What the Bible says

by Leibniz
  1. The Bible says that:
  • God:
    • hardened (Exod. iv. [296]21 and vii. 3; Isa. lxiii. 17).
    • sent a lying spirit (1 Kings xxii. 23); strong delusion that they should believe a lie (2 Thess. ii. 11)
    • deceived the prophet (Ezek. xiv. 9)
    • commanded Shimei to curse (2 Sam xvi. 10)
    • would slay the children of Eli unless they hearkened unto the voice of their father (1 Sam. ii. 25)
    • took away Job’s substance, even although that was done through the malice of brigands (Job i. 21)
    • raised up Pharaoh, to show his power in him (Exod. ix. 19; Rom. ix. 17)
    • is like a potter who maketh a vessel unto dishonour (Rom. ix. 21)
    • hid the truth from the wise and prudent (Matt. xi. 25)
    • spoke in parables unto them that are without, that seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand, lest at any time they might be converted, and their sins might be forgiven them (Mark iv. 12; Luke viii. 10)
  • thatJesus was delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God (Acts ii. 23)
  • Pontius Pilate and Herod with the Gentiles and the people of Israel did that which the hand and the counsel of God had determined before to be done (Acts iv. 27, 28)
  • that it was of the Lord to harden the hearts of the enemy, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favour (Joshua xi. 20)
  • the Lord mingled a perverse spirit in the midst of Egypt, and caused it to err in all its works, like a drunken man (Isa. xix. 14)
  • Rehoboam hearkened not unto the word of the people, for the cause was from the Lord (1 Kings xii. 15); that he turned the hearts of the Egyptians to hate his people (Ps. cv. 25).

But all these and other like expressions suggest only that the things God has done are used as occasion for ignorance, error, malice and evil deeds, and contribute thereto, God indeed foreseeing this, and intending to use it for his ends, since superior reasons of perfect wisdom have determined him to permit these evils, and even to co-operate therein. ‘Sed non sineret bonus fieri male, nisi omnipotens etiam de malo posset facere bene’, in St. Augustine’s words. But this has been expounded more fully in the preceding part.

  1. God made man in his image (Gen. i. 26); he made him upright (Eccles. vii. 29). But also he made him free. Man has behaved badly, he has fallen; but there remains still a certain freedom after the fall. Moses said as from God: ‘I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life [297]and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life’ (Deut. xxx. 19). ‘Thus saith the Lord: Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death’ (Jer. xxi. 8). He has left man in the power of his counsel, giving him his ordinances and his commandments. ‘If thou wilt, thou shalt keep the commandments’ (or they shall keep thee). ‘He hath set before thee fire and water, to stretch forth thine hand to whichever thou wilt’ (Sirach xv. 14, 15, 16). Fallen and unregenerate man is under the domination of sin and of Satan, because it pleases him so to be; he is a voluntary slave through his evil lust. Thus it is that free will and will in bondage are one and the same thing.

  2. ‘Let no man say, I am tempted of God’; ‘but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed’ (Jas. i. 13, 14). And Satan contributes thereto. He ‘blindeth the minds of them which believe not’ (2 Cor. iv. 4). But man is delivered up to the Devil by his covetous desire: the pleasure he finds in evil is the bait that hooks him. Plato has said so already, and Cicero repeats it: ‘Plato voluptatem dicebat escam malorum.’ Grace sets over against it a greater pleasure, as St. Augustine observed. All pleasure is a feeling of some perfection; one loves an object in proportion as one feels its perfections; nothing surpasses the divine perfections. Whence it follows that charity and love of God give the greatest pleasure that can be conceived, in that proportion in which one is penetrated by these feelings, which are not common among men, busied and taken up as men are with the objects that are concerned with their passions.

  3. Now as our corruption is not altogether invincible and as we do not necessarily sin even when we are under the bondage of sin, it must likewise be said that we are not aided invincibly; and, however efficacious divine grace may be, there is justification for saying that one can resist it. But when it indeed proves victorious, it is certain and infallible beforehand that one will yield to its allurements, whether it have its strength of itself or whether it find a way to triumph through the congruity of circumstances. Thus one must always distinguish between the infallible and the necessary.

  4. The system of those who call themselves Disciples of St. Augustine is not far removed from this, provided one exclude certain obnoxious things, whether in the expressions or in the dogmas themselves. In the expressions I find that it is principally the [298]use of terms like ’necessary’ or ‘contingent’, ‘possible’ or ‘impossible’, which sometimes gives a handle and causes much ado. That is why, as Herr Löscher the younger aptly observed in a learned dissertation on the Paroxysms of the Absolute Decree, Luther desired, in his book On the Will in Bondage, to find a word more fitting for that which he wished to express than the word necessity. Speaking generally, it appears more reasonable and more fitting to say that obedience to God’s precepts is always possible, even for the unregenerate; that the grace of God is always resistible, even in those most holy, and that freedom is exempt not only from constraint but also from necessity, although it be never without infallible certainty or without inclining determination.

  5. Nevertheless there is on the other hand a sense wherein it would be permitted to say, in certain conjunctures, that the power to do good is often lacking, even in the just; that sins are often necessary, even in the regenerate; that it is impossible sometimes for one not to sin; that grace is irresistible; that freedom is not exempt from necessity. But these expressions are less exact and less pleasing in the circumstances that prevail about us to-day. They are also in general more open to misuse; and moreover they savour somewhat of the speech of the people, where terms are employed with great latitude. There are, however, circumstances which render them acceptable and even serviceable. It is the case that sacred and orthodox writers, and even the holy Scriptures, have made use of expressions on both sides, and no real contradiction has arisen, any more than between St. Paul and St. James, or any error on either side that might be attributable to the ambiguity of the terms. One is so well accustomed to these various ways of speaking that often one is put to it to say precisely which sense is the more ordinary and the more natural, and even that more intended by the author (quis sensus magis naturalis, obvius, intentus). For the same writer has different aims in different passages, and the same ways of speaking are more or less accepted or acceptable before or after the decision of some great man or of some authority that one respects and follows. As a result of this one may well authorize or ban, as opportunity arises and at certain times, certain expressions; but it makes no difference to the sense, or to the content of faith, if sufficient explanations of the terms are not added.

  6. It is therefore only necessary to understand fully some distinctions, such as that I have very often urged between the [299]necessary and the certain, and between metaphysical necessity and moral necessity. It is the same with possibility and impossibility, since the event whose opposite is possible is contingent, even as that whose opposite is impossible is necessary. A distinction is rightly drawn also between a proximate potency and a remote potency; and, according to these different senses, one says now that a thing may be and now that it may not be. It may be said in a certain sense that it is necessary that the blessed should not sin; that the devils and the damned should sin; that God himself should choose the best; that man should follow the course which after all attracts him most. But this necessity is not opposed to contingency; it is not of the kind called logical, geometrical or metaphysical, whose opposite implies contradiction. M. Nicole has made use somewhere of a comparison which is not amiss. It is considered impossible that a wise and serious magistrate, who has not taken leave of his senses, should publicly commit some outrageous action, as it would be, for instance, to run about the streets naked in order to make people laugh. It is the same, in a sense, with the blessed; they are still less capable of sinning, and the necessity that forbids them to sin is of the same kind. Finally I also hold that ‘will’ is a term as equivocal as potency and necessity. For I have already observed that those who employ this axiom, that one does not fail to do what one wills when one can, and who thence infer that God therefore does not will the salvation of all, imply a decretory will. Only in that sense can one support this proposition, that wisdom never wills what it knows to be among the things that shall not happen. On the other hand, one may say, taking will in a sense more general and more in conformity with customary use, that the wise will is inclined antecedently to all good, although it decrees finally to do that which is most fitting. Thus one would be very wrong to deny to God the serious and strong inclination to save all men, which Holy Scripture attributes to him; or even to attribute to him an original distaste which diverts him from the salvation of a number of persons, odium antecedaneum. One should rather maintain that the wise mind tends towards all good, as good, in proportion to his knowledge and his power, but that he only produces the best that can be achieved. Those who admit that, and yet deny to God the antecedent will to save all men, are wrong only in their misuse of the term, provided that they acknowledge, besides, that God gives [300]to all help sufficient to enable them to win salvation if only they have the will to avail themselves thereof.

  7. In the dogmas themselves held by the Disciples of St. Augustine I cannot approve the damnation of unregenerate children, nor in general damnation resulting from original sin alone. Nor can I believe that God condemns those who are without the necessary light. One may believe, with many theologians, that men receive more aid than we are aware of, were it only when they are at the point of death. It does not appear necessary either that all those who are saved should always be saved through a grace efficacious of itself, independently of circumstances. Also I consider it unnecessary to say that all the virtues of the pagans were false or that all their actions were sins; though it be true that what does not spring from faith, or from the uprightness of the soul before God, is infected with sin, at least virtually. Finally I hold that God cannot act as if at random by an absolutely absolute decree, or by a will independent of reasonable motives. And I am persuaded that he is always actuated, in the dispensation of his grace, by reasons wherein the nature of the objects participates. Otherwise he would not act in accordance with wisdom. I grant nevertheless that these reasons are not of necessity bound up with the good or the less evil natural qualities of men, as if God gave his grace only according to these good qualities. Yet I hold, as I have explained already here, that these qualities are taken into consideration like all the other circumstances, since nothing can be neglected in the designs of supreme wisdom.

  8. Save for these points, and some few others, where St. Augustine appears obscure or even repellent, it seems as though one can conform to his system. He states that from the substance of God only a God can proceed, and that thus the creature is derived from nothingness (Augustine De Lib. Arb., lib. 1, c. 2). That is what makes the creature imperfect, faulty and corruptible (De Genesi ad Lit., c. 15, Contra Epistolam Manichaei, c. 36). Evil comes not from nature, but from evil will (Augustine, in the whole book On the Nature of Good). God can command nothing that would be impossible. ‘Firmissime creditur Deum justum et bonum impossibilia non potuisse praecipere’ (Lib. de Nat. et Grat., c. 43, p. 69). Nemo peccat in eo, quod caveri non potest (lib. 3, De Lib. Arb., c. 16, 17, lib. 1 Retract. c. 11, 13, 15). Under a just God, none can be unhappy who deserves not so to be, ’neque sub Deo justo [301]miser esse quisquam, nisi mereatur, potest’ (lib. 1, c. 39). Free will cannot carry out God’s commands without the aid of grace (Ep. ad Hilar. Caesaraugustan.). We know that grace is not given according to deserts (Ep. 106, 107, 120). Man in the state of innocence had the aid necessary to enable him to do good if he wished; but the wish depended on free will, ‘habebat adjutorium, per quod posset, et sine quo non vellet, sed non adjutorium quo vellet’ (Lib. de Corrept., c. 11 et c. 10, 12). God let angels and men try what they could do by their free will, and after that what his grace and his justice could achieve (ibid., c. 10, 11, 12). Sin turned man away from God, to turn him towards creatures (lib. 1, qu. 2, Ad Simplicium). To take pleasure in sinning is the freedom of a slave (Enchirid., c. 103). ‘Liberum arbitrium usque adeo in peccatore non periit, ut per illud peccent maxime omnes, qui cum delectatione peccant’ (lib. 1, Ad Bonifac., c. 2, 3).

  9. God said to Moses: ‘I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy’ (Exod. xxxiii. 19). ‘So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy’ (Rom. ix. 15, 16). That does not prevent all those who have good will, and who persevere therein, from being saved. But God gives them the willing and the doing. ‘Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth’ (Rom. ix. 18). And yet the same Apostle says that God willeth that all men should be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth; which I would not interpret in accordance with some passages of St. Augustine, as if it signified that no men are saved except those whose salvation he wills, or as if he would save non singulos generum, sed genera singulorum. But I would rather say that there is none whose salvation he willeth not, in so far as this is permitted by greater reasons. For these bring it about that God only saves those who accept the faith he has offered to them and who surrender themselves thereto by the grace he has given them, in accordance with what was consistent with the plan of his works in its entirety, than which none can be better conceived.

  10. As for predestination to salvation, it includes also, according to St. Augustine, the ordinance of the means that shall lead to salvation. ‘Praedestinatio sanctorum nihil aliud est, quam praescientia et praeparatio beneficiorum Dei, quibus certissime liberantur quicunque liberantur’ (Lib. de Persev., c. 14). He does [302]not then understand it there as an absolute decree; he maintains that there is a grace which is not rejected by any hardened heart, because it is given in order to remove especially the hardness of hearts (Lib. de Praedest., c. 8; Lib. de Grat., c. 13, 14). I do not find, however, that St. Augustine conveys sufficiently that this grace, which subdues the heart, is always efficacious of itself. And one might perhaps have asserted without offence to him that the same degree of inward grace is victorious in the one, where it is aided by outward circumstances, but not in the other.

  11. Will is proportionate to the sense we have of the good, and follows the sense which prevails. ‘Si utrumque tantundem diligimus, nihil horum dabimus. Item: Quod amplius nos delectat, secundum id operemur necesse est’ (in c. 5, Ad Gal.). I have explained already how, despite all that, we have indeed a great power over our will. St. Augustine takes it somewhat differently, and in a way that does not go far, when he says that nothing is so much within our power as the action of our will. And he gives a reason which is almost tautological: for (he says) this action is ready at the moment when we will. ‘Nihil tam in nostra potestate est, quam ipsa voluntas, ea enim mox ut volumus praesto est’ (lib. 3, De Lib. Arb., c. 3; lib. 5, De Civ. Dei, c. 10). But that only means that we will when we will, and not that we will that which we wish to will. There is more reason for saying with him: ‘aut voluntas non est, aut libera dicenda est’ (d. 1, 3, c. 3); and that what inclines the will towards good infallibly, or certainly, does not prevent it from being free. ‘Perquam absurdum est, ut ideo dicamus non pertinere ad voluntatem [libertatem] nostram, quod beati esse volumus, quia id omnino nolle non possumus, nescio qua bona constrictione naturae. Nec dicere audemus ideo Deum non voluntatem [libertatem], sed necessitatem habere justitiae, quia non potest velle peccare. Certe Deus ipse numquid quia peccare non potest, ideo liberum arbitrium habere negandus est?’ (De Nat. et Grat., c. 46, 47, 48, 49). He also says aptly, that God gives the first good impulse, but that afterwards man acts also. ‘Aguntur ut agant, non ut ipsi nihil agant’ (De Corrept., c. 2).

  12. I have proved that free will is the proximate cause of the evil of guilt, and consequently of the evil of punishment; although it is true that the original imperfection of creatures, which is already presented in the eternal ideas, is the first and most remote [303]cause. M. Bayle nevertheless always disputes this use of the notion of free will; he will not have the cause of evil ascribed to it. One must listen to his objections, but first it will be well to throw further light on the nature of freedom. I have shown that freedom, according to the definition required in the schools of theology, consists in intelligence, which involves a clear knowledge of the object of deliberation, in spontaneity, whereby we determine, and in contingency, that is, in the exclusion of logical or metaphysical necessity. Intelligence is, as it were, the soul of freedom, and the rest is as its body and foundation. The free substance is self-determining and that according to the motive of good perceived by the understanding, which inclines it without compelling it: and all the conditions of freedom are comprised in these few words. It is nevertheless well to point out that the imperfection present in our knowledge and our spontaneity, and the infallible determination that is involved in our contingency, destroy neither freedom nor contingency.


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