“I've been reading James Dolezal's, All That Is In God and also listening to John Webster's Heyward lectures on creation. Both agree that as Webster puts it, "the beginning of creation is no beginning for God" and brings about no change in him. Dolezal has a chapter explaining how God is Eternal Creator. Webster emphasises that God is perfect fullness without creation and that creation was wholly superfluous, and that God was free not to create. I struggle to see how God can be described as Eternal Creator and also be free not to create. If the will of God flows inevitably from the being of God, does that not mean that God is not free in anything, but had to do all that he has in fact done? Can anyone help with this? Am I misunderstanding Dolezal's argument?”There seems to be two questions that we are considering here. Firstly, was it necessary for God to will to create? Or, to put it in another way, was God’s decree to create necessary?
Secondly, was Creation itself (i.e. the world) necessary? Does the world necessarily exist?On first impression, the two questions appear to be quite similar. If God decrees to create in His eternity, immutability, aseity, and goodness, the world must necessarily exist. But was God free to will to create, or was He compelled to create out of His nature and being? Here, Muller is helpful:
“Aquinas makes a basic distinction between the necessity to create and the necessity, once the work of creation is viewed as belonging definitively to the will of God, of creating the world in a certain manner. He also divides this second necessity into two questions relating to ends and means. Thus, first, the divine determination to bring the world to its full realization—the eternal idea which God has in his mind concerning the world—is a counsel freely formed, an idea freely conceived. The object and end of God’s willing is his own goodness—the glory of God rests in a sense on his power to create or not to create. In a derivative sense, however, creation is necessary even if no necessity is placed on the will of God from without. Since discrete ideas cannot be separated out of the mind or essence of God—so that the content of the divine mind is simple and equal to God himself—the eternally free will to create and the eternally realized idea of the creation must result in the world itself. For God’s eternal mind and will are immutable: the world must necessarily exist, but this is a necessity of the consequence or of supposition, resting upon the divine counsel or decision to create.”Thus, Aquinas makes a distinction between necessitas consequentis (i.e. “the necessity to create”) and necessitas consequentiae (i.e. “the necessity, once the work of creation is viewed as belonging definitively to the will of God, of creating the world in a certain manner”). Allow me to explain this with simple propositional logic.
Let us take a proposition that P = I will work tomorrow. And allow us to consider a simple conditional sentence with the form “If P, then P”. A sentence with this structure is true by virtue of its logical form. If I will work tomorrow, then I will work tomorrow. This logical form of the sentence is then necessarily true since it is logically true for every case of that P. Hence, it is necessary that, if I will work tomorrow, then I will work tomorrow.To put it succinctly:
Necessarily (If P, then P)or
(1) Nec (P-->P).In (1), only the implication between the antecedent and consequent is necessary (also called implicative necessity). Both the antecedent and consequent can be contingent and not necessary. This implicative necessity is also known as the necessitas consequentiae (the necessity of the consequence). For those who remember their lessons in conditional sentences for Greek grammar: if the protasis is true, then the apodosis is guaranteed by means of implicative necessity. But both the protasis and apodosis can be contingent and not necessary.
The necessitas consequentis (the necessity of the consequent) can be written as:(2) If P-->Nec P.
In this case, the consequent itself (or apodosis) is necessary. If I will work tomorrow, it is then necessary that I will work tomorrow – which is not true!(1) does not imply (2), nor does (2) follow from (1). Even if I will work tomorrow, it is a contingent event and not logically necessitated. Confusing (1) and (2) is to confuse necessitas consequentiae with necessitas consequentis, what logicians would call a modal fallacy.
Taking this understanding and applying it to our topic at hand, we have the following propositions to consider.(3) It is necessary that: If God wills to create, then God wills to create.
The antecedent, which Muller states as the “divine determination to bring the world to its full realization” is contingent in the sense that it “is a counsel freely formed, an idea freely conceived.” Muller continues to explain that, “there is in any will a certain necessity and a certain freedom. Aquinas looks to the analogy of the human will. Certain things are willed necessarily or governed by the nature and the end, the goal, of the person—yet the person freely chooses the means by which he effects that end. This argument also applies to God: for in the act of creation God necessarily wills his own absolute goodness as the end or goal of all his willing. Yet God freely chooses, without any necessity, the means by which he will communicate his goodness to creation. He freely chooses those things and means which lie outside of his nature and refer to the contingent order of nature.”To elucidate this further, what Aquinas is saying is that the end or goal of the things willed (Creation, for example) is necessarily governed by God’s nature, “for in the act of creation God necessarily wills his own absolute goodness as the end or goal of all his willing.” Yet God freely chooses the means by which His goodness is communicated to His creation. With His “eternally free will to create,” “the object and end of God’s willing is his own goodness—the glory of God rests in a sense on his power to create or not to create.”
Proposition (4) is, however, not true where:(4) If God wills to create, then it is necessary that God wills to create.
Remembering that no necessity is placed upon God’s will from without, God’s necessity to create is correctly termed as a necessity of the consequence “insofar as, de potentia ordinata, God has bound himself to the counsel of his will.” God in His eternity, immutability, aseity and perfection decrees to create. God’s willing to create was not necessary in a logical sense, that is, God was not compelled out of a logical necessity to create. It is instead a necessity of the consequence (necessitas consequentiae), or as how the Reformed Scholastics would put it, conditional necessity.Now to answer the question, “Was Creation of the world necessary? Does the world necessarily exist?” Creation itself is necessary “in the derivative sense” as Muller aptly puts it, and therefore is a necessitas consequentiae by virtue of God’s decree and will. “For God’s eternal mind and will are immutable: the world must necessarily exist, but this is a necessity of the consequence or of supposition, resting upon the divine counsel or decision to create.”
Again, “there is no necessity that God decree what he decrees; but, granting the divine decree, God is bound to his own plan and promises. Therefore, the fulfillment of the divine plan and the divine promises is necessary, but by a necessitas consequentiae.”It is also important to note that, in creating, God contingently wills all that is contingent. His will to create is directed ad extra onto contingent objects (e.g. time, space, and matter), and hence, His creation is the contingent manifestation of His divine will and does not emanate from His being or substance. So Creation is not necessary in the sense that God is necessary – a necessary being and the First Cause (necessitas absoluta), but is a necessity of the consequence of God’s decree to create.
Van Asselt writes, “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 an eternal world and the only one possible world.”
 Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy; Volume 3: The Divine Essence and Attributes (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 59–60.
 Ibid., 60.
 Ibid., 59.
 Ibid., 60.
 Richard A. Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms : Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1985), 200.
 Willem J. van Asselt, “‘The Abutment against Which the Bridge of All Later Protestant Theology Leans’: Scholasticism and Today,” in Introduction to Reformed Scholasticism, ed. Joel R. Beeke and Jay T. Collier, trans. Albert Gootjes, Reformed Historical-Theological Studies (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2011), 199.