is eternally Creator?” Winzer replies:

MW said:
No, because it is a free act of His will. The only thing that is essential is His own Being.”

I agree with Winzer, but isn’t what he says a straightforward admission that there is a real distinction between God’s “free” act and His “essential” being... something that most within the tradition of a “strong” view of divine simplicity would not abide?

This question dovetails with a quote by Duby - whose book does look interesting (albeit expensive) - that @py3ak mentioned in an early post. I can only read a preview of the book, so I do not know what Duby means by “denotatively diverse.” Whatever it means, if the divine attributes are “referentially identical,” his position does not seem different than Dolezal et al... But you are free to send me the book :D

On the note of real distinction, I had asked:

Knight said:
...if the divine persons may be really distinct without entailing composition, why might not the divine attributes be really distinct without entailing composition?

I didn't exactly follow in what way the Heppe quote answered this question (if it was meant to). I am not suggesting, of course, that the divine attributes could be really distinct in the same sense the persons are. In fact, I do not intend to specify in what way the divine attributes are really distinct (if they are), only that I do not see any reason to suppose that "real distinction" must entail composition (pace Dolezal).

Someone recently directed me to the following quote by Dabney I find agreeable (link):

Dabney said:
Simplicity of God's Substance.

Divines are accustomed to assert of the divine substance an absolute simplicity. If by this it is meant that He is uncompounded, that His substance is ineffably homogeneous, that it does not exist by assemblage of atoms, and is not discerptible, it is true. For all this is clear from His true spirituality and eternity. We must conceive of spiritual substance as existing because all the acts, states, and consciousnesses of spirits, demand a simple, uncompounded substance. The same view is probably drawn from His eternity and independence. For the only sort of construction or creation, of which we see anything in our experience, is that made by some aggregation of parts, or composition of substance; and the only kind of death we know is by disintegration. Hence, that which has neither beginning nor end is uncompounded.

But that God is more simple than finite spirits in this, that in Him substance and attribute are one and the same, as they are not in them, I know nothing. The argument is, that as God is immutably what He is, without succession, His essence does not like ours pass from mode to mode of being, and from act to act, but is always all modes, and exerting all acts; His modes and His acts are Himself. God's thought is God. He is not active, but activity. I reply, that if this means more than is true of a man's soul, viz: that its thought is no entity, save the soul thinking; that its thought, as abstracted from the soul that thinks it, is only an abstraction and not a thing; it is undoubtedly false. For then we should have reached the pantheistic notion, that God has no other being than the infinite series of His own consciousnesses and Nor would we be far off from the other result of this fell theory; that all that is, is God. For he who has identified God's acts hence with His being, will next identify the effects thereof, the existence of the creatures therewith.

For those who responded to the topic of "analogy," since Matthew Winzer has already been mentioned, I agree with his posts 24 and 28 here:

MW said:
Even the term analogical presupposes there is something univocal at one point which is equivocal at other points… how does one define "analogical?" An analogy by definition must have a point of resemblance.

I am not trying to be obtuse. I just don’t understand what sort of “logic” (Aristotelian, Cartesian, or otherwise) would allow for analogues that have no similarity or resemblance. It’s one thing to say we don’t know the similarity or resemblance, quite another to say that there is none.

If one holds the latter to be the case, what truth could be communicated in a statement such as “our knowledge or being is ‘analogical’ to God’s knowledge or being”? And if what I am asking implies a more “philosophical” understanding of ‘analogy,’ what would the “theological” understanding be, especially given revelation that we are images of God prima facie suggests similarity or resemblance?

Semper Fidelis said:
It seems to me that archetypal and ectypal distinctions are simply trying to get at the very basic idea that God's ways are not our ways and His thoughts not our thoughts.

This is negative or apophatic language with which I entirely agree. On the other hand, is there not more we can positively say about the sense in which God’s thoughts are not our thoughts? For example, His thoughts are original and immutable. Ours are derivative and mutable.

Despite the differences we can (to an extent) state positively, that Isaiah 55:8-9 refers to God’s “thoughts” and our “thoughts” using the same word would seem to imply some sort of referential overlap – perhaps that these “thoughts” terminate on the same object (e.g. propositions), albeit in a distinct way (such as I mention above) that faithfully accords God the transcendence any comparison between created and Creator must warrant.

I appreciate the engagement. I hope the above sufficiently (if indirectly) addressed everyone's responses.
 
This question dovetails with a quote by Duby - whose book does look interesting (albeit expensive) - that @py3ak mentioned in an early post. I can only read a preview of the book, so I do not know what Duby means by “denotatively diverse.” Whatever it means, if the divine attributes are “referentially identical,” his position does not seem different than Dolezal et al... But you are free to send me the book :D

With regard to the freedom of God's ad extra acts if we rightly call him actus purissimus, it seems to me that perhaps the first question to resolve is really a rather subjective one. Why does this strike people so differently? If I'm understanding you, it sounds like it's because you want to maintain the freedom of God's external acts you question whether his will can be identical with his existence. Whereas I don't experience that as a point of cognitive tension. Fred Sanders observed to me that it isn't necessary to reify the will, and there is certainly traditional support for that. God's will is God willing as God's knowledge is God knowing. I suppose that probably doesn't account for all of the difference in how this comes across to us, but it might be worthwhile to raise that point all the same.

In terms of summarizing the potential variety, here is Richard Muller, PRRD III:289
In the light of these contemporary questions and in the light of the traditional discussion of the kinds of distinctions that could legitimately be posited among the divine attributes, the Reformed argued, not one, but at least three somewhat different ways of understanding the distinction of divine attributes, each of which reflects one of the major medieval approaches to the problem — in summary: first, the attributes are essentially one in God, but known to reason as distinct in their operation ad extra; second, the attributes are essentially one in God, are understood by us as distinct ratio ratiocinata cum fundamento in re, but are also recognized to be distinct in God eminenter or virtualiter and, according to some of the Reformed writers, distinct realiter in their effects; third, in a slight variant or elaboration of the second, the attributes are essentially identical in God, externally distinct rationaliter* or formaliter, as known in their operations, and distinct in the Godhead itself eminenter or virtualiter.
[* corrected from the misprint ratinaliter]

The succeeding pages (through 298) discuss that summary in detail, citing various theologians under each heading and giving some of their statements.
 

With regard to the freedom of God's ad extra acts if we rightly call him actus purissimus, it seems to me that perhaps the first question to resolve is really a rather subjective one. Why does this strike people so differently? If I'm understanding you, it sounds like it's because you want to maintain the freedom of God's external acts you question whether his will can be identical with his existence. Whereas I don't experience that as a point of cognitive tension. Fred Sanders observed to me that it isn't necessary to reify the will, and there is certainly traditional support for that. God's will is God willing as God's knowledge is God knowing. I suppose that probably doesn't account for all of the difference in how this comes across to us, but it might be worthwhile to raise that point all the same.

In terms of summarizing the potential variety, here is Richard Muller, PRRD III:289

[* corrected from the misprint ratinaliter]

The succeeding pages (through 298) discuss that summary in detail, citing various theologians under each heading and giving some of their statements.

You are understanding my concern precisely. I am also happy to reframe my concern as whether God's willing is identical with His existence. I don't think it makes much difference.

To share a little more, I used to be a necessitarian (example). I have since changed my mind for several reasons (example, example). Among other concerns, foremost is the following:

Consider what it would mean for God and creation to be ontologically distinct yet for the latter to be necessitated by the former. This would be analogous to a particular understanding of the doctrine of eternal generation - which, even if untrue, highlights the point. If the Father necessarily generates the Son, the Father and Son would be mutually dependent upon one another. Obviously, the Son would depend upon the Father, being necessitated by Him. In turn, however, the Father could be who He is ("Father") without a Son.

So, too, a necessitated creation would mean that the Creator and creature are mutually dependent such that God cannot be who He is ("Creator") without a creation. If necessitarianism is true, then God not only needs to create to be Creator, He needs to be Creator. Creation is no longer contingent, so God as Creator isn't a contingent predicate either. Indeed, it's essential or necessary that He be Creator. There is, then, a real dependence on creation in order for one to be able to refer to God as what He essentially and necessarily must be - Creator.

The point needn't be that the Father-Son relationship is exactly the same as the Creator-creature relationship. One could maintain (as I did and do) that the Father and Son are of the same nature, whereas God and creation are not. In both cases, however, necessitation entails mutual dependency, and this is what changed my mind...

In short, for a Christian, theistic-necessitarianism is caught on the horns of a dilemma: 1) a pantheistic concession (such as a theistic-Karofskyan necessitarian would make) would salvage the doctrine of divine sufficiency at the expense of the Creator-creature distinction; 2) on the other hand, a concession that there is a mutual dependency between an ontologically distinct Creator and creation would salvage the doctrine of the Creator-creature distinction at the expense of divine sufficiency.

I will check Muller when I get home, thank you.
 
Thanks for those links, Ryan, as well as the confirmation that I'm understanding your point so far. In perusing what you have posted, I think I may have come across part of the answer to my question about why these things strike us so differently.

I think you're right to say that when people ask why God made this world rather than some other, the answer generally is that it is in keeping with his nature. Except under some specific circumstances, that strikes me as something of a non-answer. Everything God does is like himself, worthy of himself, not in contravention of his own nature. We know he cannot lie or deny himself.

But I find it a non-answer, or a misleading answer, because it seems to suggest that God didn't really have a choice about what he did. If this world is compatible with his nature, what else would he do? And if he is obligated to do what is maximally compatible with his nature, then even the option not to create was not ultimately viable.

But a different kind of answer is possible: because he chose to. That's also a non-answer in the sense that it simply reaffirms the starting point. But I find it to be a different kind of non-answer because it doesn't shuffle away the difficulty. It reminds us, as Turretin said, that no cause can be assigned for the will of God (though he could have been a little stronger on this point, in my view). It takes us back to Deuteronomy 7:7-8. And it leaves us in pretty good company:

Anselm, Proslogion §11
Therefore it is just in relation to You, O just and benevolent God, both when You punish and when You pardon. Truly, then, ‘all the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth’ and yet ‘the Lord is just in all his ways’. And without any inconsistency at all, since it is not just for those to be saved whom You will to punish, and it is not just for those to be damned whom You will to pardon. For that alone is just which You will, and that is not just which You do not will. Thus, then, Your mercy is derived from your justice since it is just that You are so good that You are good even in forgiving.

Peter Lombard, Sentences, Book II, D.1, 6.2 [Why was the soul united to the body?]
To this it may first be answered: because God willed it, and the cause of his will is not to be sought.

Martin Luther from his Lectures on Romans (9:14)
What shall we say then? Is there injustice with God? No. (Rom. 9:14.)

The apostle furnishes no other proof for the statement that there is no injustice with God than that He says: "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy" (Rom. 9:15), which is the same as to say: I will have mercy to whom I intended to be merciful or to him who was predestined to receive my mercy.

This is hard to take for the proud who claim to know everything, but it is sweet and welcome to the meek and humble, for they despair of themselves and this is why the Lord accepts them.

For there is no other reason for his justice and there can be no other than his will. Why, then, does man grumble about the impossible, namely, that God does not act according to the law? Could it be possible that God is not God? Moreover, inasmuch as his will is the highest good, why are we not ready and eager to see it done, especially in view of the fact that it cannot possibly be evil? And if you say: But to me it is evil, I answer: No. It is evil to no one. But the fact that his will cannot be managed and that men cannot cause it to be done, this is an evil to them. If one wills what God wills, even if this means to be damned and rejected, one has no evil. Then one wills what God wills and patience enables one to bear it.

John Calvin, Institutes, III.23.2
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.

Nicholas Byfield, An Exposition on Colossians (1:19)
To subject our reasons and affections to God’s will, though he should show us no other reason of his doings, but his will: for we must always know that things are always just, because he willed them.
 
py3ak said:
But a different kind of answer is possible: because he chose to. That's also a non-answer in the sense that it simply reaffirms the starting point. But I find it to be a different kind of non-answer because it doesn't shuffle away the difficulty. It reminds us, as Turretin said, that no cause can be assigned for the will of God...

On a "strong" view of divine simplicity, God doesn't "choose" His own will[ing] - God is said will[ing]. In that case, I fail to see how Dolezal's inference that "creatorhood" is essential to God is avoidable. That is, I fail to see how "because he chose to [create]" is an answer available to an advocate of a "strong" view of divine simplicity.

I actually roughly agree with the position you stake out in your post (although I reject absolute voluntarism, if that is at any point a hidden implication). I'm just not sure if it was designed to alleviate the concerns about the "strong" view of divine simplicity. Perhaps my interacting with your following thoughts might be helpful to highlight my continued concern:

py3ak said:
I think you're right to say that when people ask why God made this world rather than some other, the answer generally is that it is in keeping with his nature. Except under some specific circumstances, that strikes me as something of a non-answer. Everything God does is like himself, worthy of himself, not in contravention of his own nature. We know he cannot lie or deny himself.

But I find it a non-answer, or a misleading answer, because it seems to suggest that God didn't really have a choice about what he did. If this world is compatible with his nature, what else would he do? And if he is obligated to do what is maximally compatible with his nature, then even the option not to create was not ultimately viable.

As I write here, I do think there is a way to avoid the extremes of 1) an absolutely necessary creation and 2) rendering God's choice to create purposeless, reasonless, unintentional, etc. (cf. this thread, in which it was noted that a former advocate of a "strong" view of divine simplicity felt compelled to affirm that "the effects which God produces... do not arise from a very specific intention to create this particular world rather than another"). The way to avoid these extremes is, I think, as follows:

Knight said:
Was this creation necessitated? Did God have to create at all? If divine sufficiency is true and pantheism is false, I think not.

This does beg the question as to whether God's choice to create this world is "arbitrary." In a sense, the answer to this must be yes. In another sense, no.

When I was a child, one of the first philosophically interesting things I read was in Animorphs: "...can you decide to do nothing? That's a decision too." (K. A. Applegate, The Message). My dad also listened to Rush quite frequently, and their following refrain in the song Freewill communicates the same point: "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice."

That is, God either could have chosen to create - as He did - or chosen not to create. But a choice simpliciter had to be made. A choice was necessary even though one specified choice was not. Accommodating our language to the timelessness of God's eternal choice is not easy, but however one wants to phrase it, the reality of having to make a timeless choice itself was not arbitrary.

Neither was God's choice arbitrary in the following sense - God could have had [and indeed does have] reasons for creating this world "so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places." One may ask for what reason He wanted to make that known. I believe the answer to all such teleological questioning is that all things exist for the glory of God. Although such reasons for His choice are no more necessitated than the choice to create itself, they are still reasons.

This departs from Karofsky: in her third paragraph, when she says that if necessitarianism were false, then "any choice can follow," "that anything is possible," or that "nothing is necessary." If I understand her correctly, I don't follow her reasoning here and disagree with her. That God, being free, is not limited to one choice does not imply "any choice can follow" in the sense, for example, of "any choice [which we could imagine]." We have epistemic limitations, as Karofsky herself acknowledges. These limitations may prevent us from understanding why some choices which we might imagine God could have made might not, in fact, "follow" or be consistent with the nature of God.

Finally, then, in what way must we admit that God's choice is "arbitrary"? God's free choice is the final, metaphysical (causal) explanation of how this world came to be. If we attempt to ask why or for what reason this world was chosen rather than not so created in the sense of seeking a deeper, more fundamental metaphysical explanation for God's choice, I don't think we find one. While it could have "pleased" God to refrain from creating this world, He was "pleased" to freely choose to create this world. He did not have to choose to create this world, and the same can be said for any "reasons" God may have had in freely choosing to create this world. Again, however, this is not a problem, for God had to choose, and He [freely] has.

Moving on, in reply to Karofsky's fourth and fifth paragraphs on pages 76-77 of her book (cited above), God is indeed the necessary basis for the contingentarian-theist. But I don't think this statement of hers follows: "if the basis is entirely necessary, there can be no contingency." A thorough reply would require a much longer post than I intend here to provide, as it would require a full-fledged exposition of one's metaphysical views to form a complete response to Karofsky. I will, however, offer a few reflections.

Initially, I didn't understand on what grounds she thinks a necessary being would have to [timelessly] act in a way that is necessitated rather than merely in a manner consistent with the nature of said being. In a different context, she makes a similar assertion: "the divine essence includes the divine will and thus includes everything that God chooses" (pg. 12). By initial appearances, she conflates God's will with the exercise thereof.
Additionally, given her first argument against Aquinas on page 11, I am not sure to what extent Karofsky is familiar with distinctions between God's natural and free knowledge. Her second and third arguments against Aquinas also lead me to wonder how much exposure she has to theistic replies to Euthyphro's dilemma.

An alternative explanation for pages 11-12 might be that Karofsky is only attempting to internally critique the philosophers about whom she is writing (Aquinas, Leibniz). Even if that is the case, her case against theistic contingentarianism on page 76 seemed lacking, and given that I disagreed with her exposition of Augustine, if I knew more about Aristotle and/or Leibniz, I could imagine finding myself disagreeing with her historical analysis of them too.

In general, it was my impression, then, that Karofsky's arguments against theistic contingentarianism here were laden with hidden, unsubstantiated metaphysical assumptions. I thought she might regard certain, controversial views of God - e.g. absolute divine simplicity - as standard for all Christians.

The answer I give in the course of this quote is strikingly similar to your own... your quotations certainly align with my own affirmation that "If we attempt to ask why or for what reason this world was chosen rather than not so created in the sense of seeking a deeper, more fundamental metaphysical explanation for God's choice, I don't think we find one." But note my last paragraph. I think the answer I (we?) give is predicated on a rejection of a "strong" view of divine simplicity.

It may well be I misunderstand the intentions behind your post. If it was to simply outline common ground, we certainly have some... and I don't mean to dismiss or trivialize that!

But as mentioned earlier in this thread, one clarification I made regarding a point of the thread itself was to help me determine whether "whether Dolezal's affirmation [of creatorhood belonging to God's eternal essence] is a logical consequence" of a "strong" view of divine simplicity. What has been said thus far has primarily served to confirm in my mind that Dolezal is correct, in which case necessitarianism would follow from a "strong" view of divine simplicity. Perhaps more awaits to be said.
 
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I think we do have a fair amount of common ground, and that's a good thing. I certainly appreciate your anti-necessitarian concern, and trust you can see that whatever deductions people might make from some of my words I'm by no means affirming that God is constrained to do X rather than Y (although whatever choice he makes he will do so in a way that is like himself). I heartily concur that there isn't a deeper explanation to why God's decree is what it is.

Without speaking to what Dolezal means, because I haven't read him and because I think the language of "creatorhood" sounds like it is capable of being parsed in more than one way, I do affirm that God's will is not really distinct from his existence. If that qualifies as "strong" that's fine, although I probably wouldn't have used that term on my own. Simple simplicity that preserves the oneness of God and his exhaustive identity with himself per Exodus 3:14 is my concern. But what you say below doesn't sound like what I think.
On a "strong" view of divine simplicity, God doesn't "choose" His own will[ing] - God is said will[ing]. In that case, I fail to see how Dolezal's inference that "creatorhood" is essential to God is avoidable. That is, I fail to see how "because he chose to [create]" is an answer available to an advocate of a "strong" view of divine simplicity.

The language of choosing his own willing is a little disconcerting to me. It doesn't follow to me that if we refuse to posit a real distinction between God and his will then choice is eliminated. After all, his will is not a thing, it is God himself considered from the standpoint of his choice. The content of the decree is not included in the essence of God, although the fact of a decree is.

It doesn't surprise me that we struggle with this, because the interface of unchanging eternity and changing creation is going to be inscrutable. We have a hard time conceptualizing eternity already, and adding time to the mix doesn't make it any easier. The ad intra/ad extra distinction has given me the most help on that front, I think, although Fred Sanders observation that we seem to need a gasket between eternity and time may also be a fruitful suggestion. I'm still thinking about that one.
 
Without speaking to what Dolezal means, because I haven't read him and because I think the language of "creatorhood" sounds like it is capable of being parsed in more than one way...

However essential "creatorhood" is parsed, it implies that creation is essential. I understand this as a problematic denial of divine self-sufficiency; God could not have refrained from creating.

I do affirm that God's will is not really distinct from his existence. If that qualifies as "strong" that's fine, although I probably wouldn't have used that term on my own. Simple simplicity that preserves the oneness of God and his exhaustive identity with himself per Exodus 3:14 is my concern.

Earlier, you said, "God's will is God willing." In that case, God willing is not really distinct from his existence. Does not God willing include God creating? If not, how is such a distinction intelligible (also, see below discussion on Steven Nemes)?

But what you say below doesn't sound like what I think. The language of choosing his own willing is a little disconcerting to me.

Exactly. Hence, the above. By the way, I am not suggesting my position is that God chooses His own willing. That would somewhat sound like it leads to infinite regress.

I was only trying to point out that on a "strong" view of divine simplicity, God is His very "choosing"/willing. Thus, a simple reference to God's "choosing" is insufficient in terms of being able to provide a possible solution to the question of how a "strong" view of divine simplicity can avoid necessitarianism (insofar as God Himself is necessary and conceived, in this context, as identical to His "choosing"/willing).

It doesn't follow to me that if we refuse to posit a real distinction between God and his will then choice is eliminated. After all, his will is not a thing, it is God himself considered from the standpoint of his choice. The content of the decree is not included in the essence of God, although the fact of a decree is.

I strongly agree with the last statement bold. It is very well put! I am still puzzled how an advocate of a "strong" view of divine simplicity can consistently affirm this given what has been said above.

So let's turn to the first bold statement: "It doesn't follow to me that if we refuse to posit a real distinction between God and his will then choice is eliminated." Here is the crux of the matter: the problem I find is that "choice" might mean many things. When I was a necessitarian, I also used to say that God still "chose" to create even though (in my mind) such "choice" was necessitated. Thus, the question isn't so much whether "choice" is eliminated as it is whether free "choice" is eliminated such that necessitarianism results.

On the other hand, it does matter how "choice" simpliciter is defined. For in my last post, I alluded to a former advocate (Steven Nemes) of a "strong" view of divine simplicity who felt compelled to affirm that "the effects which God produces... do not arise from a very specific intention to create this particular world rather than another." He did this to avoid tying a "strong" view of divine simplicity to necessitarianism. See posts 26-37 here.

If one takes this position Nemes advocated (before he abandoned it), though, I would not regard that as God "choosing" to create - the word would be emptied of its meaning. As I say in that thread, Nemes' admission sounds reminiscent of William Lane Craig admitting that on his view, God is dealt His hand. The difference is that in this scenario, God has dealt His own hand - only He has had no intentional say in which hand He has dealt Himself.

For the sake of comparison, this returns me to the following citation of Wendelin you provided earlier:

The Essence of GOD, considered in terms of power and vital action, and insofar as it is necessarily directed toward, and terminated upon, the love of the divine goodness itself. 2. The Termination of that essence upon the production, government, and love of creatures.

I replied:

Knight said:
Assuredly, there are different objects upon which God’s “power and vital action” terminates. But in the first place, if the “power and vital action” of God is the very essence of God - i.e. if God is pure act – then is not the “power and vital action” of God one and the same regardless of the objects upon which it “terminates” or is “directed toward”? If so, then I am left wondering how “The Essence of GOD, considered in terms of power and vital action… is” not also “necessarily directed toward… the production, government, and love of creatures.”

The position of Steven Nemes would seem to be something along the lines of that the “power and vital action” of God are not one and the same in all cases; in particular, the “power and vital action” of God are not “directed toward” creation. I don't presume to say Wendelin was a proto-Nemeian (?), of course... but that Wendelin mentions "direction" in the case of God's own [vital] action towards Himself but not in the case of creation is rather conspicuous!

As an aside, I also don't know that Nemes' former position really enabled him to evade the charge of necessitarianism.

In any case, it would be helpful if you explained whether or not you think God's "choice" to create this world means that you think the “power and vital action” of God are “directed toward” creation.

It doesn't surprise me that we struggle with this, because the interface of unchanging eternity and changing creation is going to be inscrutable. We have a hard time conceptualizing eternity already, and adding time to the mix doesn't make it any easier. The ad intra/ad extra distinction has given me the most help on that front, I think, although Fred Sanders observation that we seem to need a gasket between eternity and time may also be a fruitful suggestion. I'm still thinking about that one.

Depending on your definition, "inscrutable" might be a bit strong since, for example, I do agree with you that the ad intra/ad extra distinction - which is most useful when it presupposes anti-necessitarianism - is a helpful (and perhaps, as you say, the most helpful) way to conceptualize "time" and "eternity." It's been a while since I've thought about various theories of time, but I recall Paul Helm as a sharp advocate for divine timelessness.

Thank you for the continued interaction, by the way.
 
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However essential "creatorhood" is parsed, it implies that creation is essential. I understand this as a problematic denial of divine self-sufficiency; God could not have refrained from creating.
I would certainly disagree with any implication that creation is essential.

Earlier, you said, "God's will is God willing." In that case, God willing is not really distinct from his existence. Does not God willing include God creating? If not, how is such a distinction intelligible (also, see below discussion on Steven Nemes)?
Only hypothetically, as I understand it. As Muller puts it (PRRD, III:448):
Indeed, God is free to "abstain" entirely from the production of the world, not merely according to a "freedom of spontaneity" but also according to the "freedom of indifference" or "freedom of contrariety." God's immutable willing of the world does not render the objects of his willing absolute necessities, given that when God wills any particular result, its contrary remains possible — namely, a resident possibility in the divine scientia necessaria. In other words, there is no violation of the law of noncontradiction: God cannot equally will and not will a particular object "in a composite sense" (in sensu composito), but "in a divided sense" (in sensu diviso) he can will a particular object and know not willing it or willing its contrary as a possibility.

Exactly. Hence, the above. By the way, I am not suggesting my position is that God chooses His own willing. That would somewhat sound like it leads to infinite regress.

I was only trying to point out that on a "strong" view of divine simplicity, God is His very "choosing"/willing. Thus, a simple reference to God's "choosing" is insufficient in terms of being able to provide a possible solution to the question of how a "strong" view of divine simplicity can avoid necessitarianism (insofar as God Himself is necessary and conceived, in this context, as identical to His "choosing"/willing).
I'm not sure I can say much more here than I already have. From my perspective, the distinctions between the decree and its execution, works ad intra and ad extra, and what is true ex hypothesi in light of the content of God's decree versus what is necessarily true in light of God's existence are adequate conceptual tools that allow me to identify God as simple and the whole content of the decree as free.

I strongly agree with the last statement bold. It is very well put! I am still puzzled how an advocate of a "strong" view of divine simplicity can consistently affirm this given what has been said above.

So let's turn to the first bold statement: "It doesn't follow to me that if we refuse to posit a real distinction between God and his will then choice is eliminated." Here is the crux of the matter: the problem I find is that "choice" might mean many things. When I was a necessitarian, I also used to say that God still "chose" to create even though (in my mind) such "choice" was necessitated. Thus, the question isn't so much whether "choice" is eliminated as it is whether free "choice" is eliminated such that necessitarianism results.

On the other hand, it does matter how "choice" simpliciter is defined. For in my last post, I alluded to a former advocate (Steven Nemes) of a "strong" view of divine simplicity who felt compelled to affirm that "the effects which God produces... do not arise from a very specific intention to create this particular world rather than another." He did this to avoid tying a "strong" view of divine simplicity to necessitarianism. See posts 26-37 here.

If one takes this position Nemes advocated (before he abandoned it), though, I would not regard that as God "choosing" to create - the word would be emptied of its meaning. As I say in that thread, Nemes' admission sounds reminiscent of William Lane Craig admitting that on his view, God is dealt His hand. The difference is that in this scenario, God has dealt His own hand - only He has had no intentional say in which hand He has dealt Himself.

The position of Steven Nemes would seem to be something along the lines of that the “power and vital action” of God are not one and the same in all cases; in particular, the “power and vital action” of God are not “directed toward” creation. I don't presume to say Wendelin was a proto-Nemeian (?), of course... but that Wendelin mentions "direction" in the case of God's own [vital] action towards Himself but not in the case of creation is rather conspicuous!

As an aside, I also don't know that Nemes' former position really enabled him to evade the charge of necessitarianism.

In any case, it would be helpful if you explained whether or not you think God's "choice" to create this world means that you think the “power and vital action” of God are “directed toward” creation.
I also remain a little puzzled, but in the other direction! It reminds me of a discussion about "two wills" in God from 2009, where I thought that perhaps a different psychology was leading to different things about the doctrine of God seeming obvious to different parties. That may be true here as well, either in the sense that our different internal makeup is leading to different conclusions, or that differences about how knowledge, will, and affections relate make up some of the difference in what we perceive.

I'm not familiar with Steven Nemes, but I have no doubt that Wendelin is deliberate in affirming that God's action is necessarily directed towards himself, and omitting to say that with regard to creation. It is Scriptural to believe that God's power is exercised in the execution of his decree; but that is a free exercise. Muller quotes Turretin (PRRD, III:449, citing Institutes III.xiv.11):
To the objection that the eternity and immutability of God's will restrict its freedom by removing the freedom of contrary choice, Turretin responds that 'what is necessary originally on the part of the principle can be free terminatively on the part of the object.' God must will and, of course, must will himself — but the divine will is not determined in its objects: the only necessity of willing ad extra that is implied by eternity and immutability is the necessity that, given the divine will for the existence of a particular object, that object must be and must be the way that God has willed it to be.

Depending on your definition, "inscrutable" might be a bit strong since, for example, I do agree with you that the ad intra/ad extra distinction - which is most useful when it presupposes anti-necessitarianism - is a helpful (and perhaps, as you say, the most helpful) way to conceptualize "time" and "eternity." It's been a while since I've thought about various theories of time, but I recall Paul Helm as a sharp advocate for divine timelessness.

Thank you for the continued interaction, by the way.
I'm happy to substitute another term for inscrutable if that's more appropriate. I merely meant that I find it difficult to conceptualize in a way that I can put into words, though it's possible that greater difficulty rests with expressing it than in intuiting it (which is not to say that my intuition is clear and distinct).

Thank you for continuing to engage and thinking about this in a profitable way. Is it possible that some consideration of the formal cause of creation would be beneficial? De Moor has written about that:


 
py3ak said:
I would certainly disagree with any implication that creation is essential.

Do you agree that "essential creatorhood" implies essential creation? If not, how else could “essential creatorhood” be parsed?

py3ak said:
Only hypothetically, as I understand it. As Muller puts it (PRRD, III:448):

Indeed, God is free to "abstain" entirely from the production of the world, not merely according to a "freedom of spontaneity" but also according to the "freedom of indifference" or "freedom of contrariety." God's immutable willing of the world does not render the objects of his willing absolute necessities, given that when God wills any particular result, its contrary remains possible — namely, a resident possibility in the divine scientia necessaria. In other words, there is no violation of the law of noncontradiction: God cannot equally will and not will a particular object "in a composite sense" (in sensu composito), but "in a divided sense" (in sensu diviso) he can will a particular object and know not willing it or willing its contrary as a possibility.

While I agree with the highlighted portion (allowing that it could be more rigorously phrased in terms of divine timelessness), this reads as if God is not necessarily identical with His will.

py3ak said:
I'm not sure I can say much more here than I already have. From my perspective, the distinctions between the decree and its execution, works ad intra and ad extra, and what is true ex hypothesi in light of the content of God's decree versus what is necessarily true in light of God's existence are adequate conceptual tools that allow me to identify God as simple and the whole content of the decree as free...

It is Scriptural to believe that God's power is exercised in the execution of his decree; but that is a free exercise. Muller quotes Turretin (PRRD, III:449, citing Institutes III.xiv.11)

One point in my last post was that to the extent these distinctions are useful (and they are), they already presuppose anti-necessitarianism which in turn seems to presuppose that God is not identical to His very "choosing"/willing to create.

Or, to be more precise: if anti-necessitarianism does not presuppose a rejection of a “strong” view of divine simplicity, a satisfactory resolution cannot be made by a circular appeal to distinctions which are themselves grounded upon anti-necessitarianism in the first place. What is at question is not whether these distinctions are valid or Scriptural but whether a “strong” view of divine simplicity coheres with these distinctions.

py3ak said:
I'm not familiar with Steven Nemes, but I have no doubt that Wendelin is deliberate in affirming that God's action is necessarily directed towards himself, and omitting to say that with regard to creation.

Quick follow-up question from my last post that I didn’t see an answer to in your reply: do you think God's "choice" to create this world means that you think the “power and vital action” of God – i.e. the very essence of God – is “directed toward” creation?

I watched the following video last night and this morning that tracks along similar lines as we have been discussing (although strictly with respect to the issue of a “strong” view of divine simplicity, i.e. the first hour). I’d be interested in your thoughts on it (or others’, if we still have some lurkers). If that is too long, by all means skip it and we can continue to discuss as we have been.


py3ak said:
Is it possible that some consideration of the formal cause of creation would be beneficial? De Moor has written about that

Thank you for the resource! I have tried to carefully read through these links. The passages which stuck out in my mind were as follows. From part 2:

De Moor said:
In working the Creature passes from Idleness to Labor, from Potency to Act, and then returns again from labor to rest, because the Creature works through action diverse from its Essence; but in acting God is free from all Mutation of this sort, which acting is whatever God is on account of Simplicity: now, to be God means to be a Being free from all Mutation, actual and possible. Hence the Act of Creation regarded actively does not differ from the Creating God Himself, who is Immutable. It is not a Creature; Creatures was passively produced by this act. It is not a contingency; contingencies do not happen to God. It is not a third something, neither God nor creature, which is absurd even to contemplate. But His nature is active already from eternity, insofar as by His power things began to exist in time.

Of all I read, this is the most critical. Doesn’t it sound like De Moor accepts necessitarianism here? I am not suggesting that he means to do so, but I frankly don’t understand what (other than cognitive dissonance) could lead him to reject necessitarianism given his position that “…the Act of Creation… does not differ from… God Himself.”

This too reads as traditional support for Dolezal regarding the “strong” view of divine simplicity entailing essential “creatorhood” - in which case I again fail to see a way of avoiding an essential creation.

Like I said, De Moor rejects what seems to me a plain, straightforward inference above. From part 3:

De Moor said:
Creation is also an Act of God so Free, that it was not necessary that God will to create: and so here obtains, not only the Liberty of Spontaneity, but also of Indifference and of Contradiction, if you attend to the Nature and Essential Attributes of God, abstracted from the determination of the Decree: which is not to be taken in such a way, as if God, after the likeness of men, who are indifferent concerning a certain thing, hesitates for a long time as one doubtful, and is in suspense as one uncertain concerning it, not knowing whether He should incline the one way or the other, until at last He finds a reason that persuaded Him to establish this rather than that. Far be such imperfect deliberation from the altogether perfect God!

Another way to put the arguments thus far is that if God just is His act or decree, then He would not “have” unactualized potential to act or decree differently (more on this below). So if God just is His will, just is His willing, just is His act of creation, etc., then any “abstraction” one might attempt regarding God and His attributes would not, assuming the "strong" view of divine simplicity, truthfully speak to the reality of "referential identity" (as Duby puts it).

Continuing the above citation of De Moor:

De Moor said:
but, when we say that God created the World by an Act Indifferently Free, we only signify this, that God without injury to any essential Perfections was able not to create the World, and that the Creation of the World does nothing to augment the Perfection or Blessedness of God: although, having been led by an altogether wise reason, from all eternity He decree it, namely, so that He might gloriously manifest His Perfections; which, as He willed Freely, so He executed Most Freely. Of course, 1. whatever things outside of God, if they be, add nothing to the Infinity of divine Perfection; if they be not, they take nothing away: hence there is no connection between the Essence of God and the existence of things produced by Him. 2. Nor is this Liberty of Creation able to be denied, unless you deny at the same time the Independence of God, and His absolute and supreme Dominion and Power over all possible things. 3. Otherwise all Created Things ought also to be thought Necessary, and consequently Independent and Eternal, which is the implication. On the contrary, from the contingency, dependence, and temporary existence of all things except God, in § 4 we have proven the truth of Creation. 4. But if the contrary should obtain, either the World would not be distinct from God, or there would be multiple Gods: both are absurd and altogether false as demonstrated from those things that we proved in Chapter IV, § 23, 25. 5.

The underlined (and, in particular, the bold) posit the undesirable consequences of rejecting God’s freedom. I agree!

But undesirable consequences don’t equate to unavoidable consequences. If a “strong” view of divine simplicity unavoidably leads to undesirable consequences, I would say that the thing to do is adjust our understanding of the former.

Finally, to finish this section of De Moor:

If God with indifferent Freedom decreed the futurition of the World, then He was compelled by no necessity of nature, either His own or that of the creatures, to create the same. But that Indifferent Freedom of the Decrees was asserted in Chapter VI, § 7: compare what things I have observed there.

Just as above when he talked about “abstraction,” this reads as if De Moor thinks God’s decree is not “referentially identical” to God’s nature after all. Now, although I don’t have access to the reference De Moor cites, I did find in part 1 of the links you provided De Moor’s following definition of the Decree of God:

the Decree of God, which is an Immanent Act of God, positing the certain futurition of the creation of a thing…

If you want to skip responding to any of the aforementioned interaction with De Moor, this is the crux of the matter:

I am sensing a contradiction. On the one hand, De Moor seems to distinguish the decrees from God’s nature:

“If God with indifferent Freedom decreed the futurition of the World, then He was compelled by no necessity of nature, either His own or that of the creatures, to create the same.”

On the other hand: De Moor defines the decree of God as something which would be referentially identical to God’s nature:

“…the Decree of God, which is an Immanent act of God… which acting is whatever God is on account of Simplicity… the Act of Creation regarded actively does not differ from the Creating God Himself, who is Immutable.”

I don’t see how he can have it both ways. He me out on what I am missing (if anything)?
 
Ryan, I'm curious what you think of the concept of an unmoved mover. Do you affirm that God is able to move things ad extra without himself undergoing any change or motion? It seems that as soon as you very clearly accept the concept, the difficulty you are having goes away. Of course, that is part of the mystery, since an unmoved mover is unique and we have no positive analogy for it (it is mostly an apophatic description). This is where I think the real disagreement and confusion over simplicity is: divine aseity, or divine perfection/fullness.

Regarding De Moor: I think providing an example from somewhere else may help show how I think you are ignoring what De Moor is actually saying.

For preparation, here's a portion of the Westminster Confession:
The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.

There's a book (which I have found to be a rather frustrating read) called Evangelical Calvinism, edited by two guys named Mark Habets and Bobby Grow. One of the contributors wrote an essay in it on the doctrine of Scripture, and contrasted three views within so-called "Calvinism" (the liberal, the conservative, and the evangelical). He criticizes the conservatives for being confident, and gives the following discussion on pg. 29:
The basis for confident answers is illustrated in the combination of revelation and reason. According to the Westminster Confession, "The whole counsel of God, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequences may be deduced from Scripture." (1.6). Revelation and reason are understood, if not defined, as one continuous rather than two separate concepts.

I read that and puzzled over it for about 30 minutes when I first came across it, because I had been fairly certain that Westminster affirmed something different than he said it did. Turns out, he had manipulated the quotation to omit the rather essential qualification: "concerning all things..." When that qualification was omitted, the sentence remained grammatically complete, but had entirely changed meaning.

I bring this example up as an illustration because we can all see the difference between "the whole council of God" and "the whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith and life" in that statement. The qualification, while not grammatically essential to the sentence, is certainly semantically essential to the meaning. Along those lines, I'll try to answer this request:
He me out on what I am missing (if anything)?

The biggest thing I notice is that you omit the essential qualification from De Moor's statement in your summary of it. You keep what is grammatically essential, while dropping something that is semantically essential.

Here's the full paragraph from De Moor:
In working the Creature passes from Idleness to Labor, from Potency to Act, and then returns again from labor to rest, because the Creature works through action diverse from its Essence; but in acting God is free from all Mutation of this sort, which acting is whatever God is on account of Simplicity: now, to be God means to be a Being free from all Mutation, actual and possible. Hence the Act of Creation regarded actively does not differ from the Creating God Himself, who is Immutable. It is not a Creature; Creatures was passively produced by this act. It is not a contingency; contingencies do not happen to God. It is not a third something, neither God nor creature, which is absurd even to contemplate. But His nature is active already from eternity, insofar as by His power things began to exist in time.
I'll point out two things in the above:
1. The first two underlined sections are a contrast between creatures and God. Creatures change (from rest to labor, from potency to act, etc.). God does not change, and so whatever we do to describe his acting externally must keep this in mind. This (in my mind) really serves as the basis of the following statements, and makes the concept of simplicity not difficult. This is why I think it is the real difficulty and difference point. RT Mullins is pointed to as the big critic of simplicity/etc. Could he agree that "in acting God is free from all Mutation of this sort" (this sort being from rest to labor, or from potency to act)? I don't think he would agree. I think his critiques depend upon disagreeing with such a statement. If you accept the statement, then the difficulty (in my mind at least) vanishes. I don't think this is circular either - I don't deduce or support immutability/aseity from simplicity. I get simplicity as a consequence. You could go either direction of course (as in most consistent systems), but aseity and immutability should be pretty unquestionable for all of us here, to simply accept as premises.
2. Now for the third underlined section. I'll bold the essential qualification which you omit when describing it: "Hence the Act of Creation regarded actively does not differ from the Creating God Himself, who is Immutable." The Hence connects "to be God means to be a Being free from all Mutation" (immutability) as the premise, from which the posited identity (simplicity) is concluded.

But note the difference between what he said, and what you quoted:
given his position that “…the Act of Creation… does not differ from… God Himself.”

To me, this suggests that you've misread De Moor, and by misreading, have actually missed the presence of a distinction that you are complaining is absent. Is there a distinction between "God's will" understood as the ad extra content of his decree, and "God's will" understood as whatever De Moor is saying is identical to God's essence? Yes, and these theologians assert exactly such a distinction. They assert such a distinction not only by discussions distinguishing the various terms which the phrase "God's will" could be used to refer to, but also with essential qualifications like in the above. It is not "the act of creation" considered absolutely or in every sense. It is "the act of creation regarded actively."

I was confused when the presence of such distinctions that you're looking for was given in Ruben's quotation of Wendelin, and it didn't seem to end the difficulty. I'll duplicate the relevant bits:
I answer: Concerning the will of GOD (the same is the reason for the divine decrees), three things are to be regarded and distinguished: 1. The Essence of GOD, considered in terms of power and vital action, and insofar as it is necessarily directed toward, and terminated upon, the love of the divine goodness itself. 2. The Termination of that essence upon the production, government, and love of creatures. 3. The Relation of reason, which results from that termination.

Whence it is evident in what respect both God’s will and essence are free and necessary. Namely, whether His essence or His will be considered in the first way, it is necessary. In the second way, both are free: for no creature is absolutely necessary: Whence neither God’s will nor essence, considered in terms of vital principle, is necessarily terminated upon the creature. In the third way, both are partly necessary and partly free: for a relation necessarily results, with a termination posited upon a created thing: but it is not able to result, if the termination does not precede.

Wendelin clearly says, "yes, there's a distinction that we should make regarding God's ad extra actions." It's difficult to read a simple identity when he explicitly says that things are to be distinguished, specifies what they are, and then specifies how they are distinct. And the distinction makes sense upon the main premise of immutability and aseity. God's relation to creatures is not "part of" or "in" God. God doesn't change by creating. God does not move himself in order to move creation. We're back to the unmoved mover bit that I brought up initially (and would still like your thoughts on). I can't recall a discussion from any of the Reformed Orthodox that I've read which doesn't qualify the statement "God's act is God's essence" either directly where it is asserted, or in immediate context with distinctions and explanation. Is it a poor way of speaking? Maybe, but that's a separate issue than the meaning.

Would you affirm the following:
1. That God himself is the one who created.
2. That through creating, God underwent no change.
3. That God did not need to create.

It seems like you would affirm 1 and 3, but I'm not sure that you've really addressed how you see 2 fitting in, or if you disagree with 2. I know that RT Mullins disagrees with 2 (and as I mentioned, I think his critiques treat a denial of 2 as a premise). 2 is certainly mysterious - far more so than simplicity in my mind.

I'll confess that I haven't had time to either follow or participate in the whole discussion, despite it interesting me (my work keeps me busy!). Hopefully my contribution has been helpful.
 
Ryan, I'm curious what you think of the concept of an unmoved mover. Do you affirm that God is able to move things ad extra without himself undergoing any change or motion? It seems that as soon as you very clearly accept the concept, the difficulty you are having goes away.

I affirm God as Unmoved Mover. What concerns me is whether the Unmoved Mover is identical to His Movement. This is what I would have trouble affirming.

You have been the most (only?) vocal responder to disagree with Dolezal thus far. I'm appreciative of that honesty. One of my recent questions to @py3ak was whether he thinks "God's "choice" to create this world means that he thinks the “power and vital action” of God – i.e. the very essence of God – is “directed toward” creation." This question was primarily motivated by the thread in which your citation of Nemes' article initially prompted some of my recent thoughts on divine simplicity. I would be interested in your answer to one of my last posts in that thread, i.e. whether you particularly affirm Nemes' admission that "the effects which God produces... do not arise from a very specific intention to create this particular world rather than another"?

I could very well be wrong in my understanding of Wendelin and De Moor. You all would be much more knowledgeable and familiar with their thought. With that in mind:

1. The first two underlined sections are a contrast between creatures and God. Creatures change (from rest to labor, from potency to act, etc.). God does not change, and so whatever we do to describe his acting externally must keep this in mind. This (in my mind) really serves as the basis of the following statements, and makes the concept of simplicity not difficult. This is why I think it is the real difficulty and difference point. RT Mullins is pointed to as the big critic of simplicity/etc. Could he agree that "in acting God is free from all Mutation of this sort" (this sort being from rest to labor, or from potency to act)? I don't think he would agree. I think his critiques depend upon disagreeing with such a statement. If you accept the statement, then the difficulty (in my mind at least) vanishes. I don't think this is circular either - I don't deduce or support immutability/aseity from simplicity. I get simplicity as a consequence. You could go either direction of course (as in most consistent systems), but aseity and immutability should be pretty unquestionable for all of us here, to simply accept as premises.

To briefly revisit what is hopefully not too obvious a point, are you saying that the "strong" view of divine simplicity - that all that is said to be "in" God is identical to God; that for God, existence = essence, nature = will, there is no real distinction between "attributes," actus purus, and so forth - is the only position which coheres with divine immutability/aseity? If so, I don't see how this follows and would appreciate elaboration.

To me, this suggests that you've misread De Moor, and by misreading, have actually missed the presence of a distinction that you are complaining is absent. Is there a distinction between "God's will" understood as the ad extra content of his decree, and "God's will" understood as whatever De Moor is saying is identical to God's essence? Yes, and these theologians assert exactly such a distinction. They assert such a distinction not only by discussions distinguishing the various terms which the phrase "God's will" could be used to refer to, but also with essential qualifications like in the above. It is not "the act of creation" considered absolutely or in every sense. It is "the act of creation regarded actively."

In what sense to you find the bold a relevant qualifier? As I said in my last post, "if God just is His will, just is His willing, just is His act of creation, etc., then any “abstraction” one might attempt regarding God and His attributes would not, assuming the "strong" view of divine simplicity, truthfully speak to the reality of "referential identity" (as Duby puts it)." Is not the qualifier you bold yet another instance of "abstraction"? Again, is God identical to His choice, or is the latter extrinsic to His essence (which would seem to me to entail a rejection of actus purus)?

In fact, the whole of my response to your point 2 is basically to ask whether you are saying that for you, Wendelin, and/or De Moor, not all of God's acts are identical to Himself? To phrase it another way (as I did in my most recent post), do you, Wendelin, or De Moor think God qua pure act has unactualized potential? I do not mean to omit relevant qualifiers. I'll admit my quotations have labored under the assumption that Wendelin and De Moor would answer these questions in the negative.

Am I wrong? If not, then I don't think I omitted anything relevant. If so, then any follow-up questions to these would dovetail with the question I already asked above about whether you (and/or Wendelin and De Moor) would agree with Nemes' former position that "the effects which God produces... do not arise from a very specific intention to create this particular world rather than another."

Would you affirm the following:
1. That God himself is the one who created.
2. That through creating, God underwent no change.
3. That God did not need to create.

It seems like you would affirm 1 and 3, but I'm not sure that you've really addressed how you see 2 fitting in, or if you disagree with 2. I know that RT Mullins disagrees with 2 (and as I mentioned, I think his critiques treat a denial of 2 as a premise). 2 is certainly mysterious - far more so than simplicity in my mind.

I'll confess that I haven't had time to either follow or participate in the whole discussion, despite it interesting me (my work keeps me busy!). Hopefully my contribution has been helpful.

Good question. Yes, I accept statements 1 and 3. My current intuition on statement 2 is one of tentative acceptance. This could be something of a long story, so don't feel obliged to read it all! o_O The last large paragraph answers your question directly.

I used to have more trouble with accepting 3. In fact, when I was young, I thought that the only way to accept statement 2 was to reject statement 3. My change in mind required going through a critical reflection on the views of Gordon Clark who, late in his life, believed that persons just are what they think:

Accordingly the proposal is that a man is a congeries, a system, sometimes an agglomeration of miscellany, but at any rate a collection of thoughts. A man is what he thinks: and no two men are precisely the same combination.

This is true of the Trinity also, for although each of the three Persons is omniscient, one thinks “I or my collection of thoughts is the Father,” and the second thinks, “I or my thoughts will assume or have assumed a human nature.” The Father does not think this second thought, nor does the Son think the first. This is the qualitative theory of individuation, as opposed to the space-time theory: No two leaves in the forest are exactly alike, and Leibniz’ Alexander the Great is defined by his history. Even if trees could be individuated by space and time, the persons of the Trinity, as said above, could not; nor could human souls or other spirits.

I came to realize that elder Clark's view was problematic insofar as the Father (for example) would have had the following thought: "I am Creator." On elder Clark's view, this would entail mutually dependency between the Creator and creature, which is perhaps why Clark himself also accepted necessitarianism in the same book in which he wrote the above statement (link). I mentioned earlier that I used to be a necessitarian - that was largely through the influence of reading this work (Clark's The Trinity). Soon, I came to reject Clark's conception of personhood. It took slightly longer, but I followed through in rejecting necessitarianism (which Clark himself rejected earlier in his life).

Once I accepted statement 3, however, that left me in an interesting place respecting statement 2. Since I no longer believed that God was identical to His knowledge, I was more open to the question of whether God's knowledge could change without God Himself changing, particularly regarding tensed vs. tenseless statements (link). I mentioned in an earlier comment that it has been some time since I have read, thought, or written about theories of time. Helm's view (the B-theory of time) is still the most intelligible to me. I read other works on time (D. H. Mellor, William Lane Craig, McTaggart), mostly with an aim to understand and defend my intuition that divine timelessness is true. All of what I described about too place between 7-10 years ago.

Almost 2 years ago, I bought a recent book called, "A Case for Necessitarianism," by Amy Karofsky. This was the first contemporary philosopher of whom I was aware (aside from elder Clark) who argued for necessitarianism. Since then, I have anticipated a return of this faulty view to the larger, contemporary scene, so I have tried to tackle metaphysical questions - particularly pertaining to theology proper - which I had more or less left unresolved in my mind when I had moved on to think and write about other things. When I quoted myself in post 14 engaging with Karofsky, your statement 2 was certainly in the back of my mind at the time I originally wrote those remarks. There is more I could say, but that probably more than suffices for context.

If you are asking how one might coherently articulate that God does not undergo change in His free act of creation, I would have to revisit some of the language I can recall Helm (whose book Eternal God I loaned out) and James Anderson (Calvinism and the Problem of Evil) use. I mean to do so eventually, but an articulation to my personal satisfaction will honestly take some time. I have many topics about which I hope to write, and that is only one of them.

However, to directly answer your question, at this time, I do think such a coherent articulation of statement 2 is possible and preferable to alternatives. Insofar as I accept divine timelessness (although I acknowledge a lesser degree of certainty and apologetic aptitude than is desirable), I don't follow Mullins' rejection of divine immutability and divine passibility. In fact, within the past 2 months, I've defended passibility in person to a former colleague of Clark who affirms divine emotions as well as to a friend who forwarded me a lecture in which Greg Bahnsen likewise seems to advocate for the same.

No worries on how often you chime in - happy to hear your thoughts when able!
 
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One of my recent questions to @py3ak was whether he thinks "God's "choice" to create this world means that he thinks the “power and vital action” of God – i.e. the very essence of God – is “directed toward” creation."
I think that Wendelin's distinctions are helpful here. Insofar as it is considered "in itself," no. The divine essence is directed towards itself. I would probably explain this differently than Wendelin, and would start talking about the Trinitarian relations to detail that, and show how being "directed towards itself" is not strictly self-referential, because God is not a monad, or the Platonic One-ness. That's really the huge critique I've seen against even Reformed theology's view that God does things for his own glory, or against the archetype/ectype distinction (I actually prefer, despite disliking the source, the phrase "infinite qualitative distinction," which I think expresses the idea clearer for contemporary people). But if God is a Trinity, and he is, then being self-directed insofar as he is the Trinitarian relations, does not imply (like it would in the case of Plato/Kant) that he is "shut up" within himself. Instead, the specific Trinitarian relation of eternal generation ad intra provides the metaphysical basis (the archetype) for God's capacity to create ad extra (the ectype). There's some more nuance and qualification that needs to be said there (recall all the discussion throughout Christian history that eternal generation is not creation - and all the ways in which it is dissimilar - EG itself is a mystery). And "capacity" is probably an unhelpful word that I don't intend to mean "potential" by. I would call God's relation to creation ad extra to God. It is not "in" God's essence, but that doesn't mean that God's essence isn't one of the poles of the relation.​

I would be interested in your answer to one of my last posts in that thread, i.e. whether you particularly affirm Nemes' admission that "the effects which God produces... do not arise from a very specific intention to create this particular world rather than another"?
Having had some time to think on this, I would certainly not use those terms. I would argue that the termination of God's decree upon this world (rather than another) is ad extra. I don't think that makes it non-genuine, or non-specific, or a non-will. Insofar as Nemes could be poorly expressing just the second point from before (that in creating, nothing changes in God), sure. I really think the expression is bad though. If he means that there is no genuine (I'll use the word "genuine" instead of "real," since the latter carries specific meaning) relation between God and this world in the act of creation, I would disagree. By calling it genuine rather than real, what I mean is that the relation between God and this world is not "in" God, it is not part of God's substance (analogy: I can't think of a better expression than "part" here), it adds nothing to who/what God is, it changes nothing about God ad intra. It is certainly genuine, and God's essence is certainly one pole of it, but it is only "real" (in the sense of contributing to substance...to a thing being what it is) for creatures, without which they would not be what they are. That the relation is metaphysically located ad extra just makes sense with divine aseity/immutability. When God communicates his Triune life to us, sometimes people say that "we are brought into the Triune life." I think this is a poor expression. More precisely, I would say that communication is making common. God makes his Triune life common to us in a way that we are changed (and now have new relations), but he does not change (we do not become members of the Trinity, or change what the Triune life ad intra looks like).​

To briefly revisit what is hopefully not too obvious a point, are you saying that the "strong" view of divine simplicity - that all that is said to be "in" God is identical to God; that for God, existence = essence, nature = will, there is no real distinction between "attributes," actus purus, and so forth - is the only position which coheres with divine immutability/aseity? If so, I don't see how this follows and would appreciate elaboration.
How familiar are you with the Aristotelian/scholastic categories and logic? I don't think we need to be Aristotelians, and I don't think that the theological points being made rely on adopting Aristotelianism either. I do think that Aristotelian language gave a clear grammar for communicating concepts, even anti-Aristotelian concepts. Note that both realists and nominalists used Aristotelian language to communicate and debate in the medieval discussions: so the language isn't necessarily tied to one particular philosophy. I think that the older theologians, because they understood the significance of that grammar, were able to use it to communicate certain concepts, even when those concepts were an abuse of it. Knowing proper use leads to understanding meaningful abuse of language (ex. puns).

To show the connection, it depends on what "existence" and "essence" communicate. Essence typically refers to the formal cause, just "what" the thing is (this kind of thing, rather than some other kind of thing). For existence, you require four causes to all obtain: the formal, material, efficient, and final. Matter is whatever doesn't change across changes of form (transformations). So in the case of wood becoming a chair, I have changed the form of the wood. But, there is continuity, and the unchanging continuous "bit" is the matter. In God's case: if it is intrinsic to God (formal cause) to be immutable, then there is no distinction between form/matter. God's form is his matter. Further, if God is uncaused, and (Trinitarian-speaking) self-directed, and those are also intrinsic to who/what he is (formal cause), then his form is also his efficient and final causes. Thus, his essence (form) is identical to his existence (all four causes). So intrinsic immutability (in the formal cause, aka essence) implies that the other causes are identical to the formal cause, and since existence is all four causes together, it is also identical to the formal cause. Does that mean we affirm that God is like created things? No - it is an abuse of Aristotelian language. But it is a meaningful abuse that does communicate something.

Maybe that's a bad expression of a theological affirmation which we should find ways to express in non-Aristotelian language. I'm okay with trying to do that. I just don't know that any other actually helpful or standard grammar exists. This is part of my problem with when I read contemporary analytic theologians: they use the same words differently from each other, and differently from themselves at times. It is the opposite of clear. As long as you understand the basic shape of Aristotelian thought though, the use of Aristotelian grammar is exceptionally clear (even when describing anti-Aristotelian meaning). For example: creation ex nihilo is an abuse of Aristotelian grammar by saying that matter had a beginning (it changed from non-existence to existence). Aristotle certainly disagrees, but we use his grammar to clearly describe the doctrine.

This is why I was confused that here there was a distinction made between two supposed views:​
To clarify my own view on simplicity, I believe, trivially, that God is metaphysically simple because I am not committed to the existence of abstract entities which stand outside of God and which God instantiates (which of course requires DDS to uphold aseity). But that's very different from traditional DDS, particularly as articulated by Aquinas.​
The whole point of the affirmation that "God's existence=God's essence" is to use Aristotelian language to deny "the existence of abstract entities which stand outside of God and which God instantiates." I'm not meaning to get off into a different topic, but just to show how I don't think the actual grammar of what the older theologians are saying, and why they said things that way, is really being dealt with or understood by some of the critics. I saw other problems with the previous discussion linked, but the quoted claim in particular seemed silly, given the actual meaning that the traditional language is intended to convey (and does clearly convey once Aristotelian grammar is grasped).

I'd recommend to you Adler's Aristotle for Everybody and Kreeft's Socratic Logic if you're looking for a quick primer on that grammar itself. Both are not particularly long reads, and most of what is in Kreeft should probably be familiar given your previous reading.
In what sense to you find the bold a relevant qualifier?
I think it is another way of expressing the ad intra and ad extra distinction. The act of creation regarded actively/passively refers to the one who is the efficient cause (God himself) or the effects (creation itself). In line with immutability, what is new in the act of creation is not something new in God, but new in the effects. There is a genuine relation, but that relation is ad extra. It doesn't change who/what God is, and he undergoes no change of motion ad intra when he creates. Creation does not become part of what it means for God to be the Trinity. It adds nothing to the fullness of his divine life. This gets at a point that Augustine raised about God's love for us: it is precisely because we add nothing to God's life, precisely because he does not change in creating, that we can praise his love as truly unconditional (and hence, as unstoppable). Because it satisfies absolutely no need or want, and adds nothing to God, it is entirely selfless and self-giving. As soon as you demand that creation requires a change in God's life, that by creating, he was moved ad intra (and this is a popular claim in contemporary theology), we lose the sheer graciousness of his relation to creation. Part of the point of the immutability language, and of distinguishing the act of creation this way, is to identify the agent of creation (which is God himself), while acknowledging the mystery and gratuity of creation (that it adds nothing to God), and the genuine change which has occurred ("passively" in creation, insofar as it receives being and is what undergoes change).​

whether you are saying that for you, Wendelin, and/or De Moor, not all of God's acts are identical to Himself?
Again, I would distinguish. Insofar as the agent acting, and the "being in motion" of that agent, God's act(s) is (are?) identical to himself. Insofar as we are talking about ad extra effects, then no: the act is not identical to God. I think the confusion arises when we claim that the ad extra effects are not "part of" the intrinsic motion of God's life. I actually don't think there's a difficulty with that claim, but I fully concede that it is mysterious. The intrinsic motion of God's life is ad intra, it is who/what God is, it is exhausted in the Trinitarian relations. There is nothing more to God's life in himself. Created effects are not part of the Trinitarian relations. Ad extra, they are caused by it. It is the immutability ad intra, that actually upholds the contingency/freedom of created effects. Why could God created the world this way, or also have created that way, or also have not created at all? Because any of those scenarios is not part of God's life ad intra. But I would be (as I think Wendelin and De Moor are) extremely reticent to say that the effects of God's act are God's act.​

phrase it another way (as I did in my most recent post), do you, Wendelin, or De Moor think God qua pure act has unactualized potential?
We deny.

This is again where I think premise 2 is helpful. It is the affirmation that God without creation is full and complete, and has no potential, and God can still create, and nothing changes about God. That's pretty mysterious because we don't have created analogies of something like that. All of creation, in being intrinsically dependent upon God (rather than having life a se), is designed to reflect that dependency through Newton's third law. God is not subject to Newton's third law. This is the most difficult to wrap our heads around.

I think part of the confusion also results from the fact that talking about "could" as if there was a before and after in God's willing ad extra is also an abuse of language given the affirmation of divine timelessness. I think it hits at something meaningful. But the language has limitations, because we have limitations, because we are not God (and our thoughts are not his thoughts). We are trying to indicate something that God has revealed to us foggily, but we do not have the perspective of timelessness to comprehend as God does. So we are stuck with time-bound thought and language to express something entirely outside of our experience. I think we sometimes try to take our lisping as if it must be definitional, rather than descriptive.

I prefer the language of Turretin over De Moor here (1:205):​
V. Creation did not produce a change in God, but in creatures;...Now when God became the Creator, he was not changed in himself (for nothing new happened to him, for from eternity he had the efficacious will of creating the world in time), but only in order to the creature (because a new relation took place with it). And as to the act of creation being transient not immanent, it is not so much in God as from him.​
I think if you look through the whole discussion of Turretin there, you discover that the eternality/immutability of God's will regarding creation is never referred to necessity, and never referred to being ad intra to God. Rather, it is referred to as eternal and immutable, because God who is the agent, is eternal and immutable. It doesn't make sense for God to will A at some time, and then to change and will B at another time, if God is not in time. Hence, his will is immutable (which is distinct from necessary: we are going on biblical revelation, not on natural theology here). Similarly, when we call God's will for creation eternal, it is not the same as necessary. It is that God who willed creation is himself eternal, and so there is only a time "prior" to willing creation ad extra in our inadequate conception describing how his willing is free. Because God is eternal, not in time, and undergoes no progression of events, there really isn't a prior time. What is prior is God's life ad intra, which is full and complete in itself, containing God's necessary knowledge of himself and all possibility ad extra. The "post" time of his will ad extra, is just that, ad extra.

I don't think the movement from ad intra to ad extra involves change ad intra. That would defeat the purpose of the distinction, which is to uphold the intrinsic sufficiency/fullness of the divine life ad intra! So what is the basis for the ad extra in the ad intra? Like I mentioned before, I think it is the Trinitarian relations. The ad extra is the free (free because of the ad intra perfection) communication ("making common") of those relations to things not God, which communication itself brings them into existence. The change is in them, not in God's life ad intra. That makes God no less the referent or source of the ad extra changes in creatures. That God undergoes no change, that he has perfect fullness ad intra, (in other words: his infinity) is the whole ground for the freedom of his ad extra action which changes creatures, and relates them to himself.

I'm sure I'm messing up some language somewhere - I'm trying to (poorly) express concepts which are majestic and hard for us to grasp, and I'm doing it without trying to just copy the words from Turretin, et. al., which work fine for me. Maybe @RamistThomist or @pyak or others can help correct where I'm communicating less than helpfully.
No worries on how often you chime in - happy to hear your thoughts when able!
I appreciate the patience. It may be another week until I'm properly able to join back in.
 
Do you agree that "essential creatorhood" implies essential creation? If not, how else could “essential creatorhood” be parsed?

I'll say again that this is not language that I would use, and that I don't know what Dolezal meant by it. "Essential creatorhood" sounds coined to avoid saying "essentially creator." In which case it might mean that God is essentially the kind of God who could create, without being obligated to create. So I don't think "essential creation" is necessarily implied, though it's no part of my purpose to defend the expression.

While I agree with the highlighted portion (allowing that it could be more rigorously phrased in terms of divine timelessness), this reads as if God is not necessarily identical with His will.

To the degree that "will" is a broad term with more than one possible referent, certainly. If it had not been Noah but some other son of Lamech who found grace in the eyes of the Lord, it would have been the same Lord. If there's any Protestant scholastic who says otherwise, I'm interested to follow up.

One point in my last post was that to the extent these distinctions are useful (and they are), they already presuppose anti-necessitarianism which in turn seems to presuppose that God is not identical to His very "choosing"/willing to create.

Or, to be more precise: if anti-necessitarianism does not presuppose a rejection of a “strong” view of divine simplicity, a satisfactory resolution cannot be made by a circular appeal to distinctions which are themselves grounded upon anti-necessitarianism in the first place. What is at question is not whether these distinctions are valid or Scriptural but whether a “strong” view of divine simplicity coheres with these distinctions.

I think what you're saying is that all these useful distinctions are unavailable to believers in a strong view of simplicity, because their view of simplicity would abolish the distinctives identified in them. But it seems to me, from a standpoint of historical theology anyway, that it's the very same people who have developed these distinctions. Do you think that those who have affirmed anti-necessitarianism and a strong view of simplicity have simply failed to detect the incompatibility of these positions? As the portions quoted show, they are working with a distinction between immanent and transient "acts" of the divine will.

Quick follow-up question from my last post that I didn’t see an answer to in your reply: do you think God's "choice" to create this world means that you think the “power and vital action” of God – i.e. the very essence of God – is “directed toward” creation?

I watched the following video last night and this morning that tracks along similar lines as we have been discussing (although strictly with respect to the issue of a “strong” view of divine simplicity, i.e. the first hour). I’d be interested in your thoughts on it (or others’, if we still have some lurkers). If that is too long, by all means skip it and we can continue to discuss as we have been.

Sure, God's power and vital action are directed towards creation in this sense: "the exercise of divine potentia ad extra, potency or power towards externals" (Muller, DOLGT (1st edition), s.v. actus purus). I haven't had an opportunity to see the video, and I'm not sure that will present itself.

Of all I read, this is the most critical. Doesn’t it sound like De Moor accepts necessitarianism here? I am not suggesting that he means to do so, but I frankly don’t understand what (other than cognitive dissonance) could lead him to reject necessitarianism given his position that “…the Act of Creation… does not differ from… God Himself.”

This too reads as traditional support for Dolezal regarding the “strong” view of divine simplicity entailing essential “creatorhood” - in which case I again fail to see a way of avoiding an essential creation.

Like I said, De Moor rejects what seems to me a plain, straightforward inference above.

Is it possible the cognitive dissonance is not on De Moor's end? I'm sorry if that sounds snarky, I don't mean it to be. God in his creating act ("regarded actively") is not different from himself. Creation does not induce a change in God. And yet creation is genuinely new, it wasn't before it was (understanding that all language of temporal priority is improper except with reference to creation, but having no other terms available to me).

Another way to put the arguments thus far is that if God just is His act or decree, then He would not “have” unactualized potential to act or decree differently (more on this below). So if God just is His will, just is His willing, just is His act of creation, etc., then any “abstraction” one might attempt regarding God and His attributes would not, assuming the "strong" view of divine simplicity, truthfully speak to the reality of "referential identity" (as Duby puts it).

To cite from Muller again in the same place, "In other words, God in himself, considered essentially or personally, is not in potentia because the divine essence and persons are eternally perfect, and the inward life of the Godhead is eternally complete and fully realized. (...) Nonetheless, the relationships of God to the created order, to the individual objects of the divine will ad extra, can be considered in potentia insofar as all such relations depend upon the free exercise of the divine will toward an order of contingent beings drawn toward perfection."

From your point of view, it sounds like there are two horns to a dilemma. On the one horn, if God is identical with his will, and God is necessary, then all things are necessary. That has the unfortunate corollary that God isn't God, because he's dependent on creation. On the other horn, the freeness of God's will means that there is a legitimate place for distinction between what God is and what God decides, but then we've discarded strong simplicity.

Well, again, I don't claim the language of "strong" simplicity, but have used it for shorthand. If there are necessitarian advocates of simplicity, I have less in common with them than with you. But I don't feel gored by the dilemma, and I don't really see evidence that Turretin or De Moor or Wendelin were either.

When I distinguish between the fact that God has a decree and the content of the decree, it seems to be your position that this distinction is either one I have no right to, or one that undermines my assertion that God is identical with his will. That's the part that I am not following, and I think one reason is that we seem to be looking at this from opposite ends. When you say that God is not identical with his will, I wonder who you think is doing the willing.

The underlined (and, in particular, the bold) posit the undesirable consequences of rejecting God’s freedom. I agree!

But undesirable consequences don’t equate to unavoidable consequences. If a “strong” view of divine simplicity unavoidably leads to undesirable consequences, I would say that the thing to do is adjust our understanding of the former.

I don't disagree, but it seems to me that the distinctions made use of by the historical proponents of strict simplicity (in case a distinction from modern proponents of strong simplicity is handy) are doing that with a fair degree of precision.

Just as above when he talked about “abstraction,” this reads as if De Moor thinks God’s decree is not “referentially identical” to God’s nature after all. Now, although I don’t have access to the reference De Moor cites, I did find in part 1 of the links you provided De Moor’s following definition of the Decree of God:


If you want to skip responding to any of the aforementioned interaction with De Moor, this is the crux of the matter:

I am sensing a contradiction. On the one hand, De Moor seems to distinguish the decrees from God’s nature:

“If God with indifferent Freedom decreed the futurition of the World, then He was compelled by no necessity of nature, either His own or that of the creatures, to create the same.”

On the other hand: De Moor defines the decree of God as something which would be referentially identical to God’s nature:

“…the Decree of God, which is an Immanent act of God… which acting is whatever God is on account of Simplicity… the Act of Creation regarded actively does not differ from the Creating God Himself, who is Immutable.”

I don’t see how he can have it both ways. He me out on what I am missing (if anything)?

I think the short answer is the importance of "Immanent" act of God. We're back again to there being a difference between the fact of a decree and a content to the decree. Of course the living God lives, so he knows and wills and loves. But equally of course that will is free with regard to all unnecessary objects.

As with other interlocutors, it may be some time before I can return to the discussion. Had I not been unwell this week and therefore bypassing other matters, I would not have had as much ability to engage.
 
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Not to dismiss your fuller posts - which I am happy to engage as I myself have the time to do so - but if either of you (or others) would be willing to examine the following syllogisms before taking a fuller break from discussion, I would appreciate getting a sense of which of the premises you would reject:

Premise 1. If God is identical to His will, then God is identical to His will to create.
Premise 2. God is identical to His will.
Conclusion 1. God is identical to His will to create.

Premise 3. If God could have willed other than to create, then God could have been other than He now is.
Premise 4. God could have willed other than to create.
Conclusion 2. God Himself could have been other than He now is.

Or is there any sense in which you would accept these premises and conclusions as constructed? Perhaps this will cut through the length of our recent posts.
 
Not to dismiss your fuller posts - which I am happy to engage as I myself have the time to do so - but if either of you (or others) would be willing to examine the following syllogisms before taking a fuller break from discussion, I would appreciate getting a sense of which of the premises you would reject:

Premise 1. If God is identical to His will, then God is identical to His will to create.
Premise 2. God is identical to His will.
Conclusion 1. God is identical to His will to create.

Premise 3. If God could have willed other than to create, then God could have been other than He now is.
Premise 4. God could have willed other than to create.
Conclusion 2. God Himself could have been other than He now is.

Or is there any sense in which you would accept these premises and conclusions as constructed? Perhaps this will cut through the length of our recent posts.

Thanks for that, Ryan, I think something that cuts down on length is intrinsically desirable.

I would reject Premise 1 and Premise 3. For Premise 1 my reason is that "will" and "will to create" are equivocal, disregarding immanent/transient, fact/content, and ad intra/ad extra distinctions. For Premise 3 my reason is that no ad extra work implies any change or variation on God's part. I accept Premise 2 and Premise 4, though on Premise 2 I would like to know how will is being defined. And of course, I reject both conclusions.
 
Thanks for that, Ryan, I think something that cuts down on length is intrinsically desirable.

I would reject Premise 1 and Premise 3. For Premise 1 my reason is that "will" and "will to create" are equivocal, disregarding immanent/transient, fact/content, and ad intra/ad extra distinctions. For Premise 3 my reason is that no ad extra work implies any change or variation on God's part. I accept Premise 2 and Premise 4, though on Premise 2 I would like to know how will is being defined. And of course, I reject both conclusions.

I entirely agree with what Ruben said here.
 
Thanks for that, Ryan, I think something that cuts down on length is intrinsically desirable.

I would reject Premise 1 and Premise 3. For Premise 1 my reason is that "will" and "will to create" are equivocal, disregarding immanent/transient, fact/content, and ad intra/ad extra distinctions. For Premise 3 my reason is that no ad extra work implies any change or variation on God's part. I accept Premise 2 and Premise 4, though on Premise 2 I would like to know how will is being defined. And of course, I reject both conclusions.

I had suspected you would say that. Since you have questions about Premise 2, if I reformulate the syllogisms in the following way, does anything, from your perspective, change?

Premise 1. If God is identical to His willing, then God is identical to His willing to create.
Premise 2. God is identical to His willing.
Conclusion 1. God is identical to His willing to create.

Premise 3. If God's willing could have been other than to create, then God could have been other than He now is.
Premise 4. God's willing could have other than to create.
Conclusion 2. God Himself could have been other than He now is.

Is the above more clear, or is the issue still the same? I am drawing from our earlier conversation in which you said that God's will is God willing.
 
I had suspected you would say that. Since you have questions about Premise 2, if I reformulate the syllogisms in the following way, does anything, from your perspective, change?

Premise 1. If God is identical to His willing, then God is identical to His willing to create.
Premise 2. God is identical to His willing.
Conclusion 1. God is identical to His willing to create.

Premise 3. If God's willing could have been other than to create, then God could have been other than He now is.
Premise 4. God's willing could have other than to create.
Conclusion 2. God Himself could have been other than He now is.

Is the above more clear, or is the issue still the same? I am drawing from our earlier conversation in which you said that God's will is God willing.
Am I missing something or is the main problem you have with the distinction between ad intra and ad extra? I only ask because it seems like you're forming your Premises in this way.

Premise 1. If God is identical to His willing, then God is identical to His willing to create.
really is:
Premise 1: If God is identical to His willing ad intra, God is identical to any ad extra willing
 
I had suspected you would say that. Since you have questions about Premise 2, if I reformulate the syllogisms in the following way, does anything, from your perspective, change?

Premise 1. If God is identical to His willing, then God is identical to His willing to create.
Premise 2. God is identical to His willing.
Conclusion 1. God is identical to His willing to create.

Premise 3. If God's willing could have been other than to create, then God could have been other than He now is.
Premise 4. God's willing could have other than to create.
Conclusion 2. God Himself could have been other than He now is.

Is the above more clear, or is the issue still the same? I am drawing from our earlier conversation in which you said that God's will is God willing.

It doesn't change much, because His willing to create strikes me as susceptible to equivocation: it seems like it can still be read as elevating the content of the decree to a position of necessity.

Furthermore, the revised phrasing on premise 1 leaves me with four questions:
1) Are we distinguishing his willing to create from the creation caused by his will?
2) Are we bearing in mind that willing to create is a will freely exercised concerning external objects?
3) Are we taking one aspect of the total decree and reifying it as a distinct act?
4) If so, are we then attempting to identify God by means of one analytically abstracted facet (from our point of view) of something much more comprehensive?

In the summation we've been using, denotatively diverse is as important an element as referentially identical. With regard to Conclusion 1, I think about "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." It is the same God, the identical I, who says both things. There is no difference between the author of one statement and the author of the other. Now that God is his will, and the diversity of objects does not imply a diversity of will. In other words, whether Conclusion 1 is acceptable depends on how the terms are defined. Would you agree that it is God Himself in the totality of his being who wills to create?

Perhaps a clearer tack with regard to the phrase willing to create whether it is in Premise 1 or Conclusion 1: the willing to create is not constitutive of the existence of God, since it is free and unnecessary; it is indicative of God's existence and character (which are not separate things, but are different ways we have of looking at a simple reality too great for comprehension).

Premise 3 I still reject, for the reason just stated above. Premise 4 I might tweak a little bit, but certainly maintain that God could have willed not to create. To cite Heppe again: "Since then the divine will is the actuosity of the divine being eternally identical with itself, which only to man appears an infinite manifold of expressions of will, it may be said that in the same act of will God may will otherwise but not that He may otherwise will" (RD, 82, emphasis added).

Conclusion 2 is also rejected. Had it been "Esau have I loved but Jacob have I hated" God would still be who he is.

Am I missing something or is the main problem you have with the distinction between ad intra and ad extra? I only ask because it seems like you're forming your Premises in this way.

Premise 1. If God is identical to His willing, then God is identical to His willing to create.
really is:
Premise 1: If God is identical to His willing ad intra, God is identical to any ad extra willing

This is one way that the potential for equivocation I mentioned could be realized.
 
I had suspected you would say that. Since you have questions about Premise 2, if I reformulate the syllogisms in the following way, does anything, from your perspective, change?

Premise 1. If God is identical to His willing, then God is identical to His willing to create.
Premise 2. God is identical to His willing.
Conclusion 1. God is identical to His willing to create.

Premise 3. If God's willing could have been other than to create, then God could have been other than He now is.
Premise 4. God's willing could have other than to create.
Conclusion 2. God Himself could have been other than He now is.

Is the above more clear, or is the issue still the same? I am drawing from our earlier conversation in which you said that God's will is God willing.
Well your syllogism seems faulty for a number of reasons. Premise 1 does not take into account God's analogical difference from us, so trying to univocaly ascribe the same is misleading. Plus I think it denies the distinction between God's ad intra vs ad extra distinction.
Premise 3 is guilty of the same logical fallacies. Conclusion 2 makes no sense.
I think you're on to a good criticism but you need to clean up your logic. I get where you're coming from. If you assume a univocal use of language than you're right. But if you adopt an analogical use of language the problem goes away. Just my opinion.
 
Am I missing something or is the main problem you have with the distinction between ad intra and ad extra? I only ask because it seems like you're forming your Premises in this way.

Premise 1. If God is identical to His willing, then God is identical to His willing to create.
really is:
Premise 1: If God is identical to His willing ad intra, God is identical to any ad extra willing

Thank you, this was extremely helpful for clarifying why premise 1 appears to be equivocal to some posters. Why I structured premise 1 the way I did is because I was of the understanding that we all agreed that the Reformed position denies two will[ing]s in God. This was mentioned specifically by @py3ak in posts 2 and 8, so I did not expect anyone to reply that there is an equivocation here.

But if I am understanding everyone correctly now, the point is that God's "ad extra willing" refers to something that is not "in God." Is this correct? If so, I believe this thread is making some progress and that you all are helping me better articulate the intuitive difficulty I am trying to get across.

I'm tempted to stop here and see whether everyone agrees with the above. I'll go ahead and assume everyone does agree with it (correct me if I'm wrong) and venture the next question that comes to mind: is there a causal relation between God's "ad intra" willing and "ad extra" willing?
 
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