Gisbertus Voetius (1589–1676) on God, Freedom, and Contingency

An Early Modern Reformed Voice


Gisbertus Voetius (1589–1676) on God, Freedom, and Contingency: An Early Modern Reformed Voice is the first study in English entirely devoted to the theology of Voetius, a leading figure of Reformed scholasticism. Andreas J. Beck examines Voetius’s life and his concept of theology. Moreover, he provides a fresh and detailed analysis of Voetius’s views on God, freedom, and contingency in the context of related early modern debates. Special attention is given to transconfessional relations and relevant backgrounds in patristic theology, medieval scholasticism, and the European Reformations. This study also advances our knowledge of scholarly practices in theological education at early modern Reformed universities in the Low Countries.

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Andreas J. Beck, Ph.D. (2007), Utrecht University, is Professor of Historical Theology and Academic Dean at the Evangelische Theologische Faculteit, Leuven, and the Director of the Institute of Post-Reformation Studies. He has published extensively on medieval and early modern theology and philosophy, including Melanchthon und die reformierte Tradition (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016; editor) and Synopsis Purioris Theologiae, vols. 2–3 (Brill, 2016–2020; general co-editor).
"Beck masterfully explains the myriad of scholastic distinctions employed by Voetius in service of explaining the divine nature and its relation to the contingent world order. [The] monograph is filled with careful discussion of knotty early modern theological topics. Any student of early modern Reformed orthodoxy will find a vast array of material related to the doctrine of God, both among Voetius and his various interlocutors.” – Michael J. Lynch, The Davenant Institute, in: The London Lyceum (January 17, 2023).

“Beck’s work is a necessary addition to library and scholarly collections demonstrating how Voetius stood close to the heart of theNadere Reformatie as one of its most influential, vocal, and long-lived proponents. ... As a welcome and masterful contribution of expansive clarity and diligent nuance, this volume is an important contribution to the scholarship and invites further conversations on Voetius’s doctrine of God and, one hopes, many of his other doctrines and loci of theology.” - Todd M. Rester, Westminster Theological Seminary, in: Church History and Religious Culture (June 2023).

“This work offers a very rich introduction to Reformed orthodox theology. To mention just one more topic, Beck explains how the strong belief in God’s overarching will and providence does imply pre-determination of all that happens, including the choices of free agents, but that this still does not lead to a deterministic view of reality.” - Henk van den Belt, in: The Journal of Ecclesiastical History (July 2023).


 1 Objective
 2 History of Scholarship
 3 Methodological Considerations
 4 Scholastic Method
 5 Texts Used
 6 The Disputation as a Genre
 7 Organization

part 1: Voetius in Context

1 Life: An Overview
 1.1 Introduction
 1.2 Education
 1.3 Pastor in Vlijmen, Engelen, and Heusden
 1.4 Professor and Pastor in Utrecht

2 Conflict with Cartesianism
 2.1 Introduction
 2.2 Introductory Phase
 2.3 The Utrecht Crisis
 2.4 The Leiden Crisis
 2.5 Pamphlet War
 2.6 Summary

3 Other Controversies
 3.1 Introduction
 3.2 The Cocceian Controversy
 3.3 The Controversy with Maresius and the Magistracy
 3.4 The Controversy with Labadism

4 Main Theological Works and Place in the Nadere Reformatie
 4.1 Introduction
 4.2 Main Theological Works
 4.3 Other Works
 4.4 Representative of the Nadere Reformatie and Pietism
 4.5 Summary

part 2: Theology

5 Structure and Nature of Theology
 5.1 Introduction
 5.2 Archetypal and Ectypal Theology
 5.3 Natural and Supernatural Theology
 5.4 The Character of Theology: scientia practica
 5.5 Summary

6 Communion with God as the Horizon for Theology
 6.1 Introduction
 6.2 Communion with God as the Ultimate Goal of Life
 6.3 Voetius and the “Two-Level Theory”
 6.4 Scripture and Reason
 6.5 Summary

part 3: The Doctrine of God

7 Predicates and Attributes
 7.1 Introduction
 7.2 Structure of the Doctrine of God
 7.3 The Existence and Nameability of God
 7.4 Equivocation, Analogy, and Univocity
 7.5 The Proper Names for God
 7.6 The Doctrine of the Trinity
 7.7 Distinction and Division of the Attributes
 7.8 The Regulative Attributes
 7.9 Summary

8 God’s Knowledge
 8.1 Introduction
 8.2 Necessary and Contingent Knowledge
 8.3 Middle Knowledge
 8.4 Ideas
 8.5 Summary

9 God’s Will
 9.1 Introduction
 9.2 Distinctions
 9.3 God’s Good Will and Evil
 9.4 Divine Free Will as the Pivotal Point in the Doctrine of God
 9.5 Determination without Determinism
 9.6 Summary

10 God’s Right and Justice
 10.1 Introduction
 10.2 Necessary and Contingent Right
 10.3 Justice
 10.4 Summary

11 God’s Power
 11.1 Introduction
 11.2 God’s Power as a Relational Attribute
 11.3 Absolute and Ordained Power
 11.4 The Object of God’s Power
 11.5 Summary

12 Divine Decree and Human Free Choice
 12.1 Introduction
 12.2 The Essence of Human Freedom
 12.3 The Divine Decree and Human Freedom
 12.4 Divine Concurrence and Human Freedom
 12.5 Summary

Synthesis and Relevance
 1 Introduction
 2 Voetius as a Reformed-Scholastic Theologian of the Nadere Reformatie
 3 Theology as a Practical Science
 4 The Necessity of God and the Contingency of the World
 5 God’s Will as the Pivotal Point between Necessity and Contingency
 6 God’s Will and Human Freedom
 7 Tradition-Historical Analysis
 8 Value and Relevance for Theology and Church
Appendix 1: Overview of the Disputations in Voetius’ SD I–V
 1 Selectae disputationes theologicae, Vol. 1, Utrecht 1648
 2 Selectae disputationes theologicae, Vol. 2, Utrecht, 1655
 3 Selectae disputationes theologicae, Vol. 3, Utrecht, 1659
 4 Selectae disputationes theologicae, Vol. 4, Amsterdam, 1667
 5 Selectae disputationes, Vol. 5, Utrecht, 1669
Appendix 2: Chronological Overview of the Disputations in SD I–V
 1 Primary Sources
 2 Secondary Sources
Name Index
 Scripture Index
 Subject Index
Scholars and students in historical and systematic theology; all those interested in intellectual history of the Early Modern period, its medieval background, and the interaction between Christianity and philosophy.
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