One of the most difficult and perplexing tenets of classical theism is the doctrine of divine simplicity. Broadly put, this is generally understood to be the thesis that God is altogether without any proper parts, composition, or metaphysical complexity whatsoever. For a good deal more than a millennium, veritable armies of philosophical theologians – Jewish, Christian and Islamic – proclaimed the truth and importance of divine simplicity. Yet in our own time, the doctrine has enjoyed no such support. Among many (...) otherwise orthodox theists, those who do not just disregard it completely explicitly deny it. However, in a couple of recent articles, William E. Mann has attempted to expound the idea of divine simplicity anew and to defend it against a number of criticisms. He even has gone so far as to hint at reaffirming its importance, suggesting that the doctrine may have a significant amount of explanatory power and other theoretical virtue as part of an overall account of the nature of God, by either entailing or in other ways providing for much else that traditional theists have wanted to say about God. In this paper, I want to take a close look at Mann's formulation of the doctrine and at a general supporting theory he adumbrates in his attempt to render more plausible, or at least more defensible, various of its elements and implications. As Mann has made what is arguably the best attempt to defend the doctrine in recent years, I think that such an examination is important and will repay our efforts. (shrink)
In recent years, there has been a striking resurgence of interest in the traditional Judeo-Christian concept of God. This anthology contains a representative sample of some of the best contemporary philosophical work on this central religious idea, covering such topics as the existence of God, the physical nature of God, and the "divine attributes"--goodness, omnipotence, omniscience, eternity, immutability, and simplicity.
In an article which appeared a few years ago, entitled ‘God's Death’ , A.D. Smith launched one of the most interesting of recent attacks on the traditional doctrine of the Incarnation. Focusing on the death of Christ, he claimed to demonstrate the logical impossibility of Jesus having been both human and divine. Each of the premises of his argument was said to be a commitment of orthodox theology. He thus presented his reasoning as displaying an internal incoherence in that way (...) of thinking about divinity, humanity, and the person of Christ. The argument was basically quite simple: According to Christian theology and in concurrence with general thought on the matter, we must hold that human death involves the possibility of annihilation. As a man, Jesus of Nazareth faced and underwent a human death. He thus faced the possibility of annihilation. But orthodox theologians hold God to be of such an ontological status that no divine being could even possibly be annihilated. So no divine person could die a human death. From this follows the impossibility of the traditional claim that the Second Person of the divine Trinity became a man, lived a human life, and died a human death for us and our salvation. The qualitative difference between God and man is such as to render incarnational christology an incoherent theological stance. (shrink)