Divine simplicity (5): necessity of the present vs. necessity as opposed to freedom

Divine action follows divine being and is understood by the elements of creaturely action with analogues to the divine.

Since contraries can’t be simultaneous, it’s necessary to be X when you are X-ing, i.e. when you are seated, it’s impossible that you be standing. Nothing changes if we stipulate you are choosing to sit,* and this makes for the first way in which freedom involves necessity1.

Divine action is measured by eternity, which we can define philosophically as the wholly simultaneous and complete possession of unbounded life or Scripturally as God’s I AM in opposition to the historical and contingent nature of creatures. Because of this, divine action always has the same necessity that any present action has in the present moment, a necessity which, again, characterizes both freely chosen and wholly determined actions. This requires distinguishing

necessity1: the necessity common to all beings in their now and
necessity2 necessity as opposed to freedom.

All divine action including the action of creating has necessity from divine eternity, but within this action we have to distinguish the necessity2 of God willing his own goodness from the absence of necessity2 in his willing anything other than his own glory and happiness.

Any free action, even a divine one, has necessity2 in some way, and so when we divide necessity2 from freedom we are distinguishing two elements or dimensions in a free action and not two sorts of action. The simplicity of a freely chosen human action isn’t compromised by our necessarily2 willing ultimate happiness, and so God’s is not either. This is the second way in which freedom involves necessity2

Again, God’s necessity1 in the Scriptural tradition is clear from his being I AM in opposition to the historical and contingent being of creatures. Necessity1 is essential to divine fidelity and custody of his people, and makes what is future or past for us as simply many ways of abiding in divine eternity (cf. Ps. 139 : 1) This necessity1 is divided from necessity2 both in divinity and in all actions of creatures, and so even all non necessary2 acts of creatures are necessary1 within the eternal I AM of divinity. Many of the worries about predestination or divine freedom are conflations of the two modes of necessity.


*So when we say “I’m sitting but it’s possible for me not to be” the possibility requires a later time. This is true in both the indicative and subjunctive, so “I chose this, but I might not have” or “I am doing this but I could have done otherwise” presupposes a distinction in times. The subjunctive construction treats action X relative to the time before it and so treats X as if it were some future contingent. In this sense, future contingent is a pleonasm: since a necessary relation to a time taken as future is a necessary element of contingency. This is why an argument for a necessary being is for a necessary1 being, and conflating the two sorts of necessity would mean that God could not be a necessary being since he exercised a free choice to create.

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