Francis Turretin (1623-1687) on Divine Concurrence

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in Divine Providence


Does God concur with second causes not only by a particular and simultaneous, but also by a previous concourse? We affirm.

I. Since the question concerning the concourse (concursus) of God is one of the most difficult in theology (in the explanation of which, if anywhere else, great labor must be employed) and error is most dangerous, it demands a peculiar and accurate discussion.

Physical and
Moral concourse

II. On the state of the question observe: (1) One concourse is physical by which one concurs and acts after the manner of a physical cause, i.e., truly and efficaciously and really flows into the effect by a certain positive influx; another is moral by which he operates after the manner of a moral cause, i.e., by persuading or dissuading or by proposing or removing the objects and occasions. We do not treat here of moral, but of physical concourse.

Mediate and

III. (2) One concourse is mediate; another immediate. For a cause can be said to act either mediately or immediately both as to the subsisting substance and as to virtue. That cause acts immediately by the immediation of the subsisting substance between which and the effect no other singular subsisting substance (subsisting of itself) is interposed (which previously receives in itself the action of the agent, as water which washes and cools the hand). The other, on the contrary, acts mediately by the mediation of the subsisting substance between which and the effect another subsisting substance falls (as the chisel between the artist and the statue). A cause acts immediately by the immediation of virtue which acts by a virtue or power proper to itself and not received from any other source (as fire warms by its own heat). A cause acts mediately, however, by the mediation of virtue which operates by a virtue not its own or proper to itself, but received and borrowed from another source (as when the moon by light borrowed from the sun illuminates the earth, she is said to illuminate mediately by a mediation of virtue, i.e., the virtue of the sun mediating). Now God concurs with second causes immediately by an immediation both of virtue (because he acts by his proper power not furnished from another source) and of subsisting substance (because by his own essence he attains the thing). Nor, if he uses second causes as means, does it follow that he does not act immediately also. For he uses them not with respect to the action of the creature and consequently of the effect itself (as if he did not reach it immediately), but inasmuch as he subordinates second causes to himself (by flowing into which he also reaches the effect itself immediately).

Concourse by
way of principle
and by way of

IV. (3) Again, concourse is so called either by way of principle or by way of the first act by which God conserves the power of the second act and permits it to act; or by way of action, inasmuch as God is the proximate principle of the operation put forth by the second cause so that the operation and action of God concurring is the very same as that which is included in the action itself of the creature (as if by itself also and immediately tending to the same end to which the action of the creature tends). With regard to the end, the latter is the same with the very cooperation of God. Nor do not treat here of the first, but of the second.

Previous and

V. (4) Finally, one concourse is called previous and predetermining; another simultaneous or concomitant. The previous is the action of God by which he, flowing into causes and their principles, excites and previously moves creatures to action and directs to the doing of a particular thing. Simultaneous, however, is that by which God produces the action of the creature as to its being or substance by which he is supposed to flow together with creatures into their actions and effects, but not into the creatures themselves. Although they do not differ really, but only in reason (because the simultaneous concourse is nothing else than continued previous concourse which not only flows into the causes themselves, that it may work in them, but into the effect itself, so as to act with them), yet they can be considered distinctly.

Statement of the

VI. However, what is understood by previous concourse (with greater propriety termed “preconcourse”), that very thing is usually designated by the name of predetermination or premotion, by which God excites and directs the second cause to acting. Thus antecedently to all operation of the creature or before the creature operates by nature and reason, he really and efficaciously moves it to act in single actions s o [hat without this premotion the second cause could not operate, but (this premotion being posited) it would be impossible in the compound sense for the second cause not to do that same thing to which it was previously moved by the first cause. The question therefore about concourse comes to this- whether it is only simultaneous or also previous. There are various opinions among Romanists about this. For some (as the Jesuits who maintain a middle knowledge) recognize only simultaneous concourse and deny the previous predetermination (maintaining that God indeed flows in, but not into the second cause, but with the second cause into its action). However others (as the Thomists and Dominicans) stand up for a previous concourse or predetermination. They are therefore called “Predeterminers” and hold the predetermination of God to be necessary in all the acts of his creatures, whether natural or free. Some of our divines admit the previous concourse only as to the good works of grace, but think the simultaneous is sufficient: in all others. Others think that both the previous and simultaneous should be joined together here in order that the whole method of God’s providence may be truly explained. Now although weighty reasons are not wanting on both sides (by which the negative or affirmative opinion may be strengthened), still we believe the latter to be the truer and safer.

concourse is

VII. Besides the arguments adduced in the preceding question to prove the particular concourse of God, the following also favor this opinion. ( I ) From the nature of the first cause and the subordination of second causes. The first cause is the prime mover in every action so that the second cause cannot move unless it is moved, nor act unless acted upon by the first. Otherwise it would be the principle of its own motion and so would no longer be the second cause, but the first. Nor can it be objected that the second cause is always subordinated to the first, both by reason of simultaneous concourse (which is by nature and order prior to the concourse of the creature) and by reason of the sustentation of the faculties through which the second cause acts. We answer that neither can save the dependence of the second cause in acting. Not the former, because where only a simultaneous concourse is granted, there God operates indeed with the creature, but not in it; so the first and second causes are partial and allied causes of the same action (like two horses drawing a chariot) and so each uses its proper and peculiar influx (which it has from itself) so that in flowing in it does not depend upon the influx of the other cause as upon a cause truly efficient (although the effect depends on both). Not the latter, because the conservation of its nature and powers makes the second cause depend upon God in being, but not in operating and causing (which is what the question is about). Since we deal here with the motion and determination of the second cause, which (if not maintained to be done by God, but from the creature alone) on that very account it will be independent in acting and God could not be considered as the first cause of that motion (which as an entity ought still to depend upon him).

VIII. (2) What is of itself indifferent to man): acts, to act or not act, must necessarily be determined to act by another because what is potential (in potentia) cannot be reduced to actuality except by something which is in act (in actu). But every second cause (especially the will of man) is such. Therefore it is necessary that it be determined to actuality by some other external principle (which can be no other than God himself). Nor ought it to be said that the indifference of the will or of the second cause does not hinder them from determining themselves when the proper objects are presented to them. Although second causes have sufficient power to act in the order of second causes and can determine themselves to act in a particular way, yet the): do not cease to have need of the previous motion of God in order to obtain the certainty of the event. Otherwise no prescience of God could be held certain concerning them, since from their own nature they are indifferent.

IX. Third, if God does not concur by a previous concourse (by determining the creature antecedently to his act), neither could he be joined in acting with the creature by a simultaneous concourse. That two free wills may be joined together and agree to elicit the same common action at the same time and immediately (and proximately and undividedly) and that not casually and fortuitously but infallibly and so certainly as to imply a contradiction for one to elicit such an action without the other, either both ought to be conjoined by a very powerful superior cause to-elicit the same action in the same point of time or both are by their own nature determined to that operation so that they cannot help producing it; or one determines the operation of the other and consequently determines the other cause to act. Besides these no other method of conjunction and of concurrence for the production of one and the same operation can be imagined. But no one of these three (except the third) can belong to the first cause. Not the former, because since God is the first cause (having none above himself), he cannot be subordinated to a third superior cause. Not the latter, because God is not determined necessarily to operating, since in all external concourse he is perfectly free. Nor do many second causes act from necessity of nature, but freely (which therefore ought to be masters of their own acts, so however as to depend always upon the first cause both in being and in operation). Hence it follows that the infallibility of the event cannot arise from any other cause than the divine predetermination.

X. Fourth, God by an absolute and efficacious will decreed from eternity all acts (even free) antecedently to the foresight of the determination of the free will itself. Therefore he ought also in time to predetermine the will to the same acts; otherwise God’s eternal decree could be frustrated. The reason of the consequence is drawn from the connection of G od’s decree with its execution. Whatever he decreed, that he follows out; and whatever he performs in time, he decreed from eternity. The antecedent is proved because since the futurition of things depends upon no other than God’s decree, nothing can he done in time which has not been decreed by him from eternity. The objection is frivolous that God did not decree to effect all things, but only to permit many. For although the decree is only permissively occupied about the wickedness of the act, it nevertheless does not hinder it from being effectively occupied about the physical entity of the action itself (as will be more fully proved hereafter).

Sources of

XI. Predetermination does not destroy, but conserves the liberty of the will. By it, God does not compel rational creatures or make them act by a physical or brute necessity. Rather he only effects this- that they act both consistently with themselves and in accordance with their own nature, i.e., from preference (ek proaireseos) and spontaneously (to wit, they are so determined by God that they also determine themselves). Now although what is predetermined is not any more indifferent to act or not to act in the second act and in the compound sense, yet it can always be indifferent in the first act and in the divided sense (as the will, when it determines itself, can still be in itself indifferent). The fount of error is the measuring of the nature of liberty from equilibrium (isorropia) and making indifference (to amphirrepes) essential to it. Liberty must be defined by willingness and spontaneity (as will be seen in the proper place).

XII. The necessity carried into things by predetermination is not destructive of liberty because it is not consequent. Nor does it make either the cause itself to be necessary or the effect to proceed just as from the cause itself, but of consequence which only secures the action of a cause of this kind and indeed agreeably to itself and so spontaneously and willingly. Hence these two can at the same time be true: man wills spontaneously, and, with respect to providence or premotion, he cannot help willing. For that premotion of God is such that it takes place in accordance with the nature of things and does not take away from second causes the mode of operation proper to each.

XIII. Although creatures (in the genus of second causes and dependent upon God) have sufficient intrinsic power to act, it does not follow that the extrinsic premotion of God is unnecessary by which they may be excited to operation. Rather because they ought to be subordinated to the first cause and depend upon it, that premotion must necessarily be supposed in order that they may elicit their own acts. And it cannot be concluded from this that creatures are only passive because that premotion secures the action of creatures and elicits their own actions from themselves (which both their diverse essences and also faculties and strength, of which there would be no need if they did not act, show). Therefore it does not follow from the premotion of God that second causes do nothing, but only do nothing independently.

XIV. Although God previously moves second causes, still he cannot be said to produce the actions of second causes (for instance, to make warm or to walk). These actions belong to God only efficiently, but to creatures they belong not only efficiently, but also formally and subjectively’ (as from them the creatures are better denominated than God himself).

XV. Although creatures are the instruments which God uses for the execution of their own works, they do not cease to have a proper influx and to hold the relation (schesin) of principal causes (not indeed with respect to God, but to the remaining causes subordinate to him). Nor is it absurd that there should be two totally acting causes of the same numerical effect of a different order, since the action of both causes is only one, by which they concur to the effect. XVI. Although the premotion of God is extended to evil actions, it does not on that account make God guilty of the fault or the author of sin. It only pertains to actions inasmuch as they are material and entitative (entitative), not however as they are moral, i.e., to the substance of the act, but not to its wickedness. Nor is it a new thing for one and the same action to be considered in different ways, either physically or morally. The magistrate is the cause of the death inflicted on the guilty person by the executioner, but is not the cause of the cruelty exhibited in that execution; the harp player is the cause of the sound, but not of the dissonance arising from the strings; and he who drives a lame horse is the cause of the motion, but not the lameness. Nor is it an objection that the wickedness is necessarily and inseparably annexed to such action. Hence it would seem to follow that he who is the cause of the action, must also be the cause of the wickedness because the created will is otherwise the moral cause of the wickedness, except inasmuch as it is the material cause of the act, to which the wickedness is necessarily bound. We answer that it is falsely supposed that the created will is not otherwise the cause of the wickedness than inasmuch as it is the cause of the act to which wickedness is annexed. The will, as a physical agent, is the physical

cause of the act; but as a moral agent, the will is the moral cause of the wickedness, not simply because it produces the act, but because it produces such an act against the law to which man is subject. Therefore, the reason why wickedness may be imputed to the human will is not simply because it produces the act in the genus of being (as a physical agent), but because it is man subject to the law who performs a forbidden act (as a moral agent). Hence moral wickedness does not follow intrinsically and from the nature of the thing to the act (as the act is in the genus of nature), but as it proceeds from a deficient created will (to which moreover the causality of sin must be attributed and not to God). Finally, reason no less contends against simultaneous concourse than against previous because according to it God concurs even truly and efficiently to the material act of sin, therefore he ought also to be the cause of the wickedness annexed to it. The sounder Scholastics agree with us. Thomas Aquinas says, “God in an action connected with deformity, does what belongs to the action, does not do what belongs to the deformity; for although in any effect there are many things inseparably connected, it does not behoove that whatever may be the cause of it as to one, should also be the cause as to the other” (2 Dist. 37, Q. 2, Art. 2+). Thus Cajetan: “Thirdly, it foilows that it is not the same to concur with such an act according to what it has from the agent as such, and according to what it has from the agent as deficient, just as it is not the same to be an agent and to be deficient”

(Commentaria in Summam Theologicam Divi Thomae, 1-11, QQ. LXXI-CXIV [1948], p. 50 on 1-11, Q. 79, Art. 1). Alvarez says, “It does not follow that God is the cause of sin because he determines to the act; because the deformity follows the act, not as it is in the genus of nature, but as it is in the genus of morals and as it is caused by the free will” (lib. 2, cap. 9+).

XVII. Since in every moral action we must necessarily distinguish the substance of the act in the genus of being from the goodness and wickedness of the same in the genus of morals-the action of understanding and willing simply (which has a material relation) from the action of understanding and willing this or that lawful or unlawful object (which has a formal relation)-it is evident that no action can be called essentially good or bad, but only as it is here and now circumstantiated in the genus of morals, i.e., with a relation (schesei) to this or that good or bad moral object. Thus the volition of stealing reduplicatively and circumstantiated here and now, is indeed essentially evil with regard to another’s property; but the volition, to which that circumstance happens by which it is a volition to steal, is not essentially evil in like manner. Therefore, nothing hinders God from being the cause of the action itself, except inasmuch as it is a singular action simply in the genus of being (with regard to materiality, but not with regard to its formality) and inasmuch as it is an action circumstantiated in the genus of morals to such an action, i.e., inasmuch as it is an act of stealing. The same can be said of hatred of God which is objected by various persons as intrinsically and essentially evil. For although hatred of God reduplicatively and formally as such and circumstantiated to such an object, is intrinsically evil and can be nothing else than sinful, yet if considered simply as a physical action abstracted from this object, it can have a metaphysical goodness of being and be morally indifferent and so far can be from God. Although therefore on the determination of God as to the substance of the act, transgression (anomia) necessarily follows (marked in hatred of God), yet it must not be thought to depend effectively on it, so that the causality of sin can be referred to it (for that determination is only physical, not moral–which alone is sinful).

XVIII. The predetermination of God in evil acts is not repugnant to his permission because they are not occupied about the same things. The former regards the substance of the act, the latter, however, its wickedness; the former reaches the material (effecting it), but the latter the formality (leaving it to the free will of man, which alone is the deficient moral cause). For as in an evil act, there is, as it were, a twofold formal relation (one having the relation of effect, the other having the relation of defect), God can move and predetermine to that which has the relation of effect, but can only permit the other which has the relation of defect.

XIX. Since the will of precept and of decree respect diverse objects, nothing prevents God from willing a thing by his will of decree which he does not will (but prohibits) by his will of precept. Thus what is contrary to the revealed will of sign can be done according to the secret will of good purpose. God was unwilling that the brethren of Joseph should sell him and that the Jews should crucify Christ, since they were most heinous crimes against the law. Yet he is said to have willed, yea, even to have done these things (Gen. 45:7; Acts 4:28).

How can the concourse of God be reconciled with the contingency and liberty of second
causes–especially of the will of man?

Difficulty of the

I. This question is no less difficult than the preceding; nay somewhat more difficult and incapable of being sufficiently explained, unless we follow the light of the divine word and religiously restrain ourselves within the bounds prescribed by it. These two things we derive most clearly from the Scriptures: that the providence of God concurs with all second causes and especially with the human will; yet the contingency and liberty of the will remain unimpaired. But how these two things can consist with each other, no mortal can in this life perfectly understand. Nor should it seem a cause for wonder, since he has a thousand ways (to us incomprehensible) of concurring with our will, insinuating himself into us and turning our hearts, so that by acting freely as we will, we still do nothing besides the will and determination of God. Thus here deservedly, if anywhere else, we may exclaim: “O the depth (o bathos) how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Rom. 11:33).

II. Now although the method of this reconciliation cannot in this life be clearly and perfectly explained by us, still it can in some measure be described as far as is sufficient for salvation by the previous light of the divine word. Before all things, this must always be remembered, that things the most certain and evident of themselves are not to be called into question on account of other uncertain and inevident things (i.e., we must distinguish the thing from the mode of the thing). Although ignorant of the mode of a thing, still we ought not on that account to deny the thing itself. With regard to the latter there is a certainty, since numberless things are most true which yet in the very highest degree surpass our comprehension. Therefore these two things are indubitable: that God on the one hand by his providence not only decreed but most certainly secures the event of all things, whether free or contingent; on the other hand, however, man is always free in acting and many effects are contingent. Although I cannot understand how these can be mutually connected together, yet (on account of ignorance of the mode) the thing itself is (which is certain from another source, i.e., from the word) not either to be called in question or wholly denied.

False methods of
must be rejected
the first by

III. Many attempts at reconciliation have been made, but with little success. For whether we look to the prescience of God or to his permission or to the indifferent influx of providence (the three principal modes of reconciliation brought forward by our opponents), it is easy to show that they are not only vain and fictitious, but false, impious, contrary to the Scriptures and derogatory to the providence of God. And indeed as to the last, nothing more need be said here because we have fully treated of it in the preceding question. Of the other two, the same thing must be briefly demonstrated-that they will by no means suffice. For as to prescience, it is first gratuitously supposed that the providence of God is contained in the act of prescience alone by which future things are known. But since it also includes an act of will (by which their infallible futurition is decreed) so all contingent and free causes must have a relation (schesin) to providence, not only inasmuch as they are known before by God as future, but also inasmuch as from eternity they were decreed to be future and in time should be infallibly moved and ordained to their effects. (2) Again it is falsely supposed that there is no connection of foreknown things with prescience and that it imposes no necessity upon them. Yet Scripture teaches both most clearly in numberless passages (Mt. 18:7; 2654; Mk. 8:31; Lk. 24:7, 46; 1 Cor. 11:19); and reason proves it. Otherwise (unless there existed this necessary connection between them), the prescience of God could be deceived and his decree changed (both of which are blasphemous).

By permission.

IV. They who have recourse to permission succeed no better. Although permission ought to have its own place in explaining the providence of God in evil (as will hereafter be seen), yet it is falsely used for this reconciliation: both because more acts of God than a bare permission are granted here (implying his special and efficacious concourse), and because it is improperly supposed that the permission is conjoined with the indifference of sinners as to the event. The permission of God being posited, sin necessarily follows; if not on the part of man’s free will, yet on the part of God’s decree. Otherwise that action might be prevented and thus the decree of God concerning it be frustrated; for example, the selling of Joseph or the crucifixion of Christ, which nevertheless Scripture denies and the nature of the thing itself forbids.

The true method
is founded upon
the order of
causes and the
mode of acting
proper to them.

V. The true method of harmonizing them must therefore be sought from some other source (vi:., from the order of causes among themselves and the mode of acting proper to them). This can be explained in the following propositions. First, the concourse of providence and of the human will is not oft collateral and equal causes, but of unequal and subordinate. The reason is drawn from the nature of each. Since the former is the concourse of the Creator and the latter of the creature (the one a concourse of the first, universal and hyperphysical cause; the other, however, of the second, particular and physical cause), there cannot be granted a coordination between them such as exists between allied and partial causes joined together to the production of one and the same effect (to which they do not singly suffice). Rather a subordination must necessarily be admitted by which the first presides, the second are subject; the former act independently, the latter, however, dependently. This is so necessary that without the second causes neither can exist nor be even imagined.

VI. Second, God so concurs with second causes that although he previously moves and predetermines them by a motion not general only but also special, still he moves them according to their own nature and does not take away from them their own proper mode of operating. The reason is because as the decree of God is occupied not only about the determination of things which ought to be done, but also of the means according to which they are to be done relative to the nature and condition of each, thus actual providence (which is the execution of this decree) secures not only the infallible futurition of the thing decreed, but also its taking place in the very manner decreed (to wit, agreeably to the nature of each; i.e., necessary things take place necessarily, free and contingent things, however, freely and contingently). For as there are two kinds of causes, some definite and general (always acting in the same way-as fire which burns, the sun which shines), others indefinite and free (which can act or not act in this or that way); so God conserves their nature and concurs in acting with them according to it. With the definite, he himself determines them without a proper determination; with the indefinite and free, however, they also determine themselves by the proper judgment of reason and the free disposition of the will (which God does not take away from man because he would thus destroy his own work, but leaves and strengthens it). And further, that admirable force of providence here displays itself by which it so joins itself to the nature of each thing that although infallibly and necessarily carrying out the thing decreed, still this is accomplished conveniently to its nature by the intervention of the second cause by reaching from end to end strictly and disposing all things sweetly.

VII. Third, it follows, since providence does not concur with the human will, either by coaction (compelling the unwilling will) or by determining it physically (as a brute and blind thing without judgment), but rationally (by turning the will in a manner suitable to itself), that it may determine itself as the proximate cause of its own actions by the proper judgment of reason a d t h e spontaneous election of the will so that it does no violence to our will but rather kindly cherishes it. These two are the only kinds of necessity which destroy liberty and are incompatible (asystatoi) with it: natural and coactive necessity. The others (arising from God’s decree and the motion of the first cause or from the object and the last judgment of the practical intellect) so far from overthrowing liberty, rather defend it, because they turn, do not compel, the will and make it willing from unwilling. For whoever does spontaneously what he wills from a judgment of reason and a full consent of will cannot help doing that freely even if he does it necessarily (from whatever source that necessity flows, whether from the very existence of the thing [because whatever is, when it is, is necessarily] or from the object efficaciously moving the mind and the will or from a first cause decreeing and concurring).

VIII. Fourth, God so concurs with the human will as still to determine it differently in good and evil. For in the good actions, God so previously moves the will as to be the author of them (not only in the genus of nature, but also according to their moral goodness) by determining the will not only as to the thing (i.e., the good) either in general or in particular, but also as to the mode so that what is done should be well done. He does this partly by giving to it good qualities through special help or supernatural grace, partly by exciting them when given (helping and leading into act through their cooperation [synergeian]). Hence while he suggests pious thoughts to man (2 Cor. 3:5), he causes man also to consider his own way (Prov. 169; Hag. 15); while he gives a new heart and puts a new spirit within us, he makes us also to walk in his commandments (Ezk. 36:27); while he works in us both to will and to do, he sees to it that we ourselves also work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12, 13). In evil actions, however, he so concurs as neither to effect, assist, nor approve of them, but to permit and efficaciously direct; not by infusing wickedness, but by so determining rational creatures physically to the substance of the act in the genus of being, that they (when left to themselves failing from the law) move and determine themselves to bad actions in the genus of morals, performing them freely and voluntarily (hekousios). Hence the guilt rests upon them alone, from which God is therefore free (as will be more fully proved in the following question).

Sources of

IX. Absolute and independent liberty (belonging to God alone) differs from the limited and dependent (proper to creatures). By the former, God so determines himself as to be ruled and determined by no other; but the determination of another consists best with the latter because man does not cease to act spontaneously and from preference (ek proaireseos), although these motions are excited and ordered from another source.

X. Although the will (relative to providence and with respect to the second act) while exerting its operation cannot be indifferent to doing or omitting this or that thing (because it is determined to one of opposites), yet this does not prevent it (considered in itself and in the first act) from being indifferent in its own nature and undetermined to many things and from freely determining itself. It is indeed certain that there cannot be a determinate effect of an indeterminate cause, if this is the only one; but if to produce one and the same effect, a superior cause concurs with the human will (acting not only by it but also with it), the proximate causes (of themselves indeterminate of the effect) can be so determined by that superior cause that it does not do violence to the will, but suffers it to act by its own motion and free will. Nay, it uses this very liberty to execute its own counsels because God also decreed that man should spontaneously and freely serve his decree. The same must be said of contingency which can be attributed to the effect with respect to the second cause which in other respects is necessary with respect to the first cause (as has already been seen). The other matters belonging here were discussed in the preceding question.

XI. Moreover if any scruple still remains in a most obscure subject or anything which surpasses our comprehension (as indeed it must not be denied that many things here are impervious to us), it is more satisfactory to be humbly ignorant than rashly to define. It is fitting that we remember that the ways of God are not our ways; they are to be admired, not thoughtlessly searched into. And we (insignificant mortals) ought to be satisfied with firmly retaining the fact (to hoti ) (which is most clearly revealed in the word), although it is not granted to us now to know fully the why (to dioti) or the how (to pos).

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology (Philipsburg, New Jersey: P&R, 1992), 1:505-515.

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4 comments so far


Good Stuff. I Kind of like the way Cunningham approaches the relationship of the providence of God and evil where he defines it as something more than bare permission but nobody can define what that something more is. [Historical Theo – I, pp. 633, 34]

A couple thoughts:

Where does this leave us in responding to the charges of Harris, Dawkins, Bertrand Russell, etc. who wish to lay the blame for the evil acts man commits at the feet of the God they don;’t believe in?

As Russell put it: ‘Certainly an omnipotent being can come up with something better than the Ku Klux Klan or fascism?’ [Why he isn’t a Christian, – p. 10]

Just curious as to yours or any other readers thoughts. I’m not particularly troubled over the issue but I do think I would lean more heavily on divine permission than trying to explain divine concurrence. And the concept of divine permission does have biblical precedent – Acts 14:16

July 8th, 2008 at 1:45 pm

Hey Jerry,

I have posted both Calvin and Turretin on divine permission. Calvin is very strong at times, as he wants to distance himself from the idea of an unwilling permission of sin.

Turretin uses permission even within his discussion of concurrence. Calvin and Turretin are on the same page theologically.

Given that Turretin is not saying that God concurs with sin non-permissive (ie immediately and efficiency) he is able to distinguish between first and second causation. This corresponds to Calvin’s remote and proximate causation. I think some Calvinists, such as Vermigli and Edwards, open the door to confusion when they use “author” equivocally.

The proper cause of sin is man. God willingly permits and concurs with man’s sin. Thus we are back to the basic defense that all mainstream (non hyper-calvinist varieties) Calvinists must use.

To your last comment, I dont think concurrence precludes permission, but relies in it when it comes to the concurrence of God in matters of sin.

I totally agree that a willing permission is the way to go, as well. And it is wrong to press the matter beyond that.

Take care, and thanks for stopping by,

July 8th, 2008 at 2:42 pm
Jerry M

Thanks David – I appreciate your thoughts.

July 8th, 2008 at 3:51 pm

Hey Jerry,

No worries. If my aging memory serves me right, Dabney rejected Concurrence. The prime reason I posted the article from Turretin is that it further displays the role of God’s providence over sin via permission, contra modern hypercalvinists like Gordon Chark and the Hoeksemians with their denial of permissive causality.

Take care,

July 9th, 2008 at 11:15 am

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