Book Review: God without Parts: Divine Simplicity and the Metaphysics of God’s Absoluteness by James Dolezal.

God without Parts review by James Anderson

I remember the incredulity with which, as a young Christian, I first greeted the claim that God is a “simple” being. God is simple?! What in the world could be more complicated than God? How could the Lord whose ways are far beyond our ways be considered simple? The incredulity was dispelled once I learned that “simple” is a technical philosophical term meaning “not composed of parts.” The doctrine of divine simplicity is thus the teaching that God, unlike his creation, is not composed of parts. God isn’t “made up” of entities that are more fundamental or ultimate than he is. Rather, God is an absolutely unified, indivisible, spiritual being. In short, there’s nothing in God that isn’t identical to God.

Thus explained, the idea of God’s simplicity seems more reasonable and appealing. Yet many Christian philosophers today treat the doctrine of divine simplicity (DDS) with almost the same degree of incredulity as I once did. They do so not because they don’t understand what it means, but because they’re confident that they dounderstand what it means. For example, they will argue that if DDS is true then God’s attributes—his goodness, power, knowledge, and so on—cannot be external to him or internal parts of him. In other words, God’s attributes must be identical to God: God just is his own goodness, power, knowledge, etc. But it isn’t immediately clear how to make sense of such a claim. Moreover, if God’s attributes are taken to be properties and if God is identical to his attributes, it follows that all God’s attributes must be one and the same property—and that property must be God. So according to DDS, God is a property. But how could a property be a person? How could a property create the world or speak to Abraham or become incarnate and make atonement for our sins?

Such deductions explain why DDS, which was practically a nonnegotiable of medieval theology, has fallen on hard times. Into this contemporary theological context steps James E. Dolezal with a penetrating book-length defense of the doctrine of divine simplicity.

The central thesis of God without Parts can be stated fairly succinctly. If God is truly an absolute being (i.e., if God is utterly self-existent, independent of and unqualified by any other reality), then DDS must be true. Furthermore, DDS can be defended against many of the common objections leveled against it, most of which fail to understand its claims and theological motivations. Even if some serious perplexities remain, that’s an acceptable philosophical price for maintaining God’s absolute existence. To put the point somewhat paradoxically: if DDS is false, God is less than God. …

read Anderson’s  full post HERE