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Gisbertus Voetius (1589-1676). Sein Theologieverständnis und seine Gotteslehre

By A.J. Beck

Abstract

Gisbertus Voetius was the first rector and 'primarius theologiae professor' of Utrecht University in its beginning years. Although he is regarded as one of the most important and influential Reformed theologians of the 17th century, his extensive oeuvre, which predominantly resulted from active disputations practiced at young Utrecht University, remains largely unexplored. This first monograph on Voetius' dogmatic disputations analyses his concept of theology and his doctrine of God. The volume is composed of three parts. The first part describes Voetius' life and work within the context of the early modern period in Europe, thereby giving special attention to the conflict with Cartesianism and to Voetius as an important central figure of the major Dutch religious movement of his age (the 'Nadere Reformatie'). The concept of theology of Voetius is worked out in the second part. For him natural theology is in an objective sense based on divine revelation and does not form the 'artium' of supernatural theology, nor is it 'praeambula fidei' in an epistemic sense. Instead Voetius follows the medieval tradition of 'fides quaerens intellectum'. Moreover, according to its genus theology is a practical science (cf. Duns Scotus). His concept of theology is certainly neither intellectualistic nor rationalistic. Analysis of the doctrine of God of Voetius forms the core of this study in the third part. It is argued that Voetius embraces the doctrine of divine simplicity while at the same time recognizing that the divine attributes are distinct and can be grouped into two classes: regulative attributes (unity; perfection; infinity; immutability) and operative attributes (knowledge; will; right and righteousness; power). Moreover, like Duns Scotus, Voetius discerns both a contingent and a necessary dimension within the divine attributes. In this way, the role of the free and contingent divine will is pivotal: God's necessary knowledge of possible states of affairs precedes his contingent will, whereas his free and contingent knowledge of contingent states of affairs follows his will. In a similar vein, the divine will forms the axis of the distinctions between God's necessary and contingent right and his absolute and ordinate power. Thus God's necessary being can have a contingent relationship to his contingent creation while the extremes of necessitarianism and voluntarism (in the strong sense) are avoided. Moreover, Voetius rejects the Jesuit concept of 'middle knowledge' as being superfluous, dangerous and, surprisingly, as imposing necessity on God and thus on man. He argues instead that God's contingent will and decree do not necessitate human will but rather allow for its inalienable formal freedom. These findings not only confirm but also advance results of recent research on Reformed Orthodoxy (Richard A. Muller, Willem van Asselt, Antonie Vos). At the same time they falsify, with regard to one of the most outstanding figures of Reformed Scholasticism, Alexander Schweizer's thesis that the doctrine of God of these theologians has to be interpreted in terms of necessitarian determinism

Topics: Godgeleerdheid, Voetius, Gisbertus (1589-1678), Reformed Scholasticism, Reformed Orthodoxy, Duns Scotus, Cartesianism, Doctrine of God, Concept of Theology, Free will, Contingency, Pietism
Publisher: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht
Year: 2007
OAI identifier: oai:dspace.library.uu.nl:1874/22930
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