2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.
We have taken the time to journey our way through a doctrine that has been in use by Christians since the early days of the church: the doctrine of Divine Simplicity. For readers that are interested in links to previous posts in this series, please click on the link to the last post, which contains links to the other parts of this series here:
This doctrine asserts that everything in God is God and that His very essence contains no "parts" that would somehow compose Him. Scripture's way of describing God as Divinely simple is seen in those texts which equate His attributes with Himself. For example, we see that God "is" light (1 John 1:5-7); God "is" love (1 John 4:8); God "is" holy (Isaiah 6:3; Psalm 99:1); God "is" all-knowing (1 John 3:20) as language describing God's simplicity of being. God's attributes are not just descriptions that we "predicate" to Him. As a human being, I can be loving, which predicates the act or attribute of love. However, to say I "am" love is blasphemous, since I am but a creature. For God, we don't merely "predicate" to Him the attributes we find of Him in scripture. Instead, Scripture identifies God with His attributes, which means He is not lacking in any property necessary for Him being God.
God is not some sort of Divine being assembled from a collection of eternal properties and attributes that resulted in He being God. This mistaken notion of God is referred to as "complexity". Complexity (that is, composed of parts and things which go from a state of potentially being what they "could be" to becoming "what they are") is a trait shared by all created things. If God were "complex" (such as all created beings) rather than simple, then whatever properties we speak of, those properties would somehow either pre-exist prior to God or God would had picked them up along the way. Rather, what we have discussed in these last series of posts is how Divine Simplicity attempts to explain how God is God and why God is totally different from everything else.
The Doctrine of Divine Simplicity (DDS), in concert with the Doctrine of the Trinity, expresses the first plank of the Trinity doctrine: monotheism. We mentioned in the last post how the doctrine of the Trinity, along with the doctrine of Divine simplicity, works in tandem to express the Biblical revelation of God that is Personally involved in His creation (such as in answering prayers, guiding people in history and working in the salvation of sinners). In today's post, we continue on with our discussion of how Divine Simplicity and the Trinity are compatible doctrines that work together to expound on the God of the Bible.
Plank #2 of the Trinity: there are a plurality of Persons sharing the Divine nature - Father, Son and Holy Spirit
What do we mean by "subsistence" with reference to the Trinity (optional reading section)
A "subsistence" is a bearer of properties or characteristics that indicate the sort of substance we are talking about. Subsistences can be non-living things (such as rocks) or living things (such as my cat). Subsistences can also lack a will or include a will, dependent upon whether we speak of the given substance being a mind (immaterial and endowed with volition), or rocks. The 1689 Baptist Confession explains this idea in the following sense as pertaining to God:
"In this divine and infinite Being there are three subsistences, the Father, the Word or Son, and Holy Spirit, of one substance, power, and eternity, each having the whole divine essence, yet the essence undivided."
The Doctrine Of The Trinity and the Doctrine of Divine Simplicity present a God that is a "compound unity"
One question that was asked of me in in this series of posts had to do with a term I used: "compound unity". When I use the term "compound", I speak to the discrete identities of the Father, Son and Spirit. The London Baptist Confession of 1689, Article 2, has the following final statement in its section on the Persons of the Trinity:
"but distinguished by several peculiar relative properties and personal relations; which doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of all our communion with God, and comfortable dependence on him."
We do differentiate between the Persons by their identities. When I use the term "unity", that term speaks to the simple essence which is borne truly and completely by each Person. Since the Divine Essence is "Simple", this means that the Trinity is not "three deities", but Three Persons (or subsistences) within and through whom consists the one essence of Divine being. The Athanasian Creed has the following thoughts within its rich contents:
More next time....