Is God’s knowledge the same as His power?
Some have claimed this. Augustine said, “We see the things that you have made because they exist; they exist, on the other hand, because you see them.” In the same sense, Thomas Aquinas speaks of God’s knowledge as the “cause of things.” Likewise, many Reformed and Lutheran theologians. Against this idea we note:
a) That it is certainly true that every act of will in God and every expression of His omnipotence is accompanied by knowledge, and thus one may speak of an effectual knowledge.
b) That this, however, will always be a figurative way of speaking that may not lead us to identify the knowledge and power of God.
c) That God’s knowledge and power must be distinguished is clearest from the fact that they have different objects. God knows all that is possible. His power is active only with respect to all that is real, and in a very different sense.
How does one distinguish God’s knowledge with reference to its objects?
a) Into necessary knowledge and a free knowledge.
b) Into a knowledge of simple comprehension and a knowledge of vision.
What is meant by the distinction between necessary and free knowledge?
The objects of necessary knowledge are God Himself and all that is possible. It is called necessary, because it is not dependent on an expression of will in God. God is as He is, an eternal necessity reposing in Himself; also what is or is not possible is determined with equal necessity by God’s perfect nature. One should note, however, that this necessity does not lie in a compulsion above God but in God’s being itself.
The objects of free knowledge are all actual things outside God, that is, that actually have been, still are, or will be. It is called free because the knowledge of these things as existing depends on God’s omnipotent decree and was by no means an eternal necessity.
One should note that the objects of free knowledge are simultaneously objects of necessary knowledge, but then not as actual but as purely possible.
What is meant by the distinction between a knowledge of simple comprehension and a knowledge of vision?
It is the same s the previous distinction. The knowledge of simple comprehension extends to all that is possible; the knowledge of vision, to all that is actual in the sense described above.
In which two respects, however, is the knowledge of simple comprehension distinguished from necessary knowledge?
a) God is clearly the object of necessary knowledge but not of the knowledge of simple comprehension. Yet, the latter, as the name indicates, comprises only that which is purely possible.
b) Actual things are also objects of necessary knowledge insofar as they are likewise possible. It seems that they must be excluded from the knowledge of simple comprehension because we are dealing here with a simple comprehension, that is, a comprehension that excludes all that is actual.
- Geerhardus, Vos. (2014) Reformed Dogmatics. Bellingham, WA 98225: Lexham Press.