Jonathan Edwards on the “necessity” of the divine decree

Our acts are free, though triggered by intentions that are caused according to God’s sovereign determination of the relationship between prior states of affairs and our intentions to act. Moreover, we approve of our intentions that cannot be other than what they will be.

Like us, God approves of his intentions and cannot act contrary to them. Yet, unlike us, God is most free, at least because his acts proceed from intentions that are not the effect of preceding states of affairs. So, unlike us, God is ultimate sourcehood and has regulative control by being able to do anything he can possibly desire.

There is no time in eternity, but even if time were uncreated, there could not have been enough time to have sequentially chosen a decree according to an intention that was chosen according to a previous intention ad infinitum. No, the divine intention is eternal, and a chosen intention is unintelligible.

Unsatisfactory objections with no solution:

With respect to Richard Muller and others who’ve taken issue with Edwards, the world from an Edwardsian perspective is not (from itself) necessary but given the eternal decree, it is not narrowly-logically necessary but causally necessary being secured by the divine intention. Notwithstanding, creation itself isn’t essential to God, for creation is not a property of God, and God existed without creation. Should we find it strange that God cannot exist without some eternal intention to create or not create? Can God have no intention, even an intention not to have an intention? Surely God must exist with an intention he never did not have. That’s just built into God being God! Notwithstanding, that which God’s free intention contemplates is not a cause that acts upon God or his intention. The decree is contingently true because it’s a product of volition, unlike God being triune.

Room for freedom:

In conditional (Classical Compatiblist) terms, God could have not created this world had he so willed. Or, rather than contemplate hypotheticals that change a fixed future by altering the past, we might contemplate a different future that would entail a different past: Had God not created this world, he would have intended not to create. Either way, God’s intentions and acts are most free and agreeable to God according to a “mesh” of undivided will.

What’s the alternative, (i) a non-eternal intention? (ii) An eternally chosen contingent-intention (according to an eternally chosen or unchosen intention)? (iii) An eternal yet metaphysically contingent intention? But how does (iii) not make creation and God’s eternal will contingent, which is bound to lead back to (ii).

Impassibility of the contrary?

If nothing outside God acts upon God resulting in an intention to create, then God’s ultimate freedom to create is intact. That said, what’s the problem with Edwards on the necessity of the divine decree? What does the charge against Edwards even mean, that God is not most free unless another eternal intention could have been formed in God contrary to the eternal intention God eternally approved of for himself? Again, what’s the alternative to such freedom? If libertarian freedom is a philosophical surd, then how can God be libertarian-free and not free in an Edwardsian sense? That God’s act of creation was a free act does not imply that God did not have to create in some other sense. After all, even our free acts don’t imply ability to act contrary. God determines all free acts, even his own, which are ultimately sourced in him alone.

As we teach our children, God can do all his holy will. (WSC 13)

Untangling God’s 3 Wills (audio)

God often wills that we do not seek his will and in turn we break his will according to his will. RWD

That statement is true, properly understood.

This class discusses meaty concepts such as:

* God’s necessary will

* God’s free will

* God’s antecedent will

* God’s consequent will

* God’s will of precept

* God’s will of decree

* God’s will for our lives (wisdom)

* God’s valuations or appraisals pertain to God’s preceptive will

* Abstracting particulars from the whole lends aid to understanding “God’s will be done.”

* What is God’s will for my life? Whatever happens, obedience or something else?

* How does God’s decretive and preceptive wills relate to God’s will for our lives?

* Analogy: God’s will of precept will be identical to his decretive will when the visible church is identical to the invisible church.

* What about such spiritual jargon as, “God showed me…”?