A gloss of simplicity

I’ve been in conversation with Jay Dyer and watching his debate with Erick Ybarra over the past few weeks on the Roman view of divine simplicity.  Jay finally put his conclusions in one spot.  This is why even when I backed off from EO for a season, I never could fully jump to Thomism.

True, Protestantism officially enshrines this view, but that’s only confessional Protestantism.  This is one of those weird areas where Charismatics probably have the upper hand on divine simplicity.  Think about it this way:

  1. Do you worship the divine glory or a created replica of the divine glory?
  2. Could those in Scripture who were said to see the glory actually see the glory, or did they see a hologram?
  3. Did you pray to the relations of oppositions yesterday?

Jay helpfully pointed out that when St Athanasius says the Son is the willing of the Father, and Gregory Palamas says manifestation of the divine love,


Concerning the eternal manifestation as distinct from the hypostatic origin, Meyendorff writes:

“Gregory Palamas proposed a similar interpretation of this relationship in a number of his works; in his Confession of 1351, for instance, he asserts that the Holy Spirit “has the Father as foundation, source, and cause,” but “reposes in the Son” and “is sent – that is, manifested – through the Son.” (ibid. 194) In terms of the transcendent divine energy, although not in terms of substance or hypostatic being, “the Spirit pours itself out from the Father through the Son, and, if you like, from the Son over all those worthy of it,” a communication which may even be broadly called “procession” (ekporeusis) (Apodeictic Treatise 1.  Meyendorff, A Study of Gregory

Palamas  231-2).

Roman Catholic identifications.

The death knell to absolute divine simplicity is its identifying person, nature, and attribute.

  1. Denzinger says Augustine’s psychological predications are substantial. And then he says “he will is the Father, the will is the Son, the will is the Holy Spirit; just as God is the Father, God is the Son, God is the Holy Spirit and many other similar things,” (Denzinger sect. 296)
    1. Thus, Person = Attribute (in this case, the will), which in all Western theology = essence.
    2. Person = essence
  2. Relation of opposition.  Sometimes Rome will say relations of origination, which is Cappadocian.  But this only doubles their problem, for it takes one relation of origination (the monarchy of the Father) and applies it to the Son (in the Filioque).  But on to relations of opposition: as Jay notes, any opposition can only result in a dyad, not a triad.
  3. St John of Damascus and the energies of Christ:  Gods goodness is an energy or operation, not an attribute of an unknowable essence.  Energy (energein) is something that does.

Simplicity applied to Christology

This is what the dialectical view leads to:

(1) All acts of God are exactly identical to the divine essence.
(2) The divine person of Christ either acts according to his divine energy or his human energy.
(2.1) His creating the world or walking on water is a result of the divine energy.
(3) Therefore, Christ’s creating the world = his walking on water.


Energies can be participated in, something impossible if they are identical to the divine essence: 1 Cor. 12:6 reads: “And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.” In the Greek it is: ”καὶ διαιρέσεις ἐνεργημάτων εἰσίν ὁ δὲ αὐτός ἐστιν θεός ὁ ἐνεργῶν τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν.”



3 thoughts on “A gloss of simplicity

  1. cal

    The problem with Dyer is that he ascribes to world-viewism, which not only fails to understand how ideas “work” but muddies the water of actual debate. Protestants are not stuck with the filioque or any specific manifestation of ABS, only those Confessionalists, as you point out, who have wed themselves to the 16th or 17th century. Anyone can adopt the Palamite criticisms and integrate them, there is no consistent, whole, package that requires you to swim the Bosperous.

    On another note: I think the divine energies and covenantal theology overlap in some key places, but I’m not sure how to integrate them together. Perhaps it’s helpful to see the covenant as the frame, or the whole, of the energies (the covenant is ‘the’ energies, which are composed of unified, but distinct, energies). God’s works only appear, and/or are intelligible, in light of God’s established arrangement with man. Or the covenant is understood as a seamless composite of the Persons’ presence (the Word in the Spirit revealing the Father) with the work being brought to bear?

    Any thoughts?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I use w-view language simply as a short-hand. I know the problems with it, but I don’t feel like I have time to reinvent the wheel. I like the Hebrew category of “wisdom” instead.

      You are correcton Covenant theology. It is certainly a move in the right direction.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I believe if Western Christians were not more familiar with “Contra Errores Graecorum” of Aquinas, “De Trinitate” of Augustine of Hippo, “On the Procession of the Holy Spirit” by Anselm of Canterbury, “The Sentences, Book I, The Trinity”, of Peter Lombard, “Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard” by Giles of Viterbo, and the “Libri Carolini” of Charlemagne (and the court theologians of the Carolingian renaissance), than they are of the “Synodicon On the Holy Spirit” and the “Mystagogia of the Holy Spirit” of Saint Photius of Consatntinople, and the “Tomus of the Council of Blachernae” and the writings, confession of Saint Mark of Ephesus, then they would all know understand and believe that the Filioque is a heresy that no Roman Catholic and Protestant Christian would believe, since they believe in the Trinity, and the Filioque is a non-Trinitarian belief. If you understand it truncates the Trinity into a Binity, you would not hold to the double procession gnostic dualism of Filioque. Of Filioquism. Which is against Scripture John 15:26 Acts 2:33.

    Liked by 1 person

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