Thursday, January 21, 2010

Divine Simplicity

St. Augustine affirmed divine simplicity.

Nor are You compelled to do anything against Your will in that Your will is not greater than Your power. But greater should it be were You Yourself greater than Yourself; for the will and power of God is God Himself. [Confessions, VII.4; emphasis added]

The will and power of God are not attributes of God, but rather they are God himself.


Mike Burgess said...

This issue has been vexing me a great deal lately. I have long been an advocate for ADS while trying to retain a healthy respect for Byzantine explications of energy-essence distinctions. Dr. Liccione's writing and that of Jonathan Prejean have helped me tread the vast minefield of Patristic, medieval, and contemporary source material as carefully and as far as I dare. Do you have some suggestions for further reading?

Reginald de Piperno said...

Hello Mike,

Most of what little I understand about ADS I gleaned from reading Aquinas (I Q3 of course, but also his repeated discussions of it in relation to various “attributes” of God; similarly in SCG, especially I.18), Liccione, and Prejean.

Ed Feser has some posts on the subject that might prove helpful to you; I haven't read them all, and those I have read I haven’t necessarily read closely, so I can’t speak from personal knowledge as to their quality, but Feser is a very sharp guy, so I expect that they are good. In fact, he had a couple posts on the topic earlier this month. Here is a Google search for the term at his blog. I don't own them yet, so I don't know for sure, but his books The Last Superstition and Aquinas might have some material too.

I hope this helps.


Mike Burgess said...

Yes, I will check those out. I am thinking about getting A.N. Wilson's book on Aquinas and Palamas, and someone just recommended Christopher Malloy's "Engrafted Into Christ," so I may be getting those, especially the latter, as I tend to think it will provide food for the end of the series I've gotten started writing on anthropology, the imago Dei, and deification. Might make a small complement to your presentation on Trent and justification.

Nick said...

I think the biggest 'attack' on ADS is by a few overzealous folks who don't understand Aquinas sufficiently enough and are thus misreading him and thus make a caricature of ADS.

Nick said...

RdP, Thanks for the link to Dr Feser, I'm learning a lot.

This is a great article:

Here is the critical error people make when saying ADS is illogical. Feser says:

"When we bring the concept of ANALOGY [see the article] to bear on the doctrine of divine simplicity, we can see what is wrong with Craig’s bare assertion that the doctrine is unintelligible. For this assertion has whatever plausibility it has, I would suggest, only if we think of God as having an essence, as existing, and as having power, knowledge, etc. in the same or univocal sense in which we and other creatures have these things."

This false problem is highlighted in the popular example of people seeking to 'balance' God's Love with Justice. The problem is that while those concepts are distinct in one sense, there is also overlap between them. This 'overlap' reaches 'unity' in God, such that those are not two strictly distinct things. Thus in perfection, there is nothing for God to 'balance'.

The best example I've ever seen is that of White Light. White Light is invisible to us, but when it hits a prisim the rainbow of colors appears. These colors are distinct from our perspective, but all derive themselves from a single 'color' of 'white'. The Sun gives off white light.

Feser shows that popular apologist philosopher William Craig (putting forth the typical objections) is caricaturing the doctrine.

Reginald de Piperno said...

You’re welcome, Nick. Glad to be of service :-)

Thank you for reading them more carefully! Now I know that I shall have to do the same.