About this topic
Summary

Divine simplicity is a traditional attribute of God, and refers to God's lack of parts. Often it has been interpreted very strongly, to indicate a complete lack of properties or other ontological constituents on God's part. Partially for this reason, the doctrine of divine simplicity has come under much criticism for being incoherent, impossible, or in some way impious (perhaps by compromising God’s freedom). Nonetheless, the doctrine has enjoyed widespread support historically among all the Abrahamic religions, and has been closely connected to ideas about God's aseity, transcendence, necessity, immutability, and other attributes. 

Key works

Wolterstorff 1991 gives an accessible examination of metaphysical assumptions needed to make sense of the doctrine. Stump & Kretzmann 1985 defend it from the charge that it compromises God’s freedom. Leftow 1990 gives an argument for divine simplicity while defending it against Plantinga’s claim that it leaves God an abstract object. Other defenses of divine simplicity include Rogers 1996 (who focuses on the idea that God is pure act) and Pruss 2008 (who is one of several to develop a truthmaker account of divine predication and use it to solve various difficulties). Medieval work has deeply informed contemporary work on the subject; readers who want more detailed exploration of medieval thinkers on God’s simplicity can consult Hughes 1989, who analyzes and critiques Thomas Aquinas’ arguments for divine simplicity, and Adams 1987, who discusses William of Ockham’s understanding of the doctrine and arguments for it. Although most contemporary work on divine simplicity is conversant with medieval sources, relatively little work has been done on the doctrine’s late antique development; an exception is Cohoe 2017, who interprets and defends Plotinus’ important pro-simplicity argument. There has also been little work developing alternatives to divine simplicity that attempt to preserve God’s aseity, but Fowler 2015 argues that God could have parts and yet be more fundamental than those parts.

Introductions Brower 2009, Vallicella 2019, Weigel 2019
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166 found
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1 — 50 / 166
  1. added 2020-05-20
    The Simplest Reality... In Mulla Sadra's Theology and Leibniz Monadology.M. Bidi - unknown - Kheradnameh Sadra Quarterly 17.
    Pointing to the origination of the concept of "simplicity", conveying concepts such as "infinity" and "universality" in Islamic philosophy as well as Western philosophy in the 17 . Century , the author goes to elucidate the similarity between the meanings of "the simple existence", "the absolute existence" and "infinite existence" in the doctrines of Mulla Sadra, Spinoza, and Leibniz. He believes that from the rule of "the simplest reality..." of Mulla Sadra to the Spinoza's absolute existence, which are incorporated in (...)
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  2. added 2020-05-18
    Aquinas's Two Concepts of Analogy and a Complex Semantics for Naming the Simple God.Joshua Hochschild - 2019 - The Thomist 83 (2):155-184.
    This paper makes two main arguments. First, that to understand analogy in St. Thomas Aquinas, one must distinguish two logically distinct concepts he inherited from Aristotle: one a kind of likeness between things, the other a kind of relation between linguistic functions. Second, that analogy (in both of these senses) plays a relatively small role in Aquinas's treatment of divine naming, compared to the realist semantic framework in which questions about divine naming are formulated and resolved, and on which the (...)
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  3. added 2020-05-18
    Nicene Orthodoxy and Trinitarian Simplicity.Thomas Joseph White - 2016 - American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 90 (4):727-750.
    Classical Trinitarian dogma affirms that God is simple—a teaching also advanced by major proponents of classical monotheism. Nevertheless, as each one knows, this notion is controversial in modern analytic philosophy, where it is commonly contested. It is also largely ignored in contemporary continental dogmatic theology. Nevertheless, the teaching that God is simple is requisite for any authentic interpretation of the Trinitarian dogma of Nicaea. It is also eminently defensible from a rational, philosophical point of view. In what follows I will (...)
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  4. added 2020-02-21
    Divine Emanation as Cosmic Origin: Ibn Sīnā and His Critics.Syamsuddin Arif - 2012 - TSAQAFAH - Journal of Islamic Thought and Civilization 8 (2):331-346.
    The question of cosmic beginning has always attracted considerable attention from serious thinkers past and present. Among many contesting theories that have emerged, that of emanation was appropriated by Muslim philosophers like Ibn Sînâ in order to reconcile the Aristotelian doctrine of the eternity of matter with the teaching of al-Qur’ân on the One Creator-God. According to this theory, the universe, which comprises a multitude of entities, is generated from a transcendent Being, the One, that is unitary, through the medium (...)
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  5. added 2019-11-16
    Simple Trinitarianism and Feature-Placing Sentences.Shieva Kleinschmidt - 2016 - Faith and Philosophy 33 (3):257-277.
    Some Trinitarians, such as Thomas Aquinas, wish to claim that God is mereologically simple; that is, God has no parts distinct from Himself. In this paper, I present Simple Trinitarianism, a view that takes God to be simple but, diverging from Aquinas, does not identify the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with anything in our ontology. Nonetheless, Simple Trinitarians would like Trinitarian sentences to be true; thus, they must give a non-standard semantics for those sentences. I will focus on one (...)
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  6. added 2019-11-16
    The Theoretical Foundations of Conceptual Sequence of God’s True Attributes as Seen by Avicenna and Sheikh Ahsaee.Seyyed Abdoirahim Husseini - 2015 - Avicennian Philosophy Journal 19 (53):49-70.
    Having provided a critique of Asha’rite and Mu’tazilite approaches to God’s attributes, philosophical and theological literature usually claim that Shiite philosophers and theologians regard attributes of perfection as equal to God’s necessary divine essence. A study of the works written by Shiite thinkers, however, indicates considerable difference in the way the unity among the attributes and the essence is regarded. One of such theories pertains to “the conceptual sequence of God’s true attributes,” which has been presented quite explicitly and without (...)
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  7. added 2019-10-25
    Aquinas, Stump, and the Nature of a Simple God.Gaven Kerr - 2016 - American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 90 (3):441-454.
    In order for God to be simple, He must be esse itself, but in some texts Aquinas seems to distinguish between esse and id quod est, so it seems that God cannot be an id quod est. To resolve this tension, Eleonore Stump proposes quantum theology, whereby we are able to attribute contradictory predicates to a thing of which we have no quidditative knowledge; so God then can be seen as esse itself and as an ens. In this paper I (...)
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  8. added 2019-10-25
    The Nature of a Simple God.Eleonore Stump - 2013 - Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 87:33-42.
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  9. added 2019-10-25
    An Absolutely Simple God? Frameworks for Reading Pseudo-Dionysius Areopagite.John Jones - 2005 - The Thomist 69:371-406.
  10. added 2019-10-25
    On a Complex Theory of a Simple God: An Investigation in Aquinas' Philosophical Theology.Christopher Hughes. [REVIEW]James Ross - 1993 - Speculum 68 (4):1139-1140.
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  11. added 2019-10-25
    On a Complex Theory of a Simple God: An Investigation in Aquinas' Philosophical Theology.Christopher Hughes - 1992 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 31 (1):63-64.
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  12. added 2019-10-25
    On a Complex Theory of a Simple God: An Investigation in Aquinas' Philosophical Theology. [REVIEW]Patricia Matthews & Scott MacDonald - 1992 - Philosophical Review 101 (4):956.
  13. added 2019-08-20
    Engaging the Doctrine of Creation: Cosmos, Creatures, and the Wise and Good Creator. [REVIEW]Matthew Baddorf - 2019 - Journal of Biblical and Theological Studies 4:170-171.
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  14. added 2019-08-20
    Arnauld's God Reconsidered.Eric Stencil - 2019 - History of Philosophy Quarterly 36 (1):19-38.
    In this paper, I defend a novel interpretation of Antoine Arnauld’s conception of God, namely a ‘partially hidden’ conception of God. I focus on divine simplicity and whether God acts for reasons. I argue that Arnauld holds the view that: God, God’s action and God’s attributes are (i) identical, and (ii) conceptually distinct, but that (iii) there are no conceptual priorities among them. Next, I argue that Arnauld’s view about whether God has any type of reasons is agnosticism, but that (...)
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  15. added 2019-08-20
    The Secret Dynamism of Divine Simplicity.Mariel Mazzocco - 2018 - Modern Theology 34 (3):434-443.
    While it was a centerpiece of medieval theology, the thesis of God's simplicity is often perceived by contemporary thinkers as enigmatic or even incoherent. After having presented the recent debate on divine simplicity from a historical perspective, this paper questions the attribute of simplicity from the perspective of the fourteenth‐century German preacher Meister Eckhart and shows that the so‐called speculative mystical thought of the Middle Ages is able to suggest new perspectives regarding God's simplicity, and to enrich discussions on this (...)
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  16. added 2019-08-20
    Utrum Verum Et Simplex Convertantur. The Simplicity of God in Aquinas and Swinburne.Christian Tapp - 2018 - European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 10 (2):23-50.
    This paper explores Thomas Aquinas’ and Richard Swinburne’s doctrines of simplicity in the context of their philosophical theologies. Both say that God is simple. However, Swinburne takes simplicity as a property of the theistic hypothesis, while for Aquinas simplicity is a property of God himself. For Swinburne, simpler theories are ceteris paribus more likely to be true; for Aquinas, simplicity and truth are properties of God which, in a certain way, coincide – because God is metaphysically simple. Notwithstanding their different (...)
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  17. added 2019-08-20
    Divine Simplicity and the Grammar of God-Talk: Comments on Hughes, Tapp, and Schärtl.Otto Muck Sj - 2018 - European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 10 (2):89.
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  18. added 2019-08-20
    Brower and Saenz on Divine Truthmaker Simplicity.James R. Beebe - 2018 - Faith and Philosophy 35 (4):473-484.
    Jeffrey Brower has recently articulated a way to make sense of the doctrine of divine simplicity using resources from contemporary truthmaker theory. Noël Saenz has advanced two objections to Brower’s account, arguing that it violates constraints on adequate metaphysical explanations at various points. I argue that Saenz’s objections fail to show that Brower’s account is explanatorily inadequate.
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  19. added 2019-08-20
    An Improbable God Between Simplicity and Complexity: Thinking About Dawkins's Challenge.Philippe Gagnon - 2013 - International Philosophical Quarterly 53 (4):409-433.
    Richard Dawkins has popularized an argument that he thinks sound for showing that there is almost certainly no God. It rests on the assumptions (1) that complex and statistically improbable things are more difficult to explain than those that are not and (2) that an explanatory mechanism must show how this complexity can be built up from simpler means. But what justifies claims about the designer’s own complexity? One comes to a different understanding of order and of simplicity when one (...)
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  20. added 2019-08-20
    God Without Parts: Divine Simplicity and the Metaphysics of God’s Absoluteness. [REVIEW]Nathan D. Shannon - 2013 - Philosophia Christi 15 (1):196-202.
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  21. added 2019-08-20
    Basil and Gregory Radde-Gallwitz Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and the Transformation of Divine Simplicity. Pp. Xxii + 261. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. Cased, £55. ISBN: 978-0-19-957411-7. [REVIEW]Philip Rousseau - 2011 - The Classical Review 61 (1):84-85.
  22. added 2019-08-20
    God's Simplicity.Eleonore Stump - 2011 - In Brian Davies & Eleonore Stump (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Aquinas. Oxford University Press.
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  23. added 2019-08-20
    Al-Ġazālī's Philosophers on the Divine Unity: Aladdin M. Yaqub.Aladdin M. Yaqub - 2010 - Arabic Sciences and Philosophy 20 (2):281-306.
    The medieval Islamic philosophers held a certain conception of the divine unity that assumes the necessary existent to be both one and simple. The oneness of the necessary existent meant that it is the only necessary existent and its simplicity meant that it admits no composition whatsoever – it is pure essence and its essence is necessary existence. In The Incoherence of the Philosophers al-Ġazālī presents, with elaboration, an exposition of the philosophers' conception of the divine unity, several arguments for (...)
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  24. added 2019-08-20
    Richard Swinburne's Argument to the Simplicity of God Via the Infinite.Jeremy Gwiazda - 2009 - Religious Studies 45 (4):487-493.
    In ’The Coherence of Theism’ Richard Swinburne writes that a person cannot be omniscient and perfectly free. In ’The Existence of God’ Swinburne writes that God is a person who is omniscient and perfectly free. There is a straightforward reason why the two passages are not in tension, but recognition of this reason raises a problem for Swinburne’s argument in ’The Existence of God’ (the conclusion of which is that God likely exists). In this paper I present the problem for (...)
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  25. added 2019-08-20
    " From Simplicity to Divine Essence". Giordano Bruno on the Attributes of God.Elisabetta Scapparone - 2008 - Rinascimento 48:351-373.
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  26. added 2019-08-20
    Simplicity of Divine Essence Theory, Contact of Two Philosophical Paradigms.Muhammad Sa”Idimehr - 2007 - Journal of Philosophical Theological Research 8 (31-32):59-84.
    From long time ago, simplicity of Divine Essence was hold by many philosophers and theologian of great religions such as Christianity and Islam. On one hand, in Islamic tradition, philosophers like Ibn Sina and Mullah Sadra, and on the other hand, in Christian tradition, theologians like Augustine and Anselm and especially Aquinas attempted to strengthen the substructure of this doctrine and to explain various aspects of it. One important aspect of this doctrine, with which the present essay deals, is the (...)
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  27. added 2019-08-20
    Discussion: Simplicity, Divine Causality, and Human Freedom: A Critique of Eleonore Stump's Aquinas.J. L. A. West - 2006 - Nova et Vetera 4:429-446.
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  28. added 2019-08-20
    God, Simplicity, and the Consolatio Philosophiae.Siobhan Nash-Marshall - 2004 - American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 78 (2):225-246.
    One of the primary concerns of the Consolatio is to draw out many of the paradoxical conclusions concerning the relation between creation and God that stem from the premises of classical creationist metaphysics, and attempt to solve them. Once one accepts that God does exist, is omnipotent, omniscient, and simple, it becomes viciously difficult to explain: (1) how anything contrary to God’s will—evil—can exist; (2) how any cause can act independently of God’s will—human freedom; and (3) how “independent causes” can (...)
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  29. added 2019-08-20
    The Untamed God: A Philosophical Exploration of Divine Perfection, Simplicity, and Immutability. [REVIEW]Brian Davis - 2004 - Philosophia Christi 6 (2):355-357.
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  30. added 2019-08-20
    Aquinas on Being, Goodness, and Divine Simplicity.Martin Pickavé - 2003 - In Die Logik des Transzendentalen: Festschrift Für Jan A. Aertsen Zum 65. Geburtstag. Walter de Gruyter.
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  31. added 2019-08-20
    ‘Something Much Too Plain to Say’: Towards a Defence of the Doctrine of Divine Simplicity.Stephen R. Holmes - 2001 - Neue Zeitschrift für Systematicsche Theologie Und Religionsphilosophie 43 (1):137-154.
    In diesem Aufsatz wird die Auffassung entwickelt, daß die Lehre von der Einfachheit Gottes erstens theologisch sinnvoll vertreten werden kann und sich zweitens für die Gotteslehre als hilfreich erweist. Der erste Argumentationsgang weist nach, daß die Kritik an der Lehre von der Einfachheit Gottes, die in den letzten Jahren mehrheitlich vorgetragen worden ist, auf einem Mißverständnis beruht. Es wird unterstellt, daß diese Lehre eine Ontologie voraussetzt, die faktisch in den traditionellen Ausformungen der Lehre von der Einfachheit Gottes gänzlich fehlt. Vor (...)
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  32. added 2019-08-20
    A Most Unlikely God: A Philosophical Enquiry Into the Nature of God. [REVIEW]William F. Vallicella - 1999 - Dialogue 38 (3):614-616.
    This is the sequel to Miller’s From Existence to God: A Contemporary Philosophical Argument. In that book, he presents a version of the cosmological argument for the existence of God that does not rely on the principle of sufficient reason in any of its forms. A central upshot of that argument is that God, as uncaused cause of the universe, must be Subsistent Existence, i.e., a being not distinct from its existence. The notion that anything could be non-distinct from its (...)
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  33. added 2019-08-20
    Physicalism and Classical Theism.Peter Forrest - 1996 - Faith and Philosophy 13 (2):179-200.
    In this paper I compare two versions of non-eliminative physicalism (reductive physicalism and supervenience physicalism) with four of the five theses of classical theism: divine non-contingency, divine transcendence, divine simplicity, and the aseity thesis. I argue that:1. Both physicalism (either version) and classical theism require intuition-transcending identifications of some properties or possibilities.2. Among other identifications, both reductive physicalism and classical theism need to identify psychological with functional properties.3. Both reductive physicalism and classical theism have a problem with consciousness.4. Both reductive (...)
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  34. added 2019-08-20
    Simplicity and Immutability in God.William E. Mann - 1983 - International Philosophical Quarterly 23 (3):267-276.
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  35. added 2019-08-20
    Does God Have a Nature? [REVIEW]K. T. - 1981 - Review of Metaphysics 34 (4):798-799.
    Dismissing epistemologies which object to the notion of an essential property, Plantinga argues that God indeed has a nature, but one evidently distinct from himself and not subject to his control. Plantinga contends that God’s nature cannot be identical with God himself since this would imply that God is a property and that any one of his properties is the same as all the rest. In rejecting the divine simplicity doctrine taught by certain traditional theists, e.g., Augustine and Aquinas, Plantinga (...)
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  36. added 2019-08-20
    Wainwright, Augustine and God’s Simplicity: A Final Word.Richard R. La Croix - 1979 - New Scholasticism 53 (1):124-127.
  37. added 2019-08-20
    The Thomistic Critique of Avicennian Emanationism From the Viewpoint of the Divine Simplicity, with Special Reference to the 'Summa Contra Gentiles'.Edward Michael Macierowski - 1979 - Dissertation, University of Toronto (Canada)
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  38. added 2019-08-20
    Augustine on God’s Simplicity: A Reply to Richard La Croix.William J. Wainwright - 1979 - New Scholasticism 53 (1):118-123.
  39. added 2019-08-20
    Augustine on the Simplicity of God.Richard R. La Croix - 1977 - New Scholasticism 51 (4):453-469.
  40. added 2019-08-20
    Comment on Yehuda Gellman's “the Intelligibility of God's Simplicity in Rational Theology”.Alex Blum - 1974 - Philosophia 4 (4):560-560.
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  41. added 2019-08-09
    The Simplicity of Divine Ideas: Theistic Conceptual Realism and The Doctrine of Divine Simplicity.Michelle Lynn Panchuk - forthcoming - Religious Studies.
    There has been little discussion of the compatibility of Theistic Conceptual Realism (TCR) with the doctrine of divine simplicity (DDS). On one hand, if a plurality of universals is necessary to explain the character of particular things, there is reason to think this commits the proponent of TCR to the existence of a plurality of divine concepts. So the proponent of the DDS has a prima facie reason to reject TCR (and vice versa). On the other hand, many mediaeval philosophers (...)
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  42. added 2019-08-09
    Divine Simplicity.William F. Vallicella - 2019 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  43. added 2019-08-09
    Plotinus on Divine Simplicity.Paul L. Gavrilyuk - 2019 - Modern Theology 35 (3):442-451.
    Gavrilyuk attends to divine simplicity according to the third‐century AD pagan philosopher Plotinus. He shows that Plotinus draws his doctrine of divine simplicity from the earlier Greco‐Roman philosophical tradition, in which the nature of the “first principle” was highly contested. Aristotle offers a history of the early debate, with Anaxagoras being the first to glimpse the first principle’s simplicity. The Platonist philosophers conceived of the first principle as incorporeal, and on these grounds linked the first principle to simplicity. For his (...)
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  44. added 2019-08-09
    Divine Simplicity.Peter Weigel - 2019 - Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  45. added 2019-08-09
    A Parsimonious Model of Divine Simplicity.Oliver D. Crisp - 2019 - Modern Theology 35 (3):558-573.
    Many recent treatments of divine simplicity have been highly critical of traditional accounts of the doctrine. Critics have challenged whether the doctrine is coherent and whether it can be squared with a robust theology of the triune God. Yet the theological tradition is largely persuaded that the doctrine of divine simplicity is not only coherent and true, but also that the doctrine of divine simplicity is needed for an account of the Trinity that does not fall into the trap of (...)
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  46. added 2019-08-09
    Receiving No Perfection From Another: Francis Turretin on Divine Simplicity.Steven J. Duby - 2019 - Modern Theology 35 (3):522-530.
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  47. added 2019-08-09
    Introduction: Why Think About Divine Simplicity?Matthew Levering & George Kalantzis - 2019 - Modern Theology 35 (3):411-417.
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  48. added 2019-08-09
    St. Gregory Palamas on the Divine Simplicity.Marcus Plested - 2019 - Modern Theology 35 (3):508-521.
    Plested focuses on the doctrine of divine simplicity according to Gregory Palamas (1296‐1357/9). He is well aware of the long tradition in the West of considering Palamas's distinction between the divine essence and the energies to do harm to the reality of divine simplicity—even if many recent books on divine simplicity ignore Palamas. Plested thinks that this is in part due to the selectivity of Western readings of Palamas's corpus. Although for Palamas the divine essence is truly (not merely conceptually) (...)
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  49. added 2019-08-09
    The Consubstantial Otherness of God: Divine Simplicity and the Trinity in Hans Urs von Balthasar.Jennifer Newsome Martin - 2019 - Modern Theology 35 (3):542-557.
    Martin explores divine simplicity according to the twentieth‐century Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar. She grants that Balthasar does not provide a traditional presentation of the attribute of divine simplicity. In his doctrine of the Trinity, Balthasar emphasizes such themes as distance, “hiatus,” and infinite difference, none of which seems to promise a robust doctrine of divine simplicity. Indeed, some have suggested that Balthasar's Trinitarian theology does not allow for traditional claims about divine simplicity. Martin argues, however, that one finds (...)
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  50. added 2019-08-09
    Contemplating the Monad Who Saves Us: Maximus the Confessor and John of Damascus on Divine Simplicity.Brian E. Daley - 2019 - Modern Theology 35 (3):467-480.
    Daley explores divine simplicity according to Maximus the Confessor and John of Damascus, grounding his account in their classical philosophical antecedents. He notes that often we think of the sixth and seventh centuries as devoted to questions about Jesus Christ, not about God per se. Admittedly, the aftermath of the Council of Chalcedon produced ongoing controversy in the East regarding the unity of the two natures of Christ, for example, whether Christ had one operation or two. Maximus, a follower of (...)
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