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3. The Simplicity of God

1. When we speak of God's simplicity we speak of the fact that God is not composed of parts, or compounded of elements. In God there is no composition or compounding of any kind. First of all, in God there is no material composition, for God is not material or bodily. A body is subject to motion and change, but God is the unmoved First Mover, and the changeless necessary being. Further, a body is always in the state of potentiality, that is, capable of being acted on by causes, and God is in no wise capable of being affected by any causes. For God is the First Cause; there is no cause prior to God or independent of him that could act upon him. In God there is no passive potentiality at all; God is pure actuality. Therefore, in God there is no material composition, and no composition of potentiality and actuality.

2. Since God is not a body, he is not composed as all bodies are of primal matter (the element common to all bodies; the element by which a body is bodily) and substantial form (the substantial determinant in each body which makes it an existing body of its essential kind). In God there is no composition of matter and form.

3. Since God is not a body, he is not composed, as a body always is, of an essence or nature concreted in an individual subject. A body has its nature or working essence; we cannot say that a body is its nature. But God does not have anything; if he did, he would be in potentiality towards having it, and he would receive it from some prior being. But there is no being prior to the First Being. God is pure actuality. God is his own essence, his own nature, his own life, his own Godhead, and whatever else may be thus predicated of him. Therefore, in God there is no compounding of a nature with the individual subject which has that nature.

4. And God is his own existence. Creatures, bodily or spiritual, are composed of essence (which receives existence) and existence (which is received by essence to make an existing creature). But since God is the First Being, there is nothing prior to him from which his essence could receive existence. God does not receive anything of his being. God is necessary being; it is God's essence to exist. In God, essence and existence are absolutely one and the same. Therefore, God is not a compound of essence and existence.

5. We understand and define a creature by knowing the general essential class of things to which it belongs (its genus) and adding to that class the special difference by which it is essentially distinguished from other members of its class (its specific difference). Thus we understand an organism as belonging to the general class of body, and as marked off from body-as-such by the fact that it has life. Hence we say that an organism is compounded or composed of bodiliness and life as of genus and specific difference. Now, God is not a member of a class of things from which he is marked off by specific difference. God is absolute and unique. In God, therefore, there is no composition or compounding of genus and difference.

6. Nor is God composed of substance and accidentals. A substance is a reality that is naturally suited to exist as itself, and not as the mark or determinant of some other thing. An accidental (or, in older language, an accident) is a reality that is suited to exist as of something other than itself. An apple is a substance. The size, color, weight, position, temperature, flavor, etc., of the apple are existing realities, but they are not \"on their own\" so to speak;they exist as of the apple, not as themselves. Accidentals are said to inhere in the substance which they mark or qualify; hence a creatural substance is said to be composed of substance and inhering accidentals. Now, a creatural substance has accidentals; it stands in potentiality to receive them, and to undergo a change in them. But God is not in potentiality to receive or undergo anything in his substantial being. God is pure actuality. Therefore, there are in God no accidentals at all. All that God has, God is. Hence in God there is no compounding or composition of substance and accidentals.

7. Thus it is manifest that God is not composed of parts or elements of any kind. In other words, God is absolutely simple. We might know this truth at once from the fact that whatever is compounded or composed is subsequent to its elements or parts, and also subsequent to the action of the cause which brings the parts together. But God is the First Being; God is not subsequent to anything. Nor is God subject to the action of any cause. It follows, therefore, that God is absolutely simple and uncomposed. God is pure actuality, God is also absolute simplicity.

8. The absolutely simple God cannot be the part or element of anything else. For God is the First Cause, acting primarily and essentially. But what is an element or part of a compound cannot act primarily and essentially; only the completed compound can act so. Therefore God is not a part or element of anything else. Hence it is absurd to think of God as a "world soul" or even as primal matter. (As we shall see later, God's absolute simplicity in being and essence in no wise conflicts with the subsistence of the simple divine essence in the three distinct Persons of the Blessed Trinity.)

"The supreme perfection of man in this life is to be so united to God that all his soul with all its faculties and powers are so gathered into the Lord God that he becomes one spirit with him, and remembers nothing except God, is aware of and recognises nothing but God, but with all his desires unified by the joy of love, he rests contentedly in the enjoyment of his Maker alone."
St Albert the Great

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"God gives us some things, as the beginning of faith, even when we do not pray. Other things, such as perseverance, he has only provided for those who pray."
St Augustine

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"For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without grace and the love of God?"
Thomas á Kempis

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