L. D. (Lorenzo Dow) McCabe.

Divine nescience of future contingencies a necessity. Being an introduction to The foreknowledge of God, and cognate themes online

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Online LibraryL. D. (Lorenzo Dow) McCabeDivine nescience of future contingencies a necessity. Being an introduction to The foreknowledge of God, and cognate themes → online text (page 1 of 20)
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piviNE Nescience





By L. T>, McCABE, D.D., LL.B.

Persuasion is In Soul, Necessity is in Intellec^."

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THE NI Vv :(>!;^




Copyright 1882, by


^^T3UY the truth, and sell it not," is the voice of
■^^ inspiration. Prov. xxiii, 23. Truth is very
costly; it costs labor, patience, persistency, popu-
larity, and multitudes of prejudices. But it ought
to be bought at any price, and sold at no price.
*' I came into the world to bear witness to the
truth," said the Redeemer. How sacred a thing
: must the tru,th be, if such a messenger should come
from such k place, through such a distance, over
such difficulties, down to such a world, to be its
unchallenged witness.

I wish now to prove this proposition : Divine

Nescience of Future Contingencies is a Necessity,


Professor L. D. M'Cabe, LL.D.—

My Esteemed Friend : I thank j^ou for the
opportunity you gave me of reading the manuscript
of your new work on the '^ Divine Nescience,*' and I
desire to express to you the deep interest and
pleasure with which I studied it, and I am glad to
be able also to say that I received from it much
spiritual profit.

The Infinite One is so great and his perfections
so unsearchable, and yet his relations to us so pro-
found and far-reaching, that every attempt made
in a reverent spirit, and with a candid desire to
know more of his nature, and to understand better
his relations to us, ought to be received with the
same reverent spirit and the same candid inquiry.
Such an investigation, too, though it may even fail
of the whole truth, ought to be of moral and spirit-
ual benefit to both the author and the reader.
With such a spirit I feel assured you have pursued
these studies, and with such a spirit I trust the
public will read the result of your inquiries.

No one can doubt the sincere honesty with which


you have sought for the truth in regard to these pro-
found questions, and every student must feel the
weight of your profound thought, exact logic and
clearness of statement. But when one is led by
his investigations into a line of thought and to
conclusions different from those which have ob-
tained in general belief, he must expect to enter
upon a field of battle. The world — even the
learned world — no more readily receives new doc-
trines, or new forms of doctrine, now, than in the
ages when men suffered martyrdom for their faith,
and the world exacted it of them. The happy ad-
vance made in this respect in our day is, that the
martyrdom is intellectual, and no longer by fire or
the sword.

It is not easy to convine men of a truth that dif-
fers from commonly-received doctrine, and even
when convinced of the new truth, the world is still
slow to give up the old. That you advocate a view
of the Divine foreknowledge essentially different
from that which has been most widely held by
all schools, of course you know, and that the oiius
probandi rests upon you. A belief in a certain
mode of statement of these recondite elements in
the divine nature, however old or however nearly
unanimous, does not of itself determine the truth
of such statement, but it creates so strong a pre-
sumption in its favor, and gives it such intrench-
ment in the accepted knowledge and faith of the


world, that he who would change it challenges a
great battle which will long and earnestly wage
about him, even if the truth is on his side.

Of course, no one will claim that we have yet
found out all about God, and I take it the field
into v/hich you have entered is a legitimate one for
fresh and candid inquiry. Certainly there are
difficulties still remaining, profound and far-reach-
ing, in these higher, and, perhaps I should say,
speculative realms of theology, which no present
theory of belief has yet been able to solve. Neither
Calvinism or necessity on the one hand, nor Ar-
minianism and liberty on the other, solves all
difficulties, nor can a solution be found in an ec-
lecticism which would combine parts of both. It
is certain a much nearer approach to a satisfactory
theology has been made by Arminianism by dis-
carding the theory of the eternal decrees and its
logically-consequent doctrines of election, reproba-
tion, and necessity; but it is equally certain that
Arminianism has not freed us from all difficulties,
and especially from those very serious embarrass-
ments which you have so ably discussed, growing
out of the doctrine of the divine foreknowledge of
contingent or volitional events.

All thinkers have felt these embarrassments, and
most have been compelled to hold them in abey-
ance as unsearchable things in the depths of the
divine Being. Certainly no one should complain


that you are willing to search in these depths, and
out of your thought to offer to the world what
seems to you the promise of a still nearer approach
to a satisfactory solution of these questions than
even Arminianism offers. It is certain that it is
difficult, perhaps I should say impossible, for the
intellect to conceive the possibility of even the
divine Mind foreknowing events that are wholly
dependent on what shall be the free choices of free
beings. It is also difficult to see the difference, in
real and practical fact, between the certainty of a
divinely foreknown event and the necessity of it,
and to clear such a certainly foreknown event from
the same embarrassments as would arise from its
necessity. But there is difficulty also, and perhaps
greater, in conceiving of God as not being able to
foreknow even a contingent event ; or, in other
words, to think of God as ignorant of or unknowing
the future doings of his free beings. From the
former difficulties we may be forced to take refuge
in our inability to comprehend them ; but from
the latter difficulty there has been an instinctive
tendency in all ages to recoil. True, this tendency
may be the result of the world's habit for ages of
assuming that God does know and foreknow all
things, even the future actions of free beings, and
does not of itself prove it to be so, leaving it a
legitimate field for you to show if possible that it is
not so.


That your argument is strong, profound, clear,
and courageous, every candid reader will admit.
Whether it is conclusive or not will be settled by
the large, and, I trust, fair criticism which your
book will evoke.

Your able argument, I think, clearly leads to this
conclusion at least, that while with regard to the
difficulties of Calvinism, or the theory of necessity,
you are able to show, and in a very masterly man-
ner do show, that " these things cannot be," with
regard to Arminianism, or the theory of liberty,
you are only able to show that we are not able to
comprehend '' how these things can be." This
shows the immense advantage gained by Armin-
ianism over Calvinism by eliminating the divine
fore-ordination. It is possible, as you show in your
argument, to gain many other points by eliminat-
ing also the divine foreknowledge of contingent
events ; but whether by thus clearing or relieving
some difficulties, it does not create others as serious
or more so, must be left to the just criticism which
competent scholars will give to your book.

I would not attempt to express in this short
letter any criticism favorable or unfavorable of
your theory, but do desire to convey to you m^y
high appreciation of the learning, scholarship and
patient industry exhibited in your work. I rejoice
that you have been able and willing to write this
book, and hope you will soon give it to the public,


feeling quite sure that it will give rise to a flow
and current of fresh thought that will be healthful
and invigorating in this day, when so dispropor-
tionate a share of thought is given to minor and
material things. After all, " the greatest study of
mankind " is not man, but God, and he is a benef-
icent worker who leads us nearer to God, and
gives us glimpses even into the profounder mys-
teries of his greatness and glory.
I remain very truly yours,

I. W. Wiley.

Cincinnati, Dec. lo, 1881.


Introduction 5

Divine Nescience of Future Contingencies is a Neces-
sity, IN the Necessities of Things 15

Divine Nescience of Future Contingencies is a Neces-
sity, in the Nature of Things 32


Divine Nescience of Future Contingencies is a Neces-
sity, IN Order to Escape the Dreaded System of
Necessity 42

Divine Nescience of Future Contingencies is Neces-
sary to the Divine Perfections 44

Nescience of Future Contingencies is Necessary to
Safeguard the Wisdom and Candor of the Holy
Ghost 62



Future Contingi
siTY, TO Escape the Crushing System of Pantheism.. 65


Divine Nescience of Future Contingencies is a Neces-


Divine Nescience of Future Contingencies is Neces-
sary to give Validity to our Hopes and Fears 69


Divine Nescience of Future Contingencies is Neces-
sary TO THE Impression that Ought to be Made on
THE Mind of a Probationer for Eternity 72


Divine Nescience of Future Contingencies is Neces-
sary to an Interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. 75


Divine Nescience of Future Contingencies is a Neces-
sity, to an Explanation of the Utility of Prayer. . 96


Divine Nescience of Future Contingencies is Necessa-
ry TO THE Construction of a Satisfactory Theodicy, ioi

Divine Nescience of Future Contingencies is Neces-
sary to a Universal Atonement 107




Divine Nescience of Future Contingencies is a Neces-
sity, FOR the Logical and Final Settlement of the
Doctrine of Endless Punishment 114

Divine Nescience of Future Contingencies is Neces-
sary TO THE Harmonizing of the Calvinian and Ar-
minian Schools of Theology 149

The Reality of Time makes Divine Nescience of Fu-
ture Contingencies an Imperative Necessity 278

Concluding Observations 290






NECESSARILY there must be a universe of
necessities. The infinite uncaused Intelli-
gence, time, space, mathematical truths, and, doubt-
less, innumerable other things unknown to us,
must exist of necessity. They must exist, too, as
necessary realities, not as necessary evolutions.
Without the unquestioned assumption of the in-
finite Intelligence, any philosophy is simply impos-
sible. Philosophy is the sphere of the knowable.
If the infinite One, in all his activities and facul-
ties, is under the reign of necessity, then there
can exist but a single universe, the universe of
necessities. But if he possess the attribute of free-
dom, and can act under the law of liberty, then
there must be a second universe, the universe of
contingencies. Contingent things are things that
might be or might not be, that might come to
pass or might not come to pass. If freedom is an


attribute of the infinite One, a world of contingen-
cies is logically inevitable. If he is free he cannot
be controlled by modes, theories, uniformities, or
idealities, in the exercise of his originative concep-
tions and creative energies. The moment you
bind him with universal necessities you annihilate
his freedom.

It is true that many specific necessities must be
implied in and introduced into a universe of contin-
gencies. These necessities enter as truths, princi-
ples, axioms, laws, limitations, possibles and impos-
sibles. These fundamental necessities can neither
be violated nor overlooked by the Creator in his
works of creation. For his material creations he
requires necessary truths and immovable founda-
tions. In his construction of the solar system, for
example, he did not violate any law of geometry
or of numbers, quantity or mechanics. In his gov-
ernment of moral creatures he requires immutable
moral distinctions, such as right, justice, equity
and holiness, as objective inflexible standards of
final appeal. To these inflexible standards he vol-
untarily conforms himself, and by them he is justi-
fied and vindicated in his moral administration
before the moral universe.

Then, too, the infinite Thinker must be limited
by many subjective necessities, some of which we
know, but, doubtless, vastly more are unknown to
us. Of these subjective necessities we may in-
stance the necessary laws of thought, identity, self-
contradiction, excluded middle and sufficient rea-
son. These laws of thought constrain the Infinite


as well as the finite logician. Noah Porter says :
" The rational methods of the divine and human
intellects must be the same, and induction is possi-
ble only on the assumption that the intellect of
man is a reflex of the divine intellect." The laws
of thought, therefore, must constrain the thought
processes of the Infinite intellect.

And right here it is necessary that we carefully
distinguish between an infinite being in the ab-
stract and an infinite being in the concrete. An
infinite being in the abstract is a bundle of infini-
ties, bound up according to human conception or
fancy. It would be more forcible, perhaps, to rep-
resent an infinite being in the abstract as a sphere
of infinities, in which each infinity is insisting on
itself, regardless of the claims of all other infini-
ties. Infinite power, for example, may be con-
ceived of as moving on regardless of the claims of
infinite goodness, or as pressing on indifferent to
infinite wisdom. Infinite mercy may be conceived
of as bidding infinite justice and inflexible right to
stand in abeyance and be silent. And the same
conflict may be predicated of other attributes of
an infinite being conceived of in the mere abstract.
But to call such an abstract infinity, such a contra-
dictory conception by the name of Deity, leads in-
evitably into incertitude and inextricable confu-
sion. And it was conceiving of God as an infinity
in the abstract that led the great Augustine into
such erroneous and dangerous conceptions of the
divine nature. The Augustinian conception of
Deity was that of a universal infinite, that is, of a


being infinite in all respects, and unlimited in all
his attributes. But if God be infinite in every re-
spect, he can neither be qualified nor conditioned
in any respect. And if he cannot be qualified nor
conditioned in any respect, he cannot be related ;
he cannot be a Creator, or a Father, or a Revealer,
or an object of love, or a hearer of prayer, or a re-
ceiver of adoring worship. For who could worship
a power too capricious to be limited by goodness?
The distinguishing claims of the Augustinian the-
ology are in reference to its logical consistency.
But the very moment Augustinian theology com-
pletes its own logical processes it turns flatly
against itself, and commits suicide. It is regret-
fully pronounced a veritable ''felo-de-se " by myr-
iads rigidly reared in the belief of its dogmas.
Attributing to God the mathematical or metaphys-
ical idea of infinity logically annihilates him in his
concrete personality. And yet this Augustinian
conception of God has fastened itself upon nearly
all modern theology. This will amply explain the
alarming tendencies of our age to scientific
atheism, to materialism, to Unitarianism, and to
a reHgious nihilism. It would be difficult for the
widely-observant and patiently thoughtful upon
theological themes to avoid this conviction in
their moments of candor. The only possible es-
cape for scriptural theology is in the denial that
God is the Infinite in the abstract, possessing all
infinities in the pure abstract, wholly unrestrained
and unlimited, or that he is the universally infinite.
I presume it was this contradictory conception of


the infinite One that so puzzled and disheartened
Hamilton and Mansel as to the possibility of our
knowing him at all. Failure to discriminate be-
tween being in the abstract and being in the con-
crete would necessitate innumerable difficulties on
that vital and momentous subject of knowing God.
But our glorious God is not this infinity in the ab-
stract. He is the infinite One in the concrete.
The infinite power of God must be held in perfect
control by infinite wisdom and goodness. His in-
finite mercy must revere law, justice, right, holi-
ness and universal order. It is only within their
smtctum sanctorum that mercy can ever be per-
mitted to exercise its tenderness toward the

All God's infinite attributes move on in ineffably
harmonious relations from everlasting unto ever-
lasting. This ineffable harmony that ever sounds
throughout the universe in enrapturing strains is
the result of the checks, control, limitations, muta-
bilities, and subjectivities, indispensable to a con-
crete, free infinite personality. His will holds each
attribute in subserviency to the perfection and con-
sistent activities of the whole. In this process are
secured the glory of the divine character, and the
well-being of his created, related, intelligent and
accountable millions.

Besides all such necessary limitations in Deity,
growing out of the divine personality, and the deep
necessities of things, it would be a limitation seri-
ously detrimental to infinite perfection to deny to
him the glorious prerogative of self-denial, of limit-


ing himself in his works of creation, according to his
own freedom and the innumerable plans that free-
dom may originate. The perfection of an ideal
universe requires the divine prerogative of creating
a free-will, that can in the exercise of its freedom
resist and withstand Omnipotence, and the infinite
Will. And freedom, in such a creature, would ne-
cessitate specific, modified mutabilities and limi-
tations in the experiences and activities of the
Creator. These mutabilities, for reasons best known
to himself, he freely imposes upon himself. If v/e
would think of the infinite One, to any valuable
philosophical result, we must think of him as re-
strained and constrained by such perfecting neces-
sities, and submitting himself to such modified

In the realm of necessities God can have no new
thoughts, desires, purposes or plans. But freedom
in an infinite being implies that contingent things
may certainly be brought into existence. In the
realms of the contingent, should such a realm be re-
solved upon, he must necessarily have new thoughts,
new desires, purposes and plans. Freedom implies
origination, and origination implies bringing from
nonentity something into existence. A thing that
might or might not have an existence, if it actually
have an existence, that existence must have a be-
ginning. If the conception of a thing existed in
the divine mind from eternity, then that conception
could not have been the creation of his free voli-
tion. If it was not the creation of his free volition
it was a necessity, and no contingency at all, and


God had no agency whatever in its creation or in its
origination. A contingent entity can have no pos-
sible beginning, save in an unconstrained volition.
If the conception of a thing that does not exist ex-
isted from eternity, then the conceptions of all
things that do not exist must have existed from
eternity ; but this is absurd. If the conception of
a thing that does not exist is not eternal, then there
must have been a time before it was conceived of.
But if that conception had a beginning, it must
have resulted from a free being, for it is not possible
for an entity to emerge out of nonentity. If an un-
caused cause produce an effect, it must do it without
being constrained to do it ; for no caused cause
could possibly coerce an uncaused cause. Philos-
ophy necessitates and the Bible every-where repre-
sents God as taking the absolute initiative. To deny
him the power of initiation would be a limitation
to his perfections from which we all would shrink.
But this requires power to conceive of something
that previously had not existence. If God has
power to initiate, he has power to precede initia-
tion by original thinking. This power of original
thinking he must begin to exercise at some point
in infinite duration. For if he never did begin to
exercise this power of original thinking, we have no
evidence that he ever could think originally, or that
he ever could conceive of a single new conception.
If he has no power to originate new conceptions,
he is a necessary being. Our conceptions of him
would at once congeal into the iceberg of fatality.
Initiatives necessarily involve and imply free-


dom, and freedom logically necessitates contingen-
cies ; but divine revelation as well as freedom
requires the existence of things purely contingent.
If God is a free being he must have an arena for
the exercise of his liberty. His power of self-de-
termination must be the profoundest and brightest
of all the faculties of his incomprehensible nature.
Such an arena he found in creating worlds, and in
endowing them with qualities, forces, missions, and
adornments, pleasant for himself to behold, and
highly illustrative of his mental, moral, and govern-
mental perfections. But with this wide and mag-
nificent arena he was not completely satisfied ; he,
therefore, created free moral agents, immortal souls
in his own image and likeness, co-creators, co-
causes, co-originators, and co-eternal with himself
in the realms of the contingent.

Then arose before him the new and most inter-
esting arena for the exercise of the divine freedom
in the free untrammeled determinations of account-
able beings made in his own likeness. In the crea-
tion of beautiful, but irresponsible things, and in the
moral government of responsible agents, the divine
freedom had a theater for its activity, inexpressibly
entertaining to the divine mind, and enrapturing to
the divine heart.

The divine freedom rejoices over the existence
of basal necessities, but it stands upon the frontier
of the realms of the contingent, peering into their
fathomless possibilities. Through the boundless
realms of the may or may not be, divine freedom
ranges far and wide, to find that on which, with


profit to the universe and gratification to itself, it
may exert its exhaustless activities. The eternity
to come will unfold contingencies which are not
and cannot now be in the divine consciousness.
Such possibilities are necessary to the perfection of
God, considered relative to his historical and con-
tinuous Hfe in the objective, and also relative to the
essential activities of an infinite mind.

God possesses the power, therefore, of awaken-
ing original thoughts and taking the initiative, as
he may sovereignly determine, in the untrammeled
exercise of his absolute freedom. This possibility
of unthought-of contingencies yet to come will
keep the intelligent universe, throughout eternity,
in endless expectancies of new unfoldings of God's
infinite resources to instruct, expand, elevate and
entertain beings created in his own intellectual and
moral image. This view of Deity invests his glo-
rious character with perfections utterly impossible
under any theory of absolute prescience, or of
unconditional predestination.

But the Scriptures represent man as having also
the power of taking the absolute initiative. If he
is not a free being there can be for him neither
right, wrong, justice, injustice, moral philosophy,
or moral government. If he is not free, then con-
science, remorse, and the '* certain fearful looking
for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall
devour the adversaries" of God, are all false, and
are really most inexcusable phantoms.

While to necessary things there is necessarily no
beginning, to contingent things there necessarily


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Online LibraryL. D. (Lorenzo Dow) McCabeDivine nescience of future contingencies a necessity. Being an introduction to The foreknowledge of God, and cognate themes → online text (page 1 of 20)