Charles Hodge on Divine Simplicity

Takes the teeth out of the claim that Protestants are necessarily crippled by their view of Absolute Divine Simplicity:

…[S]tart with the revelation that God has made of himself in the constitution of our own nature and in his holy word.  This method leads to the conclusion that God can think and act, that in him essence and attributes are not identical (I: 564).

It’s also interesting to note Hodge’s comment about God constituting our nature in a certain way.  Shades of Thomas Reid.

To say, as the schoolmen, and so many even of Protestant theologians, ancient and modern, were accustomed to say, that the divine attributes differ only in name, or in our conceptions, or in their effects, is to destroy all true knowledge of God…If in God knowledge is identical with eternity, knowledge with power, power with ubiquity, and ubiquity with holiness, then we are using words without meaning (I: 371-372).

The attributes of God, therefore, are not merely different conceptions in our minds, but different modes in which God reveals himself to his creatures…just as our several faculties are different modes in which the inscrutable substance self reveals itself in our consciousness and acts (I: 374).

So what do we mean by simplicity?  Rome has a thorough, if ultimately chaotic, answer to this question.   Orthodoxy has an outstanding response to Rome, but nothing in terms of a constructive view of Simplicity.  Following Turretin, Hodge writes,

The attributes are to be distinguished not realiter, but virtualiter; that is, there is a real foundation in the divine nature for the several attributes attributed to him (I: 370).

What does virtualiter mean?

Richard Muller defines it as “literally, i.e., with virtue or power” (Muller 371).

It’s interesting that Muller mentioned “power.”  This corresponds with Radde-Galwitz’s interpretation of Gregory of Nyssa.  Alluding to Michel Barnes he notes that divine power is the causal capacity rooted in the divine nature; inseparable from the divine nature and gives rise to the divine energies (183; Barnes).  Further, each “Good” (or attribute, in our case) entails another.

Works Cited:

Hodge, Charles.  Systematic Theology, volume 1.

Muller, Richard.  Dictionary of Greek and Latin Theological Terms

Radde-Galwitz, Andrew.  Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and the Transformation of Divine Simplicity.

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2 comments on “Charles Hodge on Divine Simplicity

  1. […] blog, but I thought it worth reposting here.  I hold to the doctrine of simplicity virtualiter, ala Charles Hodge.   The below is more of an attack on the Thomist doctrine of simplicity.  My original […]

  2. […] energies was problematic:  while it is true we know God by his outworkings to us (emininter and virtualiter) in the ad extra, this is not exactly the same thing that the Eastern Orthodox were claiming.  […]

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