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God is simple, though not simplistic. To say that God is simple does not mean that God is easily understood, plain, or uncomplicated. It simply means that God is not composed of parts or components, as creatures are, because God is not made. Simplicity is one of God’s incommunicable attributes. Below I will briefly trace simplicity back to the early church and then note the significance of God’s simplicity for Christians.

Testimony Of The Early Church

The early church insisted that we understand God to be simple. In his Letters and Select Works, St Basil writes that “God is universally confessed to be simple and not composite.” Similarly, St Gregory of Nyssa, in his seventh sermon on the Beatitudes, echoes this sentiment, arguing that “the divine is believed not to be composite but simple and without counterfeit.” Augustine, Dionysius the Areopagite, John of Damascus, Anselm of Canterbury, John Calvin, and many others also affirmed God’s simplicity.

Simplicity sets God apart from creatures. Thus elsewhere, St Gregory teaches that simplicity is true only of God and not us because “human nature is not simple.” Creatures are compound compositions. You and I have arms, legs, noses, and fingernails. And the things we make are like us in this way. We build houses with bricks, mortar, wood, and iron, and our cars have tires, seats, and engines. Even pagans produce their idols from parts, which is why the prophets mock them (Isaiah 40:17-20; 46:1-2).

Simplicity forbids us from making God after our image.

When the Church affirms God’s simplicity, she means that he is not like us or our toys. Divine simplicity forbids us from reading creaturely features into the very nature of God and prohibits us from making God after our image.

Three Implications Of Simplicity

One consequence of divine simplicity is that because God is not composed of parts, he does not morally change for the better or the worse. God is his nature and in him “there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). And since God does not change morally, he is reliable. All his promises are trustworthy.

Also, God is immortal and does not die since only composite creatures deteriorate. Creatures change because they are composed of parts. We grow taller and older, and our body cells multiply or die. We change car tires and seats and replace leaking roofs. Simply said, whatever is made of parts can be dismantled, die, and decompose. But God is not so. He lives forever. Thus, you can trust him with your future because only he can guarantee it.

Divine simplicity stops us from pitting God’s attributes against one another.

Finally, divine simplicity stops us from pitting God’s attributes against one another. God is his attributes. He does not ‘prefer’ one attribute over the other, for to do so would mean that God’s attributes are movable puzzle pieces. For instance, God’s love is not contrary to his justice, but his love is just, and his justice is loving. It is thus wrong to think that the God of the Old Testament was ‘angry’ while the one in the New Testament is ‘loving.’ God is always the same since he is simple and does not change.

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