Author Topic: Divine Simplicity and its importance.  (Read 206 times)

Offline Xavier

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Divine Simplicity and its importance.
« on: September 12, 2018, 07:31:15 AM »
Can we discuss the Thomistic doctrine of Divine Simplicity? It is clear from the Summa and also from the Councils (and indeed Scripture itself, which speaks of God as Power and Wisdom and Love itself) that this understanding of how God has revealed Himself should inform our loving contemplation of Him. St. Augustine explains that in creatures it is one thing for them to be, and another for them to be wise (or powerful etc). But in the Almighty Being, the necessary First Cause of all other beings, which are contingent upon this Being and derive all they have from Him (according to "in Him we live and move and are" - St. Paul in Acts 17:28), His own Essence itself is Power and Wisdom and all other attributes. So that, all creatures can only be good and holy and wise and beautiful and so on by participation in Divine Goodness (whether in the order of nature, which is common to all, or the order of grace, exclusive to us Christians). What other important conclusions and reflections can we gain from this important doctrine the Angelic Doctor has taught us?
Mary, our Heavenly Mother, implores those who receive Holy Communion Daily, or at least Weekly, to Offer their Lives. TEXT OF THE LIFE OFFERING: "My dear Jesus, before the Holy Trinity, Our Heavenly Mother, and the whole Heavenly Court, united with Your most Precious Blood and Your Sacrifice on Calvary, I hereby Offer my whole Life to the Intention of Your Sacred Heart and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Together with my life, I place at Your disposal all Holy Masses, all my Holy Communions, all Rosaries, all acts of consecration, all my good deeds, all my sacrifices, and the suffering of my entire life for the Adoration and Supplication of the Holy Trinity, for Unity in our Holy Mother Church, for the Holy Father and Priests, for good Priestly vocations, and for all souls until the end of the world. O my Jesus, please accept my life Sacrifice and my offerings and give me Your grace that I may persevere obediently until my death." Amen. https://www.avemariamaternostra.com/life-offering-promises.html It is recommended that you make this Life Offering as soon as you feel ready, and to renew it from time to time.

Please read the Blessed Mother's promises in the link: those who make it seriously will face no Purgatory (promise 5) since they would have completed it here, will have all their loved ones released from Purgatory the day they offer their life with intent to persevere (promise 4), and can save the souls of all their family members in due time by their life offering (promise 3). It will benefit all souls who have ever lived until time's end (promise 2) A simple effective way for thousands of us to save millions of souls. Inflamed in Large Letters of Love, you will have your name written in the Hearts of Jesus and Mary forever (promise 1).
 

Offline Philip G.

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Re: Divine Simplicity and its importance.
« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2018, 01:50:28 PM »
What is the significance of divine simplicity?  It is presented as though it is interchangeable with divine goodness.  But, participation in goodness is not a simple matter.  Jesus didn't say "be wise as doves and simple as serpents", yet God has made no creature unclean.  Read that one twice.  Participation in divine goodness is not synonymous with a net good or a net positive.  And, if simplicity is not that, what use have I of it?  Children like fables, and children are good.  Those with itching ears like fables, but that is not good. 
« Last Edit: September 12, 2018, 01:52:34 PM by Philip G. »
For the stone shall cry out of the wall; and the timber that is between the joints of the building, shall answer.  Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and prepareth a city by iniquity. - habacuc 2,11-12
 

Offline james03

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Re: Divine Simplicity and its importance.
« Reply #2 on: September 13, 2018, 12:45:41 PM »
It solves the E. paradox (I refuse to look up how to spell it):

a.  If God is a good god, then good is higher than God.
b.  If things are good because God says they are good, then good is arbitrary and really doesn't exist.

Answer:  God is goodness itself.  Divine Simplicity.
"But he that doth not believe, is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn 3:18)."

"All sorrow leads to the foot of the Cross.  Weep for your sins."
 
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Offline Philip G.

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Re: Divine Simplicity and its importance.
« Reply #3 on: September 13, 2018, 02:14:20 PM »
It solves the E. paradox (I refuse to look up how to spell it):

a.  If God is a good god, then good is higher than God.
b.  If things are good because God says they are good, then good is arbitrary and really doesn't exist.

Answer:  God is goodness itself.  Divine Simplicity.

Thanks James.

What are we then to make of Jesus saying, "Antichrist cometh, and in me he hath not a thing"?

Does antichrist not make use of good for evil? 
For the stone shall cry out of the wall; and the timber that is between the joints of the building, shall answer.  Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and prepareth a city by iniquity. - habacuc 2,11-12
 

Offline sedmohradsko

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Re: Divine Simplicity and its importance.
« Reply #4 on: September 13, 2018, 02:35:39 PM »
It solves the E. paradox (I refuse to look up how to spell it):

a.  If God is a good god, then good is higher than God.
b.  If things are good because God says they are good, then good is arbitrary and really doesn't exist.

Answer:  God is goodness itself.  Divine Simplicity.

Is it correct to say God can be reduced to goodness, and this is what is meant by divine simplicity?

I've always thought it meant he could not be reduced to component parts, or something like that.
 

Offline John Lamb

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Re: Divine Simplicity and its importance.
« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2018, 04:39:19 PM »
Contrary to a modern understanding of wisdom which typically sees it as an ever-increasing accumulation of facts, as in having an "encyclopedic knowledge" of a subject — true wisdom is simple and consists of intuitive knowledge of first principles, and in its highest form the simple contemplation of God's very essence. St. Thomas teaches that the higher and more intellectual an angel is, the fewer distinct things it knows, because by understanding higher and more simple principles it is able to comprehend many things at once.

The simpler and less dependent our life is, the more godlike it is. So to approach godliness it is not necessary to invent more and more machines & medicines, but to achieve detachment from things. The modern idea of a godlike man is the transhumanist cyborg with superhuman powers of strength and intelligence; but the really godlike man is the hermit in his cell who lives on bread & water and requires little of anything else.

There's a stage in the spiritual life where the less you know and the less you do, the more you know and the more you accomplish. This is because the spiritual life tends to greater and greater simplicity, where the soul relies less on its own action and more on God's working in and through it; in this way it approaches the divine simplicity. The highest point attainable is the mystical union with God, where the soul seems to be co-operating with God in the very creation of the universe itself because of its unhesitating assent to the divine will. This is where miracles begin to seem, as it were, no longer so miraculous.

Quote from: Sayings of the Desert Fathers
The old men said of Abba Agathon to Abba Elias, in Egypt, 'He is a good abba.' The old man answered them, 'In comparison with his own generation, he is good.' They said to him, 'And what is he in comparison with the ancients?' He gave them this answer, 'I have said to you that in comparison with his generation he is good but as to that of the ancients, in Scetis [the abode of the eldest desert fathers] I have seen a man who, like Joshua the son of Nun could make the sun stand still in the heavens.' At these words they were astounded and gave glory to God.
As many as received him, he gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in his name. (John 1:12)
 
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Offline Xavier

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Re: Divine Simplicity and its importance.
« Reply #6 on: September 14, 2018, 12:38:01 PM »
Thanks, John and James. I agree.

Philip, these are listed as Catholic Dogmas by Dr. Ludwig Ott, "The divine attributes are really identical among themselves and with the
Divine Essence. God is absolutely perfect. God is actually infinite in every perfection. God is absolutely simple ... God is absolute ontological Goodness in Himself and in relation to others. God is absolute moral Goodness or Holiness."

Sed, yup, that's included as well. St. Thomas begins with proving God is without composition before proceeding to show that all that can be predicated of God - His attributes - are God - His Essence. This is a well known maxim in theology, the attributes of God are identical with the Divine Essence. That's why the Scripture says, "God is Charity" (1 Jn 4:8)

The CE has: "God is a simple being or substance excluding every kind of composition, physical or metaphysical. Physical or real composition is either substantial or accidental — substantial, if the being in question consists of two or more substantial principles, forming parts of a composite whole, as man for example, consists of body and soul; accidental, if the being in question, although simple in its substance (as is the human soul), is capable of possessing accidental perfections (like the actual thoughts and volition of man's soul) not necessarily identical with its substance. Now it is clear that an infinite being cannot be substantially composite, for this would mean that infinity is made up of the union or addition of finite parts — a plain contradiction in terms. Nor can accidental composition be attributed to the infinite since even this would imply a capacity for increased perfection, which the very notion of the infinite excludes. There is not, therefore, and cannot be any physical or real composition in God ...

Thus every actual contingent being is a metaphysical compound of essence and existence, and man in particular, according to the definition, is a compound of animal and rational. Essence as such in relation to a contingent being merely implies its conceivableness or possibility, and abstracts from actual existence; existence as such must be added before we can speak of the being as actual. But this distinction, with the composition it implies, cannot be applied to the self-existent or infinite being in whom essence and existence are completely identified. We say of a contingent being that it has a certain nature or essence, but of the self-existent we say that it is its own nature or essence. There is no composition therefore of essence and existence — or of potentiality and actuality — in God" http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06612a.htm#IC

St. Thomas: "...we have shown (I:2:3) that God is pure act, without any potentiality. Hence it is impossible that God should be composed of matter and form. Secondly, because everything composed of matter and form owes its perfection and goodness to its form; therefore its goodness is participated, inasmuch as matter participates the form. Now the first good and the best—viz. God—is not a participated good, because the essential good is prior to the participated good. Hence it is impossible that God should be composed of matter and form ... It is said of God that He is life itself, and not only that He is a living thing: "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). Now the relation between Godhead and God is the same as the relation between life and a living thing. Therefore God is His very Godhead ... God is not only His own essence, as shown in the preceding article, but also His own existence. This may be shown in several ways ... Thirdly, because, just as that which has fire, but is not itself fire, is on fire by participation; so that which has existence but is not existence, is a being by participation. But God is His own essence, as shown above (Article 3) if, therefore, He is not His own existence He will be not essential, but participated being. He will not therefore be the first being—which is absurd. Therefore God is His own existence, and not merely His own essence." http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1003.htm
 
And this is how St. Augustine proved it: Please see: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/130106.htm

Quote
"For the Apostle says, "Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God." And hence some on our side have reasoned in this way against the Arians ... If the Son of God is the power and wisdom of God, and God was never without power and wisdom, then the Son is co-eternal with God the Father; but the Apostle says, "Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God;" and a man must be senseless to say that God at any time had not power or wisdom; therefore there was no time when the Son was not ... For that certainly is the power which is the wisdom, and that is the wisdom which is the power; and in like manner, therefore, of the rest also; so that that is the greatness which is the power, or any other of those things which either have been mentioned above, or may hereafter be mentioned.

Chapter 6.— How God is a Substance Both Simple and Manifold.

8. But if it is asked how that substance is both simple and manifold: consider, first, why the creature is manifold, but in no way really simple. And first, all that is body is composed certainly of parts; so that therein one part is greater, another less, and the whole is greater than any part whatever or how great soever ...

And hence the nature of body is conclusively proved to be manifold, and in no respect simple. The spiritual creature also, that is, the soul, is indeed the more simple of the two if compared with the body; but if we omit the comparison with the body, it is manifold, and itself also not simple ... For it is on this account more simple than the body, because it is not diffused in bulk through extension of place, but in each body, it is both whole in the whole, and whole in each several part of it ... But, nevertheless, since in the soul also it is one thing to be skillful, another to be indolent, another to be intelligent, another to be of retentive memory; since cupidity is one thing, fear another, joy another, sadness another ...  it is manifest that its nature is not simple, but manifold. For nothing simple is changeable, but every creature is changeable.

But God is truly called in manifold ways, great, good, wise, blessed, true, and whatsoever other thing seems to be said of Him not unworthily: but His greatness is the same as His wisdom; for He is not great by bulk, but by power; and His goodness is the same as His wisdom and greatness, and His truth the same as all those things; and in Him it is not one thing to be blessed, and another to be great, or wise, or true, or good, or in a word to be Himself."
Mary, our Heavenly Mother, implores those who receive Holy Communion Daily, or at least Weekly, to Offer their Lives. TEXT OF THE LIFE OFFERING: "My dear Jesus, before the Holy Trinity, Our Heavenly Mother, and the whole Heavenly Court, united with Your most Precious Blood and Your Sacrifice on Calvary, I hereby Offer my whole Life to the Intention of Your Sacred Heart and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Together with my life, I place at Your disposal all Holy Masses, all my Holy Communions, all Rosaries, all acts of consecration, all my good deeds, all my sacrifices, and the suffering of my entire life for the Adoration and Supplication of the Holy Trinity, for Unity in our Holy Mother Church, for the Holy Father and Priests, for good Priestly vocations, and for all souls until the end of the world. O my Jesus, please accept my life Sacrifice and my offerings and give me Your grace that I may persevere obediently until my death." Amen. https://www.avemariamaternostra.com/life-offering-promises.html It is recommended that you make this Life Offering as soon as you feel ready, and to renew it from time to time.

Please read the Blessed Mother's promises in the link: those who make it seriously will face no Purgatory (promise 5) since they would have completed it here, will have all their loved ones released from Purgatory the day they offer their life with intent to persevere (promise 4), and can save the souls of all their family members in due time by their life offering (promise 3). It will benefit all souls who have ever lived until time's end (promise 2) A simple effective way for thousands of us to save millions of souls. Inflamed in Large Letters of Love, you will have your name written in the Hearts of Jesus and Mary forever (promise 1).
 

Offline Philip G.

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Re: Divine Simplicity and its importance.
« Reply #7 on: September 14, 2018, 08:22:41 PM »
xavier - can you provide me with some Ott page numbers?  I looked up attributes in the index, and divine, and there is nothing for either. 
For the stone shall cry out of the wall; and the timber that is between the joints of the building, shall answer.  Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and prepareth a city by iniquity. - habacuc 2,11-12
 

Offline Quaremerepulisti

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Re: Divine Simplicity and its importance.
« Reply #8 on: September 18, 2018, 08:14:43 PM »
Actually, Divine simplicity is a key doctrine with astounding implications.  It's not just a revealed doctrine but a key tenet of natural theology, following directly from God as ipsum esse subsistens. 

Some have argued against it on the basis of modal collapse.  While it's true that modal collapse objections don't work as an argument against the doctrine (contra Bill Vallicella), what's important is why they don't work.  Let's give the following modal collapse argument which is certainly valid and cannot be objected to by reason of substitution in referentially opaque modal contexts (since necessity is the only modality we are using).

1.  Necessarily, God exists.
2.  Necessarily, God's essence is identical to His existence.
3.  Necessarily, an act of creation by God (referring to what is intrinsic to God) is identical to the act of God.
4.  Necessarily, the act of God is identical to the existence of God.
5.  Therefore, necessarily, God's act of creation is identical to the existence of God.
6.  Therefore, necessarily, God's act of creation is identical to the essence of God.
7.  Therefore, God's act of creation is necessary.
8.  Necessarily, God's act of creation entails what is created.
9.  Therefore, what is created necessarily exists.
10.  Necessarily, everything that exists that is not God is created.
11.  Therefore, everything that exists exists necessarily.


Only one possible objection to validity could be made and that would be to say that "an act of creation by God" in 2. is not a strictly rigid designator - it does not refer to the exact same thing across all possible worlds. However, this objection is shown to be begging the question - conclusion 6. shows that it is in fact the same thing across all possible worlds, since God's essence is the same across all possible worlds, and the act of creation by God is identical to it in all possible worlds.

Now, since the argument is valid, but the conclusion is incorrect (modal collapse), one of the six premises (1, 2, 3, 4, 8, or 10) must be incorrect.


1. is demanded by Divine aseity.
2. is demanded by Divine simplicity (as well as aseity).
3. is demanded by Divine simplicity (there cannot be a multiplicity of acts in God).
4. is demanded by Divine simplicity (there is no distinction between what God is and what He does).
10. is demanded by God as First Cause (everything that is not God is caused to exist by Him).

The only way to avoid the conclusion is to deny 8.  Which means that there is no pre-determination by God in the created universe, not even by way of "from eternity" - God's creation is non-determinative.  (A similar argument holds if, instead of creation, other objects of God's willing are used, so we can conclude His causation is non-determinative.)  To say the universe exists "because" God created it only means that the universe is ontologically dependent on God for its existence.  It does not mean God pre-determined that this universe should be the one which exists, or that any particular thing in it happens.  But, couldn't at least some things (even if not all) be entailed by God's act of creation?  No, because any of those things would likewise exist necessarily, meaning God creates them in all possible worlds.  Put simply, "God wills X to exist" has no real informational content beyond "God exists, and X exists".

Thomism would like to have it both ways (Divine simplicity and Divine pre-determination) but without success.  It adds something extrinsic to "God's act of willing", the object of God's will (X, say), and says that while God wills His own goodness necessarily, He only wills X contingently as a means of willing of His goodness, as willing X is not necessary for that end.  But that single act of will is identical to the existence of God and therefore can't predict whether X will or will not be willed and hence whether X will or will not exist anymore than the existence of God can.  There is nothing "about" God's will, considered intrinsically and in itself, that distinguishes between willing or not willing X (this is different from created wills, where willing X in particular is an accident).  What it actually means for X to be the "object of God's will" is quite murky.  Thomism falls back on X being "in the mind of God" before it is actually created but that is making it something intrinsic to God.  Or, if "in the mind of God" is not something intrinsic, then what is it then?  Anyway, if something extrinsic to God entails that He wills X, then He is ontologically dependent on that something and not a se.

We naively think there this is no conflict between Divine simplicity and Divine pre-determination because in created beings like ourselves existence and will are two different things.  That is not the case with God; there is no real distinction between the two but only a notional distinction.  Our wills are only analogously the same to God's will; they resemble it in some way such that it is not incorrect to use the same term and it is not equivocal (as in "The bank is closed" vs. "Walking on the west bank of the river").

Granted this has profound implications, but let's start with this in itself.