Was God obligated to create the best of all possible worlds?

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py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
Ben, the unstated premise in your argument is that God's end is always His maximal glorification. The problem is that "glorify" is used in multiple ways. In one sense it means "to manifest His glory". If you maintain that this is always God's end, then God was obligated to create, which is contrary to Reformed theology, because His glory couldn't be manifested unless there was someone to manifest it to. That's why I'd rather stick with what Dennis said, and not attempt to figure out the background to God's volition - because that no cause can be assigned for the will of God is pretty standard Christian doctrine.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Ben, the unstated premise in your argument is that God's end is always His maximal glorification. The problem is that "glorify" is used in multiple ways. In one sense it means "to manifest His glory". If you maintain that this is always God's end, then God was obligated to create, which is contrary to Reformed theology, because His glory couldn't be manifested unless there was someone to manifest it to. That's why I'd rather stick with what Dennis said, and not attempt to figure out the background to God's volition - because that no cause can be assigned for the will of God is pretty standard Christian doctrine.

Yes, you are exploring exactly some of the issues I am thinking through!

Leibniz' theodicy seems to lead to this "obligated to create (in order to provide a canvas on which to paint His attributes on)" view. So, I am looking for stronger theodicies. I like Plantinga, maybe he is better to read than Leibniz.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
I think Calvin addresses these issues in a classical passage:

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

There's not much to add to that.
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
Earl , were you suggesting that the fall was good,because ultimately we get to understand the depth of God's love expressed by the cross? Or am I missing something when I read your post? Let me know:)
Do you understand what I am getting at?


Exactly! Unfallen creatures, with no knowledge of good vs. evil, would not glorify God as much as we will in the future as redeemed people.

Romans 8:28 makes clear that the fall was ultimately good also.

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Contemplation on the fall and the cross can lead to "speculation" that is alluded to in the scripture. We know that man was created good without a certain quality that The Lord withheld, which was bestowed when Adam ate the fruit. So though it was a sin for Adam to eat was the result good?

No.


Though I agree the result was bad then, do you think ultimately it will be bad for those Jesus died for?
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
The Institutes quote above:
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.

By "will of God", Calvin seems to be referring to God's sovereign will. Then he would have to affirm that everything that has been allowed to happen, has happened according to God's pleasure. That means even evil (which has a role to play in his sovereign will) has flowed forth from God's pleasure.

I think I have a problem with this, unless Calvin is not referring to God's sovereign will, but his will of desire.

----

Plantinga is apparently the most cogent theodicy written in the modern age, but I don't think he added anything significant to the free-will argument.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
The Institutes quote above:
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.

By "will of God", Calvin seems to be referring to God's sovereign will. Then he would have to affirm that everything that has been allowed to happen, has happened according to God's pleasure. That means even evil (which has a role to play in his sovereign will) has flowed forth from God's pleasure.

I think I have a problem with this, unless Calvin is not referring to God's sovereign will, but his will of desire.

----

Plantinga is apparently the most cogent theodicy written in the modern age, but I don't think he added anything significant to the free-will argument.

Dennis, I'm not sure that I am entirely following your post. It sounds like you're saying that you're OK with God wishing for evil to happen, but not decreeing that it happen. That is absurd, so I would like some clarification. Of course, I deny any ineffective will of God.

Calvin seems very clear to me, but if you clarify where your problem lies maybe someone can assist to remove it.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
The Institutes quote above:
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.

By "will of God", Calvin seems to be referring to God's sovereign will. Then he would have to affirm that everything that has been allowed to happen, has happened according to God's pleasure. That means even evil (which has a role to play in his sovereign will) has flowed forth from God's pleasure.

I think I have a problem with this, unless Calvin is not referring to God's sovereign will, but his will of desire.

----

Plantinga is apparently the most cogent theodicy written in the modern age, but I don't think he added anything significant to the free-will argument.

Dennis, I'm not sure that I am entirely following your post. It sounds like you're saying that you're OK with God wishing for evil to happen, but not decreeing that it happen. That is absurd, so I would like some clarification. Of course, I deny any ineffective will of God.

Calvin seems very clear to me, but if you clarify where your problem lies maybe someone can assist to remove it.

Sorry for the confusion. By will of desire, I mean that God has desires that do not necessarily come to pass, like the desire for everyone to repent. Likewise what he does not desire may come to pass, such as sin and evil. This sense of God's will is good and righteous. So if Calvin means this, I agree that God's desires are the supreme rule of righteousness and indeed flows from his pleasure.

However, if Calvin is referring to God's sovereign will, which includes the operation of evil, then I don't see how God can take pleasure in those evil acts, even if he does sovereignly oversee them. For example, did God take pleasure in Judas' betrayal?
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
I think your solution is worse than the problem. To attribute ineffectual desires to God is repugnant to His power and His wisdom. As Turretin says, "Who would dare to attribute such wills to a man of sound mind, as to say that he willed seriously and ardently what he knew would never happen, and indeed would not happen because he nilled to effect it, on whom alone the effect depends?" (Institutes of Elenctic Theology, III.16.6)

Again, nothing happens without His decree. So it was God's choice to permit sin to enter the world. Saying that things He does not desire may come to pass is to say that He is not in control.

It was right and good for God to allow sin to enter the world. How do you know that? Because God willed to allow it, and there is no standard apart from God to which we can hold Him. That doesn't mean we think that God can deny Himself - but His will is His law, and so nothing higher than the will of God can be found.

The will of good pleasure (euarestias) is answerable to God's preceptive will, that is His commands. Turretin, again:
The euarestian is frequently referred to the preceptive will, which is called both that of approbation and that of complacency (as in Rom. 12:2 where the will of God to which we ought to conform is called good and acceptable [eaurestos]; cf. "proving what is acceptable [euareston] unto the Lord," Eph. 5:10); "for this is acceptable [eaureston] unto the Lord," Col. 3:20). In this sense, euarestia indicates the preceptive and approving will by which God declares what is pleasing to himself and what he wills to be done by men; but eudokia indicates the decretive will by which God testifies his good pleasure about the things which he has determined to perform.​
(Institutes, III.15.8)
So according to the precept, Judas' betrayal was highly displeasing to God; according to the decree, Judas' betrayal was a step forward in the fulfilment of God's good purpose.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
So,
Everything that is decreed is desired by God
Evil is decreed
Evil is desired by God

or, put another way ...

God takes pleasure in everything he decrees
God decrees evil
God takes pleasure in evil.

I understand the logic, it's simple enough. But by lumping God's pleasure and desire with his sovereign will in every instance, then there are some problems:
1. God would never be displeased at anything that happens in the world - but he is.
2. God takes pleasure in evil - but he doesn't.

-----Added 11/27/2009 at 10:59:17 EST-----

also 3. God's pleasure in his election is the same as in his reprobation.

This is not comforting.

-----Added 11/27/2009 at 11:08:27 EST-----

So according to the precept, Judas' betrayal was highly displeasing to God; according to the decree, Judas' betrayal was a step forward in the fulfilment of God's good purpose.

God is good, then, not in his decree of Judas' betrayal, but in its eventual outcome.

So then, you agree with me that at the point of God's decree of Judas' betrayal, God pleasure was nowhere to be found.

I'm willing to accept that God has an "ends justifies the means" way of being sovereign and coming out righteous. But the problem of evil is usually conceived of in the here and now - How is God good at this very moment of evil? Does God desire and take pleasure in this evil act?

The problem of evil is a very real problem, and we probably do not have the resources in this lifetime to adequately tackle it.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
Pergamum, I haven't read that book. I largely agree with Turretin. The will of God is only one and most simple, yet because it is occupied differently about various objects we make distinctions. Properly there is only one will; but we can distinguish what God commands from what God decrees, because the word "will" is used in Scripture for both aspects, but we know that they do not always coincide: God's decree often effects that which is contrary to His command. That's not a conflict in His will or a tension in God, it is simply one of the things we have to do in order to discuss His will clearly.

Dennis, your post skates right over the distinctions I provided and critiques my view without providing any defense for your own. That doesn't leave much room for interaction as I can only repeat myself until there's some ground to advance upon. I can't answer a question if my terms are subject to radical misapprehension. You would have to define desire, I think, in order for us to make much headway here.

Do you believe that God commands things He does not plan to effect?

It seems that you are thinking of God's pleasure in an emotional, anthropomorphic way. That does make these discussions more difficult.

Here is one question that might enable us to move forward. Do you believe that God effects things He would really rather not bring about?
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
Do you believe that God commands things He does not plan to effect?

For example, God commands obedience and repentance of the world, yet this does not mean that everyone obeys and repents.
God commands that everyone believe in Jesus, yet not everyone believes.

It seems that you are thinking of God's pleasure in an emotional, anthropomorphic way. That does make these discussions more difficult.

Here is one question that might enable us to move forward. Do you believe that God effects things He would really rather not bring about?

This question is a bit vague to me. To say that God "would rather not" comes dangerously close to open theism, so no, I wouldn't say that. We need to be more concrete.

Although it makes things difficult, we probably need to tackle the question of God's emotion, namely pleasure. Because of the limits of human language we can really only use human categories and experience to make sense of the world and communicate anything. The bible describes God as displaying pleasure and displeasure. While the living God may be far transcendent above these human qualities, we have no way of knowing anything of what that's like except what is described in our language.

If God exhibits displeasure, it can only mean that he is being offended in some way, or that his will or desires have been frustrated, at least in some sense. In other words, something is not going the way he wants it, and we see this in scripture constantly. If you are able to conceive of displeasure as resulting from something else, I'm all ears. But so long as we using human categories and language, don't we basically need to except
this assumption?

Here's my argument.
1.There is a categorical distinction between God's pleasure and his displeasure
2. Certain things bring about his pleasure and other things bring out his displeasure
3. Things that accord with his character pleases him. Both he and his creatures can perform these things, and when it happens he is pleased.
4. Things that are contrary to his character displeases him. Only his creatures can actively perform these things, when it happens he is displeased.
5. God is sovereign over both the things that please him and the things which displease him. But this does not mean he is equally pleased with everything he governs over.
6. Whatever God decrees moves toward an ultimate good, but it may be the vilest of evil as it is being done, a thing which he hates.
7. He is certainly not pleased when evil is occurring.
 

Amazing Grace

Puritan Board Junior
Sorry for the confusion. By will of desire, I mean that God has desires that do not necessarily come to pass, like the desire for everyone to repent. Likewise what he does not desire may come to pass, such as sin and evil. This sense of God's will is good and righteous. So if Calvin means this, I agree that God's desires are the supreme rule of righteousness and indeed flows from his pleasure.

However, if Calvin is referring to God's sovereign will, which includes the operation of evil, then I don't see how God can take pleasure in those evil acts, even if he does sovereignly oversee them. For example, did God take pleasure in Judas' betrayal?

I used to believe in this until I realized it portrayed God as some schizophrenic. Some Jekyll and Hyde. God has one unitary will.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Humans can hold different dispositions of the will in their bosom at the same time. But we are not schizophrenic.

For instance: A judge sentences a murderer to the death penalty. The judge, while he regrets to enact justice that will kill the perpetrator, delights that justice will be served.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
Do you believe that God commands things He does not plan to effect?

For example, God commands obedience and repentance of the world, yet this does not mean that everyone obeys and repents.
God commands that everyone believe in Jesus, yet not everyone believes.

Good. So here is a clear and definite sense in which God wills (commands) what He does not effect. Now, to stick with the example of Judas, was it God's desire that Judas betray Christ, or was it not?

Here is one question that might enable us to move forward. Do you believe that God effects things He would really rather not bring about?

This question is a bit vague to me. To say that God "would rather not" comes dangerously close to open theism, so no, I wouldn't say that. We need to be more concrete.

You acknowledge the danger, and that's good. Can you agree in saying that God brings about nothing against His will?

The vital point here is relating desire to will. If you can use those two words interchangeably, then you can obviously affirm that God does not desire Judas to betray Christ, according to the preceptive will, but that He does desire Judas to betray Christ, according to the decretive will. God's desire also to punish Judas for that betrayal does not impact the point that it did not happen against God's decretive will.

Although it makes things difficult, we probably need to tackle the question of God's emotion, namely pleasure. Because of the limits of human language we can really only use human categories and experience to make sense of the world and communicate anything. The bible describes God as displaying pleasure and displeasure. While the living God may be far transcendent above these human qualities, we have no way of knowing anything of what that's like except what is described in our language.

If God exhibits displeasure, it can only mean that he is being offended in some way, or that his will or desires have been frustrated, at least in some sense. In other words, something is not going the way he wants it, and we see this in scripture constantly. If you are able to conceive of displeasure as resulting from something else, I'm all ears. But so long as we using human categories and language, don't we basically need to except
this assumption?

Saying at least in some sense is not usually helpful in a discussion, because everyone can import their own sense into that, and apparent agreement simply covers real disagreement. I don't believe it's actually necessary to tackle the topic of emotions. If you want to go there, I would ask you to read these two threads first, and respect the boundaries of discussion that are set out there:
http://www.puritanboard.com/f15/figurative-descriptions-god-48694/
http://www.puritanboard.com/f15/two-wills-god-47586/

It is not necessary to suppose that things are not going as God wants (you have to define what you mean here by 'want'): as shown above, it is only necessary to suppose that things are not going as God has commanded moral agents. Saying that something is not going as God wants, when 'want' is not defined, gives a strong anti-scriptural impression. The following verses should suffice to show why: Psalm 115:3; Psalm 135:6; Isaiah 46:10; Daniel 4:35; Ephesians 1:11. But really, it almost seems invidious to list individual proof texts, as though it were not the tenor of the whole Scripture to assert that all God's will is infallibly accomplished.

Here's my argument.
1.There is a categorical distinction between God's pleasure and his displeasure
2. Certain things bring about his pleasure and other things bring out his displeasure
3. Things that accord with his character pleases him. Both he and his creatures can perform these things, and when it happens he is pleased.
4. Things that are contrary to his character displeases him. Only his creatures can actively perform these things, when it happens he is displeased.
5. God is sovereign over both the things that please him and the things which displease him. But this does not mean he is equally pleased with everything he governs over.
6. Whatever God decrees moves toward an ultimate good, but it may be the vilest of evil as it is being done, a thing which he hates.
7. He is certainly not pleased when evil is occurring.

In point 2 you have "bring about" and "bring out": the one suggests that God is reacting to events, the other that events serve to manifest some specific aspect of His character. The first idea is objectionable, the second is not.
In points 3 and 4 you assert that something "happens". But does it happen in connection with God's will? Point 5 says yes. So it is not happenstance, but execution of God's decree. Is God disappointed at the execution of His decree?
Point 7 seems to imply that God has changing emotional states - that is not a position which can be promoted on the board.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
Humans can hold different dispositions of the will in their bosom at the same time. But we are not schizophrenic.

For instance: A judge sentences a murderer to the death penalty. The judge, while he regrets to enact justice that will kill the perpetrator, delights that justice will be served.

Humans also function under external constraints, whereas God does not. This shows why it is inadvisable to argue from man to God.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
One problem with the way this is going is that you have already assumed that there is but one singular will in God. As the one who needs convincing, you need to condescend to me for a while... :)

Without reading those two very long threads in their entirety, let me just ask some diagnostic questions, to get a sketch of your view. Please answer as succinctly as possible.

1. A murderer wields a knife and stabs a man. Who performed the act?
2. Was God involved in the act?
3. Did God actively bring out the stabbing in the sense that he animated the man to make a stabbing motion?
4. Did God react in any way to the act, by expressing emotion, or otherwise?
5. Suppose another person performs a kind act of love. God does react differently to this one than to the murderer?

p.s. I don't believe God is schizo, or inconsistent within his nature. But I'm confident I could produce plenty scriptural quotes that do SEEM to suggest that God displays emotion, and that these emotions SEEM to change depending on the situation. Whether God actually has these we can leave to the theologians, but am I not entitled to read the text simply and naturally? I'm not well versed (as you can see) in philosophical theology, so I sincerely want to know what I can and cannot say here.

thanks.
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
Ben, the unstated premise in your argument is that God's end is always His maximal glorification. The problem is that "glorify" is used in multiple ways. In one sense it means "to manifest His glory". If you maintain that this is always God's end, then God was obligated to create, which is contrary to Reformed theology, because His glory couldn't be manifested unless there was someone to manifest it to. That's why I'd rather stick with what Dennis said, and not attempt to figure out the background to God's volition - because that no cause can be assigned for the will of God is pretty standard Christian doctrine.

Ruben, this raises many topics which I would like to sort out, if you are interested. (You can very well decide if you would prefer to finish the discussion on God's will, or not to discuss the issues I am about to present, and I would not be offended.) As you'll see by the way I state the issues, I am inclined towards certain answers; but I approach these with trepidation, for I do not wish to err in any central matters.

(1) Does not God always act for some end? If He did not act for a specific purpose, He would be acting capriciously or chaotically.

(2) If God always acts for some end, then is not this end properly identified as the manifestation of His glory? This is what Scripture seems to attest: 1 Sam. 12:22; 2 Sam. 7:23; Ps. 23:3; 31:3; Jer. 14:7; Isa. 63:12; Ezek. 20:9; etc.

(3) It seems that if God's glorification (i.e., the manifestation of His glory) is His ultimate end, then He would strive for this to the best of His abilities. For, He clearly has no lack of intellect or power to bring about His ends; therefore if it is His desire to glorify Himself, He will glorify Himself maximally. Is there any error in this?

(4) You stated that if God's glorification was His ultimate end, then He would be obliged to create, for a world would necessarily glorify Him more than the lack of a world, and therefore He had no genuine choice in whether to create or not to.
-This presupposes a libertarian view of freedom, in which power of contrary choice is essential to freedom. But what if God operates in terms of compatibilist freedom, always acting in accord with His strongest inclination? In such a case, the fact that He would never desire not to create a world (and therefore that it's impossible for Him not to create, on those terms) would not be destructive of freedom. Put differently, if it is the case that God necessarily selects the wisest option, and if it is the case that creating the world is the wisest option, then why would we want to affirm that He would possibly choose otherwise? Choosing with perfect wisdom -- and doing so necessarily -- seems destructive to freedom only on a libertarian notion of freedom; it is conducive to freedom on a compatibilist notion.

[But, I am fairly certain that this topic goes back to the nature (for severe lack of a better term) of God's nature, i.e. whether "God wills His nature." If our disagreement rests on that proposition, then I would prefer we halt discussion at that point.]

(5) You said, "That no cause can be assigned for the will of God is pretty standard Christian doctrine." I agree, but this doesn't mean that God's will has to be isolated from the components which essentially make up volition (e.g. means, intents/ends, etc.). In other words, yes, nothing causally precedes God's will, but this does not imply that God's will is "empty" or cannot be construed in terms of God's desiring His self-glorification, His acting necessarily wise.

Grace and peace,
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
One problem with the way this is going is that you have already assumed that there is but one singular will in God. As the one who needs convincing, you need to condescend to me for a while... :)

But as the one not embracing the classic Reformed position, you bear the burden of proof. If you are able to read Turretin, I would strongly recommend that you do so. He is able to set things out in a systematic and detailed way that is difficult to replicate in discussion.

Without reading those two very long threads in their entirety, let me just ask some diagnostic questions, to get a sketch of your view. Please answer as succinctly as possible.

On those threads, I think the posts by armourbearer and Prufrock are probably the most succinct and clear statements that were promulgated.
I will answer your questions, but you must define 'want' and 'desire' in relation to God's will, or I don't think things can be made plain.

1. A murderer wields a knife and stabs a man. Who performed the act?
The man.
2. Was God involved in the act?
God decreed that it would occur.
3. Did God actively bring out the stabbing in the sense that he animated the man to make a stabbing motion?
I don't know what you mean by "animated". God concurred in the act considered as a physical motion; God did not concur in the act considered as a sinful expression of anger and hatred.
4. Did God react in any way to the act, by expressing emotion, or otherwise?
The act introduced no change in God. He has already given His prohibition of murder, and will take vengeance for the crime at some point.
5. Suppose another person performs a kind act of love. God does react differently to this one than to the murderer?
Neither act introduces any change in God. He has already given His command to do unto our neighbor as we would have our neighbor do unto us.

p.s. I don't believe God is schizo, or inconsistent within his nature. But I'm confident I could produce plenty scriptural quotes that do SEEM to suggest that God displays emotion, and that these emotions SEEM to change depending on the situation. Whether God actually has these we can leave to the theologians, but am I not entitled to read the text simply and naturally? I'm not well versed (as you can see) in philosophical theology, so I sincerely want to know what I can and cannot say here.

thanks.

No. If you will read the first post on the first thread I linked, you will see that Scripture itself does not entitle you to read anthropopathic texts without reference to the rest of Biblical revelation. It is not a Reformed distinctive, but standard Christian teaching (as the rest of that thread demonstrates), that it is circumstances, not God, that changes.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
Ben, I'm not sure that I can discuss this in much detail or sort out all of these questions, but I will make an attempt to interact with what you've posted and we can see where it goes from there.

(1) Does not God always act for some end? If He did not act for a specific purpose, He would be acting capriciously or chaotically.​

God does have an end in willing. As Turretin teaches, the good God wills can have two objects, Himself and finite good. Himself, God wills necessarily, but all other things freely.

(2) If God always acts for some end, then is not this end properly identified as the manifestation of His glory? This is what Scripture seems to attest: 1 Sam. 12:22; 2 Sam. 7:23; Ps. 23:3; 31:3; Jer. 14:7; Isa. 63:12; Ezek. 20:9; etc.​
God does purpose His own glory. Intrinsically speaking, God will His glory necessarily inasmuch as it inseparable from Himself. Extrinsically speaking, God does will the manifestation of His glory, but that is willed freely (which explains why it can sometimes be temporarily occluded - Psalm 50:21).

(3) It seems that if God's glorification (i.e., the manifestation of His glory) is His ultimate end, then He would strive for this to the best of His abilities. For, He clearly has no lack of intellect or power to bring about His ends; therefore if it is His desire to glorify Himself, He will glorify Himself maximally. Is there any error in this?​
God Himself is His ultimate end. His glorification is willed freely, and hence can be willed to any particular degree. The whole purpose of creation is not exhaustive of God's whole purpose with regard to Himself.


(4) You stated that if God's glorification was His ultimate end, then He would be obliged to create, for a world would necessarily glorify Him more than the lack of a world, and therefore He had no genuine choice in whether to create or not to.
-This presupposes a libertarian view of freedom, in which power of contrary choice is essential to freedom. But what if God operates in terms of compatibilist freedom, always acting in accord with His strongest inclination? In such a case, the fact that He would never desire not to create a world (and therefore that it's impossible for Him not to create, on those terms) would not be destructive of freedom. Put differently, if it is the case that God necessarily selects the wisest option, and if it is the case that creating the world is the wisest option, then why would we want to affirm that He would possibly choose otherwise? Choosing with perfect wisdom -- and doing so necessarily -- seems destructive to freedom only on a libertarian notion of freedom; it is conducive to freedom on a compatibilist notion.

[But, I am fairly certain that this topic goes back to the nature (for severe lack of a better term) of God's nature, i.e. whether "God wills His nature." If our disagreement rests on that proposition, then I would prefer we halt discussion at that point.]​

Turretin affirms that God is said to be free with regard to indifference. Institutes, III.14.3:
Free is said either with reference to spontaneity or indifference: the former what is done spontaneously and without compulsion, but the latter what is so disposed that it can be done and not be done. When it is asked whether God wills some things freely, not only the will of spontaneity is meant (for so the things which God wills most necessarily, he wills also freely, i.e., without coaction), but properly the liberty of indifference (i.e., whether he so wills that he could have nilled them).
One reason this is important is because God desires out of fulness, not out of want: to make creation necessary is to deny one aspect of God's glory which is set out rather fully in Psalm 50.
When you suggest that God acts in accordance with His strongest inclination, there seems to be a suggestion of multiple, inconsistent inclinations: that, I think, is incompatible with the wisdom and simplicity of God.
I suspect that the real difference may lie not so much with questions of God's nature, as with the question of whether the will follows the intellect or the affections. Turretin, again, "The will of God (whose object is only the good, as that of the intellect is the true) necessarily follows his understanding." (Institutes, III.14.1)
As I recall a discussion about God willing His nature, "the divine willing is the divine nature", tailed off a bit, but I don't remember reaching a conclusion with you.

(5) You said, "That no cause can be assigned for the will of God is pretty standard Christian doctrine." I agree, but this doesn't mean that God's will has to be isolated from the components which essentially make up volition (e.g. means, intents/ends, etc.). In other words, yes, nothing causally precedes God's will, but this does not imply that God's will is "empty" or cannot be construed in terms of God's desiring His self-glorification, His acting necessarily wise.​

According to Calvin, it explicitly means that we cannot ask why God was pleased to do something. As cited before: "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." And that accords with the example of Christ in Matthew 11:25,26, who founds His rejoicing on what it has pleased God to do, without going beyond that. Of course God at times reveals the reason for an aspect of His decree (as that He brought Israel out of Egypt because of the promise made to the fathers), but when you continue to ask "why" you eventually arrive at "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight." There is nothing we can find behind that, and it seems to me that attempts to find something else, usually wind up creating more problems than they solve.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
Thanks. So onto a definition for desire or want.

We know from scripture that God desires. He desires truth, he desires mercy, he desires to be glorified, etc. Is there any serious doubt about this? As to how God desires, we have no hope of knowing. We only know that if scripture has any meaning for us, he must have it, and it must be something like our very own desire, minus the sinfulness. if we deny that God has desires, then we deny large portions of scripture.

Because we cannot really define the way God desires, we need to accept the definition that we know in our experience, and guided by scripture.

My further question:
When the murderer stabbed the man, was God displeased at this act?
Can displeasure be called an emotion that God exhibited?
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
So your definition of "desire" with regard to God is "like human desire, but without sin"? That is quite inadequate, and still makes no attempt to relate desire to will. It is inadequate because God desires out of fulness not out of want (lack). It is not sinful in me to desire food for my sustenance; but I desire it in a creaturely way because I lack food, I need nourishment periodically or I will malfunction. God has no needs. It is also inadequate because I may or may not have the requisite abilities to carry out my desires; but in God there can be no such lack.
In addition, it may be sin in me to have multiple, mutually exclusive desires; but whether it is sin in me or not, it is absurd to predicate such internal conflict of God.

God disapproves of murder - hence the 6th Commandment.
It is better not to call displeasure an "emotion" that God exhibits; God is without body, parts, or passions, and emotion is too readily understood as passion to be a useful term here. God's displeasure, or anger, is a disposition of His will to punish sinners for their sin.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
Thanks for that. I appreciate the intentional effort to employ safeguards against God having a lack or being in want. We must empty the elements of desire that are unbecoming of God. I do affirm this to be true when God has desires.

But I think you would also agree that the Bible speaks on numerous times about God having desires, and the descriptions were inspired and written so that we can know God and what he is like, not so that we would have no idea what he's like. We are free to redefine it so that it can apply to God, but when a word is emptied of its understood meaning, how can it be comprehensible to us? Can you honestly say that when you read of God's desires in this redefined sense, that you can understand and relate to God? If the word 'desire' now has no correspondence to anything in our experience, can we say that scripture really informs us about anything about God? This is why I think scholastic renderings of words can be inadequate: it does not correspond to human realities.

In my mind, removing meaning can be as, if not more, tragic than keeping it in. Scripture was written so for us to understand and comprehend the incomprehensible, and like Jesus, the word comes to us in human terms. To undermine the way scripture attempts to reveal is to shoot ourselves in the foot and leave ourselves in utter ignorance.

You say that it is wrong to call God's displeasure an emotion, even though scripture on numerous times describes it in this way. Do you disagree? God's anger is described as being "kindled", "burning", "poured out", "appeased"; he is often "provoked" to anger and reacts with "fierce" wrath in response to timely disobedience. There are hundreds of occurences of this in the bible, all suggesting emotion and passion. Why would the writers use these terms when all they wanted to communicate was God's unchanged disapproval of sin? Rather, the writers never hide these attributes or explain them away, or soften their impact on our imaginations. The Hebrews have always thought of God in this way, and continue to this day.

My question, does the Bible, in its inerrant texts, seem to portray God as having passionless dispositions, or does he seem to have what looks like emotions? It might require that we let Thomas Aquinas have a rest whlie we consider the text of scripture.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
[Moderator]Dennis, you need to read the threads I linked you to before you post again on this thread. I've pointed out to you that the Board has strict boundaries for discussion and asked you to respect those. The linked threads should make it clear where those boundaries lie so you can be sure you don't cross them.[/Moderator]

Scripture itself will not let you read it without comparing its parts so as to arrive at a consistent interpretation. Thus 1 Samuel 15:11 God repents that He has made Saul king, and this same point is reiterated in v.35. But in v.29 Samuel announces that God is not a man that he should repent. So the words given "so that we can know God and what he is like", in that same chapter are put in juxtaposition with words that remove God from being compared to us. Only a careless reader would come across 1 Samuel 15 and not be faced with the fact that these statements must be taken together in order to arrive at the whole truth. It was not out of a fondness for Aquinas (though the apparent assumption that Aquinas did not reflect on the Biblical text is not well-grounded) that the Protestant Orthodox followed their patristic and medieval predecessors in maintaining that God's repentance is an anthropopathism and describes a change in what God is doing, not in His being, but because careful attention to Scripture forces you to acknowledge that God is not a man, and therefore it is wrong to make Him in our image, or apply terms symmetrically to humans and God. Reasoning from my human experience of emotions to God having similar emotions is ruled out by the uncontroversial statement that God is not a man. So I can be anthropomorphic in speaking of God, and I can learn about Him in that way; but if I am merely anthropomorphic I prevent myself from understanding 1 Samuel 15:29 and similar texts. The inerrant Bible portrays God as being changeless, and as varying His procedure in a manner analogous to the way humans vary theirs under the influence of particular emotions. That the text is consistent with dogmatic formulations is no surprise - the dogmaticians were well aware of the text.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
Apparently I do need to do more reading, and I've been trudging through the threads.

Scripture needs to interpret itself and be read within its proper contexts, certainly. Thus, the reference to God's repentance must be read and defined in light of the passage that he does not repent as a man does. However, I am not aware of any text that suggests that God doesn't have any emotions. So, I don't see any counterbalances to this attribute of God. Whether it is inherited by gnostic influence I'm not sure. But there has been this tendency to distance God from anything remotely human. If you consider Jesus, however, when he flares up in anger or weeps, he maintains his divine integrity and dignity in all his perfection. Nothing has been compromised. This suggests that it is possible for God to exhibit such emotional display.

I agree that there are very real anthropomorphisms and -pathisms that we cannot and should not take literally, but this does not mean that our human experiences do not correspond to any of God's, does it? If there is no overlap whatsoever, then God is utterly unknowable and Scripture has invited us to create God wholly in our image.

I probably need further clarification of the orthodox understanding of "change."

If God were to do anything, like create, or destroy, does he not change, in some sense?
Does God act, does God move, does he listen and respond to prayer, is there some sequence to his thoughts and actions? Scripture does describes him as so. if so, does he not change?

From what little I understand, Thomistic thought suggests that God does not change in any way shape or form. He is a being of pure act, performing everything in a single eternal now. There are no sequences in God such that everything he has ever and will ever do happens in an eternal now. This may be so, but I marvel at how different this picture is from scripture.

Would this be the orthodox position as the Reformed understand it as well?
if scripture is so accommodating, why is theology so incomprehensible?
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
The other threads address most of your questions. Why don't you let me know when you've finished them?

Scripture certainly does not invite us to create God in our own image: it asserts that God is not a man, and it raises the rhetorical question of to whom we will compare God.

Arguing that because Jesus experiences emotions therefore emotions are proper to God is as absurd as saying that because Jesus has bones therefore a skeleton is also proper to God. Jesus is fully man, as well as fully God, and some things are proper to one nature, not the other (as sleeping to the human, and omnipresence to the divine).

All of your questions about creating, destroying, hearing prayer, etc., and their relation to God's immutability are answered in the Protestant literature. I don't know what books you have to hand, but John Gill's Body of Doctrinal Divinity discusses these matters, and can be found online. See here.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
I just noticed that the Google books edition of Gill that I linked is abridged, so it does not contain his response to the questions you raised. With apologies for the bizarre formatting, here is the unabridged version.

CHAPTER 5
OF THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD IN GENERAL, AND OF HIS IMMUTABILITY IN PARTICULAR.

The attributes of God are variously distinguished by divines; some distinguish them into negative and positive, or affirmative: the negative are such as remove from him whatever is imperfect in creatures; such are infinity, immutability, immortality, etc. which deny him to be finite, mutable, and mortal; and, indeed, it is easier to say what God is not, than what he is: the positive, or affirmative, are such as assert some perfection in God, which is in and of himself; and which in the creatures, in any measure, is from him, as wisdom, goodness, justice, holiness, etc. but the distinction is discarded by others; because in all negative attributes some positive excellency is found. Some distribute them into a “twofold order”, first and second: attributes, or essential properties of the “first order”, declare the essence of God as in himself, such as his simplicity and perfection, infinity and immutability; and attributes, or essential properties of the “second order”, which though primarily and properly, and naturally, and infinitely, and in a more excellent manner are in God, than in creatures; yet secondarily, and in an analogical sense, are in them, there being some similitude of them in them, of which there is none of the former order in them; these are said to be life and immortality, blessedness and glory.
Again, some are said to be “absolute”, and others “relative”: absolute ones are such as eternally agree with the essence of God, without respect to his creatures, and are expressed by his names, Jehovah, Jah, etc. relative ones are such as agree with him in time, with some certain respect to his creatures, and are expressed by his being their Creator, Governor, Preserver, Redeemer, etc. some are called “proper”, as those before mentioned; and others “figurative”, signified by the parts of the human body, and the affections of the mind, as observed in the preceding chapter: but the more commonly received distinction of the attributes of God, is, into the “communicable” and “incommunicable” ones; the incommunicable attributes of God, are such as there is no appearance or shadow of them in creatures; as independence, immutability, immensity, and eternity: communicable ones, are such as are common to God, with men; or, however, of which there is some resemblance in men, as goodness, holiness, justice, and wisdom; yet of these it may be said, that they are incommunicable, as they are in God, in whom they are infinite, and cannot, as such, be communicated to finite creatures: none but God is essentially, originally, underivatively, perfectly, and infinitely good, holy, just, and wise. But as God is defined a “Spirit” in scripture, as has been observed, I shall endeavour to sort the perfections and attributes of God in agreement with that: and with respect to his nature, as an uncreated Spirit, may be referred, besides his spirituality, and simplicity, already considered, his immutability, and infinity, which includes his immensity, or omnipresence, and eternity: and with respect to it as active, and operative, the life of God, and his omnipotence: and with respect to the faculties, as a rational spirit, particularly the understanding, to which may belong, his omniscience, and manifold wisdom; and the will, under which may be considered the acts of that, and the sovereignty of it; and the affections, to which may be reduced, the love, grace, mercy, hatred, anger, patience, and long suffering of God: and lastly, under the notions of qualities and virtues, may be considered, his goodness, holiness, justice, truth, and faithfulness; and, as the complement of the whole, his perfection or all-sufficiency, glory, and blessedness: and in this order I shall consider them. And begin with,
The Immutability of God; which arises from, and is closely connected with his spirituality and simplicity, or is what agrees with him, and is necessary to him as a spiritual, simple and uncompounded Being.
Immutability is an attribute which God claims, and challenges as peculiar to himself;
“I am the Lord, I change not”, Malachi 3:6.
Mutability belongs to creatures, immutability to God only; creatures change, but he does not: the heavens and the earth, which he has made, are not always the same; but “he is the same for ever”: the visible heavens are often changing; they are sometimes serene and clear, at other times covered with clouds and darkness, and filled with meteors, snow, rain, hail, etc. the face of the earth appears different at the various seasons of the year, and is particularly renewed every spring: it has undergone one great change by a flood, and will undergo another by fire; when that, and “the works that are therein, shall be burnt up; and the heavens, being on fire, shall be dissolved; and the elements shall melt with fervent heat”; and “new heavens”, and “a new earth”, shall succeed, 2 Peter 3:10,12,13, to which changeableness in them, the unchangeableness of God is opposed: “All of them shall wax old like a garment, as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end”, Psalm 102:25-27.
The sun in the firmament, that great luminary, and fountain of light and heat, in allusion to which, God is called “the Father of lights”, has its parallaxes, or various appearances, at morning, noon, and evening; it has its risings and settings; and never rises and sets at the same point in the heavens one day in the year, but always varies a little; it is sometimes under clouds, and in an eclipse; but “with” God “is no variableness”, parallagh, or a parallax; the sun, at certain seasons of the year, passes from one tropic, and enters into another, as well as casts shades on the earth; but with God there is “no shadow of turning”, trophv, of a trope, or tropic; there is no mutation nor turning in him, nor shadow of any, James 1:17; Job 23:13 the inhabitants of heaven and earth are changeable, even the most excellent of them, angels and men: angels in their original nature and state, were subject to change, as the apostasy of many of them have shown; who have changed both state and place; they “kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation”, being obliged to the latter, because of the former; for sinning against God, they were hurled out of heaven, and “cast down to hell, and delivered into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment”, Jude 1:6;2 Peter 2:4, the angels which stood when the rest fell, are now indeed become impeccable, and are firmly settled in their state of integrity; but then this is owing not to their own nature, but to the electing grace of God, in Christ, and to the confirming grace of Christ, their head, who is the “head of all principality and power”, 1 Timothy 5:21; Colossians 2:10. Man, at his best estate, his estate of innocence, and integrity, was “altogether vanity”: for though not sinful, yet being mutable, and left to the mutability of his will, which was his vanity, when tempted fell into sin; and though made upright, lost the rectitude of his nature; though made after the image of God, soon came short of that glory; and though he had dominion over the creatures, being in honour, he abode not long, but became like those he had the power over; and though placed in the most delightful and fruitful spot in all the globe, yet, rebelling against his Maker and Benefactor, was driven out from thence by him; and is now a creature subject to innumerable changes in life; diseases of various sorts seize his body, and change his beauty and his strength, and death at last turns him to corruption and dust; he is like the changeable grass of the field; flourishes a while, is then cut down, and withers away; but God and his “word endure for ever” the same, 1 Peter 1:24,25; good men are very mutable, both in their inward and outward estate: in spiritual affairs; in the frames of their minds, in the affections of their souls, in the exercise of grace, in their devotion and obedience to God, and worship of him: in temporal affairs; what an instance of mutability was Job, in his estate, in his family, and in his health and friends? well might he say, “changes and war are against me”, Job 10:17 and at length came to his great and last change, death; as all men must, even the best of men: indeed, in the future state, good men will be no more subject to change; their spirits will be made perfect, and sin no more, nor sorrow any more; and their bodies, when raised, will remain immortal, incorruptible, spiritual, powerful, and glorious; but this will be owing, not to themselves, but to the unchangeable grace and power of God: God only is in and of himself immutable; and he is unchangeable in his nature, perfections, and purposes, and in his love and affections to his people, and in his covenant, and the blessings and promises of it; and even in his threatenings.
I. In his nature and essence, being “simple”, and devoid of all composition, as has been proved: the more simple and free from mixture and composition anything is, the less subject to change. gold and silver, being the purest and freest of all metals from composition, are not so alterable as others: spirits, being uncompounded, and not consisting of parts, are not so changeable as bodies; and God, being an infinite and uncreated Spirit, and free from composition in every sense, is entirely and perfectly immutable: and since he is “eternal”, there can be no change of time with him; time doth not belong to him, only to a creature, which is the measure of its duration; and began when a creature began to be, and not before; but God is before all creatures; they being made by him, and so before time; he was the same before the day was as now, and now as he was before; “even the same today, yesterday, and for ever”: though he is “the ancient of days”, he does not become older and older; he is no older now than he was millions of ages ago, nor will be millions of ages to come; his eternity is an everlasting and unchangeable “now”; “He is the same, and his years shall have no end”, Psalm 102:27; Hebrews 13:8; and seeing he is “infinite, immense, and omnipresent”; there can be no change of place with him, for he “fills heaven and earth” with his presence; he is everywhere, and cannot change or move from place to place; when therefore he is said to “come down” on earth, or to “depart” from men, it is
not to be understood of local motion, or change of place; but of some uncommon exertion of his power, and demonstration of his presence, or of the withdrawment of some benefit from them: but this will be considered more largely under the attribute of omnipresence, in its proper place. God is the “most perfect” Being, and therefore can admit of no change in his nature, neither of increase nor decrease, of addition nor diminution; if he changes, it must be either for the better or the worse; if for the better, then he was imperfect before, and so not God: if for the worse, then he becomes imperfect; and the same follows: a like reasoning is used by Plato, and by another ancient philosopher, who asserts that God is good, impassable and unchangeable; for whatsoever is changed, says he, is either for the better or the worse; if for the worse, it becomes bad; and if for the better, it was bad at first. Or if he changes from an infinitely perfect state, to another equally so, then there must be more infinites than one, which is a contradiction. Again, if any change is made in him, it must be either from somewhat within him, or from somewhat without him; if from within, he must consist of parts; there must be “another” and “another” in him; he must consist of act and power; there must be not only something active in him, to work upon him, but a passive power to be, wrought upon; which is contrary to his simplicity, already established; for, as a Jew well argues, what necessarily exists of itself, has no other cause by which it can be changed; nor that which changes, and that which is changed, cannot be together; for so there would be in it two, one which changes, and another which is changed, and so would be compound; which is inconsistent with the simplicity of God: if from somewhat without him, then there must be a superior to him, able to move and change him; but he is the most high God; there is none in heaven nor in earth above him; he is “God over all, blessed for ever”.
Nor is the immutability of the divine nature to be disproved from the creation of the world, and all things in it; as when it is suggested, God, from a non-agent, became an agent, and acquired a new relation, that of a Creator, from whence mutability is argued: but it should be observed, that God had from all eternity the same creative power, and would have had, if he had never created any thing; and when he put it forth in time, it was according to his unchangeable will in eternity, and produced no change in him; the change was in the creatures made, not in him the Maker; and though a relation results from hence, and which is real in creatures, is only nominal in the Creator, and makes no change in his nature.
Nor is the unchangeableness of the divine nature to be disproved by the incarnation of Christ; for though he, a divine Person, possessed of the divine nature, was “made flesh”, or became man; the divine nature in him was not changed into the human nature, nor the human nature into the divine, nor a third nature made out of them both; was this the case, the divine nature would have been changeable; but so it was not; for as it has been commonly said, “Christ remained what he was, and assumed what he was not”; and what he assumed added nothing to his divine person; he was only “manifest in the flesh”; he neither received any perfection, nor imperfection, from the human nature; though that received dignity and honour by its union to him, and was adorned with the gifts and graces of the Spirit without measure, and is now advanced at the right hand of God.
Nor was any change made in the divine nature by the sufferings of Christ; the divine nature is incable of suffering, and is one reason why Christ assumed the human nature, that he might be capable of suffering and dying in the room and stead of his people; and though the Lord of life and glory was crucified, and God purchased the church with his own blood, and the blood of Christ is called the blood of the Son of God; yet he was crucified in the human nature only, and his blood was shed in that, to which the divine person gave virtue and efficacy, through its union to it; but received no change by all this.
II. God is unchangeable in his perfections or attributes; which, though they are the same with himself, his nature and essence, as has been observed; yet, considering them separately, they are helps to our better understanding of it, and serve particularly to illustrate the unchangeableness of it: thus, for instance, he is the same in his power as ever; though that has been displayed in various instances, in creation, providence, etc. it is not exhausted, nor in the least diminished; his hand is not shortened, his strength is everlasting, his power eternal, invariably the same: his “knowledge” is the same; his “understanding is infinite”, it can be neither increased nor lessened; the knowledge of angels and men increases gradually; but not so the knowledge of God, he knows no more now than he did from all eternity, he knew as much then as he does now; for he knows and sees all things together, and at once, in his vast eternal mind, and not one thing after another, as they appear in time; things past, present, and to come, are all beheld by him in one view; that is, which are so with respect to creatures, for with him there is no such consideration: his “goodness”, grace, and mercy, are immutable; though there has been such a profusion of his goodness to his creatures, and so many good and perfect gifts have been bestowed on them, it is still the same in him, without any
abatement; he is abundant in it, and it endures continually the same: and so is his grace, which has been exceedingly abundant; he is as gracious and merciful as ever; “his mercy is from everlasting to everlasting, to them that fear him”; and his faithfulness he never suffers to fail; even though men believe not, he abides faithful; and the unbelief of men cannot make the faith or faithfulness of God without effect. And as he is “glorious” in “holiness”, that perfection never receives any tarnish, can never be sullied, but is always illustriously the same; there is no unrighteousness in God, he cannot change from holiness to unholiness, from righteousness to unrighteousness; he is the just one, that neither can nor will do iniquity; and so he is unchangeably good, and unchangeably happy, and immutable in every perfection.
III. God is unchangeable in his purposes and decrees, there is a purpose for everything, and a time for that purpose; God has determined all that ever was, is, or shall be; all things come to pass according to the counsel of his will, and all his decrees are unchangeable; they are like the laws of the Medes and Persians, and more unalterable than they were; they are the mountains of brass Zechariah saw in a vision, from whence proceed the providences of God, and the executioners of them, Zechariah 6:1, called “mountains” because of their immoveableness, and mountains of “brass” to denote their greater firmness and stability: immutability is expressly spoken of the counsel of God, Hebrews 6:17, the purposes of God are always carried into execution, they are never frustrated; it is not in the power of men and devils to disannul them; whatever devices and counter workings to them may be framed and formed, they are of no avail; “the counsel of the Lord stands for ever.” Psalm 33:11; Proverbs 19:21 21:30; Isaiah 14:24,27; Isaiah 46:10, the purposes of God are “within” himself, Ephesians 1:9, and what is in himself, is himself, and he can as soon cease to be as to alter his mind, or change his counsels; and they are “eternal”, Ephesians 3:11, no new thoughts arise in his mind, no new resolutions are formed in his breast, no new decrees are made by him; his counsels are “of old”; and his purposes are called “counsels”, because designs wisely formed by men, are with consultation, and upon mature deliberation: and such are the decrees of God, they are made with the highest wisdom by him, who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working, and so are unchangeable: and besides, being “all-knowing”, he sees and declares the end from the beginning, and nothing unforeseen ever can appear to hinder the execution of his intentions and determinations; which is sometimes the case with men: and he is “able” to perform whatever he resolves upon; there is no lack of wisdom, nor of power in him, as often is in men; and he is “faithful” to himself, his purposes and decrees; his “counsels of old are faithfulness and truth”; or are truly and faithfully performed.
Nor is the immutability of the decrees of God to be disproved by his providences, which are many and various, unsearchable and past finding out, and which may seem to differ from, and clash with one another; for all the changes in providence, whether with respect to the world in general, or with respect to individuals, are according to his unchangeable will. Job was a remarkable instance of changes in providence, and yet he was fully persuaded of the unchangeable will of God in them, and which he strongly
expresses; “He is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doth; for he performeth the thing that is appointed for me; and many such things are with him”, Job 23:13,14.
Nor is it to be disproved by the different declarations of the will of God, what he would have observed and done, in the different dispensations of law and gospel. God, by Moses, ordered the children of Israel, to observe certain laws, rites, and ceremonies, until the time of reformation, and then there was a disannulling of them; the heavens and earth were shaken, that is, the whole Mosaic economy and dispensation, whereby these were removed and laid aside as useless, and other ordinances were fixed, to remain till Christ’s second coming; but then the delivery of the one, and the time of their continuance, and the abolition of them, and the settling of the other gospel ordinances to remain to the end of the world, were all according to the unchangeable will of God.
Nor is prayer any objection to the immutability of the divine will, which is not to be altered by it; for when the mind of God is not towards a people to do them good, it cannot be turned to them by the most fervent and importunate prayers of those who have the greatest interest in him, Jeremiah 15:1, and when he bestows blessings on a praying people, it is not for the sake of their prayers, as if he was inclined and turned by them: but for his own sake, and of his own sovereign will and pleasure. Should it be said, to what purpose then is prayer? it is answered, this is the way and means God has appointed, for the communication of the blessings of his goodness to his people; for though he has purposed, provided, and promised them, yet he will be sought unto, to give them to them, and it is their duty and privilege to ask them of him; and when they are blessed with a spirit of prayer, it forebodes well, and looks as if God intended to bestow the good things asked; and which should be asked always with submission
to the will of God, saying, “not my will, but thine be done”.
IV. God is unchangeable in his love and affections to his people; “his love to them is from everlasting to everlasting”, without any variation in his own heart, however different the manifestations of it may be to them; he ever rests in his love, and never alters, nothing can separate from it, he is love itself, and it is as unchangeable as himself, “the same today, yesterday, and for ever”: the fall made no difference in it, though the special objects of it fell with Adam, in his transgression, into the depths of sin and misery; this hindered not, but God continued his love, and manifested it in sending his Son to be the propitiation for their sins, and commended it, and gave a full proof and demonstration of it, in the delivery of Christ to death for them, even while they were yet sinners: nor does the sinful state and condition they were brought into, and continue in from their birth to their conversion, make any alteration in his love; but notwithstanding that, for the great love with which he loves them, he “quickens them when dead in trespasses and sins”; he looks upon them in all the impurity of their natural state, and says to them, “live”; and this time, as it is a time of life, it is a time of open love; see Ephesians 2:4,5; Ezekiel 16:6-8; Titus 3:3-
5. Nor do the hidings of God’s face from them after conversion, prove any change in his love to them; for though he hides his face from them, and forsakes them for a moment, in a little seeming wrath, to show his resentment at their sins, to bring them to a sense of them, to humble them before him, and to cause them to seek his face and favour; yet with great mercies he gathers them again to himself, in the most tender manner, and with lovingkindness, has mercy on them; and, for the strengthening of their faith in his love, swears he will not be wroth with them; and declares his lovingkindness to be more immoveable than hills and mountains, Isaiah 54:7-10. Afflictions are no evidence of a change of affections to them; though he may thoroughly chastise them, and, as they may think, severely, yet he deals with them but as children; and, like Ephraim, they are his dear sons and daughters, and pleasant children, in whom he takes the utmost complacency and delight; chastenings are rather proofs of sonship, than arguments against it. God’s rebukes of them are rebukes in love, and not in wrath and hot displeasure; though he visits their transgressions with a rod and stripes, he does not utterly, nor at all, take away his lovingkindness in Christ from them, Jeremiah 31:18,20; Hebrews 12:6-8; Revelation 3:19; Psalm 89:32,33. Nor is the unchangeableness of the love of God to his people to be disproved by his being said to be angry with them, and then to turn away his anger from them, Isaiah 12:1, for anger is not opposite to love. Jacob was angry with his beloved Rachel, and a father may be angry with his beloved child, and love him not the less. Wrath and hatred are opposed to love, which are never in the heart of God towards his beloved ones: besides, this is said after the manner of men, and according to our apprehension of things; the Lord doing somewhat similar to men when they are angry, who frown and turn away; and when God frowns in his providence, and deserts his people for a while, they judge he is angry, when it only shows his discipline at their sins, but not at their persons; and then, when he smiles upon them again, and manifests his pardoning grace and mercy, they conclude he has turned himself from the fierceness of his anger, Psalm 85:2,3.
V. God is unchangeable in his covenant of grace. This was made with Christ from everlasting, and stands fast with him; it is as immoveable as a rock, and can never be broken; the blessings of it are “sure mercies”, flow from the sovereign grace and mercy of God, and are sure and firm, being according to his unchangeable will, and are what he never repents of, nor revokes; and being once bestowed, are irreversible, and never taken away; such as are blessed with them are always blessed, and it is not in the power of men and devils to reverse them, Romans 11:29; 8:30, the promises of the covenant, which are gone out of his mouth and lips are unalterable; what has been said of purposes may be said of promises, that they were made before the world were, by God, that cannot lie, who is all-wise, all-knowing, and all-powerful, and faithful to perform them; and besides, “all the promises are yea and amen in Christ”. Nay, even God is unchangeable in his threatenings, he watches to bring the evil he has threatened, as well as the good he has promised; and he assuredly performs the one as the other, Daniel 9:14; Isaiah 1:20; Jeremiah 23:20.
Nor is the unchangeableness of God in his word, whether in a way of promise or threatening, to be disproved by repentance being ascribed to him, which is to be taken in a limited sense, for in some sense it is absolutely denied of him, Numbers 23:19; Samuel 15:29. When it is spoken of him, it is to be understood improperly and figuratively, after the manner of men, he doing like what men do, when they repent, that is, undo what they have done; as a potter, when he does not like a vessel he has made, breaks it to pieces: so when it repented God that he had made man on earth, and Saul king, Genesis 6:6; 1 Samuel 15:11, he destroyed man from off the earth, whom he had created; and took away the kingdom from Saul and his family, and gave it to another: in doing which he did not change his mind, but his operations and providences, and that according to his unchangeable will.
Nor is the immutability of God, in his promises and threatenings, to be disproved, by observing, that the promised good, and threatened evil, are not always done. For it should be considered, that what is promised or threatened, is either absolutely and unconditionally, or with a condition: now that anything promised or threatened, absolutely and unconditionally, is not performed, must be denied; but if with a condition, and that condition not performed, the change will appear to be not in God, but in
men: and in all such cases where God does not what he said he would do, a condition is either expressed or implied; see Jeremiah 18:8,9,10. Thus God promised that he would dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem, in the temple, and there should be his “rest for ever”, Psalm 132:13,14, and the people of Israel should dwell in their land, and eat the good of it; but then it was provided they were obedient to God, and abode in his service and worship, and kept his laws and ordinances, Isaiah 1:19, but they failing herein, he
departed from them, and suffered them to be carried captive: in all which there was a change of his dispensations, but no change of his will. He threatened the Ninevites with the destruction of their city within forty days, that is, unless they repented: they did repent, and were saved from ruin, God repenting of what he had threatened; which, though a change of his outward conduct towards them, he threatened them with, was no change of his will; for both their repentance, and their deliverance, were according to his unchangeable will, Jonah 3:4,10. Nor is the case of Hezekiah any objection to the immutability of God; the outward declaration ordered to be made to him, was, that he should “die and not live”; as he must have done quickly, according to the nature of second causes, his disease being mortal; but the secret will of God was, that he should live “fifteen years” longer, as he did; which implies neither contradiction nor change: the outward declaration was made to humble Hezekiah, to set him a praying, and to make use of means; whereby the unchangeable will of God was accomplished.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
This might also help. It is a bit technical but lays out the Reformed understanding of God in se. The Reformers followed in a long tradition of guarding the transcendence of God against thinking of Him as just a bigger version of ourselves:

2. The Reformed orthodox definition and discussion of archetypal theology.

True theology, both archetypal and ectypal, can be identified as knowledge that stands beyond doubt (cognitio indubitata) over against the depraved opinion (opinio depravata) of false theology.25 The orthodox recognize, then, the necessity of arguing a set of criteria for and a paradigm of true theology, beginning with the divine archetype that must underlie all truth about God and continuing through the several orders of rational creatures capable of knowing God. Although true theology is diverse or “multiplex” considered according to its modes of communication and the “subjects” or knowers in which it is found, true theology is one according to substance, whether it is found in God himself or in his creatures. The divisions into archetypal and ectypal, and of ectypal into theologies of the vision, of union, and of revelation, respects the fact that there is not one “species of theology” found in a series of “degrees” or gradus.26 This substantially singular theology, as known infinitely and absolutely by the divine subject, God, is archetypal; as known finitely and relatively by the creaturely subject, ectypal.27 There are, Alsted notes, three causes or grounds for the identification of this theologia vera: first, that it arises from the source that is truth itself (qui ipsissima est veritas); second, that those who study it receive or achieve truth in their statements; and third, that it is internally harmonious, inasmuch as the mutual agreement and consent of all parts of a given body of ideas with one another’s is an index of truth.28

Echoing Keckermann, Alsted concludes from his discussion of the nature of truth that the truth is one and that there cannot ultimately be more than one truth, that is, no truth can exist in ultimate contradiction with another truth.29 Indeed, the Reformed orthodox generally assumed the unity of truth given the necessary grounding of all finite truth in the one, all-encompassing truth of the divine mind: not only theology, but all human knowledge looks, ultimately, to the divine knowledge as its source and goal.30 This conclusion, in turn, points toward the unity of theology and analogically toward the division or distinction of its forms: the divine archetype is theology in the truest sense, while all ectypal forms are identifiable as theologia vera secondarily because of their “similitude to the archetype.” Thus, “theology is and is said to be in intelligent creatures as an image, the archetype of which is in God.”31 “Theology is in God formally and eminently” (formaliter et eminenter) as his “essential wisdom.” It is not a discursive knowing but a simple intelligence to which all others can be related only by analogy: and inasmuch as sapientia, in humans, implies both principia and conclusions, the term cannot be predicated univocally of God. Archtypal theology is, thus, a “nondiscursive” divine sapientia.32

The archetype, as Turretin noted, is not in any sense equivalent to our theology: the human mind cannot know the archetype, as such, and the term “theology” cannot be predicated univocally of our theology and of the divine archetype.33 Nonetheless, as the early orthodox dogmaticians point out, the fact of the divine archetype is crucial to the existence of true yet finite human theology: “Archetypal theology is the divine Wisdom concerning divine things: this we truly adore, but we do not inquire into it.”34 This, adds Junius, is not a definition but rather a description by analogy with things known to us, by the application of our terms to divine things. Wisdom (sapientia) is predicated univocally only of God inasmuch as God alone is truly wise—and therefore is predicated equivocally of human beings. Therefore, when predicated of God, wisdom does not indicate a genus of wise things of which God is one. The divine sapientia is a proper attribute of God: it is divine wisdom in the sense of being identical with the divine essence in its utter simplicity and its freedom from all composition. The theologia archetypa, then, is God himself, the identity of self and self-knowledge in the absolutely and essentially wise God.35

Polanus thus remarks that the division of theology into the categories of archetypal and ectypal is by analogy. Primarily and principally, theologia is theologia archetypa and only secondarily and by similitude is it theologia ectypa. This must be the case since all wisdom, goodness, righteousness, power, and other creaturely qualities in rational creatures are from God in whom they find their archetype—their imago.36 That there is theology in God appears from the fact that God has wisdom concerning rerum divinarum and from the fact that all perfections “that are in us, are also in God,” but on an exalted level. Thus, “archetypal theology is the wisdom of divine things that is resident in God, essential to him and uncreated.”37 This might also be called theologia prototypa or, as the scholastics termed it, theologia Dei or “exemplary theology, to which as to an immutable, primary and primordial idea and exemplar, all created theology is conformed as a likeness, such divine theology we adore but do not search into.”38 This language draws directly upon that of Junius, with some amplification of definition.

Since, moreover, this “divine knowledge concerning divine things” is uncreated (increata), identical with the form or essence of God (formalis), absolute, infinite, utterly simple or incomplex (simplicissima), and utterly simultaneous (tota simul), that is, without either temporal or logical sequence, it must also be incommunicable (incommunicabilis), as indeed are all the divine attributes when defined strictly or univocally. All that can be naturally communicated to created things of such an ultimate wisdom are but faint images or vestiges (imagines aut etiam vestigia). There is no analogical path from the divine imprint upon the created order to a full knowledge of God.39 It is therefore God himself who is the source, origin and efficient cause of what we know in this life as true theology.40 The nature of this archetype and its function as the source of all that finite creatures know about God poses a final paradox in the Protestant scholastic discussion of the “attributes” of archetypal theology: it is both incommunicable (incommunicabilis) and communicative (communicativa). The identity of theologia archetypa with the infinite essence of God renders it incapable of communication to creatures. Nonetheless, God’s infinite self-knowledge is transmitted to things in the created order. In creation, all things receive the imprint of the divine and the ability of finite creatures to apprehend revelation, to have theology, rests upon the image of God according to which they have been created.41
A somewhat different approach to the problem of theologia is evident in a few of the early orthodox systems. Thus, Trelcatius begins his introductory remarks by dividing the subject into a discussion of theology and its nature and an analysis of the method he proposes to use throughout his institutio. “Theology” does not indicate the pattern or knowledge of “God himself” or “that which is in God.” God is a “simple Essence” who “by an indivisible and unchangeable act … knows both himself in himself and out of himself all and singular things by himself.” What we know of God is his own “revelation or communication” of divine knowledge either “according to the universal nature of all men, or according to special grace and the rule of Scripture in the Church.”42 According to Trelcatius, “theology” properly so-called is a word about God known to man. By stating the definition in this way he manifests an early point of disagreement among the framers of the Reformed prolegomena: he refuses to develop the concept of an archetypal theology and begins with knowledge of God as given in revelation, what Junius, Polanus, and Scharpius refer to as theologia ectypa. This position can perhaps be viewed as less speculative than that of Junius, Polanus and Scharpius insofar as it refuses to discuss or even to identify a theologia that stands beyond human grasp. Although Trelcatius’ position never became that of the majority of Reformed orthodox, it was carried forward among the Dutch Reformed by Gomarus and Walaeus, both of whom shy away from the identification of a theologia archetypa and discuss only revealed theology.43 By implication, at least, this focus on theologia revelata, coupled with an unwillingness to develop the larger paradigm may also be found in the thought of British writers like Perkins and Ames, who offer praxis-oriented definitions of theology: they do not discuss the distinction, and the thrust of their argumentation points away from an emphasis on the archetype. This possible implication of the so-called Ramist definition of theology is evident; moreover, it remains so a generation after Perkins in the work of Stoughton.44 Focus on ectypal theology is also echoed among the later orthodox, by Turretin’s and Owen’s reluctance to identify theologia archetypa as a “proper” usage of the term theology.45

This disagreement arises out of the fact that the term theologia cannot be applied properly or univocally to both archetype and ectype. Which then is truly theology and who, to reiterate Scotus’ Augustinian query, is truly the theologian? Trelcatius’ and Turretin’s definitions apply the term theologia univocally to human theology and view the use of the term as a description of the divine self-knowledge as somewhat less than appropriate (minus proprius). Following Junius’ argument from the divine attributes, however, some of the early orthodox—like Polanus—argue that the term is used correctly and most properly (proprissime) of the divine self-knowledge and only derivatively of our knowledge of God. God, therefore, is properly called “theologian” and is recognized as the first (primus), highest (optimus) and most perfect (perfectissimus) Theologian:
Theology therefore most properly is that knowledge of divine things which is in the divine mind, so that God alone is called Theologian: and accordingly, God is understood to be the first, highest and most perfect theologian.

Moreover, this [theology] is a formal wisdom (sapientia formalis), absolute or perfect, infinite, utterly simultaneous, incommunicable, and such that only its image or reflection (imaginem) can be communicated to rational creatures.

It is formal: since it is essential (essentialis) and the form of God or Deity, which is the purest form (purissima forma) .…
It is most perfect: since it is not only of all things, but is indeed all the knowledge that it is possible for God to have concerning all things.46
Unlike Turretin’s, this position delineates clearly the path of theological knowing as revelational, from God to the creature, rather than as rational, from the creature to God. Turretin’s view, however, better reflects the logic of predication in view of the impossibility of a univocal use of the term theology in discussing the relationship between God’s self-knowledge and our knowledge of God—and, of course, neither Junius nor Turretin intended to imply the possibility of rational ascent to perfect knowledge of God.

This divergence of opinion arises naturally out of the terminology itself and the problem of predication, a problem already seen in the medieval materials. On the one hand, Scotus’ terminology presses a distinction between the infinite, divine, and ideal order (theologia in se, or, in Protestant scholastic usage, theologia archetypa) and the finite order known to us (theologia nostra or theologia in subiecto). On the other hand, Scotus, the nominalists after him, and virtually all of the formulators of Protestant theology denied the Thomist analogia entis and declared that no proportion exists between the finite and the infinite (finiti et infiniti nulla proportio). Late medieval debate, therefore, adumbrated the quandary of the Reformed orthodox: Scotus had declared God to be the only true Theologian and theologia in se to be the only theology properly so-called.

Identification of archetypal theology as the eternal or divine pattern for the perfect truth of supernatural revelation offered the Reformed, moreover, a rather anti-speculative solution to the problem of the relationship of the ultimate divine self-knowledge to our theology: following the language of the divine attributes that will appear in the subsequent loci of the theological system, Reformed theologians could identify an ultimate divine knowledge that God, as God, must have—the scientia necessaria or necessary knowledge of the divine essence and of all possibility.47 It is clear, however, that neither the infinite divine self-knowledge nor the necessary divine knowledge of all possibility—including the possibilities not actualized by God—has little or no relevance to the special saving revelation of God and does not easily function as the eternal pattern for a fundamentally soteric theologia ectypa.
This latter issue also created a minor disagreement among the Reformed: the earlier definitions found in Junius, Polanus, and others of their generation, tend to identify the theologia archetypa with the scientia necessaria. Cocceius, on the other hand, made clear that he viewed the theologia archetypa as only a portion of the scientia necessaria. Thus, according to Cocceius, the theologia archetypa, is not the entirety of “that perfect knowledge by which God knows himself,” but the eternal type of the truth that will conform human beings to the divine image: theologia archetypa is not the divine scientia necessaria, but the precise pattern in the mind of God for the earthly revelation of salvation—it is the eternal basis for the finite, but fully sufficient revelation at the foundation of the true theologia ectypa: the theologia ectypa is, thus, only a portion of the divine scientia necessaria.48 In Cocceius’ view, moreover, the theologia archetypa is an inward trinitarian knowing, the Father knowing the Son, the Son knowing the Father, and the Spirit searching out the deep things of God—a cognitive parallel with Cocceius’ doctrine of the pactum salutis.49 Cocceius’ definition of archetypal theology also coincides with his insistence that theology is a practical discipline oriented toward the goal of salvation. The more inclusive identification of archetypal theology with necessary knowledge conforms more to the understanding of theology as a mixed discipline, both speculative and practical.50

Muller, R. A. (2003). Post-Reformation reformed dogmatics: The rise and development of reformed orthodoxy; volume 1: Prolegomena to theology (2nd ed.) (229–234). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
God wasn't obligated, but He would have wanted to create human beings and a creation that would one day be a suitable dwelling place for His Son, and His Spirit, and Himself, if that was His ultimate plan for this creation, which it is.

I presume there aren't any other creations, cosmoses, divine plans in operation, as the Bible appears to be silent on these (?) That may be a presumption too far (?)
 
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