Friday, June 8, 2012

Oliphint on God's simplicity

The doctrine of God's simplicity, sometimes denoted as the unitas simplicitatis, or the simplicitas Dei, says that the characteristics of God are not "parts" of God that come together to make him what he is, but are rather identical with is essence, and thus with him. The simplicity of God affirms not only that whatever God essentially is, he is necessarily. It says even more. The simplicity of God holds that God's attributes are not characteristics or properties that exist (in the same way that he exists) in any way "outside" of God, such that his having such a characteristic or property entails his participation in something other than himself. God just is his characteristics and his characteristics are identical to him ...

Perhaps the best way to think about the simplicity of God lies in the fact that it demands a denial of any composition of parts in God. In this denial is an equally important affirmation. The affirmative aspect of simplicity says that whatever attributes, qualities, or properties inhere essentially in God, they are identical with his essence. Notice in this denial and affirmation that there is no denial of distinctions in God. The doctrine of simplicity, in its best formulations, has never wanted to affirm that God was some sort of being in which no distinctions did, or could, reside. That kind of "simplicity" is more akin to philosophical speculation than to biblical truth. Rather, the distinctions that do reside in God, because the accrue to his essence, are identical with that essence and thus are not parts of God, serving to make up the "whole" of who he is. Simplicity, therefore, applies to the essence of God.

( Oliphint, K. Scott. Reasons [for Faith]: Philosophy in the Service of Theology. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Pub., 2006. Print. 92-3)

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