Pierre du Moulin (1568-1658) on the Arminian distinction between the antecedent and consequent will of God


Lutherans, Arminians and Amyrauldians distinguished between God’s antecedent and consequent wills. For them, God’s antecedent will is the general will of God which desires that all through Christ may be saved (cf. 1 Tim. 2:4). But this expression of God’s will is antecedent to the conduct of human beings. Once confronted by grace, human beings may choose whether or not to embrace the grace being offered them. It is this concrete choice of particular individuals that becomes the object of God’s consequent will. By this consequent will, God decrees to save those who through faith accept divine grace. The orthodox Reformed rejected this and similar distinctions. They reasoned that since God is one, and thus not subject to human manipulation, so too must we affirm the unity of God’s will and its free operation in election, irrespective of human merit.

Pierre du Moulin (1568-1658), a French Huguenot minister, was one of the most capable theologians of his day, holding numerous positions including professor of philosophy and Greek at Leiden (Netherlands), parish preacher at Charenton (France), and professor of theology at Sedan (France). His Anatome Arminianismi was written in 1619 for the Synod of Dort. Below is an excerpt from chapters 4 and 5 of this work, in which he counters this idea of God’s antecedent and consequent wills:

“[The distinction in the will of God may in one sense be admitted], because there is a certain order among the purposes of God. Thus his will of creating man was in order prior to his will of feeding and clothing him. But with… Arminius it is called the ‘Antecedent’ will of God, because it goes before the act of the human will; and they call the ‘Consequent’ will of God that which is after the human will and which is thereby dependent on it…

Between these two wills of God he puts this difference: that the antecedent will of God may be resisted, the consequent cannot. He would have it (a) that God should be disappointed in his antecedent will and fail of his propounded end; but (b) the consequent will of God cannot be frustrated but must necessarily be fulfilled. For he thinks that God does not always attain to that which he intends…

Between these two wills of God (if any credit may be given to Arminius) the human will comes in which causes God to revoke his antecedent will… forces him to abandon his propounded end, leading him to turn toward another goal than that which he first intended…

It is certainly plain that this ‘antecedent’ will of God is not a will at all but only a desire… And by this God is spoken of… as one wishing and desiring… [and thus] in an anthropopathic manner…

It is also absurd, indeed impious, to affirm that God, to whom all things from eternity are not only foreseen but also provided for should intend anything that from eternity he knew would not come to pass…

What a thing it is that hereby there is [posited] as resistance between these two wills of God, the latter of which corrects the former! For by this antecedent will God desires to do that which from eternity he is certain he shall not do…”


2 thoughts on “Pierre du Moulin (1568-1658) on the Arminian distinction between the antecedent and consequent will of God

  1. Riley says:

    Thanks, where do you find this view among Lutherans?

  2. Jake Griesel says:

    Perhaps I should say “Melanchtonians”, or “Lutherans after the time of Luther”. Some of Lutheranism after the life of Luther himself did not strictly adhere to all of his doctrines. A couple of sources I have read suggested that “Lutherans” (if not Luther himself) held to such distinctions.

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