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
    Commented Feb 9, 2013 at 21:15
  • 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. Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 18:21

3 Answers 3


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.

Therefore, the doctrine is built on the doctrines of God's aseity, providence, perfection, oneness, independence, immutability, self-sufficiency, and identity as creator. Each of these doctrines has a strong Biblical basis. From that list, oneness and immutability are the attributes most closely related to simplicity. Here are some of the verses that most strongly support the immutability and oneness of God:

Malachi 3:6 I the LORD do not change.

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

Numbers 23:19 God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.

1 Samuel 15:29 The Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.

Exodus 3:14 God said to Moses, "I am who I am." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I am has sent me to you.'"

Deuteronomy 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

All scriptural citations are from the ESV.

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    It's funny that this just got accepted, because reading it now I feel like it didn't really answer the question. Simplicity states that God's attributes and essence are identical; I feel like there are exegetical (not just philosophical) arguments for that, but I doubt I checked for any before writing this. If I had time now, I'd try for a major rewrite of this answer. Commented Sep 21, 2023 at 0:04

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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    Welcome to Christianity.SE! Thanks for your well thought out first post. You still may want to take a look at this post on how we are different than other sites. Thanks again. Commented Oct 24, 2013 at 22:10
  • Thank you. This is different than other sites and from what I've seen, the difference is appreciated. Commented Oct 25, 2013 at 2:09

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.

  • That doesn't look like a definition to me, it looks like a description.
    – Mason Wheeler
    Commented Jan 9, 2012 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
    Commented Jan 9, 2012 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'. Commented Jan 10, 2012 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
    Commented Jan 10, 2012 at 21:24

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