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Wikipedia defines divine simplicity this way:

In theology, the doctrine of divine simplicity says that God is without parts.

Euthyphro, God's Nature, and the Question of Divine Attributes, which discuss Divine Simplicity and the philosophies used to describe how God is "simple," provides a better definition in part 1:

When we speak of God’s simplicity then, in the most elementary sense, we are speaking of his not having parts, of his non-compositeness. “We use the term,” Berkhof explains, “to describe the state or quality of being simple, the condition of being free from division into parts, and therefore from compositeness”

Here's part 2 and part 3.

Personally, I think divine simplicity is coherent. But I couldn't find any scriptural support for this doctrine. What is the Biblical basis?

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Summa theologica has something to say about God's absolute simplicity. And other Catholic theology is pretty well littered with the concept as well. –  svidgen Feb 9 '13 at 21:15
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This seems to have several implicit questions, with not all of them made explicit. 1) What "parts" does God not have, according to the doctrine of divine simplicity? (In other words, what is divine simplicity?) 2) What is the Biblical basis for divine simplicity? 3) Is divine simplicity logically coherent in light of ______? I think you'd need to be more specific about why it seems incoherent, and the other questions should be asked separately. –  Mr. Bultitude Jul 27 at 17:09
    
1. divine simplicity means God cannot be subdivided or that God isn't made up of parts. it doesn't matter what's the definition of parts as long as he doesn't have parts. 2. we'll, that's what I'm asking for :-). 3. Well, as of now (2015-07) think divine simplicity is coherent. referring to Flatland, a sphere may have no parts (hence simple) but he's transcendent to flatlanders. Same goes with God. simply put it, i currently think divine simplicity is a logically possible, but i see no Bible verse supporting it. –  OnesimusUnbound Jul 27 at 18:21
    
Has my edit accurately captured your intent? –  Mr. Bultitude yesterday

5 Answers 5

The only scriptural notion for divine simplicity I found is a statement by Jesus:

Mark 10:18

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone."

If only God is good, then 'good' and 'God' are synonyms. Simply put, this is a definition: God = Good.

The doctrine of divine simplicity postulates that an attribute is identical to God. Mere logic implicates then that this doctrine is equivalent to the latter definition.

In answer to your questions: Divine Simplicity is coherent for 'God' and 'good'.

Divine Simplicity can result in paradox implications when postulated for multiple attributes: God=Good, God=Just ⇒ Good=Just. However, I do not see straight-forward biblical basis for other attributes in divine simplicity other than good.

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That doesn't look like a definition to me, it looks like a description. –  Mason Wheeler Jan 9 '12 at 20:08
    
Yes, yet the description is very definite. It allows only one state (none except is exclusive). Thus it becomes a definition. This is often done in mathematics and allows abstract concepts to become tangible. I know this seems confusing. But first I'll say this: I find the doctrine misleading because it talks about attributes being identical to God. But what can describe God if not God himself? He is who He is. –  user1121 Jan 9 '12 at 20:21
    
God has attributes other than goodness. God is holy, omnipotent, everlasting, unchanging, personal etc. Many of these are not implied by 'good'. –  DJClayworth Jan 10 '12 at 18:36
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Yes, but you need to find scriptural basis for these not to be just attributes, but to be attributes that are identical to God. That's what Divine Simplicity is about. –  user1121 Jan 10 '12 at 21:24

There is no single verse declaring, "God is simple." But those who believe the doctrine believe that it is the only way to coherently hold onto all of the Bible's declarations about God. Catholicism and all the major Protestant confessions declare divine simplicity.

The blog post Is divine simplicity scriptural? says:

Simplicity is implicit in Scripture in that it follows from a strong doctrine of aseity and God’s providence, which is found stated in John 1:3 and Colossians 1:16. These passages say that all things were created by God. So it is true that whatever is non-identical to God is created by God. But if God had parts he would have to create his parts, and in so doing create himself, which can’t be true since God is uncreated and uncaused. Hence, God doesn’t have any parts and is simple.

James Dolezal, author of God without Parts, similarly says:

[God] gives to all, but receives from none (Acts 17:25-25; Rom. 11:35-36).

Herman Bavinck writes in Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 2 (page 176):

If God is composed of parts, like a body, or composed of genus (class) and differentiae (attributes of different species belonging to the same genus), substance and accidents, matter and form, potentiality and actuality, essence and existence, then his perfection, oneness, independence, and immutability cannot be maintained.

Kevin DeYoung paraphrases Bavinck's point this way:

In other words, the simplicity of God not only prevents us from ranking certain attributes higher than others, it allows God to have “a distinct and infinite life of his own within himself” (Bavinck, 177). He is not an abstract Absolute Idea who happens to have love, wisdom, and holiness, as if we first conceive of a being called God and then relate qualities to him. Rather, God in his very essence—within himself and by himself—is love, wisdom, and holiness. God is whatever he has. He is not the composite of his attributes, some in greater and some in lesser amounts. God is a simple being without parts or pieces. His attributes do not stick to him; he is what they are.

In summary, the doctrine doesn't come directly from Scripture, but is built on the doctrines of God's aseity, providence, perfection, oneness, independence, immutability, and identity as creator. Each of these doctrines has a strong Biblical basis, but explicating each would be out of scope for this particular question.

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The Catholic Encyclopedia provides a great formal definition of the doctrine:

Simplicity of God

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.

This doctrine follows from the understanding that God is infinite; an infinite being is, by definition without "parts", since you cannot subdivide an infinity into two lessor infinities - unless you are dealing with abstractions and God is not an abstraction, he is a real entity.

To clarify, in response to comments, only an abstract infinity can be logically subdivided; a real entity which is infinite cannot be composed of finite sub-parts. Since this means that there can be only one such infinity, that singular infinity is the being we refer to as God - the eternal uncaused cause.

The best scriptural support for the doctrine seems to be:

4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

Deut 6:4

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A mathematician would disagree. For example, there are an infinite number of points in the plane, and yet it can be divided into lines, which are also infinite sets. –  hammar Jan 10 '12 at 6:04
    
@OnesimusUnbound asked specifically for scriptural support of the doctrine. –  user1121 Jan 10 '12 at 6:50
    
@hammar: True, but that's only when dealing with abstract concepts, not concrete entities. –  Lawrence Dol Jan 12 '12 at 0:05

First of all, I should make it clear that I am not Catholic, it's just that Thomas Aquinas' Summa Contra Gentiles is the most cogent explanation for the doctrine of divine simplicity I've seen. Yes, it is panentheism, but if you run a search for "biblical panentheism" you will find no less than 17 verses in the Bible that can be interpreted as being wholly consistent with panentheism. In my view, if we accept that God is truly infinite, panentheism and God's volitional self-limitation is unavoidable.

The doctrine of divine simplicity is, to me, the most coherent theological position I've come across. I've seen the arguments against it, but if the Father is infinite and eternal, to deny the possibility of his volitional self-limitation amounts to a denial of the concept of his volitional absoluteness. There are many conceptual difficulties with this, but I am not willing to surrender my belief in the logical necessity of the eternity, immutability and infinity of God or his volitional absoluteness for the sake of simplicity. For example, if true, Creatorship is hardly an attribute of God; it is rather the aggregate of his acting nature. This might seem to distance God from man. But although it is not easy to grasp, Aquinas explains it in a way that makes God feel closer than my own breath.

You can get Summa Contra Gentiles in PDF format here: http://catholicprimer.org/aquinas/aquinas_summa_contra_gentiles.pdf

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I am surprised that no one has brought this up yet.

Genesis 1:26-27 26) And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness..., 27) So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

Genesis 2:2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.

Genesis 3:22 And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil:...

Exodus 33:11 And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend...

Acts 7:55 But he [Stephen], being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God.

I can list dozens more scriptures that say that God looks like a man and has form. So I would say that there is really no scriptural basis for the fact that 'God is formless,' and there is tons of scriptural basis for the fact that God looks like man or to be more correct as Genesis says, Man was made in the image of God. I fail to see how we could be made in His image if He in fact did not have an image.

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From a very limited subset of scripture, this makes sense. But, it's not reflective of predominating Christian theology, nor does it take the bulk of scripture into account. –  svidgen Feb 9 '13 at 21:13
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Nor does it take into account that scripture may be using figurative anthropomorphisms to communicate things about God, his character and his nature. –  Lawrence Dol Feb 9 '13 at 21:15

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