Imatges de pÓgina

course of history. Whatever perplexities may be encountered in effort to explain this, the Scripture statements seem to require recognition of it. It is involved in the facts of prophecy, and in distinct affirmations in connection with prophetic fore-announcements. (Isa. xlvi. 9-11; xliv. 28; xlv. 1-5; liii. 1-15; Acts ii. 23, and elsewhere in almost numberless passages in the Old and New Testaments.) (c) He knows all the relations of things, or all things in their relations—throughout the universe of physical and moral order. In this, mani. festly, is based the possibility of his prescient knowledge, and of righteous moral requirements and administration. (d) He knows the essence of things, the very substance of their being, with all their inherent properties. For He is the Creator of all created being, and has formed their constituent existence. (e) He knows the possible, in His own will and power, and in respect to the universe. His knowledge, according to widely accepted interpretation, embraces also conditionate contingencies or what men would be or do in certain conditions which are never actualized-designated in theological metaphysics as scientia media. It means that the event, the occurrence known, is dependent both on human free-will and on circumstantial conditions which never become actual, and yet God knows what would take place in such supposed conditions. Calvinistic theology has usually declined to accept this representation in the interest of its contention that the divine foreknowledge is based in the divine fore-ordination, leaving no place for such conditionate contingencies. But this scientia media means to preserve genuine freedom for man, and assumes that such future events are open to God's view, not because of any predestination of them, but through God's abso

lute foreknowledge as capable of foreseeing the truly free acts of men in all possible circumstances, even what would have been had the circumstances and conditions been different. It is a foreseeing of the ideally possible as of certain futurition in the supposed circumstances. Several illustrative incidents appear in the Scriptures in connection with the Keilahites (1 Sam. xxiii. 3-13), and the Tyreans and Sidonians (Matt. xi. 21-23). But this problem rests on two others upon which speculative theology has offered different answers, viz.: the oftasserted timeless and successionless consciousness of God, and the divine foresight of the free acts of personal beings. These require consideration.

First, with respect to the alleged timelessness of the divine consciousness, as being void of succession, so as to merge past, present, and future into an eternal now, supposed to be involved in God's "eternity," the affirmation of it stands only as a philosophical notion.' The Scriptures, as giving God's self-revelation, represent The Eternal as active in successional creation and providential government, dealing with men and nations according to progressive time relations and changing character. The speculative determination that, in truth, God does not foresee at all, but only "knows" timelessly, that

"Nothing to Him is future, nothing past,
But an eternal now doth ever last,"

must be regarded as an unwarranted statement of God's relation to time, and is more and more regarded by modern theology as a mistaken philosopheme in conflict

Appearing in Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, often repeated, and adopted by Gerhard and Quenstedt.

with Biblical representation. For the absoluteness of

" God's 'eternity' is complete in His being, without beginning or ending, and in His being Himself independent of all the time-limitations which He has established in the world-order. God's knowledge of temporal successions, taking place objectively in worldevents, must necessarily belong also to His subjective consciousness, if, indeed, He knows things as they truly are. This subjecting of His consciousness, so to speak, to the knowing of temporal successions is not in derogation of the absoluteness of His knowledge, but the perfection of it. It marks the infiniteness of it, in including the perfect truth and order of the universe of created existence. Instead of the postulate of a simultaneity of knowledge in which time relations and successions do not come, through intelligence, into the divine consciousness, this knowing of things as they really occur in cosmic progress and in human life is required as absolutely essential if we would hold our view in harmony with the representations of the Christian revelation. And it involves all the interests of morality and religion. For every human life is set in time relations and movement, in which, under the eye of God, it is to receive His approval or condemnation, according as it relates itself to the obligations, opportunities, and responsibilities of the passing days and

passing days and years. If God did not observe the distinctions of time, if to His view the past, present, and future stood before Him eternally alike, the differences between what has already been actualized, what is being done, and what is yet only a possibility of the future, would not appear. The wrongdoer of to-day would not be distinguished in his guilt

See Dorner's “System of Christian Doctrine," IV., p. 33.

[ocr errors]

from the innocent man he was yesterday, nor from the reformed man he may be to-morrow. The inoral progress of men and the race would not enter into the divine discernment, and the moral rulership could not ethically correspond to the actual attitude of the moral subject. In like manner, in the sphere of religion, the “eternally similar” view would not mark the transition from the unbelief and condemnation of yesterday to the faith and adoption of to-morrow, in the return of the sinner. In the interests of both morality and religion, we must refuse the suggestion that the divine transcendence of time limitations involves a successionless omniscience. There must be, rather, a perpetual mutation in the divine omniscience, as in the world of history the realities of the present become the realities of the past, and the possibilities of the future become the realities of the living present. But, at the same time, we must remember that“with this change in His knowledge there is no mutation in God Himself given.” It is because He is

1 immutable that He knows the changes in what is not Himself. If it should be said that this asserted timeless consciousness of God should be affirmed only—which it is not—of His existence in the solitude of His eternity before His creation of beings other than Himself, in which time and time-measurements are said to begin, we are still in serious doubt whether the affirmation would be fully tenable. The suggestion by Origen, of "eternal creation,” creative activity being co-eternal with the very being of God, without any acosmic solitariness before it, though not at all assured to be true, has yet enough in it to justify extreme caution in assuming that there ever was such precosmic divine consciousness. But even if the assumption is conceded, may it not be beyond warrant to declare the consciousness to have been successionless or destitute of distinction of before and after, of the ideas of past, present, and future ? For then, as after creation, God was the living God, in the fullness of absolute Personality, embracing perfect intelligence, love, will, or self-determination, a Triunity in life, thought, and fellowship, independent, self-sufficing in resources and happiness—one in essence, but with an infinite fullness of attributes. We cannot contend for the doctrine held by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, reducing the divine unity into a “simplicity,' in which the distinctions between substance and attribute, and between the attributes themselves, fall away from the immanent existence of God, all lost in an indefinite motionless identity. For when all these distinctions in God are thus obliterated by being counted as only our own subjective conceptions, the divine Essence proper is left as, in itself, destitute of all determination, intrinsically void of definite perfections of personality and activity, and approaches the immobility and senselessness of the Hindu Brahm, the indeterminate “being,” the “no-thing,” or “no-thought,” of the Hegelian philosophy, rather than the Jehovah of revelation with infinite fullness of positive personal perfections and activity. But if God is thus truly the ever-living personal God, with intelligence, love, and purpose, He, before all worlds, when only Himself existed to be known, must have known His own possibilities of will and power, and must, even from eternity, have thought and purposed

1 Dorner, “System of Christian Doctrine," I., p. 332.

* See Charles Hodge, “Systematic Theology," Vol. I., pp. 388, 389.

Repeated by J. Gerhard, “ Loci,” sec. 108, and Quenstedt, “Sys. tema," ch. viii., sec. 2.


« AnteriorContinua »