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What is classical theism?

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Classical theism is the conception of God that has historically been the mainstream view within Christian, Jewish, and Islamic theology, and also within philosophical theology and philosophy of religion. It is the official and irreformable teaching of the Catholic Church. And it is very different from the conception of God that is taken for granted in most contemporary debate over “Intelligent Design” theory, the “New Atheism,” and the work of philosophers of religion like Plantinga and Swinburne. Anyone who rejects theism as such had therefore better know something about classical theism. And yet most contemporary atheist philosophers – including Keith Parsons, who recently made a big show of his abandonment of philosophy of religion as unworthy of any of his further attention – evince little if any awareness of what classical theism is or how it differs from other conceptions of God.

So what is classical theism? I provide a rough guide over at my own blog.

Comments (85)

Just to make sure I'm understanding you correctly, Ed: Alvin Plantinga does not hold to classical theism, in your view? I'm not asking about Richard Swinburne, because I know that last time I checked Swinburne rejects Divine timelessness, which I could certainly see as being part of classical theism. But what's the beef with Plantinga? This question may, of course, just be exposing my ignorance of Plantinga's views.

Hi Lydia, as you'll see from the main post, Brian Davies classifies Plantinga as a "theistic personalist" rather than a classical theist, and his main reason is that Plantinga attacks the traditional doctrine of divine simplicity in his book Does God Have a Nature?

Terrific post. (I mean, the full length version). This helps me get more of a grip on the discussions of "Essence and existence" and "The transcendentals" in your *Aquinas* (pp. 24-36). I'll be printing it out and distributing it to my students next Tuesday: should give me more than enough material for the whole lecture! Thanks!

I'll also be telling them that these are live - even cutting edge - issues, and that they ought to be reading your blog.

I'm curious: to what extent do modern Muslims accept classical theism? Allah seems so different from the Judeo/Christian God that I can't help but wonder. Their religion seems to be one where Allah is utterly dependent upon men to carry out his judgments. Of course I'm speaking as an observer - a total outsider - so I may be way off.

Hey Steve, do you give Ed a cut of your salary for helping to teach your class? :-)

Hey, Tony - don't give him any ideas!

But, seriously: teaching Aquinas, like teaching Aristotle, is just incredibly difficult. There's none of the drama of the Platonic dialogues. It's all subtle distinctions, all the time, ultimately leading up to a conception of God that is *very* hard to connect either to the Nobodaddy Jehovah of the Old Testament or the all-forgiving Jesus of the Gospels (with apologies to William Blake).

Yet whaddaya know, Steve: St. T. A. was a Christian, not a theist only. Somehow, he thought the God he was talking about was the God who parted the Red Sea, became flesh, dwelt among us, performed miracles, died and rose again. And, incarnate, forgave His enemies, if that has anything to do with the matter. If you think there's a problem there, maybe you should talk to Aquinas about it.

Lydia,

Plantinga rejects divine timelessness as well as divine simplicity (note that the rejection of the former entails rejection of the latter, but the converse is not true--or at least not as obvious).

Well, Lydia, indeed. One takes things a step at a time.

Wm. J. Abraham is teasing theistic philosophers, both classical and modern, in this context: not even classical thism is enough. What you, guys, are really and mostly interested in is canonical Christian theism. *That* should be your focus. You don't need to defend classical theism first. Cf. his http://books.google.com/books?id=mRXw-PR4wz8C , pp. 9ff. Similarly Sandra Menssen and Thomas D. Sullivan, http://books.google.com/books?id=Efdb6EJ9DGoC , pp. 45ff.

There's no problem, Steve, with taking things one step at a time. What bothered me was the seeming implication that the steps go in the _other direction_--that is to say, that classical theism as held by Aquinas is somehow (though Aquinas himself didn't know it) incompatible with the "Nobodaddy Jehovah of the Old Testament or the all-forgiving Jesus of the Gospels" (pretty negative-sounding phrases)--in other words, that as you once indicated you were inclined to think on a thread a while back, the God of philosophy cannot be the God of the Bible.

I'm no doubt what would be called a "personalist" in this context, but as Aquinas of course wasn't, it's very important that no repudiation of personalism be taken to imply much less entail an actual problem with the other extremely important things that Aquinas believed.

By the way, speaking of pedagogy, I had never read much Etienne Gilson until last night (this is true) but that guy is one heck of a pedagogue. What a writer.

And it makes sense to take more steps at a time. Cf. Sandra Menssen and Thomas D. Sullivan, http://books.google.com/books?id=Efdb6EJ9DGoC , pp. 58-61. :)

One can say whatever one wishes about God, but it does, sooner or later, come back to this: "no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him."

"No one," you'll notice, admits of no exceptions.

The one and only God who is, the Trinitarian God, the God beside whom there is no other (whether classically or otherwise conceived), is Christologically revealed. To Him no one can come except by the Son. They are so closely identified that to see One is to see the Other: "He that has seen Me has seen the Father." "I and my Father are one." "I do what I see my Father do." "I say what I hear my Father say."

Father and Son are so closely identified that knowledge of them is a package deal, so to speak, such that to talk about "the Nobodaddy Jehovah of the Old Testament or the all-forgiving Jesus of the Gospels" is simply to misconceive them both.

If you want to know what God is like, you look to Jesus in the Gospels. God is Christologically, not classically, defined and revealed.

To denote the Western Latin conception as "classical" smacks a bit of hegemony and imperialism. The Eastern Orthodox after all don't subscribe to it. Either Classical theis is wider so as to include people like John of Damasus, Nyssa and Palamas or it isn't "classical."

( http://books.google.com/books?id=QoSgimQ5kksC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Transformation+of+Divine+Simplicity&hl=en&ei=pP-lTIeMPMLAnAfDx7CRAQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCkQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false)

Lydia, I gather that Aquinas, In Ed Feser's words, "devotes many hundreds of pages" to showing that the unmoved mover would be "all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, etc." Presumably he would not do this were it not for the fact that it's a "very hard" task to accomplish.

Moreover, given that central elements of "classical theism" are common to Maimonides, Avicenna, Averroes, and even Plotinus, as well as Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas, I take it that identifying it exclusively with any one of the Abrahamic faiths to the exclusion of the others is even harder.

But "hard to connect" does not equal "incompatible."

The phrase "Nobodaddy Jehovah" is, of course, a coinage of the great English poet William Blake, but I take it that the contrast between God the Father in the Old Testament and God the Son in the New Testament was evident to many long before he wrote.

I hope you don't think that "all-forgiving Jesus" is a "negative phrase?"

And I don't think I've ever "indicated" that I'm "inclined to think" that "the God of philosophy *cannot* be the God of the Bible [emphasis added]. But I do have my moods.

Addendum:

There's this line that's been stuck in my mind for the last thirty or forty years:

"How can you believe in both Nobodaddy Jehovah, who demands 200 Amelekite foreskins as a sacrifice, and all-forgiving Jesus?"

Somewhere or other, I picked up the impression that William Blake wrote something pretty close to that. But now when I try to Google it, I come up with nothing.

Maybe I just dreamt it.

Anyway, it's a good question.

Ed, seems to me that "classical theism" cannot be taken to exclude, say, the main Jewish traditions of the pre-Christian era. Did they, too, uniformly extol God's simplicity as being such an important notion that without it you aren't really talking about God anymore? Or, was that a somewhat later development? Actually, the same question goes for the early Church Fathers. And yet, my (limited) perusal of the Fathers doesn't suggest that divine simplicity was a critical issue that (for them) drove a great many other issues. I don't recall Plato going on about divine simplicity as a main theme either.

Something I have often wondered: in St. Thomas's exposition of God's attributes, his mode of argument uses the simplicity to arrive with certainty at other divine attributes. But if we were able to understand the unity of the divine attributes better, wouldn't it be the case that EACH of the essential divine attributes provides a basis for arguing to all the others? If so, then it isn't that simplicity is more critical to classical theism in any fundamental way than, e.g. divine goodness, it is just that simplicity has given us a remarkably good pedagogic handle on how to work with other attributes. And that situation is a fairly late development - i.e. with the scholastics. But even with the scholastics, they don't think of the reality of God's simplicity somehow underlying or being more essential to God than His goodness, or his uniqueness, etc.

Still and all, I find your article very thoughtful and helpful. Timely, too: I just got done having a discussion with my New Age friend, whose notion of what concept ought to be understood by the term "God" is (a) something that differs from person to person, and (b) something that changes from time to time and culture, and (c) refer to something that itself is subject to any kind of change that we humans are subject to. In exasperation, I pushed the envelope and asked if, in his thought, God could be the sort of thing who says to himself "I used to think X was evil, then later on I realized that X is not evil, but now I corrected my earlier idea and I see that it was I who used to be evil but I am good now. But later on I might think that I never was evil. It depends, I don't know for sure." Turns out that this extreme example does not present a "god" that my friend would disown as possible for God. The conversation stopped at that point.

I hope you don't think that "all-forgiving Jesus" is a "negative phrase?"

I took it that you meant it as such, Steve, yes, because of some of the other things you have written over the years about pacifism, Christianity, etc. I'm glad to be proved wrong. I'm also glad that you don't (if I may so take you) understand classical theism--for which I gather you are developing a sympathy--to be incompatible with Biblical theism. The old comment I refer to was a year or two ago and was a rather cryptic one to the effect that you were inclined to agree with Ed that the god of Aristotle exists but with Michael Bauman that he cannot be the God of the Bible. That's how I remember the comment, anyway, and it has stuck with me, as you can well imagine, though I don't have the link right now.

Here we go:

I don't suppose that it would please either Prof. Bauman or Prof. Feser to learn that I'm inclined to agree with the former about Christianity, but the latter about God.

http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2009/10/matthew_roberts_on_pagans_and.html#comment-82556

You also said (emphasis added),

In the right corner, my echt-protestant ancestors, the actual text of the Gospels, & Michael Bauman.

In the left corner, Aristotle, Aquinas, & Edward Feser.

http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2009/10/matthew_roberts_on_pagans_and.html#comment-82572

Later, Ed Feser interpreted these comments (as I did) thus:

Steve,

You seem to agree with Michael, then, that Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophical categories and biblical ones are not only different (something which, as you know, I've acknowledged many times) but incompatible. Or at least, you seem to think he's made a case for this.

http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2009/10/matthew_roberts_on_pagans_and.html#comment-82578

You corrected him to some extent thus:

As for your challenge to me, way up-thread: I have yet to see *anybody* - Prof. Bauman or anybody else - demonstrate any (strict, logical) incompatibility between the God of Abraham, Israel & Jesus of Nazareth, on the one hand, and the God of Aristotle on the other.

But you've got to admit that there's a vast intellectual & cultural gulf to be bridged between the two - as witness the present...ummm...frank exchange of views, 2,000 years later.

http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2009/10/matthew_roberts_on_pagans_and.html#comment-82700

What I take all this to amount to is a noteworthy "inclination" as you say in the first comment to think that there is _some sort of serious problem_ about reconciling Christianity and classical theism, though you haven't seen a strict logical demonstration that they are incompatible.

(Sorry for all the links.)

Tony,

Those who do not explicitly attribute simplicity to God may be still referring to the true God. It is those who deny divine simplicity, such as the so called personalists, who are no longer referring to the true God, at least in this respect.

Yes, Lydia. There is "some sort of serious problem." How could you, or any other careful thinker, possibly think that there's not?

By the way: the issue of all issues for me, now, is this:

Does *consciousness* exist in the un-moved mover formally, or only eminently?

It is more fundamentally to say the He keeps it going now, and at any moment at which it exists at all. As Aquinas says, to say that God makes the world is not like saying that a blacksmith made a horseshoe – where the horseshoe might persist even if the blacksmith died – but rather like saying that a musician makes music, where the music would stop if the musician stopped playing.

So God is like a musician, and Reality is the music being played. Yet occasionally (whatever that means to eternal Pure Act), God improvises and causes a miracle. The regular order of things is like a musical score that can be followed or deviated from as needed, (whatever it means for an ultimate entity to follow or need something).

Does *consciousness* exist in the un-moved mover formally, or only eminently?

Classical theism suggests the answer is negative to formally since God is metaphysically simple and infinite, unlike consciousness which is incredibly complicated and also oriented in time and direction.

How could you, or any other careful thinker, possibly think that there's not?

I'm probably not what would be called a classical theist anyway, Steve, though I certainly do affirm Divine timelessness. So since I'd probably be called a "personalist" by Ed and those who agree with him, the problem is not _my_ problem. I'd scarcely ever thought of Divine simplicity one way or another (I'd given somewhat more thought to impassibility) until I read about it in Ed's _Aquinas_ in the last year, and truth to tell, Divine simplicity as defined there doesn't really rock my socks. My attitude to that attribute is about like the attitude of most ordinary blokes towards Fermat's Last Theorem before it was proved: "Maybe. Could be. But the argument's beyond me, and it doesn't have anything to do with my life anyway."

If, however, I see an agnostic becoming sympathetic to a version of theism, as a Christian I'd prefer that he not be thinking that the version of theism to which he's becoming sympathetic leads away from Christianity--for obvious reasons. I have enough respect for St. Thomas and Ed that I'm not myself affirming a contradiction here, and I hope never to do so. I would always have assumed as a matter of course that Aquinas had his Unmoved Mover and the God of the Bible nicely reconciled, thanks very much, without needing any help from me. In the meanwhile, I will just have to hope that you follow St. Thomas _all_ the way rather than halfway followed by a turn in a decidedly different direction, toward a God who cannot be the One who saves us.

George, I am fine with your distinction. My question is: did the pre-Christian Jewish thinkers, and the early Christian Fathers, think about God under the template "simple" as an aspect that every and all fellow-travelers must of necessity adhere to once presented? My impression is that the attribute did not make a splash until later. In which case classical theism managed to rumble along for more than a few centuries without any kind of general, normative, or definitive nod to simplicity. Did Moses present a picture of God in which "simplicity" stands out firmly? Did Isaiah? Did Maccabees?

There is a difference between saying that simplicity is implied necessarily by classical theism, and saying simplicity is central to it. As an example, the Pythagorean relationship is necessarily implied by the nature of (right) triangle, but people had been playing with triangles for many centuries before the relationship was understood to be there of necessity: what is central to the notion of triangle as such is three straight sides and three angles, a plane figure.

In which case classical theism managed to rumble along for more than a few centuries without any kind of general, normative, or definitive nod to simplicity.

My understanding of the way that Ed uses the phrase "classical theism" is that this sentence makes no sense. That is, "classical theism" seems to me to be defined by its contents in Ed's usage, which contents include divine simplicity as a central idea, rather than being defined as what was believed by Moses et. al. In that sense the term "classical" is perhaps potentially a little confusing, it seems to me, but maybe that's just me.

If you want to know what God is like, you look to Jesus in the Gospels. God is Christologically, not classically, defined and revealed.

And yet, St. Paul could write [Rom 1: 19- 20]:

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse;

Sounds like classical definition to me.

The Chicken

Did Moses present a picture of God in which "simplicity" stands out firmly? Did Isaiah? Did Maccabees?

No. Then again, neither were Moses, Isaiah, Judas Maccabees, nor any of his brothers metaphysicians or natural theologians. Divine simplicity is a metaphysical certitude discoverable by human reason. It is a truth about God that we are able to learn from perceptible being. To deny it leads to an absurdity, like saying there can be a squared circle. Therefore, if the God of Moses et al. is God, He is also simple; and if he is not simple, He is not God. Therefore, since the subject of both natural and sacred theology is God and not some sub-god or some absurdity, the God of both is simple. It’s apodictic.

Point of information: does whomever owns the server to which this blog is attached throttle down the server at night? I have dial-up at home (yes, I know, Luddite, but I can program) and the pages load snappily during the day, but are horribly slow to load at night. I was trying to read Tony's comments in the I'm Catholic, You're Catholic thread and the thing takes forever to load. I've wanted to ask this question for a while now (the throttling question).

Back to the thread.

The Chicken

Chicken, that's exactly the passage from Paul I was thinking of, but I could not remember where it was. Thanks.

Lydia, perhaps I am misunderstanding the term as Ed means it. Certainly I have no beef whatsoever with the importance (and the truth) of God as simple in a sound theology. I thought, though that what Ed was getting at was that simplicity belongs right in the center of what we always thought about by saying "God" right back to the core of the Judeo-Greek-Roman conceptualization. And that seems a more difficult thing to justify. "Ultimate" would, I think, be a much more justifiable central referent: ultimate in causality, ultimate in power, in knowing, in being, etc.

Only Todd can answer that metaphysical puzzle.

And that seems a more difficult thing to justify.

I agree with you there very much, Tony.

By the way, the answer to Steve's question as to whether God is conscious is...

Of course. In fact, one could say that God is far more conscious than you or I will ever be.

Commenters keep speaking of divine simplicity as if there was one uniform view of the notion. There isn't in the non-Christian philosophical literature of late antiquity and there isn't across Christian traditions. I am not clear why Thomists simply get to assume their view represents THE tradition.

"Classical theism" isn't classical.

George R:
"Divine simplicity is a metaphysical certitude discoverable by human reason."

Jesus:
"No one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him." (Matt 11:27)

When it comes to answering the question, "Can you fathom the mysteries of God?" (Job 11:7) George seems to think he can discover -- with certainty, no less -- the inner mysteries of God, things like God's (alleged) simplicity. Jesus seems to think George cannot.

Go with whomever you think knows God best.

Chicken:

Somehow you missed the part in the same passage where Paul graphically explained that the natural knowledge of God is willfully suppressed on a worldwide basis, and that it does nothing but serve the purpose of condemnation. You'll notice that he does not mention that Aristotle or his followers are an exception to the damnable human suppression of this knowledge derived by nature. Living centuries after Aristotle, and knowing Greek culture as well as he does, Paul easily could have done so had he thought that that ancient pagan's views were an exception to the rule Paul had just articulated.) Far from endorsing our natural insights about God, this portion of Romans condemns us for suppressing the truth, and for the sin that always accompanies that suppression. Sin and suppression are a matched set, bookends. They go everywhere together. Yet you appeal to this passage as evidence in favor of natural theology:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things."

You see from this that while the revelation works wonderfully well and reveals God quite effectively, that we, however, suppress that revelation, to our shame and destruction. You'll notice too, that, much like the universal assertion of Jesus in Matthew 11:27, the text here admits of no exceptions. It's not as if Aristotle or Plato somehow are exempt from that failing which befalls us all and that we can safely follow their lead. Given human fallenness, the result of natural revelation is not enlightenment but condemnation.

To put it plainly, Aristotle is a suppressor. His pagan conception of God, and the degraded culture of which both he and it were a part, together are an example of what humans do with divine truth. Sin and suppression go together, it says here, and sin, and the suppression that always accompanies it, are universal. Sadly, you welcome natural theology and ignore the suppression that inevitably attends it, as if you never noticed that, despite the fact that the Logos Himself enlightens every man who comes into the world (John 1:9), when He arrived they did not know Him (John 1:10). Suppressors of truth -- in other words, human beings -- do not know God, even if some call their misconceptions "classical." The problem is not with the revelation in nature. The problem is with us -- you, me, Aristotle, all of us -- even classical theists.

Knowing God is a much more rare phenomenon than some realize. It hinges upon knowing Christ, who is the sole portal to such knowledge.

Perry, I would be interested in your thoughts on non-Christian classical sources and their views of divine simplicity, and non-scholastic Christian views of same. Do those views make out simplicity to be something more important, or less important, or other than God as simple? Please, enlighten us. I, for one, know nothing at all of such authors as Plotinus, for example.

Dear Michael,

I think you are reading the "they" to refer to all men, when, in fact, it only refers to the ungodly men who substituted worship of animal for God. Since Aristotle did not, he does not fall under the condemnation.

In fact, St. Paul praises (sort of) the Greek's ability to recognize that there was an the unknown God.

George R,

The claim that the Thomistic view of simplicity is something discoverable about God by reason and perceptible being turns on the assumption of the doctrine of the analogy of being. Not all Christian traditions or even pre-Christian Hellenic traditions subscribe to that idea. Nor is there one single concept of simplicity in the pre or post-Christian philosophical tradition to draw from.

Tony,

Actually simplicity was a significant issue in the theological disputes from Arianism to the refutation of Origenism. You can see this by reading say Basil's Against Eunomius and Gregory's Against Eunomius. The taxonomy splits up in the following way. For Eunomius, all predicables about God are not only metaphysically identical, but semantically so. Hence God is ingeneracy. To know anything about God is to know the divine essence. Hence Eunomius not only holds to the identity thesis, but carries it through from reference to sense relative to terms about God. Hence the Son cannot be of the same essence since he is generate by essence and generacy and ingeneracy are opposites. The Augustinian tradition holds to the identity thesis, but does not carry it through in the semantical realm. The ways of cashing out the semantics will differ (possibly) from say Aquinas to Scotus. The Cappadocian-Maximian tradition denies both the identity thesis relative to metaphysics and semantics. The energies are not only definitionally distinct but metaphysically so and distinct from the divine essence. Simplicity for them is an energy or activity that unifies without reduction all of the divine activities. Ironically the Thomists end up arguing essentially a Eunomian view.

Simplicity in the non-Christian literature across Stoic, Platonic and Aristotelian lines varies. Composite substances for example can be said in these traditions to be "simple" or even "absolutely simple" referring to the fact that they are a single thing. Simplicity can also be meant to deny that an object has features that it can lose, but without denying that said features are metaphysically distinct. In Athanasius up through Cyril of Alexandria this is the main use of the term. This is why Thomistic readings are anachronistic.

Gallwitz's bk that I referenced above is probably the most up to date discussion across traditions that I've seen so far.

Chicken,

Obviously the material in Romans 1-2 can be read in a different way. Basil writes, “…we say that we know our God from His energies, but do not undertake to approach near to His essence. His energies come down to us, but His essence remains beyond our reach” Basil, Epistle 234.

That doesn’t sound like “classical theism” to me or anything like the analogia entis. Please note that unlike Reformation rejections of natural theology, this gloss doesn’t turn on human sinfulness. Also note that it excludes the doctrine of the beatific vision.

"Classical theism" is a later entity that is the product of post-schism medieval Latin-Frankish scholasticism and so is like other theological innovations like sola fide.

The claim that the Thomistic view of simplicity is something discoverable about God by reason and perceptible being turns on the assumption of the doctrine of the analogy of being.

You've got it exactly backwards. The doctrine of the analogy of being depends on and is the result of ascertaining the truth of divine simplicity.

Ironically the Thomists end up arguing essentially a Eunomian view.

So, Thomism equals Arianism. Who knew?

Simplicity can also be meant to deny that an object has features that it can lose, but without denying that said features are metaphysically distinct.

That is one of the clearest statements I have seen of a notion of simplicity that I can both grasp intellectually and that also seems plausible to me concerning the nature of God. To say that God's omnipotence and His omnibenevolence are at bottom the same property--wow, I find that a hard sell. To say that He could by His nature not _lose_ either of them but that they remain metaphysically distinct--that sounds about right.

Then again, I'm deliberately talking about all of this in a very amateurish way to show that this level of philosophy of religion isn't anywhere close to being my specialty.

George R.

Assume I do have it backwards. Then it follows that you'd need to demonstrate the thesis of divine simplicity without the aid of the analogia entis. But that doesn't seem to be the implicit argument yougave above, but just the opposite.

Second, your secondary remarks amount to a straw man. I didn't claim Thomism is equivalent to Arianism. I made a specific claim that as far as the metaphysics of simplicty went, Thomism mirrors the Eunomian line. This is why Catholic scholars like Joseph O'Leary have argued that Eunomius was on the money in anticipating advances in Scholastic philosophical theology and the Cappadocians are rather simplistic and confused. (See "Divine Simplicity and the Plurality of the Attributes" in Gregory of Nyssa, Contra Eunomium II, Ed. Karfikova, Brill, 2004.) When Catholic scholars who are specialists in the field recognize their own position in Eunomius, who am I to argue?

Lydia,

Thanks for the compliment. You might try picking up some of the following works. Manetti, Theories of the Sign in Late Antiquity, Barnes, The Power of God: Dunamis in Gregory of Nyssa's Trinitarian Theology, Bradshaw, Aristotle: East and West, and Gallawitz bk, referenced above, and Hughes, On a Complex Theory of a Simple God.

To say that God's omnipotence and His omnibenevolence are at bottom the same property--wow, I find that a hard sell. To say that He could by His nature not _lose_ either of them but that they remain metaphysically distinct--that sounds about right.

It sounds right, Lydia, but it isn’t. Here’s the problem.

If God’s omnipotence and his benevolence were distinct, both of them could not be the same as God; for if two things are the same as a third, they are the same as each other. But we have already said they are distinct and not the same. Therefore, they can not both be the same as God. Therefore, at least one of them must be not that which God is but that which God has. In other words, it must inhere in God as an accident. But there can be no accidents in God. For accidents are ontologically posterior to the substances in which they inhere; and that which is of God is prior to all being. Moreover, that which is accidental is in some way caused by that which is substantial. But nothing of God is caused.

Therefore, the attributes of God can not be distinct from each other.

Then it follows that you'd need to demonstrate the thesis of divine simplicity without the aid of the analogia entis.

I just did.

I just did.

That's also the same argument that makes the Trinity (distinct parts, not exactly the same) incompatible with divine simplicity.

Perry,

David Bradshaw is a very old and good personal friend and has sent me a number of his works on philosophy and Eastern Orthodoxy. I must admit though that I remain intransigently Western in my mentality, albeit Western/analytical in a Protestant rather than a Catholic-Thomist vein.

But there can be no accidents in God. For accidents are ontologically posterior to the substances in which they inhere; and that which is of God is prior to all being. Moreover, that which is accidental is in some way caused by that which is substantial.

See, but right there, George, I'm afraid you should consider me hopeless, as the whole heavy ontology of substance and accident and arguments therefrom of this type are just not convincing to me, not being an Aristotelian.

George R, it seems to me that the doctrine of analogy is fundamentally a wider sort of truth than the truth about divine simplicity. And, it is a metaphysical truth that is valid and necessary whether God is simple (in the Thomistic sense) or not.

Simplicity can also be meant to deny that an object has features that it can lose, but without denying that said features are metaphysically distinct.

Perry, perhaps I am naive, but the quality you are describing is "integrity", not simplicity. If a species has the characteristic X that defines its speciation so that it is a distinct species from all other species in the genus, (such as having a right angle is the characteristic that defines and separates right triangles from acute triangles and obtuse triangles), then having a right angle is something that cannot be removed from a right triangle. And nobody would suggest that its right angle is one with its acute angles - of course they are metaphysically and really distinct (as well as semantically distinct). So, why in the world would the term "simple" be used to describe the set of angles in a triangle? The very fact of multiplicity (given by reason of the "metaphysically distinct" features denies simplicity.

Lydia, while I commiserate with you about thinking of God's omnipotence as the same thing as his omnipotence (it boggles the mind), that just sets us up to point out a more philosophically perfect way of speaking of God: God is He who, while being in Himself simple, is understood by us as having multiple characteristics because our mode of understanding is that of a creature. If we were simple, ourselves, we would be more able to grasp God's simplicity. (This facet of our understanding is not limited to dealing with God, either: we find it easy to logically deduce conclusions from principles, and to reduce complex things back to their principles, but the more simple something is, the more difficult we find it to grasp it in a way that can be held and transmitted to another.) But the underlying metaphysical identity of things that - to us - appear to be multiple, is something that we have to get used to anyway, that's just a philosophical necessity.

Oh for goodness' sake. This again? George, you ought to study Scotus on the formal distinction. So should Perry, as I've been telling him for years. It's ludicrous that this discussion of simplicity and analogy and so forth is still stuck in the thirteenth century when the issues were more than adequately resolved in the early fourteenth.

George R, it seems to me that the doctrine of analogy is fundamentally a wider sort of truth than the truth about divine simplicity. And, it is a metaphysical truth that is valid and necessary whether God is simple (in the Thomistic sense) or not.

Tony, why do you have to bust my chops over that?

Yes, you’re right. The doctrine of analogy has a wider application than the divine mode. The point is still the same, though. Knowledge of the diverse modes of being is prior to the knowledge of the analogical relationships between them.

Michael Sullivan,
I can't believe you remembered that argument. What are you, an elephant?

That's also the same argument that makes the Trinity (distinct parts, not exactly the same) incompatible with divine simplicity.

Simplicity is in the nature of God. The Trinity is in God's personhood. Each member of the Trinity is Divinely Simple, if that makes any sense, because each member is God.

The Chicken

...if that makes any sense

Nope.

Nope.

The Trinity is defined with regards to the relationship of persons within the Trinity, although they share the same nature. Three persons; one God. Simplicity resides in the Godhead, not the persons. Unfortunately, the Trinity is a revealed Truth of the Faith and a mystery, so I cannot explain any better. Perhaps someone else can.

The Chicken

I believe all commenting here will be quite interested in reading this article by the late metaphysian W. Norris Clarke.

Following on Cardinal Ratzinger's charge that Aquinas overlooked a profound insight in his ontology of God, Clarke pointedly addresses Aquinas' notion of God's Existence/Being and transforms it into theistic personalism.

http://communio-icr.com/articles/PDF/clarke19-4.pdf

Lydia,

The problem seems to me that the Protestant tradition, classically speaking adheres to the notion of simplicity you are objecting to. There is no substantial difference between Rome and the Reformers on this point.

Tony R,

I simply (PUN!) pointed to the fact that lexigraphically and philosophically the notion of simplicity is wider than the Thomistic gloss. As I’ve already noted plenty of Christian and non-Christian sources do not use it in the Thomistic sense. I see no reason to take their usage as illegitimate from the get-go. If Thomists wish to claim pride of place, they’ll need to argue on philosophical grounds why their notion is superior.

As for your example, is the characteristic in the example you gave a feature or an aspect? If an aspect then it doesn’t work to illustrate what you wish it to. If it is a feature it fails since on the other positions of what constitutes simplicity relative to the divine, metaphysical plurality doesn’t constitute parthood.

Further, by “really” distinct in the scholastic sense, your example fails since to be really distinct is to be separable, yet you deny that a right angle can be separable. So I can’t see how the example works here either.

If metaphysical plurality of itself entailed a denial of simplicity then Trinitarianism is in big trouble. (Your assertion also depends on another non-shared assumption, namely that God ad intra is being and pure actuality.) Further, the Cappadocian, as well as other Christian writers did just that, affirmed simplicity as an energy and also affirmed metaphysical plurality. This was a point upon which their anti-Eunomian polemic depended. Metaphysical plurality only precludes certain notions of plurality and I don’t see why those notions get pride of place as “classical theism” and the ones I’ve pointed to don’t. So far, I haven’t see that point engaged.

Well, Perry, I don't know quite how to say this, but...Since I'm a Protestant, I'm pretty casual about disagreeing with tradition, Protestant or any other. I'm not really sure about this issue of simplicity one way or another. The whole question has to be contemplated at a height of metaphysics at which I suffer from oxygen deprivation. My point is just that, "You're a Protestant? But the Protestant tradition agrees with the Roman tradition on this highly speculative metaphysical question" gets something less than a small shrug from me.

Michael Sullivan,

I am not sure what argument you think that I’ve made since nothing in your comments picks one out that I’ve made.

Scotus’ gloss on simplicity doesn’t pick out a uniform notion denoted by the term across traditions, Christian and non. That was my point with Fesser’s post about privileging Thomism as “classical theism” in this respect.

Second, not only is what the formal distinction amounts to among Scotists, both now and then, controversial and unclear, even if it were clear, it doesn’t of itself pick out a uniform notion relative to the term simple across philosophical and theological history.
Third, even if I were Catholic, I am not obligated to take Scotus’ gloss as de fide. And it isn’t clear that Scotus was saying anything substantially different on the point than Thomas. So unclear is the matter that Scotists and Thomists aren’t clear on which way one is to read the two men-whether Thomas to Scotus or vice versa. Consequently, I can’t see how it is clear that you think his notion solves problems, especially when the problems persist contra Thomism, not the least of which continue to be deployed by contemporary Scotists against Thomism. Why think that all of those Scotists who have done so for centuries and continue to do so are misreading Thomas or Scotus?

If it is so clear, publish a paper and illuminate the rest of us, by all means.

And lastly, I think the problem was solved much earlier than the fourteenth century-more like the 7th with the refutation of monothelitism and Origenism, long before the Franks were theologically literate.

Further, by “really” distinct in the scholastic sense, your example fails since to be really distinct is to be separable, yet you deny that a right angle can be separable. So I can’t see how the example works here either.

Huh? The right angle is really distinct from the other angles, and really distinct from the triangle itself. But the right triangle cannot remain if you remove the right angle. Perhaps you haven't explained yourself quite adequately, in your saying "Simplicity can also be meant to deny that an object has features that it can lose,"

Perry, I will not argue with you about whether earlier Eastern writers were using "simple" in an acceptable sense, since I simply don't know what they said. But whatever term they were using, (in the Greek, presumably, so neither "simplicity" nor "simplicitas" was the word they used), translating it into the English word "simplicity" would, presumably, be based on a recognition of commonality between what we mean by the word simple and what they meant by the word X. But if what they meant by the word X is, clearly, something that we DON'T mean by the word "simplicity", but rather what we mean by the word "integrity", then insisting on translating their term into "simple" for us is, perhaps, fraught with difficulty. Requiring justification.

It is perfectly possible that their term X harbors a complex of associations and connotations that our term simple doesn't harbor, a set of associations only some of which bear some kind of proximity to the associations of our term "simple", without being identical. In which case, it may well be justifiable philosophically to translate their term X into our term simple. But then the philosophical point being made with an argument under such usage would be a deficient argument unless it clarified the modified or constrained sense of the words. At the least, the argument as rendered would be prone to being mistaken or misleading because of the serious lack of full conceptual congruence - the logic wouldn't work right.

I'd like to point a few things out that seem to be lacking in focus.

1. Is God in a genus? If not, how can he have specifying attributes which distinguish him in that genus? If He has "parts" that essentially belong to Him, then He is distinguishable as one species of the genus only because of His parts. But this is utterly to admit the composition of God, which all Fathers have taught.

2. Thomas explicitly denies we can have a definition of God, indeed, that God can even have a definition. Hence, His essence is as much a mystery to Catholics as Orthodox.

3. Asserting that God exists in His energies is to assert something about His essence, or it is not to speak about God. Goose, gander, etc.

Best,

冏! ERRATUM: In my first point, I of course meant to write, "against which all Fathers have taught."

2. Thomas explicitly denies we can have a definition of God, indeed, that God can even have a definition. Hence, His essence is as much a mystery to Catholics as Orthodox.

Codge,

If God is personal, wouldn't one be able to know Him in relationship. I can relate to people and gain a pretty fair insight into their character (essence).

JT:

You're taking "essence" in an intuitionist, "touchy-feely" sense, but I mean it classically, as the group of specific atttributes which differentiate one substance from another. I already know your essence insofar as you're a human: rational animal. I know you dislike that definition, but knowing you exhaustively is an impossibility and not the same as knowing your "definition" (i.e., knowing that and how you differ from what I know when I know a stone). God is more person than we shall ever be, because He is unbounded relationality within Himself. The point I am making about His not being in a genus and not having a definition merely comes from Summa contra gentiles, book 1, chapters 20–26, or so.

"We all believe with the heart, and confess with the mouth, that there is one only simple and spiritual Being, which we call God; and that He is eternal incomprehensible, invisible, immutable, infinite, almighty, perfectly wise, just, good, and overflowing, foundation of all good."

Belgic Confession 1561

The whole Western Church; Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed, at the time of the Reformation was committed to Classical Theism.

Thom, if God is incomprehensible, how do we know that He's perfectly wise, just, and good? They can't mean "incomprehensible" in the sense that I would mean that word if I said it.

Dear Lydia:

St. Paul: "…who alone has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen." 1 Tim. 6:16

You: "…they can't mean "incomprehensible" in the sense that I would mean that word if I said it."

No, they can't, since, again, God's incomprehensibility is as much a mystery as His immanence. Analogy, analogy, analogy. You admit to having never read much of Gilson. I can therefore only assume you've read none of the SCG. Not a plug here, but I encourage you to read SCG with me as I post it, chapter by chapter, with minimal glosses, on my blog.

As for your comment, take up the former––divine incomprehensibility–– with St Paul, but the latter with, well… Jesus in the Eucharist. It's funny how some people (e.g. Perry) make "monstrosities" of some mysteries of the faith, when they accept other "absurdities" as simply normal. My. McGrew, your instinct is right, that a man who wrote Panis Angelicus and the SCG could not have seen a real conflict between the God of Unmoved Motion and the All-Forgiving Jesus. I encourage you to see why.

Best,

I was recently at a talk by Richard Cross (since this seems so imporant I should note he's published a few books) in which he stated that there is a clear progression from the cappocians to Palamas, a progression progressively "reifying" the energies. Dr. Cross even went so far as to describe Palamas' views as a "corruption" of the eastern tradition. So it would seem that the eastern tradition is not as unified as suggested.

Also, does God know things he doesn't will?

Thom, if God is incomprehensible, how do we know that He's perfectly wise, just, and good? They can't mean "incomprehensible" in the sense that I would mean that word if I said it.

Lydia, right, they mean "incomprehensible" in a slightly modified sense: similar to the geometer when he refers to a circle which is circumscribed about a triangle - it goes all the way around it, so that the triangle is entirely within the circle. "Comprehend" means, in this usage, to grasp the object all the way around, top to bottom, through and through, so that your knowledge goes all the way around it. So, something is incomprehensible if it is NOT the case that our knowledge of it grasps it in its entirety. To us, angels are incomprehensible, even though they are not divine, because they have aspects that exceed our comprehension. But that is not to say that we know nothing at all about angels.

Thank you, Tony, that was exactly the explanation that I needed. And I should have guessed that, too, from the time period and the language.

Codge, if I remember my theology properly, the analogical sense is required only for the positive attributes, like being, just, merciful, etc. The negative attributes merely deny a limitation: "infinite" just says He isn't limited, like us, and this we can mean univocally since it refers to us. Same with "incomprehensible", which means that WE cannot comprehend Him, a limitation on us, not on God. So we don't need to be using the analogical sense with that.

Perry,

It's astonishing that you can talk as though I haven't addressed your concerns, at length, over and over again, for years. My position of course is not that Scotus' metaphysics is de fide for Catholics or anyone else, but that his metaphysics is able to bridge the gap between Thomas and Palamas in a coherent and rationally satisfying way that leaves room for the doctrinal pronouncements of both East and West. As I recall quite clearly, I first laid out my argument for this, in some detail, when I was working on my M.A thesis. Now I've finished my doctorate and have long since stopped waiting for a response from you.

Perry,

It's astonishing that you can talk as though I haven't addressed your concerns, at length, over and over again, for years. My position of course is not that Scotus' metaphysics is de fide for Catholics or anyone else, but that his metaphysics is able to bridge the gap between Thomas and Palamas in a coherent and rationally satisfying way that leaves room for the doctrinal pronouncements of both East and West. As I recall quite clearly, I first laid out my argument for this, in some detail, when I was working on my M.A thesis. Now I've finished my doctorate and have long since stopped waiting for a response from you.

This is humorously embarrassing. I wrote "My. McGrew, your instinct is right...," but meant to type, "Ms. McGrew..."! Sorry to sound like a shrew heheh.

Tony:

I see your point but I also wonder if it puts the cart before the horse. In my understanding, analogy is the "engine" for the other three classical scholastic viae: via causalitas, via eminentia, via remotionis. We know God "like" we know causes, we know God "like" we know principles, and we know God "like" we know contraries, but His mode of causation, existence, and aseity are all analogously "off the charts" for us. Hence, I don't see a conflict between stressing analogy and apophatic theology.

Best,

ERRATA: I misspelled via causalitatis and via emnientiae above.

(For those who have eyes to see, my self-denigrating humor has hit a new high heheh.)

Michael:

Where might one get one's hands on that thesis of yours?

Lee:

Any chance you'll blog about Cross's lecture at the Smithy?

Thomas d'Aquino, Super Boetium de Trinitate, q. 1, a. 4, c., ad 10:

"It should be said that whatever is said of God is one with his simple essence, but that the things that are one in him are many in our intellect, which is why our intellect can apprehend one without the other. That is why in this life we can know of none of them what it is but only that it is, and it happens that one of these [attributes] can be known without knowing another; for example, one might know that God is wise yet not know that he is omnipotent. In much the same way we can know by natural reason that God is, but not that he is three and one." (tr. Ralph McInerny)

Tony,

My remarks turned on the statement by you “…then having a right angle is something that cannot be removed from a right triangle.” But perhaps you meant that it is not separable in so far as the object would still be a triangle. If so, the example still fails since it turns on the assumption that both in the case of the triangle and God that they could fail to exist.

As for your remarks concerning the meaning of terms, it begs the question since it assumes what “we” mean is uniform and settled and that what “we” mean is what Thomas meant. I don’t know why what Thomas meant gets pride of place without argument. Again it leaves untouched the historical and lexigraphical evidence that simple has had a wider usage up to our own time. I’ll grant that among Western Europeans it hasn’t in the main, but Christianity is wider than the western states. As point of fact, I am not insisting that the concept of the term integrity be translated as simple or simplicity. Rather I am pointing out that lexigraphically “simple” and “simplicity” are terms that traditions have and do understand differently.


Lydia,

I am not sure how your response helps. Classical Protestantism doesn’t reject pen-ultimate or secondary authorities. Nor are the judgments and teachings of said authorities to be set aside easily with a shrug.

You are perfectly free to reject the classical Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura and favor a more Anabaptist take, but such a position, at least as far as I can see seems to make Scripture far more a wax nose.

Well, but Scripture doesn't teach Divine simplicity clearly at all, as far as I can tell. Immutability, yes. Simplicity, not so much.


Michael Sullivan,

It is astonishing that you write as if I accepted your criticisms and proposal some four years ago or so. I wasn’t persuaded by what you wrote on the now non-existent Pontifications and am not now. I wrote a number of things to indicate why I wasn’t persuaded and that Scotus either simply moves the problem to being or capitulates to a weaker view of simplicity or both. I don’t believe you ever responded to those counter-replies.

As for bridging the gap, perhaps I am not recalling things correctly, but that lengthy post was an attempt not to bridge the gap between Thomas and Palamas, but to fend off an argument concerning divine freedom, simplicity and creation ex nihilo. If you’ve done other work showing that Palamas and Thomas have the same thing in mind, bridged conceptually by Scotus, please direct me to it.

Further, if you think there is a conceptual bridge, then of course Lee’s remarks must be mistaken, namely that Palamas’ teaching is a corruption of the Eastern tradition, via the hostile witness of Richard Cross. But if Lee is correct via Cross, then your argument must be mistaken. I’ll leave it between you two to figure out if you are wrong or he is. Needless to say, all I pointed to here was that Feser was privileging a certain notion of simplicity.

Perry,

I invoke the good ol' distinguo. I think you are being a bit slippery about pitting Sullivan and Faber against each other. I know it's fun to throw logical banana peels on the ground watch us Catholics slip and slide, but in this case you're being too hasty so as to score a couple points, methinks.

First, Faber's comment was meant to show that Eastern dogmatics arguably has as much semantic-notional complexity as in Western theology. As such, you can't put the burden of proof on, say, Thomists, to square all the patrimony of "simplicitas Dei" with their own account, since Palamites need to do the same thing. According to Dr Cross, they can't do this in an uncorrupted way: Palamas' reading of the Fathers is as anachronistic, in Cross' opinion, as Thomas' is in your opinion. This is just another instance of how Orthodoxy, lacking a vital magisterium, has no means whereby to declare what's what. Perryite Orthodoxy may see no possible way to be anything but a Palamite, but this doesn't mean all Orthodox theologians and bishops agree. Indeed, the dominant bone of contention seems to be Rome, not Barlaam. http://www.usccb.org/seia/steps-towards-reunited-church.shtml This is the great lesson of Kydones, of course. We can look at Zizioulas and Hart as two prominent non-Palamite Orthodox theologians, so, again, complaining that Feser is giving pride of place to one conception of simplicity without ecumenical backing is like the pot calling the kettle black.

Second, I take Sullivan's point about "bridging the gap" to mean that Scotus solves errors on both sides of the Palamite-Thomist debate, not that Scotus in fact "synthesizes" their accounts, much less shows how they are teaching the same thing. Rather, a Scotistic bridge would amount to saying that both sides are wrong on the same point, but in different ways, and that these disparate errors can be linked to a "median" solution. After all, Sullivan is neither a Thomist nor a Palamite, so he sees no reason, and perhaps no way, to rehabilitate and reconcile views he does not hold. A bridge unites sides of a river that in themselves don't allow transit; it doesn't show the sides were actually one all along.

Also, thank you for emailing me back. I've got a few things to send in response but I know you're busy and not itching to hear from me. All things in their own time. God bless you,

Codgitator,

I didn’t pit them against each other. They did that all by themselves.

Faber’s comment was intended to show that the Eastern tradition is a “corruption” and not a legitimate reading of the tradition, for that is exactly what the citation says. If it on the other hand was intended to show, as you claim, that Palamites too must bear their own burden of proof, that would be worthless, since I never claimed otherwise. In fact, my entire point contra Feser was that he bears a burden of proof and can’t simply assert that the Augustinian-Thomistic notion is “traditional.”

Since I do not have Cross’ comments to evaluate and he is not a specialist in Palamas or Eastern theology, philosophical or otherwise, I see no reason to take his remarks as having any evidentiary value. He wouldn’t be the first western writer to hastily misinterpret Palamas. It is nearly a sport now among Catholic writers. And in any case, such remarks miss the point since they take Palamas’ theology to be some later novelty. Everything a Palamite could ever want is found about six hundred years earlier in Maximus. In sum if there is no distinction as Palamas has in mind between essence and energy, then Maximus argument that turns on that distinction to assert two energies in Christ falls flat.

If Orthodoxy has no means to make normative judgments as you claim, then certainly you can’t claim to represent that as its official teaching or anything else for that matter. Second, in the great Western Schism when there was no pope for the better part of half a century, Rome must have lacked a magisterium too, since it was a council and not a pope that resolved that issue. If an ecumenical council doesn’t wash for us, it doesn’t wash for Rome in the Great Western Schism. But it did and so it does for us as well. Second, when theology doesn’t develop but is simply traditioned or passed on, the need for a man at the helm to adjudicate between rival developments is simply a fifth wheel. Consequently, the lack of the Catholic notion of a magisterium is only built to address problems specific to Catholicism.

It may be true that not all Orthodox theologians agree, but that matters not since the church has designated Palamas as a principle theologian and allotted him two feast days, something reserved usually for Jesus or the Theotokos. Such theologians therefore celebrate his teaching like it or lump it. The same is true with the yearly reading of the Synodikon of Orthodoxy. Further, not all Catholic theologians agree among themselves and yet that is taken as no marker by you of a lack of unity. It won’t do to point to the pope since some of their disagreements are between papal statements. In any case, those Orthodox who dissent from their church’s teaching still dissent nonetheless. Incidentally, I take “perryite” to be a tad rude.

The judgments of the theological consultation that you cite are just that and it is no secret that neither Rome nor the East takes their proposals as binding. Secondly, they are summary documents and leave untouched the fact that the theology of the Papacy is built off the Filioquist notion that the Son is a joint cause of the Spirit’s person. This has been noted and argued for since the time of Gregory VII up through Aquinas. The Pope is the vicar of the Son and so the Spirit proceeds from the Pope into the church as a principle of unity. The papacy and the Filioque historically and theologically go hand in hand. This is why they remain the two principle issues. Protestants took the schema and made every Christian a representative of Christ and so made every man his own pope, which is why Protestants retain the Filioque.

I have no idea why you take Bp. Zizioulas as a non-Palamite. Nothing I’ve seen from him is either grossly inconsistent with the Church’s teaching. In fact, Zizioulas has been routinely been criticized since the early 1980’s for being a Palamite.

As for Hart, he is along the lines of someone like Richard Swinburne, who seems to me to be a Latin in theological outlook but converted in order to find an ecclesiastical refuge. And so he is the exception that proves the rule. Simply mentioning such persons doesn’t demonstrate that they are representative of the Orthodox church’s teaching. In fact, if you look at the reception of Hart’s work among the Orthodox like Behr, Golitzen and others they seem highly critical of it as being distinctly Orthodox. It would be like me appealing to Hans Kung as representative of Catholicism.


All of that said, I do not give the Orthodox notion of simplicity pride of place without argument and in fact there is no way for me to do so given the near absolute hegemony of the Thomistic account across the theological landscape, including those who reject it like say Open Theists. Here your claim is simply baseless.

If Scotus solves the problems on both sides, then this would be an admission that Thomas, among plenty of other Catholic theologians have erred. But Sullivan himself, along with others, like Cross, argue that Scotus and Thomas on simplicity aren’t really in disagreement. Either Sullivan has changed his mind or he is inconsistent or so it seems to me, in order to make your argument go through.

Second, putting Scotus up above the other two wouldn’t be particularly helpful along ecumenical lines since what is needed is a demonstration that the two sides actually in fact teach the same thing, and not that there is some other model, present on one side, that is better than the other two.

I apologize that my witticism (Perryite) offended you.

There is no Judeo/Christian God. There's the God of Judaism and there's the God of Christianity. Although Christianity have originally sprung from Judaism their conceptions of God are very different.

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