Divine freedom and creation ex nihilo

Let freedom mean the non-determination of a decision. This means two things which are opposed as imperfection to perfection. A decision before it is made is pretty clearly both undetermined and imperfect relative to the same decision made; but a decision that depends on someone or something else to be made is less perfect than one made independently on one’s own, and independence is another way of not being determined. The first sort of freedom – call it (A) – is “not determined” decision since it is the privation of a fully made decision; the second (B) is a “not determined” decision it does not depend on anything outside the one deciding.

God’s freedom in creating ex nihilo is necessarily (B), as the whole point of describing the act as ex nihilo is to deny his dependence on both matter and the goodness of the created end.

Creation ex nihilo, however, cannot be from freedom in sense (A.) Just as creation as an effect does not consist in an actuality arising from a privation in a created subject but from no subject at all, creation as an active cause does not consist in an actuality arising from a privation in the subject who creates. One can, of course, distinguish possible worlds with and without creation or with and without God creating, but when understood in light of creation ex nihilo we recognize that these logical distinctions do not correspond to any transition from the privation of an act to its possession, or from God before he acts and to when he is acting. We visualize divine freedom in creating as God going from potency to act in exactly the same way we imagine creation ex nihilo as going from a vast, empty black space to a space filled with planets and stars. Both are metaphors that only work up to a point, and in the present discussion one is well past the point where they work.

Do we say that God necessarily creates since his act has no potential, and any act with no potential must be necessary? No. Here again, there is no potential in the divine act creating in the same way there is no potential for creation, since creation is ex nihilo and not from potency, since potency is a kind of being.

So there is a true and proper non-determination of the divine decision to create in sense (B,) but no non-determination in sense (A.) Both of these, moreover, follow from the same fact of creation being ex nihilo. 

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