The Eternal Generation of the Son: Francis Turretin on the Trinity

TWENTY-NINTH QUESTION: THE ETERNAL GENERATION OF THE SON
Was the Son of God begotten of the Father from eternity? We affirm
I. The preceding question established the consubstantiality (homoousian) and essential identity of the Son with the Father. This question will demonstrate his personal distinction from him, his ineffable and eternal generation against the blasphemies of anti-Trinitarians.
Statement of the question.
II. The question is not whether Christ can be said to be begotten of God by the miraculous conception of the Holy Spirit; or whether he can be called the Son of God by a gracious communication of existence, power and divine glory (for this the adversaries readily grant and acknowledge no other cause of his filiation). But the question is whether he was begotten of God from eternity, and whether he may be called Son on account of the secret and ineffable generation from the Father. The Socinians blasphemously deny this; we affirm it. Continue reading “The Eternal Generation of the Son: Francis Turretin on the Trinity”

The Eternal General Generation of the Son: Louis Berkhof on the Trinity

[Recapitulation: On the Trinity]
a. There is in the Divine Being but one indivisible essence (ousia, essentia). God is one in His essential being or constitutional nature. Some of the early Church Fathers used the term “substantia” as synonymous with “essentia,” but later writers avoided this use of it in view of the fact that in the Latin Church “substantia” was used as a rendering of “hupostasis” as well as of “ousia,” and was therefore ambiguous. At present the two terms “substance” and “essence” are often used interchangeably. There is no objection to this, provided we bear in mind that they have slightly different connotations. Shedd distinguishes them as follows: “Essence is from esse, to be, and denotes energetic being (Augustine On the Trinity 5.2). Substance is from substare, and denotes the latent possibility of being.… The term essence describes God as a sum-total of infinite perfections; the term substance describes Him as the underlying ground of infinite activities. The first is, comparatively, an active word; the last, a passive. The first is, comparatively, a spiritual, the last a material term. We speak of material substance rather than of material essence.” /1/ Continue reading “The Eternal General Generation of the Son: Louis Berkhof on the Trinity”

The Coherence of the Trinity (Updated 2020)

The Coherence of the Trinity
We refer to the Athanasian Creed which gives us a useful starting point for our discussion: “We worship one God in Trinity and the Trinity in unity, without either confusing the persons or dividing the substance; for the person of the Father is one, the Son is another, and the Spirit is another; but the Godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty equally eternally. Thus, the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; yet there are not three gods but one God…And in this Trinity there is no before or after, no greater or lesser, but all three persons are equally eternal with each other and fully equal.”

We may break down the above statement into the following propositions:
(1) The Father is God.
(2) The Son is God.
(3) The Holy Spirit is God.
(4) The Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is not the Father.
(5) There is one and only one God. /1/

Critics have attacked the Trinity on two counts: Continue reading “The Coherence of the Trinity (Updated 2020)”

Two Philosophical Objections which make Molinism-Middle Knowledge Untenable

For readers who are not familiar with the term “truthmaker”, note the following clarifications:

Definition 1 – Truth bearers are those things that are made truth by truthmakers. A truth-bearer is an entity that is said to be either true or false and nothing else. Examples: Sentences, propositions, judgments, beliefs (propositional attitudes or opinion about the meaning of a sentence) etc

Definition 2 – Truthmakers are those things that make something true. A truthmaker for a truthbearer is that entity in virtue of which the truthbearer is true.

The idea of truthmaker is premised on the correspondence theory of truth. A sentence is true because of the way the world is, in contrast to the suggestion that the world is the way it is because of which sentences are true. For example, if a certain man exist, then a statement that the man exists is true, and vice versa. But there is a priority between these two states of affairs. It is the case that the statement is true because of the way the world rather than the case that the world is the way it is rather because the statement is true.

Timothy O’Connor provides two objections that make Molinism untenable.

Objection 1: Molinism posits truths without truthmakers Continue reading “Two Philosophical Objections which make Molinism-Middle Knowledge Untenable”

Reformed Critique of Middle Knowledge (Molinism/Arminianism). Part 2 by Francis Turretin

THIRTEENTH QUESTION: MIDDLE KNOWLEDGE

Discussion by Francis Turretin (1623-1687). Institutes of Elenctic Theology vol. one (Presbyterian & Reformed, 1992), pp. 212-218.

Summary of Francis Turretin’s Argument Against Middle Knowledge.
Sect 1-4. Definitions

Natural Knowledge or knowledge of simple intelligence is indefinite. It is God’s knowledge of all things God could possibly do with his omnipotent power, irrespective of how God actually decides to exercise this power. Thus, God knows what he could do, if he so choses to do it.
Free Knowledge is God’s knowledge of future things (what God eventually and freely brings into being). It is definite as it refers to how God actually exercises of his omnipotent power by his decree.
Middle knowledge lies in between natural knowledge and free knowledge (the order is logical and not temporal). It is not based on God’s decree but on the autonomous free will of creatures.

Sect 5-8 What is the issue with middle knowledge? Continue reading “Reformed Critique of Middle Knowledge (Molinism/Arminianism). Part 2 by Francis Turretin”

Reformed Critique of Middle Knowledge (Molinism/Arminianism). Foreknowledge and Future Contingents

Definition: Contingent
Proposition – a contingent proposition can be true but does not have to be true.
Fact/Event – occurring without this necessarily being the case, i.e. it might not have occurred. A being is contingent if it is not logically necessary.

ON THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. By Francis Turretin (1623-1687).

QUESTION: Do all things fall under the knowledge of God, both singulars and future contingencies? We affirm against Socinus. [p. 206]

VIII. On the state of the question observe: (1) that a thing may be contingent in two ways—either with respect to the first cause (inasmuch as it can be produced or not produced by God, and so all creatures are contingent with respect to God because he might not have created any if he had so willed); or with respect to second causes (which can produce or not produce their effect and are thus distinguished from necessary causes). We here speak of future contingents in the latter and not in the former sense. Continue reading “Reformed Critique of Middle Knowledge (Molinism/Arminianism). Foreknowledge and Future Contingents”

Reformed Critique of Middle Knowledge (Molinism/Arminianism). Part 1 by Petrus van Mastricht

It has been suggested by some bloggers that exegesis is on the side of the Calvinists while logic is on the side of the Arminians. This suggestion sounds plausible since the majority of Christian philosophers today are either Arminians or Open theists. The bloggers are correct in acknowledging that Calvinists offer robust exegesis to support their arguments which is evident in the works of Thomas Schreiner, John Piper, Sam Storms and James White. However, the suggestion is mystifying since historically Calvinists have been accused of imposing of a rigid logical system onto Scripture. We can only conclude that the bloggers who suggest that Calvinists lack rigor in logical analysis have never bothered to read Calvin and his successors like Francis Turretin, John Owen, Jonathan Edwards or Dutch Reformed theologians like Wilhelmus Brakel and Petrus van Mastricht. A quick glance of Richard Muller’s 4-vol (2176 pages) work on Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics should immediately impress the reader of both the acuity and logical brilliance displayed by the Calvinists. It was precisely because the doctrinal disputations of the Reformed Scholastics were dominated by austere logic, where conciseness and clarity trumps readability that Calvinism has been accused on putting logic above Scripture. Continue reading “Reformed Critique of Middle Knowledge (Molinism/Arminianism). Part 1 by Petrus van Mastricht”

Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom: Conclusion. Part 7(b)/7

Concluding Argument for Divine Omniscience and Exhaustive Foreknowledge of God

The Open Theist argues that if God’s foreknowledge is exhaustive, then all human action will be necessarily actualized since God’s ‘beliefs’ about future events cannot be falsified. But this would make it impossible to hold humans responsible for their acts if they cannot but act necessarily. We must choose between God’s exhaustive foreknowledge and libertarian human freedom. However, the undeniable fact of life is contingent human action. The logical recourse is to reduce significantly, if not decisively, the scope of divine foreknowledge to preserve human freedom.

The Open Theist’s argument is premised on a false dilemma that one must choose between the ‘necessities’ of divine foreknowledge and contingent libertarian freedom. Continue reading “Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom: Conclusion. Part 7(b)/7”

Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom: Supplementary Reading on Necessary and Contingent Cause and Effect. Part 7(a)/7

The purpose of this post is to clarify the conceptual categories and the finely balanced relationship between necessity and contingency underlying the Reformed doctrine of meticulous providence and human freedom.

I. Distinction between Natural and Free Causes
Reformed Scholaticism frames the relation between God as the Creator and the world as his creation by using ontological concepts like cause and effect. A further distinction is made between subjects with attributes of freedom (free causes) and subjects without that quality (natural causes).

A cause produces an act, and either the act or the state of affairs brought forward by the act is called the effect.

A natural cause is of such a nature that it could produce only one kind of act. Hence, it is called a necessary cause. Example, fire always burns and animals are driven by instincts.
A free cause is able to act variously at different times and structurally at one and the same moment. The effect of free causes are contingent or free. Continue reading “Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom: Supplementary Reading on Necessary and Contingent Cause and Effect. Part 7(a)/7”

Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 6/7 – Distinction Between Necessity of the Consequent and Necessity of the Consequence –


I. The purpose of this article is to show that the Open Theist’s argument against divine foreknowledge is flawed because it fails to distinguish between “the necessity of the consequent” and“the necessity of the consequence”.

We begin with some clarifications of the terms that are crucial to our discussion:

Things are contingent of which it is possible that they are or are not.
Things are necessary of which it is impossible that they are not.

A necessary proposition is a proposition that could not possibly have been false, whose negation is impossible as this would entail a contradiction in reality. For example, it is necessary that 2 + 2 = 4. Philosophers describe a necessary proposition as one that true in all possible worlds.

A contingent proposition is a proposition that is not necessarily true or necessarily false (i.e. whose negation does not entail a contradiction in reality). An example of a contingent proposition is the proposition that human beings must be born on earth. A contingent proposition is one that is true in some possible worlds and not in others.

II. We recall the Open Theist argument:
1. An omniscient God knows all true propositions, past present and future. That is he holds no false beliefs (future propositions).
2. If God foreknows John will do X at 9 pm tomorrow, then John must do what God foreknows he will do. Continue reading “Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 6/7 – Distinction Between Necessity of the Consequent and Necessity of the Consequence –”