Divine Simplicity and Scripturalism Part 2: Definitions and Expositionn
By Drake Shelton
1 Samuel 2:3Boast no more so very proudly, Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth; For the LORD is a God of knowledge, And with Him actions are weighed.
Psalm 139:17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
"Neo-Platonic mysticism infiltrated the church because all the churchmen were certain that Paul's Athenian convert, Dionysius the Areopagite, was the author of the Divine Names. His mysticism or negative theology still afflicts, in a variety of modified forms, a number of professing Christians even though they have never heard of the pagan Proclus whom Dionysius plagarized."
What is Saving Faith? by Gordon Clark (The Trinity Foundation: www.trinityfoundation.org, 1972, 1989), pg 30
Quotations from Muller based on Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics by Richard A. Muller, Vol. 3(Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2003)
A few quotations to begin:
1. Three Types of Religious Philosophy (Jefferson Maryland, The Trinity Foundation, 1989) by Gordon Clark pg. 123 –Dogmatism-Realism
“To be sure, Christian dogmatism does not accept the unaltered World of Platonic Ideas. The Philonic Interpretation is better. [By the way Philo's construction posited the Ideas in the mind of God. DS] Still better is the replacement of Ideas (minus predicates) by propositions or truths…Christian dogmatism therefore must be realistic. The real object of knowledge is itself present to the mind…There are of course other thoughts, objects, or realities. Every Biblical Proposition is one. These never change nor go out of existence, FOR THEY ARE THE CONSTITUENTS OF GOD’S MIND…We know God directly for in him we live and move and have our being.”
2. The Works of Gordon Haddon Clark, Vol 3, ed. John Robbins, Thales to Dewey by Gordon Clark (The Trinity Foundation, 2000), pg 170-171 - The Patristic Period-Philo-Essence and Attribute
“Related to sublimity, though more a philosophic than a distinctly religious motif, is the simplicity of God’s essence. For Christians, however, the doctrine of the Trinity precludes a simplicity that would reduce God to an Eleatic or Neoplatonic One. And for Philo, who of course knew nothing of the Trinity, as well as for Christians, the Ideas ion God’s mind rule out an utter unity. When God is conceived of as a mind, he may be the one and only God beside whom there is no other; but his mind need not be an immense blank or homogenous confusion. “
3. The Works of Gordon Haddon Clark, Vol 1, ed. John Robbins, A Christian View of Men and Things, (Unicoi, TN: The Trinity Foundation, 2005), pg. 224-225 – VII Philosophy of Knowledge- A Theistic World
“Is all this any more than the assertion that there is an eternal, immutable Mind, a Supreme Reason, a personal, living, God? The truth or propositions that may be known are the thoughts of God, the eternal thought of God. And insofar as man knows anything he is in contact with God’s mind. Since, further, God’s mind is God we may legitimately borrow the figurative language, of not the precise meaning, of the mystics and say, we have a vision of God…The world of physics drops into the secondary position of stage scenery, and instead of picturing little hard pellets, the Christian view emphasizes a world of spirits or persons, or minds. The Apostle Paul said that in God we all live and move and have our being…God is the ‘place’ of Spirits…The Divine Mind …encloses or surrounds all others penetrates them completely…There is some affinity between this view of the world and contemporary Personalism in that the basic categories are mental and that personality and history are emphasized above the corporeal and mechanical but the differences transcend the superficial similarity. The Christian view differs from the various forms of Personalism in refusing to equate the physical world with the eternal consciousness of God. But more especially it differs in its concept of the Person who ‘includes’ all others and of his relation to them…The other persons are brought into being by fiat; they are completely and in every respect dependent on God but God is completely and in every respect independent of them.”
4.The Trinity, by Gordon Clark (Jefferson, Maryland: The Trinity Foundation, 1985) pg. 50
"The definition of the Triune God is not the definition of the Son. The predicate eternal; does not belong to the Son because he is Son, but because he is God. However, the Son must have all the predicates of the Godhead, but he must also have some or at least one, the Father and the Spirit do not have.”
So what are these predicates? Are they secondary substances, or what?
“A man is what he thinks: and no two men are precisely the same combination. This is true of the Trinity also, for although each of the three Persons is omniscient, one thinks ‘I or my collection of thoughts is the Father…[etc.] The three Persons of the Godhead are immutable because their thoughts never change…they have never learned anything. ”
So then the predicates at the level of nature, i.e. the attributes are thoughts within the persons/minds of the Godhead. When I speak of the Mind of God, strictly speaking I am speaking of the Father, as in the Eastern Triadology. See my article, The Monarchy of the Father.
5. What is Saving Faith? by Gordon Clark (The Trinity Foundation: www.trinityfoundation.org, 1972, 1989) pg. 26-27
“Thomas…Summas Theologiae:…’For this reason the human mind knows in a composite way things that are themselves simple…In Heaven…that vision will not take the form of a proposition, but of a simple intuition’...[Dr. Clark says] If God is so simple as not to be a proposition, so simple as not to be a subject with predicates, how can he turn into a subject and predicate when he enters a human mind? Or otherwise, if our propositional knowledge of God be true, what becomes of this truth in Heaven? Does it become false?...Yet God is the truth, and his mind, his omniscience, is the totality of all truths.”
6. Three Types of Religious Philosophy by Gordon Clark (The Trinity Foundation: Jefferson, Maryland, 1989), pg. 63
"Thomas developed the theory of analogy far beyond the simple observation of Aristotle, and it took on major proportions when the subject was God. Thomas held that the simplicity of the divine being required God’s existence to be identical with his essence. This is not the case with a book or pencil. That a book is and what a book is are two different matters. But with God existence and essence are identical. For this reason an adjective predicated of God and the same adjective predicated of man are not univocal in meaning. One may say, God is good, and one may say, This man is good; but the predicate has two different meanings. There is no term, not a single one, that can be predicated univocally of God and of anything else.”
Now that we clearly see the difference in The Scripturalist and Western view of God what about the East? Meyendorf in The Triads says on page 20 that the distinction between essence and energy is “nothing but a way of saying that the transcendent God remains transcendent as also communicates himself to humanity.” So on this view there is no created light but there is still a middle man between man and God’s essence. This the Scripturalist view denies. Remember what Clark says in Three Types of Religious Philosophy that we know God directly. The Scripturalist view cuts out the middle man, so to speak. In my video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxbyfQqTvbk&feature=related I discuss many issues regarding Clark’s view of reality and the created world from the book The Philosophy of Gordon Clark, ed. Nash. The quotes come from Dr. Clark’s reply to Nash’s criticisms and on page 440 in response to Professor Holmes, see this video at the 9:00 mark: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZQK867piKY. The issue concerns the definition of “reality.” When Clark is using the word real, in the context of his theory of realism, he means an unchangeable true essence and object of knowledge. This concerns primarily the emphasis that Clark has on the fact that the Christian has the real truth in his his mind when God reveals something to him. The Christian does not merely participate in a representation of the reality but the uncreated reality itself. When he refers to the creation existing, or being real the confusion arises. What he means is that there has been a creation outside of God’s mind as was made clear by quote 3 above. Now, is the creation real? Yes, in the sense that it ‘exists’ in the colloquial meaning of that word, yes but not in the specific meaning that Clark has in his theory of realism. In nominalism, the created material nature is the reality and the idea in the mind of man is the representation of a reality. Clark’s view states that the mind has the reality and there are no representations of reality, because everything is real. The issue is, what is the nature of the thing? So the objects of the created world are extensions of certain propositions in God’s mind that he has not all revealed to us. These created objects are emblems or forms that the propositions of God's mind have taken in time. The problem is, as Clark has pointed out, the word, ‘exist’ is technically meaningless and flying spaghetti monsters can exist in the mind as many things can that most people say, do not exist. The main difference between the physical world and the spaghetti monster is that the created world can be measured. This is my definition of “physical”, that which can be measured and in this I thank Dr. Gus Gianello. It is an operational definition. Ultimately, we as persons created in the image of God subsist in the mind of God and our bodies, though intimately united to us do not subsist in his mind as we rational persons do, but God's mind does "surround" it as it does all things. This is not to downplay the importance of the body, or the holiness that God requires that we perform in it. So how can God know the creation if the creation is not an object of knowledge? Because the created objects are extensions that God has known eternally. This is not to assert that the creation is an extension of God’s nature or essence. The created objects extend from propositions that God does not affirm about himself, but from the contents of God’s mind. See part 1.
So now a proposed definition of simplicity:
Divine simplicity from a Scripturalist point of view asserts that God has no quantitative parts, as a body as the anthropomorphites teach, or essential parts- matter and form, as a man consists of soul and body. God is not three gods as in Tri-theism but God is the Father and with the Father are his Word and Spirit in whom the Father communicates the divine nature. There is only God, one generic divine nature and one divine operation. God is the only cause though there are different agents of action in the world. Causality requires infallible operation to produce a uniform effect. The Father is this cause. God is static and immutable. Ad extra the action of God is one in that all things are different aspects of one eternal act. This eternal act is governed by the plurality of Ideas or Thoughts in God as his nature Ad Intra. This eternal act is good because it is in accord with his divine nature/thought affirmations. God’s thinking is not part discursive and part intuitive as the Pelagians assert but is, eternal and totally intuitive. No distinction between essence and energy is needed for God relates to the mind of man directly. When we speak of what God is we are speaking of the divine mind of the Father that cannot be separated from the thoughts he thinks. God can be known positively and these positives can be used to establish other negatives to supplement areas that he has not spoken on in his Word. God is not infinite: http://eternalpropositions.wordpress.com/2011/04/15/divine-infinity-by-drake/. Moreover, those who posit that God is infinite have a difficult time to explain how a series that has no last term can be simple in the ad intra sense. The will of God is one. There are two aspects to the one will, though the perceptive is merely a part of the absolute decretive will. There is also a distinction between God’s permissive decrees and efficacious decrees. This does not assert that God does not will what he permits but does permit willingly. (Muller, pg. 442) “Picet notes, ‘let it be observed, that…strictly speaking, there is only one divine will, namely, the will of the decree.” (pg. 451) Muller states the same with Twisse,
“Twisse argues, when God commanded Abraham to Sacrifice Isaac or when God commanded Pharoah to ‘let Israel go,’ this is a revelation or pronouncement of the voluntas signi. Tey, in both cases, this revealed will was not the ultimate will of God: the voluntas beneplacitti or divine good pleasure was the Isaac not be sacrificed and that Pharoah’s heart be hardened…the distinction between these two wills arises only because the ‘objects’ of God’s signs or commandments… ’are only moral duties, and not the rewards of them, such as is salvation.”
Muller notes that Leigh, Maccovius, and Twisse affirm the same. (pg. 459) Picet notes in like, “the perceptive will is properly speaking, the execution of a part of the decretive will, namely, that part which has determined what shall be revealed to, or enjoined upon, men in due time. ” (pg 460)
Eastern Orthodox apologists often use divine simplicity as a leverage point against Calvinist soteriology. Yet simplicity as it is described by the Scholastics is not part and parcel with the Calvinist soteriology and the Calvinist soteriology is not seated in the doctrine of simplicity. Muller states,
“Schneckenburger argues that the Reformed doctrine of predestination cannot be conceived as a consequence of the idea of God and his attributes since the characteristics of Reformed systematic is not the objective determination of the doctrine of predestination but the personal assurance of election by the grace of God. This is a subjective consciousness which is witnessed by Calvin’s conception of predestination as a part of the ordo salutis rather than as part of the doctrine of God…[Muller approves of him on page 5] We shall attempt to show in this study that Schneckenburger’s conception of Protestant orthodoxy not only deserves attention, but that his view is far more satisfactory than the theory of his opponents. ” Christ and The Decree by Richard Muller, pg. 4-5 (Durham, North Carolina: The Labyrinth Press, 1986)