Orthodoxy And Divine Simplicity -- By: Norman L. Geisler

Journal: Christian Apologetics Journal
Volume: CAJ 03:2 (Fall 2004)
Article: Orthodoxy And Divine Simplicity
Author: Norman L. Geisler

Orthodoxy And Divine Simplicity

Norman L. Geisler


At the heart of the current battle for God is the doctrine of divine simplicity. Classical theism, which is the basis of historic orthodoxy, affirms God’s simplicity and openness theism (hereafter called neotheism)1 denies it.

Comments will be divided into several parts: first, the meaning of God’s simplicity; second, the classical arguments in favor of it; third, the current objections being leveled against it; and fourth, the relationship between God’s simplicity and orthodox theology.

The Meaning Of Divine Simplicity

Simplicity as applied to God is the doctrine that He is absolutely one in His essence, without any divisions. The simplicity of God means there is no composition or complexity of any kind in God, whether substantially or accidentally. He has no modes, parts, or poles. Whatever is appropriately attributed to Him is said of His absolutely one nature (essence). It also implies that God is without any capacity to be divided.

He has no potentiality for division but is Pure Actuality. God is absolutely indivisible.

The Classical Arguments For Divine Simplicity

The importance of simplicity did not escape the keen theological perception of the greatest theologian of the late Middle Ages. Not only did Aquinas treat it first before discussing any other attribute of God,2 but many of his arguments for the other attributes of God are dependent on it. Its importance can also be estimated by the fact that virtually all the great orthodox Fathers and Teachers of the Church spoke to the issue.3

Aquinas’ Five Arguments For Simplicity

In his classic Summa Theologica, Aquinas listed no less than five arguments for God’s simplicity.4 He stated that “The absolute simplicity of God may be shown in many ways.

“First,. .. [since none of the six possible ways something could differ are possible for God]5 , it is clear that God is in no way composite, but is altogether simple.

“Secondly, because every composite is posterior to its component parts, and is dependent on them; but God is the first being, as has been shown above.

“Thirdly, because every composite has a cause, for things in themselves diverse cannot unite unless something causes them to unite. But God is uncaused. .. since He is the ...

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