The simplicity of God

Discussions pertaining to scripture and theology from a philosophical approach.

The simplicity of God

Postby AllanS » Mon Dec 09, 2013 9:53 pm

Some theists on Dawkin's forum argued a complex universe needs a complex designer. An atheist replied that a complex designer needs an even more complex designer, and so on ad absurdum.

In turn, I replied: If God exists, God is simple, not complex.

1) God alone can know what something actually is. Lesser beings at best can only approximately know.

2) God knows all that can be known. God knows it always, immediately and completely.

3) Therefore, to God's infinite mind, God will be perfectly simple.

4) Therefore, God is perfectly simple, since God alone knows what something actually is.

5) God seems infinitely complex to all lesser beings because, relative to God, we're thick as two planks.

Feeling quite pleased with myself, I googled "simplicity of God" and discovered the phrase had a completely different meaning to mine. I failed to follow much of the argument, but the gist is this: God isn't loving, true, beautiful, just, strong, existent etc. This would presuppose a standard separate from God to which God conforms. Rather, God is Love, Truth, Beauty, Justice, Strength, Existence etc.

If this is so, the implications are quite stunning. When I "see" a truth (twice two is four), I am in fact "seeing" God with the eyes of my mind. If I love beauty, I would be loving God. To serve God would be identical to serving beauty, truth etc.

It reminds me of a Blake quote posted by Sobornost: "When the sun rises, do you not see a round disc of fire, somewhat like a guinea? Oh! no, no! I see an innumerable company of the heavenly host, crying: 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty!' "

If an atheist rejects God because they feel God is untrue, ugly, unloving, unjust etc, in fact they would be rejecting a false God precisely because they believe in the true God. (ie. they believe in truth, beauty, love etc.)

It also follows that true atheism must be nihilism.
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Re: The simplicity of God

Postby Alex Smith » Tue Dec 10, 2013 12:49 am

Interesting 8-)
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Re: The simplicity of God

Postby DaveB » Tue Dec 10, 2013 7:39 am

This goes along (somewhat) with Tillich's ontology - that God is not a being among beings, or the highest being in an infinite chain of being, and does not 'exist', as that particular word has to do with causation, determination, contingency.

For Tillich, God is Being - He does not have the attributes of x y and z, He IS x y z. Not in the same category of the rest of creation.
I posted some thoughts in a thread on whether God can suffer, and how the idea of Simplicity is a safeguard against our thinking that the Deity can be made to suffer by any kind of loss in himself, such as sadness. It teaches that He lacks nothing, is not surprised, saddened by unexpected loss, etc. - but not because of passivity; rather because he is pure Act.
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Re: The simplicity of God

Postby AllanS » Tue Dec 10, 2013 1:32 pm

I can see that God is not a member of the set of existent things. In this sense, God doesn't exist. Rather, he is the creator of all existent things; the reason anything exists at all. God is what would remain if all existent things ceased to exist. However, to conclude that "God is Existence" is one leap too far for my poor brain, unless it's simply a fancy way of saying, "God is Creator."

I really want to nail this. If we can truly identify God with Truth, Love, Beauty, then it gives us a tremendous link with all sorts of "non-religious" people. It means we can see God after all. To see the truth "twice two is four" would be to see God himself.

"For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen..." Interesting. "Invisible qualities... clearly seen." Never noticed this before. How can we see them if they're invisible? Truth, love, beauty are invisible qualities, clearly seen.
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Re: The simplicity of God

Postby DaveB » Tue Dec 10, 2013 1:47 pm

God is what would remain if all existent things ceased to exist.

That was well put.
I should have said, but I was too lazy, that Tillich says God is the 'ground of all existence'. As I stated it above, it makes it sound like T was a pantheist, which he wasn't.

I just found this link, and reading through it quickly, it appears to define terms pretty well. See what you think; I'm going to think more about nailing it down.
http://www.doxa.ws/Being/Ground_Being.html
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Re: The simplicity of God

Postby akimel » Wed Dec 11, 2013 2:41 pm

AllanS wrote:I can see that God is not a member of the set of existent things. In this sense, God doesn't exist. Rather, he is the creator of all existent things; the reason anything exists at all. God is what would remain if all existent things ceased to exist. However, to conclude that "God is Existence" is one leap too far for my poor brain, unless it's simply a fancy way of saying, "God is Creator."

I really want to nail this. If we can truly identify God with Truth, Love, Beauty, then it gives us a tremendous link with all sorts of "non-religious" people. It means we can see God after all. To see the truth "twice two is four" would be to see God himself.

"For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen..." Interesting. "Invisible qualities... clearly seen." Never noticed this before. How can we see them if they're invisible? Truth, love, beauty are invisible qualities, clearly seen.


This takes us into the debate between classical theism (and Western Christian theologians were all classical theists until the past couple hundred of years) and theistic personalists. It really is an interesting debate. For a brief discussion, see the discussion by Brian Davies: http://goo.gl/CyHpVB. Also take a look at my recent blog article: "How Anthropomorphic is your G-O-D?."

Consider, Alan, what you wrote: "God is what would remain if all existent things ceased to exist." Commonsensically this seems true, as we certainly can entertain the possibility that the world might not exist, but God (as understood in the Judaeo-Christian tradition) would still exist. But the sentence can also be easily misconstrued, as it might seem to suggest that God is just one item alongside his creatures. But as Herbert McCabe rightly observed (from a classical theistic viewpoint): "When you have finished classifying and counting all the things in the universe you cannot add: ‘And also there is God.’ When you have finished classifying and counting everything in the universe you have finished, period. There is no God in the world."
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Re: The simplicity of God

Postby 1824 » Wed Dec 11, 2013 5:27 pm

akimel wrote:
AllanS wrote:I can see that God is not a member of the set of existent things. In this sense, God doesn't exist. Rather, he is the creator of all existent things; the reason anything exists at all. God is what would remain if all existent things ceased to exist. However, to conclude that "God is Existence" is one leap too far for my poor brain, unless it's simply a fancy way of saying, "God is Creator."

I really want to nail this. If we can truly identify God with Truth, Love, Beauty, then it gives us a tremendous link with all sorts of "non-religious" people. It means we can see God after all. To see the truth "twice two is four" would be to see God himself.

"For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen..." Interesting. "Invisible qualities... clearly seen." Never noticed this before. How can we see them if they're invisible? Truth, love, beauty are invisible qualities, clearly seen.


This takes us into the debate between classical theism (and Western Christian theologians were all classical theists until the past couple hundred of years) and theistic personalists. It really is an interesting debate. For a brief discussion, see the discussion by Brian Davies: http://goo.gl/CyHpVB. Also take a look at my recent blog article: "How Anthropomorphic is your G-O-D?."

Consider, Alan, what you wrote: "God is what would remain if all existent things ceased to exist." Commonsensically this seems true, as we certainly can entertain the possibility that the world might not exist, but God (as understood in the Judaeo-Christian tradition) would still exist. But the sentence can also be easily misconstrued, as it might seem to suggest that God is just one item alongside his creatures. But as Herbert McCabe rightly observed (from a classical theistic viewpoint): "When you have finished classifying and counting all the things in the universe you cannot add: ‘And also there is God.’ When you have finished classifying and counting everything in the universe you have finished, period. There is no God in the world."


Pastor Kimel,

The link to your blog article above is actually a link to Davies article (both links you provided are identical). If you could please post the correct link to your blog article, I'd like to read it as well. This is a very interesting topic.

Thank you,

Dan.
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Re: The simplicity of God

Postby akimel » Wed Dec 11, 2013 6:41 pm

Oops, sorry. Here's the correct URL (I hope): http://goo.gl/L723sJ
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Re: The simplicity of God

Postby DaveB » Wed Dec 11, 2013 7:09 pm

BTW I had posted in an earlier thread -Does God Suffer? - the following link which ties in nicely here:
http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007 ... d-suffer-6
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Re: The simplicity of God

Postby AllanS » Thu Dec 12, 2013 5:02 pm

Thanks for your replies, gentlemen. If meaningful, the notion that God is Truth etc is seismic, in my view, uniting all people of good will. It's well worth exploring.

I wrote to an ex-Muslim atheist friend this morning, saying, "I'd far rather spend an evening with an atheist, a Hindu, a Muslim, a Jew and a Buddhist (who all humbly loved and served Truth) than with fellow Christians who did not."

Is this a correct sentiment?

I'm afraid I'm no closer to grasping what people mean when they say God is Existence, or Pure Act, or Being Itself. :) "The ground of all being" makes a lot of sense. (Frodo existed in the mind of JRRT. The author was the ground of Frodo's being. In him, he lived and moved and had his being.)

What does "God isn't an existent thing" mean? Since all things are existent, why not simply say, "God isn't a thing"? By which we mean, "God is uncreated, non-material and indestructible." This doesn't mean "God is Existence", or "beyond existence", or "Being Itself". It means he is utterly existent. He has always existed, and never will not exist.

Ok. What about "God is Truth"?

First, I cannot conceive of truth existing outside a mind, and I cannot conceive a mind empty of all truth. I therefore propose mind-truth as a single, essentially indivisible entity, analogous to space-time. Truth exists only in the mind, and the mind exists only because truth lives within it.

Second, I cannot conceive of truth as ever being non-existent. (The truth "twice two is four" was never created, nor can it cease to exist.) Therefore, truth is boundless, indestructible and eternal. Mind-truth is God. To seek and serve truth is to seek and serve God. To see the truth is to see God.

How's that sound? :)
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Re: The simplicity of God

Postby lotharson » Thu Dec 12, 2013 5:10 pm

There is still the dilemna evoked by Plato: if it really were in God's nature to hate fags, would that make it good?
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Re: The simplicity of God

Postby AllanS » Thu Dec 12, 2013 5:21 pm

lotharson wrote:There is still the dilemna evoked by Plato: if it really were in God's nature to hate fags, would that make it good?


I'm struggling to see the connection with the simplicity of God, but I did have a late night...

I'd far rather spend time with a homosexual person who loved, obeyed and served the truth than with a heterosexual person who did not.

The question is, Is God Truth itself? Is it a meaningful idea? What are the implications?
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Re: The simplicity of God

Postby DaveB » Thu Dec 12, 2013 5:27 pm

I'd rather spend that evening with you as well, especially since Heidi Klum has stopped responding to my overtures. So far.

'Existence' is the characteristic of derived things, things that came-to-be, things that are contingent, not necessary. Finite things. I think it is just a matter of definition, though Tillich derives it from the existential tension within humankind. Long argument there.
"God isn't a thing" in that sense, makes sense, just as "God does not exist" makes sense.

Ontology makes my head hurt. Just thought I'd throw that in there.

For me it is important to know that the 'ground of all being' is in fact infinite AND personal. And that Jesus Christ is the perfect expression of that 'ground'.
The 'pure Act' thing makes a lot of sense to me now, after re-reading that article at First Things.

I think that ontologists mix up 'exist' as a concept - where sure, God does exist, we all understand what that means - with the 'structure of being' wherein God IS the ground, and cannot 'exist' as part of finite existence.
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Re: The simplicity of God

Postby DaveB » Thu Dec 12, 2013 5:30 pm

Sorry I missed your last post.

"Truth" with that capital 'T' is both a moral claim and an evidential claim, whether it is an ontological claim, which I think is your question, I gotta think about.
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Re: The simplicity of God

Postby lotharson » Thu Dec 12, 2013 5:35 pm

My point is that if you say that Love is defined by God rather than vice-versa, you make love arbitrary because God's nature could be what we call "hate".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euthyphro_dilemma
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Re: The simplicity of God

Postby AllanS » Thu Dec 12, 2013 7:08 pm

No taste at all, that Klum woman. :lol:
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Re: The simplicity of God

Postby DaveB » Thu Dec 12, 2013 7:36 pm

:D
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Re: The simplicity of God

Postby AllanS » Thu Dec 12, 2013 8:59 pm

lotharson wrote:My point is that if you say that Love is defined by God rather than vice-versa, you make love arbitrary because God's nature could be what we call "hate".


In which case, your duty is to set off in the dark and look for a better God.
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Re: The simplicity of God

Postby Joe121589 » Thu Oct 16, 2014 8:45 pm

lotharson wrote:There is still the dilemna evoked by Plato: if it really were in God's nature to hate fags, would that make it good?


I have been wondering something along those lines. The best I could come up with is that Gods essential nature transcends all thought, so anything we say is just a pointer. So I would say if you can name it, its not God. I know its a confusing concept. Which is why I prefer to treat deep theology as a mystery the mind looks in wonder at, rather than try to figure it out.
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