Here are just three arguments for Divine Simplicity, presented fairly simply, and not to be overly confusing. Most of these arguments are not arguments for theism per se, but arguments to the effect that a theist, particular a Christian, should prefer the doctrine of Divine Simplicity, the thesis God is not composed of parts, physical or metaphysical. Here is the first one we will look at today:
- When we praise God, we praise God as God, and only God can be worshiped
- If God was composed of parts, when we thank God for manifesting a particular grace upon us (say mercy), we would be praising the property being manifested, which is really distinct from God’s nature
- Under this assumption we would not be praising God as God, but the particular property, say mercy
- Also under this assumption, we would be praising a particular property not really God, which is not to be done, as only God is to be praised in the sense of worship
- Therefore, God is not composed of parts
Now this argument is taken from Pruss’s blog but seems plausible for any adherent to perfect being theology. For only one being can have the property of perfect holiness, and can require you to give up your autonomy to them. Secondly, under Christian theology, it is manifest that only the One True God is the only being to be worshiped. As Revelation 19:10 states
“I fell down before his feet to worship him. He said to me, “Look! Don’t do it! I am a fellow bondservant with you and with your brothers who hold the testimony of Jesus. Worship God, for the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy.” –Revelation 19:10
This verse is very telling. For under most denominations within Christianity, Angels are individuals of great praise, in the sense that they follow God. In most denominations, Angel’s are super natural beings of great power, with Catholicism even placing them in a magnificent position within the heavenly hierarchy. For an Angel to deny this praise from Saint John seems tantamount to the claim that only God is worthy of worship, and since all of our prayers should be for the ultimate end of realizing, glorifying, and worshiping God to His fullest, this seems to amount to God’s unique holiness.
Also it is arguable from Scripture that when we praise God we praise God as God, not a particular act that is manifested on us. In the book of Job, Job does not deny God after his family has been taken from Him, knowing that God is God above all. For if Job were to act on a particular attribute manifested, he might not think God is praise worthy. However, Job recognizes that God is God above all. For while Job’s wife states that Job should “curse God and die, Job responds as follows:
You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”-Job 2:10
In all this Job did not sin with his lips. For while the view is defensible that God does not really create evil, Job might have acted on this and thought that God had an essential attribute of evil (being philosophically unsuited for this work) that allowed this to happen. However, Job proceeds to praise God not for a attribute manifested, but because God is God. God is God above the particular act’s that He partakes in and brings about. Now this verse does not seem to be the most plausible candidate here, but one could make a plausibility argument for Divine Simplicity off this.
- God is infinite
- It is an analytical truth that the whole is greater than a part, for upon conceiving of what it means to be a part in relation to a whole, one cannot help notice this
- If God were composed of parts either his parts would be finite or infinite in quality
- If they were finite in quality, how can a whole composed of finite parts amount to an infinite whole?
- If the parts were infinite in quality, then the part would not be less than the whole, which is a contradiction in terms
- Therefore, God is not composed of parts.
Now this argument could be challenged by one arguing the defender equivocating on infinity here. For Scotus (who made this argument) was speaking of an actual infinite in its full sense, while the personalist need only accept the negative definition of it (that it is unlimited). This seems like a plausible escape route, although I do think that any parts that are not essentially a particular thing will by definition not be limited. For the property of a transcendental perfection (say goodness or beauty) mixed with some other property will amount to something akin to a strange admixture, possibly requiring something outside of God to make this particular property intelligible, as the diverse parts present will make God not essentially perfect perhaps entailing something essentially perfect outside of God to make this perfection full, which at that point will make the perfection not a full one in the proper sense, as Joyce argues in his principles of Natural Theology, which we will discuss and cite again later.
The Christian theist will want to accept some definition of divine infinity. For God’s infinite presence and knowledge are things predicated to God all over the Holy Scriptures. In 1 Kings 8:27 Solomon cries “But will God in very deed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens can’t contain you; how much less this house that I have built!“. This shows God’s radical transcendence, that none can contain His excellence, not even a temple of a King actively praised for His wisdom (at least at this point). His perfections are of such a sort that they. For we are bound spatially, bound by what we are but God is not. In Psalm 147:5 the Psalmist states “Great is our Lord, and mighty in power. His understanding is infinite.”. Here we can see that God’s wisdom is of such a Supreme sort that it is not the least bit weak like the corrupted faculties possessed by us, but full and complete. For these attributes alone make obvious the infinite perfections permeating our Lord, ones that should be praised at all costs, and not limited like the creation He is distinct from.
- God is perfect
- Some parts are real
- If God is perfect He would have the property of Aseity and Ultimate Explanation, as Aseity is not the sort of thing that has any intrinsic principle of limit, or sign of imperfection, hence implying a radical independence
- One can only have Aseity if one is not composed of parts, for parts are prior to the whole and the whole is dependent on the parts
- Therefore God is not composed of parts
Now premise 2 is obviously up for debate, but we can alleviate this perhaps by a concern that GH Joyce raised in his Principles of Natural Theology. For anyone who thinks that annihilation is an objective power of God, and that God can bring out of existence spiritual creatures like Angels and Subsistent Souls should admit the real distinction of essence and existence. For destruction in relatively simple creatures like Angels is of a entirely different variety than the events of decay and procession in the physical world. While physical changes amount to a mere shift in substance, like say the dispursing of paper when it is shredded (whether this is a substantial change is not really relevant), the removal of being from an intellectual agent has to be of an entirely different sort. Anyone who admits this power is truly available to God, that it is a real conceivable state of affairs, and that anything possible is befitting of God’s Power, ought to consider at least these two parts (essence and existence) as viable considerations. The annihilationist who thinks all the more that God actually will remove the lost souls from reality at judgement day should especially think it plausible that some real parts exist.
It is also very befitting to predicate of God the status as Ultimate Explanation for all things and the title of Ase, since A. it has no signs of being imperfect B. It passes all the criterion of Perfect Being theology. God is the Greatest Conceivable Being, and being a Necessary being, can not in principle be contingent on any things that are prior to Him. Since parts are prior to their instantiation to the whole in which they inhere it is very clear why God, being the First Principle, is a reality repugnant to composition. Therefore, God isn’t composed of parts.
Now I think it is more than obvious through the scriptures that God is presented as perfect, but here are a few obvious examples. When Jesus preaches the Sermon on the mount He ends it with the monumental lines “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”- Matthew 5:48. While our Lord was not saying this in the full metaphysical sense, it does mean that our God is beyond reproach, and not the sort of thing you could place any imperfection on without first looking at its cost. As the Psalmist states in Psalm 18:30 “As for God, his way is perfect. The word of Yahweh is tried. He is a shield to all those who take refuge in him”. Again, while presented in a poetical psalm about God’s justice, scripture presents God as being of an entirely different order, separate from all the imperfections of our world. God’s ways are not limited, nor ill formed, but the fullness of all goodness. From just these two passages, one should assume that God’s perfection is manifest from the scriptures, for one cannot come to an opposite conclusion looking at His revealed word and testimony. He alone is perfect, and we experience this elegance every day, being in the Son.
So those are three arguments of are unarguable varied in gradation. Some of these might have been weaker than others, but is seems at least plausible to think that one ought to accept Divine Simplicity as at least not being contradictory to the God’s who manifested Himself to men varying from the prophet Zechariah to Saint Paul. To follow up, it actually seems like a good explanation for certain features of God presented in His word as well. So we should all praise God in His wonderful simplicity, His supreme excellence for allowing us to come to perform such a meditation. For God is so much greater than us, but allows us to work on such big issues, and enjoy the fullness of His being, the same being present to Moses on Mount Sinai, and in our hearts constantly, through His Spirit. Amen