Volume 90, Issue 4, Fall 2016
Is Divine Simplicity a Mistake?
This paper presents a broad-ranging critique of the traditional strong doctrine of divine simplicity which is attributed to Augustine and Aquinas. After showing two important arguments in favor of the doctrine to be unsuccessful, it argues that the doctrine itself, in this strong version, is problematic in three main ways. First, the doctrine involves extensive category mistakes. Second, it is difficult to reconcile with truths about God that are (nearly) universally acknowledged, such as that God knows contingent truths and performs actions which he is not necessitated by his nature to perform. Finally, it is difficult to reconcile with personal attributes of God which are important both for the Bible and for religious practice, such as the claims that God is responsive to human beings and that he loves them. This article contends that while there is a sense in which it is true that God is simple, the traditional strong doctrine of divine simplicity, attributed to Augustine and Aquinas, is a mistake from which theology needs to be liberated.