Theology Proper

The Infinite Intelligence of God by A. A. Hodge

35. How does God’s mode of knowing differ from ours?

God’s knowledge is, 1st, his essence knowing; 2d, it is one eternal, all-comprehensive, indivisible act.

(1.) It is not discursive, i.e. proceeding logically from the known to the unknown; but intuitive, i.e., discerning all things directly in its own light.

(2.) It is independent, i.e., it does in no way depend upon his creatures or their actions, but solely upon his own infinite intuition of all things possible in the light of his own reason, and of all things actual and future in the light of his own eternal purpose.

(3.) It is total and simultaneous, not successive. It is one single, indivisible act of intuition, beholding all things in themselves, their relations and successions, as ever present.

(4.) It is perfect and essential, not relative, i.e., he knows all things directly in their hidden essences, while we know them only by their properties, as they stand related to our senses.

(5.) We know the present imperfectly, the past we remember dimly, the future we know not at all. But God knows all things, past, present, and future, by one total, unsuccessive, all-comprehensive vision.

36. How has this divine perfection been defined by theologians?

Turretin, Locus iii., Q. 12.—“Concerning the knowledge of God, before all else, two things are to be considered, viz., its mode and its object. The Mode of the divine knowledge consists in this, that he perfectly, individually, distinctly, and immutably knows all things, and his knowledge is thus distinguished from the knowledge of men and angels. He knows all things perfectly, because he has known them through himself, or his own essence, and not by the phenomena of things, as the creatures know objects.… 2. He knows all things individually because he Knows them intuitively, by a direct act of cognition, and not inferentially, by a process of discursive reasoning, or by comparing one thing with another.… 3. He knows all things distinctly, not that he unites by a different conception the various predicates of things, but that he sees through all things by one most distinct act of intuition, and nothing, even the least thing, escapes him.… 4. And he knows all immutably, because that with him there is no shadow of change, and he remaining himself unmoved, moves all things, and so perceives all the various changes of things, by one immutable act of cognition.”

37. How may the objects of divine knowledge be classified?

1st. God himself in his own infinite being. It is evident that this, transcending the sum of all other objects, is the only adequate object of a knowledge really infinite.

2d. All possible objects, as such, whether they are or ever have been, or ever will be or not, seen in the light of his own infinite reason.

3d. All things actual, which have been, are, or will be, he comprehends in one eternal, simultaneous act of knowledge, as ever present actualities to him, and as known to be such in the light of his own sovereign and eternal purpose.

38. What is the technical designation of the knowledge of thing possible, and what is the foundation of that knowledge?

Its technical designation is scientia simplicis intelligentiæ, knowledge of simple intelligence, so called, because it is conceived by us as an act simply of the divine intellect, without any concurrent act of the divine will. For the same reason it has been styled scientia, necessaria, necessary knowledge, i.e., not voluntary, or determined by will. The foundation of that knowledge is God’s essential and infinitely perfect knowledge of his own omnipotence.

39. What is the technical designation of the knowledge of things actual, whether past, present, or future, and what is the foundation of that knowledge?

It is called scientia visionis, knowledge of vision, and scientia libera, free knowledge, because his intellect is in this case conceived of as being determined by a concurrent act of his will.

The foundation of this knowledge is God’s infinite knowledge of his own all-comprehensive and unchangeable eternal purpose.

40. Prove that the knowledge of God extends to future contingent events

The contingency of events in our view of them has a twofold ground: first, their immediate causes may be by us indeterminate, as in the case of the dice; second, their immediate cause may be the volition of a free agent. The first class are in no sense contingent in God’s view. The second class are foreknown by him as contingent in their cause, but as none the less certain in their event.

That he does foreknow all such is certain—

1st. Scripture affirms it.—1 Sam. 23:11, 12; Acts 2:23; 15:18; Isa. 46:9, 10.

2d. He has often predicted contingent events future, at the time of the prophecy, which has been fulfilled in the event Mark 14:30.

3d. God is infinite in all his perfections, his knowledge, therefore, must (1) be perfect, and comprehend all things future as well as past, (2) independent of the creature. He knows all things in themselves by his own light, and can not depend upon the will of the creature to make his knowledge either more certain or more complete.

41. How can the certainty of the foreknowledge of God be reconciled with the freedom of moral agents in their acts?

The difficulty here presented is of this nature. God’s foreknowledge is certain; the event, therefore, must be certainly future; if certainly future, how can the agent be free in enacting it.

In order to avoid this difficulty some theologians, on the one hand, have denied the reality of man’s moral freedom, while others, on the other hand, have maintained that, God’s knowledge being free, he voluntarily abstains from knowing what his creatures endowed with free agency will do.

We remark—

1st. God’s certain foreknowledge of all future events and man’s free agency are both certain facts, impregnably established by independent evidence. We must believe both, whether we can reconcile them or not.

2d. Although necessity is inconsistent with liberty, moral certainty is not, as is abundantly shown in Chapter XV., Question 25.

42. What is scientia media?

This is the technical designation of God’s knowledge of future contingent events, presumed, by the authors of this distinction, to depend not upon the eternal purpose of God making the event certain, but upon the free act of the creature as foreseen by a special intuition. It is called scientia media, middle knowledge, because it is supposed to occupy a middle ground between the knowledge of simple intelligence and the knowledge of vision. It differs from the former, since its object is not all possible things, but a special class of things actually future. It differs from the latter, since its ground is not the eternal purpose of God, but the free action of the creature as simply foreseen.

43. By whom was this distinction introduced, and for what purpose?

By Luis Molina, a Jesuit, born 1535 and died 1601, professor of theology in the University of Evora, Portugal, in his work entitled “Liberi arbitrii cum gratiæ donis, divina præscientia, prædestinatione et reprobatione concordia.”—Hagenbach’s “Hist. of Doc.,” vol. 2, p. 280. It was excogitated for the purpose of explaining how God might certainly foreknow what his free creatures would do in the absence of any sovereign foreordination on his part, determining their action. Thus making his foreordination of men to happiness or misery to depend upon his foreknowledge of their faith and obedience, and denying that his foreknowledge depends upon his sovereign foreordination.

44. What are the arguments against the validity of this distinction?

1st. The arguments upon which it is based are untenable. Its advocates plead—(1.) Scripture.—1 Sam. 23:9–12; Matt. 11:22, 23. (2.) That this distinction is obviously necessary, in order to render the mode of the divine foreknowledge consistent with man’s free agency.

To the first argument we answer, that the events mentioned in the above-cited passages of Scripture were not future. They simply teach that God, knowing all causes, free and necessary, knows how they would act under any proposed condition. Even we know that if we add fire to powder an explosion would ensue. This comes under the first class we cited above (Question 38), or the knowledge of all possible things. To the second argument we answer, that the certain foreknowledge of God involves the certainty of the future free act of his creature as much as his foreordination does; and that the sovereign foreordination of God, with respect to the free acts of men, only makes them certainly future, and does not in the least provide for causing those acts in any other way than by the free will of the creature himself acting freely.

2d. This middle knowledge is unnecessary, because all possible objects of knowledge, all possible things, and all things actually to be, have already been embraced under the two classes already cited (Questions 38, 39).

3d. If God certainly foreknows any future event, then it must be certainly future, and he must have foreknown it to be certainly future, either because it was antecedently certain, or because his foreknowing it made it certain. If his foreknowing it made it certain, then his foreknowledge involves foreordination. If it was antecedently certain, then we ask, what could have made it certain, except what we affirm, the decree of God, either to cause it himself immediately, or to cause it through some necessary second cause, or that some free agent should cause it freely? We can only choose between the foreordination of God and a blind fate.

4th. This view makes the knowledge of God to depend upon the acts of his creatures exterior to himself. This is both absurd and impious, if God is infinite, eternal, and absolute.

5th. The Scriptures teach that God does foreordain as well as foreknow the free acts of men.—Isa. 10:5–15; Acts 2:23; 4:27, 28.

45. How does wisdom differ from knowledge, and wherein does the wisdom of God consist?

Knowledge is a simple act of the understanding, apprehending that a thing is, and comprehending its nature and relations, or how it is.

Wisdom presupposes knowledge, and is the practical use which the understanding, determined by the will, makes of the material of knowledge. God’s wisdom is infinite and eternal. It is conceived of by us as selecting the highest possible end, the manifestation of his own glory, and then in selecting and directing in every department of his operations the best possible means to secure that end. This wisdom is gloriously manifested to us in the great theatres of creation, providence and grace.

Archibald Alexander Hodge, Outlines of Theology: Rewritten and Enlarged (New York: Hodder & Stoughton, 1878), 145–149.