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The Power of God’s Divine Simplicity: How It Strengthens Our Faith and Devotion

Divine Simplicity

Did you know that God is simple? You might be surprised that it’s an orthodox Christian understanding of God, called, “divine simplicity.” While God is simple, the theology of Divine simplicity is a rather complex subject, but I’ll try to boil it down for you into a bite-sized piece. If you want a more detailed defense of divine simplicity, see the explanations given by Gavin Orlund and William Lane Craig.

What is Divine Simplicity?

This theological concept of God argues for the simplicity and unity of God’s being. That is, God is not made up of different parts but rather, he is free from complexity and is indivisible.

Think of an aircraft for example, with all its parts, the fuselage, wings, engines, landing gear, flight instruments, and so on. Take one of those away, and the aircraft won’t work properly, if at all. Relating this to God, he is quite different from an aircraft or any other object, but more than that, he is not made up of parts, he is just entirely God, together and complete. God is perfectly whole, so there isn’t anything else that can be added to him to make him who he is. Even you and I are made up of various parts, but this is not true of God. No part of God supplies the functionality for his love, power, and so on. He is complete and whole. God does however have abilities and qualities, but there is no separation between them, instead, they are together united as one in God’s being.

Divine simplicity is not mentioned in Scripture, but like the term, “trinity,” the concept is nonetheless there. Relevant passages that highlight the simplicity of God include those that talk about God’s unity and transcendence. One of the most famous verses is Deuteronomy 6:4, known as the Shema in Hebrew, meaning, “hear” or “listen.” It reads, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Note here the unity and indivisibility of God. Psalm 86:10 also highlights the uniqueness and singularity of God when the Psalmist says, “For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.” Contrary to what some process theologians argue, Scripture makes it quite clear that God is immutable and constant, he never changes or develops. We see this in Malachi 3:6, when the prophet proclaims, “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.”

The New Testament does not speak directly to the topic of divine simplicity; however, it highlights concepts that are especially important to it. Matthew 19:17, says that “there is only one who is good” showing the perfect and singular nature of God. Yet, Jesus shares this perfection and unity and oneness with his Father, for he says, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). Divine simplicity is also reflected in Acts 17:24–25 where it is said that God has no need of anything and that it is he who gives everything life. While God is not made up of parts, he certainly has attributes, 1 Timothy 1:17 names some of them, “To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever.” James 1:17 expresses the concept of divine simplicity beautifully when James writes, “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.”

The Power of God’s Divine Simplicity: How It Strengthens Our Faith and Devotion

So why is all this important? Firstly, divine simplicity preserves a theology of God’s transcendence. Although we may be in a relationship with him, he is unique and incomparable, existing beyond our imagination or comprehension. Secondly, it emphasizes God’s unity and his oneness. As I have said, God’s being is not a collection of parts, but a coherent singular whole. Thirdly, it helps us avoid giving God contradictory or conflicting attributes and promotes the coherence and consistency of God. Lastly, it ensures the self-sufficiency of God, that he is utterly independent of his creation, and does not rely on anything for his existence because he is the ultimate source of all things and sustains all of creation. In short, while the theology of divine simplicity can be a complex concept, it helps us to understand God’s nature as unified, self-sufficient, and transcendent. In this way he is unique, yet his divine being and actions and attributes are consistent and coherent.

You might be tempted to think that divine simplicity is purely an abstract theological concept, and it certainly is, but it also has implied practical implications, especially for worship and prayer. It provides a strong framework for our Christian devotion to God and our relationship with him. Here are some practical implications:

1. Divine simplicity gives us comfort and assurance in prayer because knowing that God is all-sufficient, he can provide for us and meet our needs (Philippians 4:19).

2. Divine simplicity makes us reverent and worshipful towards God because we are confronted with his greatness and transcendence. It encourages us to approach him humbly (1 Chronicles 16:25; Psalm 95:6; 96:8–9).

3. Divine simplicity gives us a profound sense of confidence in God because his nature is unchanging. We can therefore trust in his faithfulness and his promises (Numbers 23:19; Hebrews 13:8).

The theological concept of divine simplicity offers us confidence in God’s promises and therefore, an assurance that he provides comfort in our prayers, enriching our understanding of God and deepening our relationship and devotion to him.

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