Trinity and Divine Simplicity

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Trinity and Divine Simplicity

#1

Post by Seraph » Sat Feb 08, 2014 9:15 am

I'll split a post I made in another thread into this one since it seems more appropriate. Too much heated discussion already in that one :P
I have a question, doesn't the idea of God being three distinct persons yet one God contradict the idea of divine simplicity? Three eternal persons don't seem to me to be simple enough to be incontingent. When talks of God as incontingent come up, God's simplicity and "oneness" seem to be very important, yet the "model" of the Trinity seems quite complex.

I know modalism is basically regarded as heresy among a lot of Christian thinkers, but it seems to me to be more based solely on words of the Bible than the Trinity, which seems to me to be a doctrine that was created using the Bible, but injects a lot of ideas that are not found in it. The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit each being God are found in the Bible, but the common "the Father is NOT the Son, the Son is NOT the Holy Spirit, but all ARE God" I don't think are.
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Re: Trinity and Divine Simplicity

#2

Post by B. W. » Sat Feb 08, 2014 9:31 am

Seraph wrote:I'll split a post I made in another thread into this one since it seems more appropriate. Too much heated discussion already in that one :P
I have a question, doesn't the idea of God being three distinct persons yet one God contradict the idea of divine simplicity? Three eternal persons don't seem to me to be simple enough to be incontingent. When talks of God as incontingent come up, God's simplicity and "oneness" seem to be very important, yet the "model" of the Trinity seems quite complex.

I know modalism is basically regarded as heresy among a lot of Christian thinkers, but it seems to me to be more based solely on words of the Bible than the Trinity, which seems to me to be a doctrine that was created using the Bible, but injects a lot of ideas that are not found in it. The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit each being God are found in the Bible, but the common "the Father is NOT the Son, the Son is NOT the Holy Spirit, but all ARE God" I don't think are.
I personally do not think it does. Basically the idea is God, is a simple being revealed as - Spirit.

How would you define the make up of a Spirit Being such as God?

Jac can give more on this than I can...
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Re: Trinity and Divine Simplicity

#3

Post by Seraph » Sat Feb 08, 2014 10:12 am

I agree with you B.W. on God being a Spirit Being being in line with divine simplicity. The main thing that stands out to me is the "threeness" of it. Why three whole persons, or on the flip side why only three persons? If God was for past eternity one person then at some point split into three that would be one thing, but existing eternally as three persons is what seems to be not so simple. One being a Son and another being a Father further adds complexity to what should be simple.
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Re: Trinity and Divine Simplicity

#4

Post by B. W. » Sat Feb 08, 2014 10:23 am

Seraph wrote:I agree with you B.W. on God being a Spirit Being being in line with divine simplicity. The main thing that stands out to me is the "threeness" of it. Why three whole persons, or on the flip side why only three persons? If God was for past eternity one person then at some point split into three that would be one thing, but existing eternally as three persons is what seems to be not so simple. One being a Son and another being a Father further adds complexity to what should be simple.
I would do this exercise: Name the three individual components that all living things share that make a living thing - one?
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Re: Trinity and Divine Simplicity

#5

Post by Jac3510 » Sat Feb 08, 2014 12:09 pm

Modalism is not just contrary to Trinitarian logic, but contrary to the actual propositions of Scripture. We need to be very clear on something very basic as regards to Trinitarian thought, namely, that the doctrine we call "the Trinity" is absolutely nothing more than an attempt to synthesize the biblical data concerning God and what is called God. Whatever we say about God or the Trinity must affirm the following five statements:
  • 1. There is one God (Exod. 8:10; 2 Sam. 7:22; Isa, 45:5; 1 Tim. 1:17, etc.)
    2. The Person called the Father is God (Matt. 23:9; 1 Cor. 8:6, etc.)
    3. The Person called the Son (incarnated as Jesus) is God (John 1:1; 8:58; Col. 1:15, etc.)
    4. The Person called the Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4; 15:28; 1 Cor. 2:11; Heb, 9:14, etc.)
    5. These three names ("Father," "Son," and "Holy Spirit") are not different names for the same being but refer to individually distinct Persons (Matt. 3:16-17; John 17:1; Acts 7:55, 10:38, etc.)
The error of modalism is that it directly rejects (5). It makes a mockery of a range of texts that make obvious distinctions between the three Persons.

As to the original question, we must say that the Trinity is not incompatible with divine simplicity.

In the first place, the Trinity cannot logically refute divine simplicity. The Trinity is the statement that there is one God who exists in three Persons. The first part of that statement, "one God," is nothing more than an affirmation of simplicity (of one sort or another). Put differently, to say that the Trinity is incompatible with simplicity is to reject that there is one God, but is to say that there are three Gods that are somehow "one." But that directly rejects (1) above. So whatever objections one has to divine simplicity, the Trinity offers no particular difficulties whatsoever.

Second, the Trinity presupposes divine simplicity. The Trinity understands the Three Persons to be coequal and coeternal. Thus, the question becomes, "How do we distinguish between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit?" If we can point to some difference in their substance (the way we distinguish angels, for instance), then you would be saying that there are three coequal and coeternal substances. Yet that is impossible, for these three substances would all be identical in absolutely every conceivable way. All would be omniscient. All would be omnipresent. All would be all loving. All would be Creator, and so on. That is, after all, precisely what we mean when we say that they are co-anything. But if they are absolutely identical in every respect, then by Leibniz' Law of Indiscernibility there would be no way to distinguish any from the other, and their being would thereby collapse into One. Put differently, in order to distinguish one thing from another, we must be able to point to something that one has that the other does not. But if God is perfect (by definition) and lacks nothing (by definition), then anything that is God must lack nothing. But three distinct Gods would thereby lack nothing and therefore there would be no way to distinguish one from the other, which would be simply to say that all were identical with one another and not three distinct Gods at all. This is the philosophical proof, by the way, for monotheism. It therefore follows that there is no way to distinguish between the Three Persons by means of separate substances, and so we must affirm that all three share the same, identical substance. But if this is true, then all three Persons share not only the same substance but all the same attributes, which is to say, they all have the same will, the same knowledge, the same love, the same being, etc. This is not say that they each have a will and knowledge (etc) that are perfectly aligned in all ways, but that all such things are numerically identical in each of the Persons. The distinctions between the Persons, then, are not in substance or in attributes, but only in their relations of one to another. But all of this is simply the classical statements on the Trinity which are both consistent with and in fact presuppose divine simplicity (for two Persons to have numerically identical attributes seems to entail that the attributes themselves are identical with the substance they share, which is just simplicity stated in different terms).

Beyond all this, the fact remains that divine simplicity itself is logically, philosophically, and theologically necessary given the biblical and general data. If God is the Creator, then He is the First Cause. But the First Cause must, by definition, be Pure Act, having no potentiality whatsoever. But Pure Act must by necessity be simple, for composition by nature is potentiality; therefore, the First Cause cannot be an admixture of actuality and potentiality, and therefore, God must be simple. Since the Bible asserts that God is Creator, it necessarily follows that God is simple. Moreover, the Bible states that God is absolutely independent of creation (that is, He exists a se). But if He exists a se, we can say the following:
  • 1. God is not dependent on anything other than Himself, and everything outside of God is completely dependent on Him for its existence.
    2. Any composite being is dependent on something other than itself for its existence.
    3. Therefore, God is not a composite being.
If God is not composite then He is by definition simple. Thus, we are either forced to affirm God's simplicity or deny the biblical statements regarding God's aseity. But if this is all true, then we must affirm that divine simplicity and the Trinity are compatible, for if they are not, then we would have discovered a theological contradiction in Scripture. First, we would say that the Bible teaches the Trinity such that the Trinity is (in some way) inconsistent with divine simplicity; but we would then say that the Bible teaches divine simplicity; and we would therefore conclude that one or both of the biblical statements were in error.

So any way you look at this, there is no way to argue that the Trinity can or actually does contradict divine simplicity. The doctrine itself, as historically formulated, was built for the express purpose of unifying and explaining the biblical statements regarding monotheism, the divinity of the Father, Son, and Spirit, and the absolute simplicity of that Deity. If, then, we see a contradiction, it is only in our failure to understand the doctrine as it was historically developed. The error is not in the doctrine itself.

edit:

You can find a positive formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity that shows how three Persons can logically be considered of the same substance here. See pages 120-127.
Last edited by Jac3510 on Sat Feb 08, 2014 12:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue
And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: Trinity and Divine Simplicity

#6

Post by Jac3510 » Sat Feb 08, 2014 12:16 pm

Seraph wrote:Why three whole persons, or on the flip side why only three persons?
I'm not aware of any logical reason that it must be only three Persons. It is a matter of biblical revelation, not of necessity, that there are Three.
If God was for past eternity one person then at some point split into three that would be one thing
That is impossible. That would presume that God can and does change, but mutability is logically contradictory to the notion of simplicity. You can, of course, insist that God is mutable and deny simplicity. Most evangelical scholars take precisely that route today. But I believe, and theistic philosophers of all stripes have historically believed, that such an act is in grave error, both philosophically and biblically speaking.
but existing eternally as three persons is what seems to be not so simple. One being a Son and another being a Father further adds complexity to what should be simple.
As best I understand you, you seem to have misunderstood the doctrine. The Son is not a being. The Father is not a being. These three beings are not one being. In fact, God Himself (considered in His nature) is not a being, but rather is Being Itself. It would absolutely contradict both Scripture and logic to say the Father is a being, the Son is a being, and the Spirit is a being, and that the three beings were somehow one being. It is not self-contradictory to say that the Father is Being Itself, the Son is Being Itself, and the Spirit is Being Itself, and that they are therefore all identical with Being Itself, even as they are distinct from one another. For they are not distinct in terms of their being but only in terms of their relations to each other.
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue
And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: Trinity and Divine Simplicity

#7

Post by Jac3510 » Sat Feb 08, 2014 12:16 pm

Seraph wrote:Why three whole persons, or on the flip side why only three persons?
I'm not aware of any logical reason that it must be only three Persons. It is a matter of biblical revelation, not of necessity, that there are Three.
If God was for past eternity one person then at some point split into three that would be one thing
That is impossible. That would presume that God can and does change, but mutability is logically contradictory to the notion of simplicity. You can, of course, insist that God is mutable and deny simplicity. Most evangelical scholars take precisely that route today. But I believe, and theistic philosophers of all stripes have historically believed, that such an act is in grave error, both philosophically and biblically speaking.
but existing eternally as three persons is what seems to be not so simple. One being a Son and another being a Father further adds complexity to what should be simple.
As best I understand you, you seem to have misunderstood the doctrine. The Son is not a being. The Father is not a being. These three beings are not one being. In fact, God Himself (considered in His nature) is not a being, but rather is Being Itself. It would absolutely contradict both Scripture and logic to say the Father is a being, the Son is a being, and the Spirit is a being, and that the three beings were somehow one being. It is not self-contradictory to say that the Father is Being Itself, the Son is Being Itself, and the Spirit is Being Itself, and that they are therefore all identical with Being Itself, even as they are distinct from one another. For they are not distinct in terms of their being but only in terms of their relations to each other.
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue
And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: Trinity and Divine Simplicity

#8

Post by RickD » Sat Feb 08, 2014 2:15 pm

I thought divine simplicity was supposed to be...well...simple. :scratch:
John 5:24
24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

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Re: Trinity and Divine Simplicity

#9

Post by Jac3510 » Sat Feb 08, 2014 5:47 pm

RickD wrote:I thought divine simplicity was supposed to be...well...simple. :scratch:
You would think, but on the other hand, it has rightly been called “the strangest and hardest to understand” medieval doctrine and “one of the most
difficult and perplexing tenets of classical theism.” (Eleonore Stump, “Simplicity,” in A Companion to Philosophy of Religion, ed. Philip Quinn and Charles Taliaferro (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1997), 250)

Perhaps rather than "divine simplicity" you might prefer "divine non-composition." That doesn't sound simple at all! :lol:
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue
And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: Trinity and Divine Simplicity

#10

Post by B. W. » Sun Feb 09, 2014 9:22 am

Divine Simplicity is simply mind candy and philosophically complex. As William Lane Craig summed up in the quote below, it has value in reminding folks of God's oneness:
This is not to say that the doctrine of divine simplicity is wholly bereft of value. On the contrary, I have elsewhere defended the view that God's cognition is simple. But I do think that the full-blown doctrine in all its glory is philosophically and theologically unacceptable.

William Lane Craig
http://www.reasonablefaith.org/divine-simplicity
God's being is simply Spirit. With that, I agree. What Divine Simplicity (DS) does is go beyond that statement and as Craig mentions in the article linked too above: (DS) holds that God is an absolutely undifferentiated unity Who has no distinct attributes, stands in no real relations, Whose essence is not distinct from His existence, and Who just is the pure act of being subsisting.

Yes, I would say, God's Spirit essence is a undifferentiated unity, but he does have character attributes, and distinct attributes. I will stick with what the bible says and how the OT was written that reveals the self existing nature of God and what Romans 1:19,20 reveals that verifies how the Lord reveals himself in OT writings. Some DS proponents mention that the relations God has within himself is a matter of degrees and then go on to explain that no such relations can exisit, is where I begin to reach for the Aspirin...

DS is mind candy. It is a tool to help explore what God's divine being, the haElohim, is but in my opinion goes beyond that. Another example I can give of God's Spiritual essence of being is from CARM website speaking on the Trinity: Water is one substance, yet, it is vapor, and Ice. Vapor has its own attributes, as does Ice, yet there essence is still water. Think of the Father as the water (the will) and the Son as the vapor with distinctions to carry out the will of the father and Holy Spirit as the Ice with distinctions to solidify the will of the Father.

Next all living things on earth have three basic parts: Plants have a body, liquid, and life through various means of photosynthesis. Single cell organism have a outer shell, and its internal organs, and liquids: We have a body, liquids, and something scientist mention as bio-electrical spark within us that makes us alive. All three, components make us one. We cannot live mortal life one without the other. Each of these components has its own attributes in order to keep life alive. Their function is life.

Jesus mentions as does the bible that God is the living God. Therefore, God's simple being has functions that maintain all life. These functions do have distinct attributes yet are of the same essence. Since God is self existing - each of these functions are self existing too and carry out the will of being. The bible uses imagery of God's arms, hands, feet, eyes, to express this. He reveals himself through the Son - Word - and Spirit (Holy Spirit) - carrying out the will. Jesus mention he and the Holy Spirit proceed forth from God. All three do have certain attributes and functions and as God is intelligent, so are the Word and Spirit and each are self existing and are God because they are the components that make God's one essence of being.

We human beings have three distinct components that make us one being, yet, we are not God and are limited. I often thought how nice it would be if I could stay home and rest and send my body off to work, and have my fluids write a book. I cannot do this. But God, whatever his Whole Spiritual Essence is really like can do something of that order because he is simple spiritual being. He reveals himself this way in both OT and NT.

That's the best I can share on this. I'll stick with the bible and how it reveals this, rather philosophic mind candy...
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Eample: Look at these verses from the JPS:

Isa 48:12 Hearken unto Me, O Jacob, and Israel My called: I am He; I am the first, I also am the last.

Isa 48:13 Yea, My hand hath laid the foundation of the earth, and My right hand hath spread out the heavens; when I call unto them, they stand up together.

Isa 48:14 Assemble yourselves, all ye, and hear; which among them hath declared these things? He whom the LORD loveth shall perform His pleasure on Babylon, and show His arm on the Chaldeans.

Isa 48:15 I, even I, have spoken, yea, I have called him; I have brought him, and he shall make his way prosperous.

Isa 48:16 Come ye near unto Me, hear ye this: From the beginning I have not spoken in secret; from the time that it was, there am I; and now the Lord GOD hath sent me, and His Spirit.

Notice it is the Lord speaking in the text and read verse 16 and ask yourself why did the LORD use third person speech and whom is being identified?
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Re: Trinity and Divine Simplicity

#11

Post by Jac3510 » Sun Feb 09, 2014 6:35 pm

Yes, Craig rejects DS. He is wrong in doing so. He agrees with you (or should I say that you agree with him) in your assertion that "he does have character attributes, and distinct attributes." The Bible does not teach as much, and citations of references to God's love or God's anger or other such attributes ignores what linguists call depth grammar. The mistake is just as serious as people who look up all the possible definitions of a word and say that it means all of them at the same time every time it is used in every sentence (which would be illegitimate totality transfer).

Anyway, DS is much more the "candy." It is, like the Trinity, a philosophically necessary doctrine to explain the biblical data as it is presented. In short, those who deny DS must necessarily deny that God is Creator, that God exists a se, and that God is sovereign. Those who reject DS have no answer to the Euthyphro Dilemma (they cannot appeal to God's nature as a means to answer that problem) and therefore must necessarily deny that God has anything to do with objective morality. And after all that, they must necessarily deny that God is God in that it can and must be demonstrated that God is subjected to a higher power that does exemplify DS.

Of course, opponents of DS don't see that, but their inability to see that truth doesn't make them any more correct than atheists who cannot see the truth of God's existence.
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue
And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: Trinity and Divine Simplicity

#12

Post by B. W. » Mon Feb 10, 2014 9:17 am

Jac3510 wrote:Yes, Craig rejects DS. He is wrong in doing so. He agrees with you (or should I say that you agree with him) in your assertion that "he does have character attributes, and distinct attributes." The Bible does not teach as much, and citations of references to God's love or God's anger or other such attributes ignores what linguists call depth grammar. The mistake is just as serious as people who look up all the possible definitions of a word and say that it means all of them at the same time every time it is used in every sentence (which would be illegitimate totality transfer).

Anyway, DS is much more the "candy." It is, like the Trinity, a philosophically necessary doctrine to explain the biblical data as it is presented. In short, those who deny DS must necessarily deny that God is Creator, that God exists a se, and that God is sovereign. Those who reject DS have no answer to the Euthyphro Dilemma (they cannot appeal to God's nature as a means to answer that problem) and therefore must necessarily deny that God has anything to do with objective morality. And after all that, they must necessarily deny that God is God in that it can and must be demonstrated that God is subjected to a higher power that does exemplify DS.

Of course, opponents of DS don't see that, but their inability to see that truth doesn't make them any more correct than atheists who cannot see the truth of God's existence.
Well, if you can cause Rickd to understand it, then please do :lol:

AS for 'God's goodness' - yes - I would say haElohim is good and thus agree with Divine Simplicity that the Godhead shares all attributes of goodness, holiness, etc and etc. The essence of God is what His essence is.

You mentioned that that the only difference in the Godhead is one of relationship - is that correct? Can you please share how so?

In my opinion is that Craig would say DS presents a logical contradiction on the relationship matter DS attempts to explore. The essence of God's oneness remains constant and that is what in my opinion DS is saying and appears to me to be in line with the... Athanasian Creed

The Athanasian Creed is far easier to understand than DS, yet, they appear to be saying the same things in DS's conclusions...

Please note to the Reader - the word Catholic means Universal or the Universal Church - the entire body of Christ on earth...
Athanasian Creed

1. Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith;

2. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

3. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;

4. Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.

5. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.

6. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.

7. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit.

8. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated.

9. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.

10. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.

11. And yet they are not three eternals but one eternal.

12. As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensible, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.

13. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty.

14. And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty.

15. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God;

16. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.

17. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord;

18. And yet they are not three Lords but one Lord.

19. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord;

20. So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say; There are three Gods or three Lords.

21. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten.

22. The Son is of the Father alone; not made nor created, but begotten.

23. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

24. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.

25. And in this Trinity none is afore or after another; none is greater or less than another.

26. But the whole three persons are coeternal, and coequal.

27. So that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.

28. He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.

29. Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

30. For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man.

31. God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and man of substance of His mother, born in the world.

32. Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.

33. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood.

34. Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ.

35. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of that manhood into God.

36. One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person.

37. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ;

38. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead;

39. He ascended into heaven, He sits on the right hand of the Father, God, Almighty;

40. From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

41. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies;

42. and shall give account of their own works.

43. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.

44. This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved.

http://www.ccel.org/creeds/athanasian.creed.html
Reference notation:
See this link for a brief from W L Craig on this mtter: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/attributes-of-god
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Jac3510
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Re: Trinity and Divine Simplicity

#13

Post by Jac3510 » Mon Feb 10, 2014 11:40 am

B. W. wrote:Well, if you can cause Rickd to understand it, then please do :lol:
He can understand it just as well you or I or anyone else can. Like all things, it takes a certain amount of study to get familiar with the underlying mechanisms and how they work. But anyone with a normal degree of intelligence can do that work and grasp the concepts. It's just the same as Greek. You can either take it for granted that NT scholars know Greek well enough that you trust your English translations or you can do the work of learning Greek yourself. The same is true here. Either you can trust that philosophers have sufficiently worked their way through this material and trust their claims, or you can do the work yourself.
AS for 'God's goodness' - yes - I would say haElohim is good and thus agree with Divine Simplicity that the Godhead shares all attributes of goodness, holiness, etc and etc. The essence of God is what His essence is.
But DS, properly understood, is quite a bit more than that. DS does not merely teach that the Godhead "shares all attributes." It insists that there are no ontological distinctions within God, particularly relative to those attributes, such that all the attributes are really identical to one another. That is what Craig and other evangelicals wrongly object to.
You mentioned that that the only difference in the Godhead is one of relationship - is that correct? Can you please share how so?
The only distinctions one can draw in the Godhead are those of the relationships between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Sharing how so is complicated. The short answer (which will be all but meaningless if you haven't studied Aristotelian/Thomistic metaphysics) is that the Persons are identified with the internal processions of God, but that since those processions are internal, they comprise no ontological distinction within the divine substance. As there are multiple processions, those processions can only be distinguished by the relations one to another, such that the Father is the Person with who we identify the relation of "Paternity" to the Son and Spirit; the "Son" is the Person with whom we identify the relation of "Filiation" to the Father; the "Spirit" is the Person with whom we identify the relation of "Spiration" to the Father and the Son.

For Thomas' discussion on this, see ST Ia.28. You can also read the relevant portion in my thesis, referenced and linked to earlier in this thread. (It's seven pages, so I'm not going to try to repeat all that here!)
In my opinion is that Craig would say DS presents a logical contradiction on the relationship matter DS attempts to explore. The essence of God's oneness remains constant and that is what in my opinion DS is saying and appears to me to be in line with the... Athanasian Creed
That is not Craig's objection. He does not understand how we can equate the various attributes of God. For him, it is self-evident that omnipotence is not identical with omniscience, and so on. Moreover, Craig firmly believes that God is temporal, but a temporal God is necessarily a composite God, and therefore by definition not simple. Craig is no slouch, but he also is not a Thomistic scholar. I have had the pleasure of speaking with him on several occasions, and in our conversations he both said to me demonstrated a lack of familiarity with Thomism in general. Craig tends to be more Platonic in his thinking. None of that is, of course, to say he is wrong for those reasons. It is to say that I haven't found Craig to be a particularly informed objector.

As far as the Athanasian Creed goes, of course DS is in line with it. DS precedes it, and, in fact, Athanasius explicitly assumed it and argued from it. If you want to read some of the history lying behind DS, I would recommend this paper: Divine Simplicity in Scholastic Thought.
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue
And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: Trinity and Divine Simplicity

#14

Post by B. W. » Sat Feb 15, 2014 5:29 pm

Took a few days off line and looked Jac's paper on DS over.

The Athanasian Creed simply simplifies Divine Simplicity (DS) and makes it coherent. After looking at W L Craig's point, I see his point too basically in layman terms, DS rambles on and on and is not coherent for the average person, however, Dr Craig would be classed as a partial DS person. I am not attacking DS, only saying it loses its hearers in understanding. This brings me to another point and that is the human element to reason and understanding. One person does not see the same thing as another person would. DS is okay for certain type of individuals, while others, don't see it the same way. When this occurs, one side feels like it must discredit and defend at all cost to win instead of discussing. Such discussing is not attacking anothers perspective on DS. I have found that when I do discuss it, one side inevitably feels like their view is being attacked. That is not the case here. One thing to become aware of for all of us is pride. Pride gets wounded and goes on attack mode and a person can begin attacking without cause.

All I am saying, is that not all folks think they same way. Dr Craig for example, do to his own unique reasoning model, may not see things in the strictest Thomas Fashion. No matter how brilliant are, we need a bit of stepping back and learning how to better make oneself understood. My wife, asks me one thing, I hear it another way and answer according to my understanding and she doesn't get what I am saying. She has the black and white science mind of a medical professional. I reason differently and always have revert to a manner she can understand my answers. Sort of a compromise.

I am not saying DS is wrong - just becomes incoherent to many fine folks. The old as the hills maxim is true: keep it simple...

Here is an example of what I means: Eph 3:10 speaks of the wisdom of God, another place speaks of God's knowledge and understanding. Wisdom is not the same as knowledge and understanding, yet, a living being has all three in himself. DS looks at these as all one in God's self and another sees the distinction's in actions of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Both see the same thing. Just the interpretations differ...
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Science is man's invention - creation is God's
(by B. W. Melvin)

Old Polish Proverb:
Not my Circus....not my monkeys

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Re: Trinity and Divine Simplicity

#15

Post by Jac3510 » Sat Feb 15, 2014 6:35 pm

With all due respect, BW, I just don't think you are taking the doctrine seriously enough. Let me just quote from Craig's Time and Eternity to demonstrate that this isn't just a matter of seeing the same thing and describing it different ways or just differing interpretations or different words. At bottom, proponents of DS (which the church has ALWAYS adhered to until the past 50 years or so) have a different understanding of God than modernists (or "personalists" if you prefer the word that is coming to represent their position) do. Anyway, Craig (rightly) says:
  • Traditionally, Christian theologians such as Thomas Aquinas argued for God's timelessness on the basis of His absolute simplicity and immutability. The argument can easily be formulated. As a first premise, we assume either
    • 1. God is simple
    or
    • 1'. God is immutable.
    Then we add
    • 2. If God is simple or immutable, then He is not temporal,
    from which we can logically deduce
    • 3. Therefore, God is not temporal.
    Since temporality and timelessness are, as we have seen, contradictories, it follows that
    • 4. Therefore, God is timeless
    Since this is a logically valid argument, the only question to consider is whether the premises of the argument are true.
Now, I could continue quoting, for he goes on to argue against DS and immutability, as you can guess from what is already quoted. But I'm not concerned here whether he is right or wrong. My point is to show that we have to fundamentally different views of God. If Craig is right, then God is temporal and mutable. As you press the arguments, you also see that Craig does not believe that God is "pure act" (that is, Craig affirms potentiality in God), denies His absolute aseity, and allows some contingency in God. Against Craig, proponents of DS argue that God exists absolutely a se, that He is pure act with absolutely no potentiality to be found in Him, that He is absolutely immutable and timeless. Moreover, on DS, God is impassible. Craig's God is not. On DS, God is wholly other and stands in no real relations with creation. Craig's God is like us in many ways and absolutely stands in real relations with creation and is therefore necessarily affected by them.

The list of differences are rather severe. I'm not asking you to adjudicate between the two views. The arguments are difficult--not simple at all. But complaining that things are complicated and that they should be simpler, easier for people to understand, is not a valid argument. There is nothing simple about the hypostatic union. There is nothing simple about the Trinity. There is nothing simple about sovereignty vs. free will. If we must say something is simple, all we can say is that the propositions themselves are simple, thus we can simply say, "Christ is one person with two natures," "God is one God in three Persons," and "God is absolutely sovereign even as mankind has free will," respectively. Just so, we can say with regard to simplicity, "In God, there are no ontological distinctions of any kind except for the differences in relations between the divine Persons." The statement itself is simple, as it is for all the other doctrines I mentioned. The thinking behind it is incredibly complex.

So, again, all I'm asking you to do is not to be dismissive of such a massively important issue. Craig and Aquinas are not saying the same thing in different ways. Their differences are merely interpretational. They have fundamental differences about the nature of God--and this is really important--and those differences are on exactly the same level as differences between Christological heresies such as Arianism, Nestorianism, Modalism, etc..

I don't see you as attacking me or the doctrine at all. I do see you suggesting that it's all just being made unnecessarily complicated. And that is where I am telling you that you have failed to understand Craig or me or the debate in general. It is complicated, but not unnecessarily so, and the implications of either position are absolutely enormous.
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue
And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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