Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Simplicity of God

This post is written in honour of St. Thomas Aquinas, whose memorial we celebrate today.

The most beautiful and fascinating part of classical theology I have always found to be God’s simplicity. ‘Simplicity’ is derived from simplex, the opposite of complex, so it means that God is not in any way a composite being.

Some atheists, well-versed in the natural sciences but not so much in philosophy, say that ‘God created the world’ is a rather arbitrary way to prevent an infinite regress. They say it naturally raises the question ‘Who created God?’, under the assumption that a complex design could only have been made by an even more complex designer.

It is not arbitrary, however. The whole point that e.g. St. Thomas makes in his Summa theologiae, First Part, Question 2, is that something must be at the end of the regress, and this something is what men call God. Now, because everything composite is based on something more fundamental, this something (called God in some languages) must be entirely simple. This is covered in Question 3. Anything less cannot be the something (called God). It should be clarified that ‘God’ here does not specifically refer to the Christian God, but to the X that Feser calls ‘an ultimate self-explanatory principle’.

I don’t know much about the natural sciences, but I find the speculations intriguing that the universe started with a ‘singularity’, a point at which matter had ‘infinite density and zero volume’. I am not suggesting that the singularity is God, but there is a comparison to be made. While the singularity, on this hypothesis, contained all the astounding multiplicity of the universe in potency, a potency that could only be realized by the division or expansion of the singularity (what word to use?) – the whole process by which all beings come, have come, and will come to be arises out of a single unchanging point of infinite wisdom. Not a vast store of collected information, like a digital library, but a divisionless concentration in which the known is even identical with the knower, and the knowledge with the single act of creation.

I believe this to be true and in principle demonstrable – but dazzling nonetheless.

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