Theology ProperThe Foreknowledge and foreordination of God by A. A. Hodge
5. What is the distinction between foreknowledge and foreordination, and what is the general position of the Socinians on this point?
Foreknowledge is an act of the infinite intelligence of God, knowing from all eternity, without change, the certain futurition of all events of every class whatsoever that ever will come to pass.
Foreordination is an act of the infinitely intelligent, foreknowing, righteous, and benevolent will of God from all eternity determining the certain futurition of all events of every class whatsoever that come to pass. Foreknowledge recognizes the certain futurition of events, while foreordination makes them certainly future.
Socinians admit that the foreknowledge and the foreordination of God are co-extensive, but they limit both to such events in creation and providence as God has determined to do by his own immediate agency, or to bring about through the agency of such second causes as act under the law of necessity. They deny that God has either foreordained or foreknown the voluntary actions of free agents, which from their very nature are contingent, and not objects of knowledge until after their occurrence.
6. What is the position of the Arminians on this subject?
The Arminians agree with the Socinians in denying that God foreordains the voluntary acts of free agents, or in any way whatever determines them beforehand to be certainly future. But they differ from the Socinians and agree with us in holding that the certain foreknowledge of God extends equally to all events, as well to those in their nature contingent, as to those produced by second causes acting under the law of necessity. They hold that he foresees with absolute certainty from all eternity the futurition of the free actions of moral agents, and that he embraces and adjusts them in his eternal plan—which plan embraces all things, the free actions of moral agents as simply foreseen, and the actions of necessary agents as absolutely foreordained.
7. State under several heads the Calvinistic doctrine on this subject
1st. God foreknows all events as certainly future because he has decreed them and thus made them certainly future.
2d. God’s decree relates equally to all future events of every kind, to the free actions of moral agents, as well as to action of necessary agents, to sinful as well as morally right actions.
3d. Some things God has eternally decreed to do himself immediately, e. g., creation; other things to bring to pass through the action of second causes acting under a law of necessity, and again other things he has decreed to prompt or to permit free agents to do in the exercise of their free agency; yet the one class of events is rendered by the decree as certainly future as the other.
4th. God has decreed ends as well as means, causes as well as effects, conditions and instrumentalities as well as the events which depend upon them.
5th. God’s decree determines only the certain futurition of events, it directly effects or causes no event. But the decree itself provides in every case that the event shall be effected by causes acting in a manner perfectly consistent with the nature of the event in question. Thus in the case of every free act of a moral agent the decree itself provides at the same time—(a.) That the agent shall be a free agent. (b.) That his antecedents and all the antecedents of the act in question shall be what they are. (c.) That all the present conditions of the act shall be what they are. (d.) That the act shall be perfectly spontaneous and free on the part of the agent. (e.) That it shall be certainly future.
6th. God’s purposes relating to all events of every kind constitute one single, all-comprehensive intention comprehending all events, the free as free, the necessary as necessary, together with all their causes, conditions, and relations, as one indivisible system of things, every link of which is essential to the integrity of the whole.
8. Show that as respects the eternal plan of an omniscient and omnipotent Creator, foreknowledge is equivalent to foreordination
God possessing infinite foreknowledge and power, existed alone from eternity; and in time, self-prompted, began to create in an absolute vacuum. Whatever limiting causes or conditions afterwards exist were first intentionally brought into being by himself, with perfect foreknowledge of their nature, relations, and results. If God then foreseeing that if he created a certain free agent and placed him in certain relations he would freely act in a certain way, and yet with that knowledge proceeded to create that very free agent and put him in precisely those positions, God would, in so doing, obviously predetermine the certain futurition of the act foreseen. God can never in his work be reduced to a choice of evils, because the entire system, and each particular end and cause, and condition, was clearly foreseen and by deliberate choice admitted by himself.
9. What reasons may be assigned for contemplating the decrees of God as one all-comprehensive intention?
1st. Because as shown below it is an eternal act, and æternitas est una, individua et tota simul.
2d. Because every event that actually occurs in the system of things is interlaced with all other events in endless involution. No event is isolated. The color of the flower and the nest of the bird are related to the whole material universe. Even in our ignorance we can trace a chemical fact as related to myriad other facts, classified under the heads of mechanics, electricity, and light and life.
3d. God decrees events as they actually occur, i.e., events produced by causes, and depending upon conditions. The decree that determines the event can not leave out the cause or the condition upon which it depends. But the cause of one event, is the effect of another, and every event in the universe is more immediately or remotely the condition of every other, so that an eternal purpose on the part of God must be one all-comprehensive act.
As our minds are finite, as it is impossible for us to embrace in one act of intelligent comprehension an infinite number of events in all their several relations and bearings, we necessarily contemplate events in partial groups, and we conceive of the purpose of God relating to them as distinct successive acts. Hence the Scriptures speak of the counsels, the purposes, and the judgments of God in the plural, and in order to indicate the intended relation of one event to another, they represent God as purposing one event, as the means or condition upon which another is suspended. This is all true because these events do have these relations to one another, but they all alike fall within, and none remain without, that one eternal design of God which comprehends equally all causes and all effects, all events and all conditions.
All the speculative errors of men on this subject, spring from the tendency of the human mind to confine attention to one fragment of God’s eternal purpose, and to regard it as isolated from the rest. The Decree of God separates no event from its causes or conditions any more than we find them separated in nature. We are as much unable to take in by one comprehensive act of intelligence all the works of God in nature as we are to take in all his decrees. We are forced to study his works part by part. But no intelligent student of nature thinks that any event is isolated. So we are forced to study his decrees part by part, but no intelligent theologian should suppose that there are any broken links or imperfect connection either here or there.
10. How may it be proved that the decrees of God are eternal?
1st. As God is infinite, he is necessarily eternal and unchangeable, from eternity infinite in wisdom and knowledge, and absolutely independent in thought and purpose of every creature. There can never be any addition to his wisdom, nor surprise to his foreknowledge, nor resistance to his power, and therefore there never can be any occasion to reverse or modify that infinitely wise and righteous purpose which, from the perfection of his nature, he formed from eternity.
2d. It is asserted in Scripture.—(ἀπʼ ἀιῶνος) Acts 15:18; (πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου) Eph. 1:4; 1 Pet. 1:20; (ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς) 2 Thes 2:13; (πρὸ χρόνων ἀιωνίων) 2 Tim. 1:9; (πρὸ τῶν ἀιωνων) 1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 3:11, etc.
11. Prove that the decrees are immutable
1st. This is certain from the fact that they are eternal, as just shown.
2d. From the fact that God is eternal, absolute, immutable, and all-perfect in wisdom and power.
3d. It is taught in Scripture.—Ps. 33:11; Is. 46:9, etc.
12. Prove from reason that the decrees of God comprehend all events
As shown above no event is isolated. If one event is decreed absolutely all events must therefore be determined with it. If one event is left indeterminate all future events will be left in greater or less degrees indeterminate with it.
13. Prove the same from Scripture
1st. They affirm that the whole system in general is embraced in the divine decrees.—Eph. 1:11; Acts 17:26; Dan. 4:34, 35.
2d. They affirm the same of fortuitous events.—Prov. 16:33; Matt. 10:29, 30.
3d. Of the free actions of men.—Eph. 2:10, 11; Phil. 2:13.
4th. Even of the wicked actions of men. “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken and with wicked hands have crucified and slain.”—Acts 2:23. “For of a truth against thy Holy Child whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined beforehand to be done.”—Acts 4:27, 28; Acts 13:29; 1 Peter 2:8; Jude 4; Rev. 17:17. As to the history of Joseph, compare Gen. 37:28 with Gen. 45:7, 8, and 50:20: “So now it was not you that sent me hither but God.” “But as for you, ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good.”—See also Ps. 17:13, 14, and Is. 10:5 and 15, etc.
14. Prove the universality of God’s decrees from providence
It follows from the eternity, immutability, and infinite wisdom, foreknowledge, and power of God, that his temporal working in providence must in all things proceed according to his eternal purpose.—Eph. 1:11, and Acts 15:18. But both Scripture and reason alike teach us that the providential government of God comprehends all things in heaven and on earth as a whole, and every event in detail.—Prov. 16:33; Dan. 4:34, 35; Matt. 10:29, 30.
15. Prove this doctrine from prophecy
God has in the Scriptures foretold the certain occurrence of many events, including the free actions of men, which have afterwards surely come to pass. Now the ground of prophecy is foreknowledge, and the foundation of the foreknowledge of an event as certainly future, is God’s decree that made it future. The eternal immutability of the decree is the only foundation of the infallibility either of the foreknowledge or of the prophecy. But if God has decreed certain future events, he must also have included in that decree all of their causes, conditions, co-ordinates, and consequences. No event is isolated; to make one certainly future implies the determination of the whole concatenation of causes and effects which constitute the universe.
16. In what sense are the decrees of God free?
The decrees of God are free in the sense that in decreeing he was solely actuated by his own infinitely wise, righteous, and benevolent good pleasure. He has always chosen as he pleased, and he has always pleased consistently with the perfection of his nature.
17. In what sense are the decrees of God sovereign?
They are sovereign in the sense that while they determine absolutely whatever occurs without God, their whole reason and motive is within the divine nature, and they are neither suggested nor occasioned by, nor conditioned upon any thing whatsoever without him.
18. What is the distinction between absolute and conditional decrees?
An absolute decree is one which, while it may include conditions, is suspended upon no condition, i.e., it makes the event decreed, of whatever kind, whether of mechanical necessity or of voluntary agency, certainly future, together with all the causes and conditions, of whatever nature, upon which the event depends.
A conditional decree is one which decrees that an event shall happen upon the condition that some other event, possible but uncertain (not decreed), shall actually occur.
The Socinians denied that the free actions of men, being intrinsically uncertain, are the objects of knowledge, and therefore affirmed that they are not foreknown by God. They held that God decreed absolutely to create the human race, and after Adam sinned he decreed absolutely to save all repenting and believing sinners, yet that he decreed nothing concerning the sinning nor the salvation of individual men.
The Arminians, admitting that God certainly foreknows the acts of free agents as well as all other events, maintain that he absolutely decreed to create man, and foreseeing that man would sin he absolutely decreed to provide a salvation for all, and actually to save all that repent and believe, but that he conditionally decreed to save individual men on the condition, foreseen but not foreordained, of their faith and obedience.
19. What are the objections to attributing conditional decrees to God?
Calvinists admit that the all-comprehensive decree of God determines all events according to their inherent nature, the actions of free agents as free, and the operation of necessary causes, necessarily. It also comprehends the whole system of causes and effects of every kind; of the motives and conditions of free actions, as well as the necessary causes of necessary events. God decreed salvation upon the condition of faith, yet in the very same act he decreed the faith of those persons whose salvation he has determined. “Whom he did predestinate, them he also called.” Thus his decree from the beginning embraced and provided for the free agency of man, as well as the regular procedures of nature, according to established laws. Thus also his covenants, or conditional promises, which he makes in time, are in all their parts the execution of his eternal purpose, which comprehended the promise, and the condition in their several places as means to the end. But that the decree of God can be regarded as suspended upon conditions which are not themselves determined by the decree is evidently impossible.
1st. This decree has been shown above (Questions 3–7) to be eternal and all-comprehensive. A condition implies liability to change. The whole universe forming one system, if one part is contingent the whole must be contingent, for if one condition failed the whole concatenation of causes and effects would be deranged. If the Arminian should rejoin that although God did not foreordain the free acts of men, yet he infallibly foreknew and provided for them, and therefore his plans can not fail; then the Calvinist replies that if God foresaw that a given man, in given circumstances, would act at a given juncture in a certain way, then God in decreeing to create that very man and place him in those very circumstances, at that very juncture, did foreordain the certain futurition of that very event, and of all its consequences. That God’s decree is immutable and does not depend upon uncertain conditions, is proved (1) from its eternity, (2) from the direct assertions of Scripture.—Isa. 14:24, 27; 46:10; Ps. 33:11; Prov. 19:21; Rom. 9:11; Eph. 3:11.
2d. The foreknowledge of God, as Arminians admit, is eternal and certain, and embraces all events, free as well as necessary. But, (1) as shown in the preceding paragraph, this foreknowledge involves foreordination, and (2) certainty in the foreknowledge implies certainty in the event; certainty implies determination; determination leaves us to choose between the decree of an infinitely wise, righteous, and benevolent God, and a blind fate.
3d. A conditional decree would subvert the sovereignty of God and make him, as to the administration of his whole government and the execution of all his plans, dependent upon the uncontrollable actions of his own creatures. But the decrees of God are sovereign.—Isa. 40:13, 14; Dan. 4:35; Rom. 9:15–18.
4th. His decree is declared to depend upon his own “good pleasure,” and the “counsel of his own will.”—Eph. 1:5, 11; Rom. 9:11; Matt. 11:25, 26.
5th. The decree of God includes the means and conditions. 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2; Eph. 1:4.
6th. His decree absolutely determines the free actions of men.—Acts 4:27, 28; Eph. 2:10.
7th. God himself works in his people that faith and obedience which are called the conditions of their salvation.—Phil. 2:13; Eph. 2:8; 2 Tim. 2:25.
20. How far are the decrees of God efficacious and how far permissive?
All the decrees of God are equally efficacious in the sense that they all infallibly determine the certain futurition of the event decreed. Theologians, however, classify the decrees of God thus: 1st. As efficacious in as far as they respect those events which he has determined to effect through necessary causes, or in his own immediate agency. 2d. As permissive, as far as they respect those events which he has determined to allow dependent free agents to effect.
21. How may it be proved that the decree of God renders the event certain?
1st. From the nature of the decree itself as sovereign and unchangeable (see above).
2d. From the essential nature of God in his relation to his creation, as an infinitely wise and powerful sovereign.
3d. The foreknowledge of God regards future events as certain. The ground of this certainty must be either in God, or in the events themselves, which last is fatalism.
4th. The Scriptures ascribe a certainty of futurition to the events decreed. There is a needs-be that the event should happen “as it was determined.”—Luke 18:31–33; 24:46; Acts 2:23; 13:29; 1 Cor. 11:19; Matt. 16:21.
22. How does this doctrine, that God’s universal decree renders the occurrence of all future events certain, differ from the ancient doctrine of faith?
The Calvinistic doctrine of Decrees agrees with Fatalism only at one point, i.e., in maintaining that the events in question are certainly future. But the Arminian doctrine of divine foreknowledge does precisely the same thing. In every other point our doctrine differs from the heathen doctrine of Fate.
Fatalism supposes all events to be certainly determined by a universal law of necessary causation, acting blindly and by a simple unintelligent force effecting its end irresistibly and irrespective of the free wills of the free agents involved. There was no room left for final ends or purposes, no place for motive or choice, no means or conditions, but a simple evolution of necessity.
On the other hand the Calvinistic doctrine of Decrees postulates the infinite all-comprehensive plan of an infinitely wise, righteous, powerful, and benevolent Father, whose plan is determined not by mere will, but according to the “counsel of his will,” securing the best ends, and adopting the best means in order to attain those ends—and whose plan is not executed by mere force, but through the instrumentality of all classes of second causes, free as well as necessary, each pre-adapted to its place and function, and each acting without constraint according to its nature.
There is an infinite difference between a machine and a man, between the operation of motives, intelligence, free choice, and the mechanical forces which act upon matter. There is precisely the same difference between the system of divine decrees, and the heathen doctrine of fate.
23. What objection to this doctrine of unconditional decrees is derived from the admitted fact of man’s free agency?
Objection.—Foreknowledge implies the certainty of the event. The decree of God implies that he has determined it to be certain. But that he has determined it to be certain implies, upon the part of God, an efficient agency in bringing about that event which is inconsistent with the free agency of man.
We answer: It is evidently only the execution of the decree, and not the decree itself, which can interfere with the free agency of man. On the general subject of the method in which God executes his decrees, see below, the chapters on Providence, Effectual Calling, and Regeneration.
We have here room only for the following general statement:
1st. The Scriptures attribute all that is good in man to God; these “he works in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” All the sins which men commit the Scriptures attribute wholly to the man himself. Yet God’s permissive decree does truly determine the certain futurition of the act; because God knowing certainly that the man in question would in the given circumstances so act, did place that very man in precisely those circumstances that he should so act. But in neither case, whether in working the good in us, or in placing us where we will certainly do the wrong, does God in executing his purpose ever violate or restrict the perfect freedom of the agent.
2d. We have the fact distinctly revealed that God has decreed the free acts of men, and yet that the actors were none the less responsible, and consequently none the less free in their acts.—Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:27, 28; Gen. 50:20, etc. We never can understand how the infinite God acts upon the finite spirit of man, but it is none the less our duty to believe.
3d. According to that theory of the will which makes the freedom of man to consist in the liberty of indifference, i.e., that the will acts in every case of choice in a state of perfect equilibrium equally independent of all motives for or against, and just as free to choose in opposition to all desires as in harmony with them, it is evident that the very essence of liberty consists in uncertainty. If this be the true theory of the will, God could not execute his decrees without violating the liberty of the agent, and certain foreknowledge would be impossible.
But as shown below, in Chapter XV., the true theory of the will is that the liberty of the agent consists in his acting in each case as, upon the whole, he pleases, i.e., according to the dispositions and desires of his heart, under the immediate view which his reason takes of the case. These dispositions and desires are determined in their turn by the character of the agent in relation to his circumstances, which character and circumstances are surely not beyond the control of the infinite God.
Archibald Alexander Hodge, Outlines of Theology: Rewritten and Enlarged (New York: Hodder & Stoughton, 1878), 202–210.