The Simplicity of God

Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works  The Bible teaches that our triune God is simple.  This means he does not have parts; he is perfectly one and completely free of composition.  Anselm (d. 1109) mused on this quite well in Proslogion.

“What are you, Lord, what are You; what shall my heart understand You to be?  You are, assuredly, life, You are wisdom, You are truth, You are goodness, You are blessedness, You are eternity, and You are every true good.  These are many things, and my limited understanding cannot see them all in one single glance so as to delight in all at once.  How then, Lord, are You all these things?  Are they parts of You, or rather, is each one of these wholly what You are?  For whatever is made up of parts is not absolutely one, but in a sense many and other than itself, and it can be broken up either actually or by the mind – all of which things are foreign to You….”

“Therefore there are no parts in You, Lord, neither are You many, but You are so much one and the same with Yourself that in nothing You are dissimilar with Yourself.  Indeed You are unity itself not divisible by any mind.  Life and wisdom and the other [attributes] then, are not parts of You, but all are one and each one of them is wholly what You are and what all the others are.  Since, then, neither You nor Your eternity which You are have parts, no part of You or of Your eternity is anywhere or at any time, but You exist as a whole everywhere and Your eternity exists as a whole always.”

Anselm of Canterbury, The Major Works, p. 98.

shane lems
hammond, wi

2 thoughts on “The Simplicity of God”

  1. Good stuff from Anselm. Have you had a chance to look at David Bentley Hart’s The Experience of God? He has powerful comments about divine simplicity. He is also a master of English prose.
    I have not finished the book, so I am not endorsing what I have not read, of course.


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