Various Types of Theological Necessity

Turretin on different types of freedom

necessitas consequentiae (necessity of the consequences):  this is a hypothetical or non-absolute necessity.  It is brought about by a previous contingent act.  It refers to the necessity of the finite order.  There is no absolute necessity that God decree what he decrees, but since he has decreed so, he is bound to fulfill it.

necessitas consequentis (necessity of the consequent):  this is absolute necessity that refers to the opera ad intra.

Practical value of these distinctions:  it allows the theologian to intelligently and without confusion speak of both necessary and free acts.   Our acts are necessary in the sense that Providence is not subject to change.  But our acts are not absolutely necessary, since God was not bound to decree such.

The more I read of Richard Muller and other exponents of Reformed Scholasticism, the more I realize that the Reformation tradition had a rich and full understanding of freedom of choice.  The following is taken from Willem J. van Asselt’s Introduction to Reformed Scholasticism.Contrary to Arminian and Catholic charges, the Reformed view of a “necessary” will is not incompatible with “freedom,” provided both terms are understood correctly. Francis Turretin provides six different types of “necessity,” four of which the Arminian/Romanist must affirm are compatible with freedom: 1) necessity of dependence of the creature on God; 2) [Asselt intended to list the second type of necessity, but I don’t think he did], 3) every creature is dependent on God in terms of the future per God’s foreknowledge and decree. 3a) Asselt writes, “However great the creature’s freedom may be, these acts are still necessary from this perspective, otherwise God’s foreknowledge could be false and his decree changeable.” 4) free will must go with rational necessity, for must not a free action be a rational one? 5) Free will relates to moral necessity, or that of habit. If you do an action enough, whether good or bad, it becomes a habit, making it easier to do this action. Few will deny this observation. 6) The necessity of an event or the existence of a thing. If a thing is, it is necessarily.  This is an example of a necessity of the consequence.   It is not an absolute necessity.

In short, freedom can be determined because freedom is not absolute (Asselt, 162-163).

Necessity of the Consequent, Consequence

The necessity of the consequent is the necessity of a proposition behind the “then” in an if…then statement. The necessity of the consequence is the consequence itself. Ie, the implicative necessity. In the implicative necessity, neither the antecedent nor the consequent needs to be necessary. Only the necessity of the implicative relation counts. Take the two propositions:

(1) If I marry Marian, then Marian is my wife.
(2) It is necessary that Marian is my wife (if I marry her).

In proposition (1) it is contingent that I marry Marian. I did not have to do so. Only the implication between the antecedent and consequent is necessary. In proposition 2 it is the result of the conditional proposition that is necessary.

Proposition 1 does not imply proposition 2. Therefore, in an argument of implicative relation of necessity, both the antecedent and consequent can be contingent and not necessary. According to the Reformed scholastics, the necessity of the consequence corresponds with absolute necessity and the necessity of the consequent with hypothetical necessity. In this distinction, the Reformed scholastics combat the charge that the divine decree destroys the contingency and freedom of the world. Therefore, necessity and contingency are compatible and not contradictory.

Most important in this distinction is that it depends on God’s will ad extra. If the decision of the divine will is directed to contingent objects ad extra, then God’s will is contingent, too. In other words, God contingently wills all that is contingent. Created reality, therefore, is the contingent manifestation of divine freedom and does not necessarily emanate from God’s essence. For if this were the case, all things would coincide fundamentally with God’s essence, and the actual world would be eternal (198-199).


7 comments on “Various Types of Theological Necessity

  1. olivianus says:

    Well done. Rebloging. Jacob do you realize how many Reformed people understand this and can use it in apologetics with the EO? You know what the sick reality is? Probably you and me and ……..crickets…….

  2. olivianus says:

    Reblogged this on Uncreated Light and commented:
    Well done. Rebloging. Jacob do you realize how many Reformed people understand this and can use it in apologetics with the EO? You know what the sick reality is? Probably you and me and ……..crickets…….

    • I think you are right. Jay Dyer asked a mono-energist question on my facebook page, which I had no intention of debating him on that venue. His question assumed several things about metaphysics and freedom that I didn’t agree with. I did this post to show that Reformed people can believe ina freedom of sorts while maintaining necessity.

  3. shotgunwildatheart says:

    Jay Dyer threw that at me before as well … “creation” has to be a part of God’s nature, he claimed.

    But this sort of misunderstanding shows up in surprising places as well. Are you familiar with Dolezal’s book “God Without Parts”? In Chapter 7 he discusses God’s freedom in relation to divine simplicity and concludes somewhat ambiguously on the matter (after analyzing Eleanor Stump’s unorthodox marrying of the two doctrines). Guess we just have to throw up our hands on the matter…

    But what you’ve said here, on the different sorts of necessity, is very interesting. I wonder if Plantinga references Turretin in his book on necessity? (I can’t afford to buy it and find out).

  4. I’ve listened to a few interviews with Dolezal. I agree with most of him. I’ve read Plantinga’s *Does God have a Nature?* He didn’t reference Turretin in that one.

  5. […] See also:  necessity of the consequence (contingent) and necessity of the consequent thing (absolute) […]

  6. […] outside a few popular presentations of TULIP.  Now I have proof right here.   But here are more Reformed resources on the […]

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