Voluntarism (theology)

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Voluntarism in theology is the theory that God is to be conceived as some form of will. It is contrasted with intellectualism, which gives primacy to God's reason. Both these theories about the nature of God are strongly tied to theories of natural law.

In medieval philosophy, voluntarism was advocated by Duns Scotus and William of Ockham, whereas intellectualism is found in Averroes and Aquinas.

Another definition of voluntarism applies to creation. Fransicians, and later Lutherans, believed creation was voluntaristic. In other words, God's act of creating the world was to be ascribed to his will. God may will to create some parts of the world in one manner, other parts in another manner, and so forth. This included the creation of human intellect. As a result, human reason could not be expected to know meaning and nature of creation in a special way through introspection and intuition. As a result, the search for knowledge must be conducted with humility and care.

In contrast, those who believed creation was sapientistic, such as neo-Platonists, believed that God created everything according to his wisdom. Divine wisdom, through the gift of the image of God, was also part of human reason. Because of this, patterns of reasoning in one's own mind could be expected to be similar in some way to patterns of reasoning in God's mind, and as a result, all creation. As a result, one could expect to know the meaning and nature of creation more easily through introspection and intuition.


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