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Give God Some Credit

July 22, 2010

I was reading the Wikipedia article on “Divine Simplicity”, which refers to the doctrine that God is a singularly unified being- specifically, that God is infinitely simple at metaphysical level, and does not have parts. In other words (for example), God doesn’t have love (which implies that God’s love is separate from God Himself); rather, God is love.

I don’t have a problem with this doctrine (in fact, I happen to agree with it!); what I have a problem with is the close-minded and simplistic logic that people have used to criticize this belief. One such criticism is the argument of detachment: If God does not have parts, then he is lacking nothing; thus, any interaction that God has with the world would be violation of his character, because it would equate to him lacking something. One example given of this, is that if God is complete, then he could not sympathize with humanity, since a God lacking nothing has no impetus to care. Since God cannot sympathize, he cannot love, thus violating the Godly requirement of omni-benevolence.

This particular argument is wrong on so many levels, all of which are due to the faulty (by unfortunately predominant) tendency for people (and especially Christians) to compare God to the human Ego:

1. The first mistake is comparing God’s motivation to human motivation– or perhaps even the assumption that God needs motivation. If indeed God lacks nothing, he wouldn’t need an impetus to care about humanity, he would simply so do because it is in his nature.

2. Secondly, it fallaciously relies on a static understanding of the nature of reality. If I were to posit, for example, that Humanity is the physical manifestation of God, and that God is the spiritual manifestation of humanity, then God would not need to depend on humanity to care– rather, God is humanity in spiritual form. This hypothetical example is probably the most robust approach to understanding divine simplicity; it’s known more broadly as “Pantheism”.

3. Thirdly, it assumes that sympathizing is prerequisite to love. Especially at the cosmic level, this is far from the truth. In fact, if God love is to be perfect (and thus complete), it would require that his love not be sympathetic (which is personal), as a love based in sympathy is corrupted by favoritism and personal bias. Perfect love would require God loving all that is because it is in his nature.

These three fallacies stem from the human Ego being wrongly projected on God. People think of God like they do themselves, and measure themselves against God to understand him. This is something the Bible has warned against several times, but do they listen? No!

Rather than trying to understand God by bringing him down to our level, why don’t we give God a little more credit?

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