Guillaume Bucanus on God without parts

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
Be there any parts or kinds of God?

None at all, because he is a most simple essence, which doth admit no composition or division; and simply, and in every respect of unity one, and in act most infinite.

Are there any causes of God?

Not any, for he is the cause of all causes.

Is there any accident in God?

No, in regard of God himself; for whatsoever is in God is his essence.

Seeing the essence of God is most simple, in what respect do power, goodness, justice, wisdom, mercy differ in God?

Not in essence: for all these attributes in essence, are but one very thing indeed: but in our weak capacity and manner of knowing, in regard of us, and by the effects, in respect of the creatures.

For the reference, see Guillaume Bucanus on God without parts.
 

BRK

Puritan Board Freshman
Having finished All That Is in God by James Dolezal and Simply Trinity by Matthew Barrett in the last few days, I am all the more astounded at the mystery of our God more than I have ever been. Divine simplicity is both marvelous to apprehend and essential for defending an orthodox doctrine of God and Trinity.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
A certain popular apologist needs to hear these words.

Corollary: if you reject the above account of simplicity, you are a methodological Socinian.
 

retroGRAD3

Puritan Board Junior
James White has been doing many videos recently trying to explain himself. I wonder if you all are interested in responding to him directly? It's easy to sit back and just tell him he is in error without actually responding to what he is saying. I tend to agree with him on at least part of what he is saying and that would be the dangers of being obsessed with Thomas Aquinas. He was not reformed and was a child of Rome. I do realize this was before Trent though. In the latest video I watched by White and many others, be affirms Divine Simplicity, God is not made up of parts. What he doesn't necessarily affirm is all of the other stuff that cannot be defended from the Bible. He had a man named Chad Vegas respond to him saying something like, while I could defend my views from the Bible, I am not sure I want to/it is useful. That seems pretty dangerous to me if we claim Sola scriptura. If we can't defend our views from scripture, what are we appealing to, "sacred tradition"? Anyway, here is the link to the video I was referring to:
 

retroGRAD3

Puritan Board Junior
I should also mention, in the video Chad Vegas did invite him to come talk. White basically said he didn't want to go to California because it's a communist country. While I agree with that, it is unfortunate because I think such a chat could be very helpful for both sides. I hope they can still do it virtually.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
James White has been doing many videos recently trying to explain himself. I wonder if you all are interested in responding to him directly? It's easy to sit back and just tell him he is in error without actually responding to what he is saying. I tend to agree with him on at least part of what he is saying and that would be the dangers of being obsessed with Thomas Aquinas. He was not reformed and was a child of Rome. I do realize this was before Trent though. In the latest video I watched by White and many others, be affirms Divine Simplicity, God is not made up of parts. What he doesn't necessarily affirm is all of the other stuff that cannot be defended from the Bible. He had a man named Chad Vegas respond to him saying something like, while I could defend my views from the Bible, I am not sure I want to/it is useful. That seems pretty dangerous to me if we claim Sola scriptura. If we can't defend our views from scripture, what are we appealing to, "sacred tradition"? Anyway, here is the link to the video I was referring to:

The problem is that most of the Reformed orthodox were Thomists. What James White is attacking is Protestant orthodoxy on the doctrine of God.
 

retroGRAD3

Puritan Board Junior
The problem is that most of the Reformed orthodox were Thomists. What James White is attacking is Protestant orthodoxy on the doctrine of God.
Again, I would say, respond directly to what he is saying. Thomist doesn't automatically mean correct (doesn't automatically mean wrong either). We hold to Sola Scriptura right?
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
Again, I would say, respond directly to what he is saying. Thomist doesn't automatically mean correct (doesn't automatically mean wrong either). We hold to Sola Scriptura right?

Sola Scripture doesn't mean methodological Socinianism. All that is in God is God. It doesn't matter if I need a Bible verse. Let's suppose I can't find a Bible verse for that (I sound like Athanasius, actually). Fine. If it is wrong that means God is dependent on something other than God to be God. That's the issue in a nutshell.
 

retroGRAD3

Puritan Board Junior
Sola Scripture doesn't mean methodological Socinianism. All that is in God is God. It doesn't matter if I need a Bible verse. Let's suppose I can't find a Bible verse for that (I sound like Athanasius, actually). Fine. If it is wrong that means God is dependent on something other than God to be God. That's the issue in a nutshell.
It seems like you are missing one of my points. No one is denying Divine Simplicity (not even James White). It sounds like the thing that is being rejected is the Thomistic particulars, which cannot be defended from Scripture. Is this a case of speaking where scripture has not spoken? Also, if not for Aquinas would you even have your definition? In that case, is God dependent on Thomistic definitions? These are just questions for my understanding. I am not trying to be antagonistic. I do however think there is a danger to getting our theology from philosophy. I tend to agree with the quote "what does Athens have to do with Jerusalem" (although I recognize Tertullian was inconsistent).

Also, the line "It doesn't matter if I need a Bible verse", seems like a very dangerous statement to me. Shouldn't all of our beliefs ultimately be based upon the word of God? If not, what is the standard we are using? What keeps us from running off and just making stuff up like Rome or cults? We then get into the talk of sacred tradition, and choosing one church father over another. If I am missing something, I am more than willing to be corrected.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
Also, if not for Aquinas would you even have your definition?

Yes. Similar statements are found all through the Fathers and in Anselm's Monologion.
In that case, is God dependent on Thomistic definitions?

Is Jesus dependent on homoousion? Would we apply the same reasoning to the Nicene Creed (Strachan might)?
I do however think there is a danger to getting our theology from philosophy

That could be true, but no one approaches scripture without metaphysics of some sort.
Also, the line "It doesn't matter if I need a Bible verse", seems like a very dangerous statement to me.

Not dangerous. It's what every Father said about the Nicene Creed. I am holding the line against Socinianism.
What keeps us from running off and just making stuff up like Rome or cults?

Very good question, as most cults are bible only (understood by only them, of course). Metaphysics and theological grammar isn't a free for all. My glossing of God without parts doesn't leave much wiggle room for cults.
We then get into the talk of sacred tradition, and choosing one church father over another.

I never said anything about sacred tradition. As to choosing one father over another, that is another question.
 

retroGRAD3

Puritan Board Junior
Yes. Similar statements are found all through the Fathers and in Anselm's Monologion.
So, without them, we have no definition of God? This doesn't really solve what I asked, it just kicks it further down the road.
Is Jesus dependent on homoousion? Would we apply the same reasoning to the Nicene Creed (Strachan might)?
I think you can derive this from scripture. I also think the Nicene Creed can be derived from scripture. However, it could be I am taking for granted the very people you are mentioning and the giants our theology has been built on.
That could be true, but no one approaches scripture without metaphysics of some sort.
We agree here
Not dangerous. It's what every Father said about the Nicene Creed. I am holding the line against Socinianism.
This does not solve the issue of just making stuff up or my final question on why choose one father over another. So, I would restate it is dangerous if there at least isn't some basis for the beliefs from scripture. However, you likely agree with that last sentence, and I am not accusing you of making stuff up either. It is more of a statement made in the mode of devil's advocate. Maybe it would be better to say, it COULD be dangerous.
Very good question, as most cults are bible only (understood by only them, of course). Metaphysics and theological grammar isn't a free for all. My glossing of God without parts doesn't leave much wiggle room for cults.
Most cults have their own "holy books" or a "prophet" that hears directly from "god" in addition to the Bible, so I don't think it is fair to say they are "Bible only". I also am not arguing for "solo scriptura". I am not arguing against all fathers and traditions. I am arguing for our final source of truth and test being scripture alone. If there isn't even a hint of something in scripture (notice I said hint, not completely explicit), I believe we should at least question it.
I never said anything about sacred tradition. As to choosing one father over another, that is another question.
I don't think it is another question in the sense that it is not connected to the above concerns. Why do you choose one over the other? What is your standard of who is right? The one most people agree with? The one you personally most agree with? This is where I am saying sola scriptura is important.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
So, without them, we have no definition of God? This doesn't really solve what I asked, it just kicks it further down the road.

We have definitions. They just might not be as good without them.
I think you can derive this from scripture. I also think the Nicene Creed can be derived from scripture. However, it could be I am taking for granted the very people you are mentioning and the giants our theology has been built on.

That begs the question. The Arians said they could derive their theology from Scripture. The homoousion had the logical power to cut them off at the pass. Throwing bible verses at each other wasn't going to accomplish anything.
So, I would restate it is dangerous if there at least isn't some basis for the beliefs from scripture.

Sure. No one disputes that. Literally every single theologian, both good and heretic, believed he took his beliefs from Scripture.
If there isn't even a hint of something in scripture (notice I said hint, not completely explicit), I believe we should at least question it.

Let's take the Shema. Does it mean only one God in essence or one God in primacy of importance? Or when Jesus says "I and the Father are one." That doesn't necessarily mean one being. It could mean one in unity simply going by bible verses alone. On one hand, I've satisfied the requirements for finding the "oneness" of God in Scripture. How one defines that oneness comes from metaphysics, not proof texts.

Most cults have their own "holy books" or a "prophet" that hears directly from "god" in addition to the Bible, so I don't think it is fair to say they are "Bible only".

Fair enough. I should probably amend that to "sects."
 

retroGRAD3

Puritan Board Junior
We have definitions. They just might not be as good without them.
Fair Point
That begs the question. The Arians said they could derive their theology from Scripture. The homoousion had the logical power to cut them off at the pass. Throwing bible verses at each other wasn't going to accomplish anything.
Fair
Sure. No one disputes that. Literally every single theologian, both good and heretic, believed he took his beliefs from Scripture.
Fair
Let's take the Shema. Does it mean only one God in essence or one God in primacy of importance? Or when Jesus says "I and the Father are one." That doesn't necessarily mean one being. It could mean one in unity simply going by bible verses alone. On one hand, I've satisfied the requirements for finding the "oneness" of God in Scripture. How one defines that oneness comes from metaphysics, not proof texts.
Is is necessary to go that deep though? Are there not certain things that are allowed to be a mystery? Is it possible to simply say, we don't know. The metaphysics could be right, but they might also be wrong without explicit support from scripture, is that a fair point?
Fair enough. I should probably amend that to "sects."
Agreed

Thank you for engaging with me. This is helping me see both sides of this issue. To put the cards on the table, James White's ministry means a lot to me. His debates were one of the primary reasons I am not currently a Roman Catholic. Of course, I am in the OPC, so there were other influences as well including these very Puritan Boards and your blog. So, I have a lot of respect for you personally and many others on this board. At the same time, I know White, you, me, and other people are not infallible or right on everything (e.g. with White, we obviously disagree on baptism), and the same would apply to the church fathers. I want to make sure I hear both sides and don't just immediately jump on board because such and such said it.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
Is is necessary to go that deep though? Are there not certain things that are allowed to be a mystery? Is it possible to simply say, we don't know. The metaphysics could be right, but they might also be wrong without explicit support from scripture, is that a fair point?

I certainly don't want to erase the mystery, but this is the verse that both Jews and Christians have used to safeguard the oneness of God's being.
To put the cards on the table, James White's ministry means a lot to me. His debates were one of the primary reasons I am not currently a Roman Catholic.

White is good on KJV and cult apologetics. I think he is letting his view of Thomas Aquinas determine other aspects of God's simplicity (which is why, ironically, he uses William Lane Craig's argument on divine simplicity).
 

retroGRAD3

Puritan Board Junior
I certainly don't want to erase the mystery, but this is the verse that both Jews and Christians have used to safeguard the oneness of God's being.
I was not disagreeing with the Shema or the oneness of God. I guess what I am pushing back on is how deep do we need to go with our understanding of the oneness?
White is good on KJV and cult apologetics. I think he is letting his view of Thomas Aquinas determine other aspects of God's simplicity (which is why, ironically, he uses William Lane Craig's argument on divine simplicity).
This could very well be. I agree with White in that we should be cautious with Aquinas or anyone else that does not hold to protestant orthodoxy (this would even apply to White in this case as you are asserting), but I also agree with you that we shouldn't just throw him out because he wears the label of Roman Catholic. Rome is not wrong about everything, I do understand that. And, if we are just disagreeing with someone because they are Roman Catholic, that is not helpful.
 
Last edited:

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
I was not disagreeing with the Shema or the oneness of God. I guess what I am pushing back on is how deep do we need to go with our understanding of the oneness?

Granted. Yeah, Jewish mystics went into some weird places on the oneness of God. Christian reflection throughout the centuries, however, had generally well-defined parameters.
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
@retroGRAD3 Hi brother, we missed seeing you at bible study last night. Here is an article I translated from one of the fathers of the Synod of Dort that deals with the doctrine of divine simplicity. As far as Thomas Aquinas's doctrine of divine simplicity, I find it to be substantially the same as what we find in any of the Latin Fathers, back to Novatian in the 2nd century. Perhaps Aquinas is a Roman Catholic, but I wouldn't say the same for Augustine, for example.
Moreover, when the doctrine of simplicity advanced by Aquinas is considered in its historical situation, the doctrine of Scotus (and later the Franciscans more generally, including Ockham) emerges as its major rival. It is actually Scotus's doctrine that abounds in metaphysical and philosophical doctrines applied to God. Aquinas merely makes metaphysical distinctions in order to deny that any can be applied to the nature to God. For him, the nature of God is simply indivisible. I'm quite quick to criticize Aquinas, but on this particular point his doctrine doesn't differ substantially from Augustine in the 5th century or the Reformed Orthodox of the 17th century. Anyways, give my translation a read if you have a chance, hopefully we can discuss this in person sometime soon.
Blessings in the Lord,
Charles
 
Last edited:

retroGRAD3

Puritan Board Junior
@retroGRAD3 Hi brother, we missed seeing an article I translated from one of the fathers of the Synod of Dort that deals with the doctrine of divine simplicity. As far as Thomas Aquinas's doctrine of divine simplicity, I find it to be substantially the same as what we find in any of the Latin Fathers, back to Novatian in the 2nd century. Perhaps Aquinas is a Roman Catholic, but I wouldn't say the same for Augustine, for example.
Moreover, when the doctrine of simplicity advanced by Aquinas is considered in its historical situation, the doctrine of Scotus (and later the Franciscans more generally, including Ockham) emerges as its major rival. It is actually Scotus's doctrine that abounds in metaphysical and philosophical doctrines applied to God. Aquinas merely makes metaphysical distinctions in order to deny that any can be applied to the nature to God. For him, the nature of God is simply indivisible. I'm quite quick to criticize Aquinas, but on this particular point his doctrine doesn't differ substantially from Augustine in the 5th century or the Reformed Orthodox of the 17th century. Anyways, give my translation a read if you have a chance, hopefully we can discuss this in person sometime soon.
Blessings in the Lord,
Charles
Thanks, I will take a look at the translation. I look forward to the next time we can speak in person on this (and in general) as well.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
Here is some rather Thomistic language from Thomas Goodwin:

And are not all his attributes his nature, his justice as well as mercy, his hatred of sin as well as his love of his creatures? And is not that nature of his a pure act, and therefore provokes his will to manifest all these upon all occasions?

Thomas Goodwin, The One Sacrifice. A Sermon in The Works of Thomas Goodwin (12 vols, Edinburgh: James Nisbet, 1861-66), 5: 489.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
Here is some rather Thomistic language from Thomas Goodwin:

And are not all his attributes his nature, his justice as well as mercy, his hatred of sin as well as his love of his creatures? And is not that nature of his a pure act, and therefore provokes his will to manifest all these upon all occasions?

Thomas Goodwin, The One Sacrifice. A Sermon in The Works of Thomas Goodwin (12 vols, Edinburgh: James Nisbet, 1861-66), 5: 489.

Pure Act is the key phrase.
 
Top