Questions on Divine Simplicity

Thank you, this was extremely helpful for clarifying why premise 1 appears to be equivocal to some posters. Why I structured premise 1 the way I did is because I was of the understanding that we all agreed that the Reformed position denies two will[ing]s in God. This was mentioned specifically by @py3ak in posts 2 and 8, so I did not expect anyone to reply that there is an equivocation here.

But if I am understanding everyone correctly now, the point is that God's "ad extra willing" refers to something that is not "in God." Is this correct? If so, I believe this thread is making some progress and that you all are helping me better articulate the intuitive difficulty I am trying to get across.

I'm tempted to stop here and see whether everyone agrees with the above. I'll go ahead and assume everyone does agree with it (correct me if I'm wrong) and venture the next question that comes to mind: is there a causal relation between God's "ad intra" willing and "ad extra" willing?
I'll answer, though it's late and may be rather hurried.

(Off-topic, but I have also directed some questions at you, Ryan, and I don't think they've been answered. If you're able to reply to those it would be helpful to me.)

I still think there may be an equivocation on "willing" because it sometimes seems to refer to God's act, and sometimes to the specific realities brought into existence by that act. Ad extra means that it is not in God terminatively. What God wills ad extra terminates outside of himself. But the way it's expressed in your second paragraph it could sound like God is stepping outside of himself in order to will to create and the rest, and that definitely seems like an inadequate description! Or think about it like this. God's will refers to himself, and it refers to what-is-not-God. In reference to not-God, we call that ad extra. That is free, not only in the sense of lacking compulsion, but in the sense that it could theoretically have been different.

I would say that they are not two separate willings, such that you would even posit a causal relationship between them. Rather they are God's one will concerned with two different points of reference.
 
@py3ak: Sorry - I didn't mean to ignore your questions. A purpose of the original argument was to determine if there was "any sense in which [responders] would accept these premises and conclusions as constructed." I was also hoping to shorten the length of our posts. Perhaps that is impossible in this case.

py3ak said:
Ad extra means that it is not in God terminatively. What God wills ad extra terminates outside of himself. But the way it's expressed in your second paragraph it could sound like God is stepping outside of himself in order to will to create and the rest, and that definitely seems like an inadequate description!

Excellent clarifications for your view. So, for you, premise 1 is not to be understood as "two separate willings." In that case, one needn't understand there to be any equivocation. But I nonetheless understand your worry that we may be talking past one another. For example:

py3ak said:
I still think there may be an equivocation on "willing" because it sometimes seems to refer to God's act, and sometimes to the specific realities brought into existence by that act.

When I wrote, "God is identical to His willing to create," I did not mean for anyone to infer that I was suggesting said willing is identical to the objects of creation. I wasn’t suggesting God’s acting to create terminates on objects that are identical with Himself. Likewise:

py3ak said:
In the summation we've been using, denotatively diverse is as important an element as referentially identical. With regard to Conclusion 1, I think about "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." It is the same God, the identical I, who says both things. There is no difference between the author of one statement and the author of the other. Now that God is his will, and the diversity of objects does not imply a diversity of will. In other words, whether Conclusion 1 is acceptable depends on how the terms are defined.

I mentioned in post 10 that I did not know what "denotatively diverse" means. If it just means that God’s acting can terminate in a diversity of objects, we can agree that premise 1 isn’t designed to question that.

A quick follow-up to this, though, is that such a distinction between Creator and creature does not immediately imply that God’s acting can be otherwise. A necessitarian might say (as I once did) that God's acting terminated in many created realities distinct from Himself. But as a necessitarian, at no point was I suggesting that God's acting could have been otherwise.

So, in answer to a few of your question in post 28, yes, we are distinguishing His willing to create from the creation caused by His will (question 1). But whether said willing to create is a will "freely" exercised concerning external objects (question 2) is precisely what is put in question by the syllogisms. If you want to answer this question 2 in the affirmative, then the syllogisms suggest you will have to deny divine immutability. Similarly here:

py3ak said:
Would you agree that it is God Himself in the totality of his being who wills to create?

I agree with this. But it is the very phrasing that "it is God... who wills" that suggests to me a distinction between subject and verb, between actor and acting – between “God” and “wills” – that a “strong” advocate of divine simplicity (such as yourself?) would deny. This distinction makes more intelligible an affirmation that “it is God who wills” – comparatively, wouldn’t it be tautological for one who identifies “God” and “His” “will” as referentially identical to affirm this?

I think whether one accepts or rejects such a distinction will lead to different options available to one when questions arise concerning divine freedom. For example, affirming this distinction would conveniently solve the tension I sense between an affirmation that "God is identical to His will" and an affirmation that "God could will otherwise." Again, the tension, as expressed in the syllogisms, seems to be resolved in the affirmation "God could be otherwise." But this is what a “strong” advocate of divine simplicity would want to deny.

py3ak said:
To cite Heppe again: "Since then the divine will is the actuosity of the divine being eternally identical with itself, which only to man appears an infinite manifold of expressions of will, it may be said that in the same act of will God may will otherwise but not that He may otherwise will"

Ironically, this pithy statement is what appears equivocal. If God’s will just is identical to “the totality of His being,” then Heppe’s statement doesn’t make any sense to me: “...in the same act of [being], God may [be] otherwise but not that He may otherwise [be].”

More could be said in reply, but this is already lengthier than I had hoped. Several of your other questions refer to God’s decree and its content. That isn’t mentioned in my syllogisms. If you place “the content of God’s decree” within the scope of created realities, I don’t see how that affects the syllogisms themselves and the clarifications provided above. Here they are restated:

Premise 1. If God is identical to His willing, then God is identical to His willing to create.
Premise 2. God is identical to His willing.
Conclusion 1. God is identical to His willing to create.

Premise 3. If God's willing could have been other than to create, then God could have been other than He now is.
Premise 4. God's willing could have other than to create.
Conclusion 2. God Himself could have been other than He now is.

alexmacarie said:
Have you looked at Turretin?

I don't own his Elenctic Theology. A guy only has so much money!
 
Sorry - I didn't mean to ignore your questions. A purpose of the original argument was to determine if there was "any sense in which [responders] would accept these premises and conclusions as constructed." I was also hoping to shorten the length of our posts. Perhaps that is impossible in this case.
No worries. The syllogisms don't seem to me to be affirming what I'm saying, but so far there's been limited success in communicating our individual apprehensions. I can't help but see a distinction where it seems you can't help but see an identity.

Excellent clarifications for your view. So, for you, premise 1 is not to be understood as "two separate willings." In that case, one needn't understand there to be any equivocation. But I nonetheless understand your worry that we may be talking past one another.
Correct, no separate willings; correct also, potential miscommunications.

When I wrote, "God is identical to His willing to create," I did not mean for anyone to infer that I was suggesting said willing is identical to the objects of creation. I wasn’t suggesting God’s acting to create terminates on objects that are identical with Himself.
Can we push it a step further? God's will to create is an identification of the content of the decree.

I mentioned in post 10 that I did not know what "denotatively diverse" means. If it just means that God’s acting can terminate in a diversity of objects, we can agree that premise 1 isn’t designed to question that.

A quick follow-up to this, though, is that such a distinction between Creator and creature does not immediately imply that God’s acting can be otherwise. A necessitarian might say (as I once did) that God's acting terminated in many created realities distinct from Himself. But as a necessitarian, at no point was I suggesting that God's acting could have been otherwise.

So, in answer to a few of your question in post 28, yes, we are distinguishing His willing to create from the creation caused by His will (question 1). But whether said willing to create is a will "freely" exercised concerning external objects (question 2) is precisely what is put in question by the syllogisms. If you want to answer this question 2 in the affirmative, then the syllogisms suggest you will have to deny divine immutability.
Denotatively diverse means that the same idea is not communicated to us by the same words. A simple example is that when God is described as faithful and true that is not a different God than when he is described as gracious and merciful. But I don't get the same idea of God from "true" that I do from "merciful."

I don't think the syllogisms have that much constraining force! I'm not going to deny divine immutability, however hard the syllogisms sweat.

I agree with this. But it is the very phrasing that "it is God... who wills" that suggests to me a distinction between subject and verb, between actor and acting – between “God” and “wills” – that a “strong” advocate of divine simplicity (such as yourself?) would deny. This distinction makes more intelligible an affirmation that “it is God who wills” – comparatively, wouldn’t it be tautological for one who identifies “God” and “His” “will” as referentially identical to affirm this?

I think whether one accepts or rejects such a distinction will lead to different options available to one when questions arise concerning divine freedom. For example, affirming this distinction would conveniently solve the tension I sense between an affirmation that "God is identical to His will" and an affirmation that "God could will otherwise." Again, the tension, as expressed in the syllogisms, seems to be resolved in the affirmation "God could be otherwise." But this is what a “strong” advocate of divine simplicity would want to deny.

I appreciate you making this point, as I think it maybe brings us closer to the source of our different perceptions. The words we use to describe God are not convertible because they all cohere in God in a unity higher than our conceiving, and certainly higher than our vocabulary. Nothing in my understanding of simplicity prevents me from saying "God wills" or "God knows" or "God rejects" or "God loves" or "God hates" and using them in different ways to convey a different relation to whatever the direct object is. But in none of those expressions is it anyone other than God in view. That you find it tautological sounds to me like an evidence that I haven't made my actual position clear.

When I say "God knows" I don't mean something identical to what I mean when I say "God wills." I don't grasp the exercise of his will, anymore than I can imagine what it's like to know non-discursively and eternally. Distinguishing God from his knowledge would seem to me to raise the question then of God knowing by participation in something outside himself, which of course is well outside the mainstream of Reformed theology. God is not different than his knowledge or his will or his existence or his essence. Yet his knowledge and his willing are not identical to one another denotatively. God knows all things and yet God does not will all things.

I would hope it wouldn't only be advocates of strong simplicity who want to deny that God could be otherwise!
Ironically, this pithy statement is what appears equivocal. If God’s will just is identical to “the totality of His being,” then Heppe’s statement doesn’t make any sense to me: “...in the same act of [being], God may [be] otherwise but not that He may otherwise [be].”

More could be said in reply, but this is already lengthier than I had hoped. Several of your other questions refer to God’s decree and its content. That isn’t mentioned in my syllogisms. If you place “the content of God’s decree” within the scope of created realities, I don’t see how that affects the syllogisms themselves and the clarifications provided above. Here they are restated:

Premise 1. If God is identical to His willing, then God is identical to His willing to create.
Premise 2. God is identical to His willing.
Conclusion 1. God is identical to His willing to create.

Premise 3. If God's willing could have been other than to create, then God could have been other than He now is.
Premise 4. God's willing could have other than to create.
Conclusion 2. God Himself could have been other than He now is.

Here, again, I think the problem is in treating terms as interchangeable. I don't think language functions on a sort of mathematical principle where it doesn't make any difference whether you have 6-2 or 3+1 or 2x2. Heppe's statement is equivocal, of course; "will" is used with reference to the content of the decree and it's affirmed that God may decree otherwise; but "will" is also used with reference to the nature of the decree, when it's affirmed that God could not have a temporal, mutable, necessary decree. The objects decreed and the quality of the decree cannot be conflated.

Are you distinguishing between the decree and its execution? Perhaps that may also shed a little light.

I still object to Premises 1 and 3 and the conclusions built on them. Premise 3 is a denial of what I find in the Protestant Scholastics on this issue. They affirm that God could have willed something different, and they also affirm that God could not be other than he is.
 
Perhaps this from Turretin may be of some interest here?

“Proof that God is perfectly simple.

IV. This is proved to be a property of God: (1) from his independence, because composition is of the formal reason of a being originated and dependent (since nothing can be composed by itself, but whatever is composed must necessarily be composed by another; now God is the first and independent being, recognizing no other prior to himself); (2) from his unity, because he who is absolutely one, is also absolutely simple and therefore can neither be divided nor composed; (3) from his perfection, because composition implies imperfection inasmuch as it supposes passive power, dependency and mutability; (4) from his activity, because God is a most pure act having no passive admixture and therefore rejecting all composition (because in God there is nothing which needs to be made perfect or can receive perfection from any other, but he is whatever can be and cannot be other than what he is). Whence he is usually described not only by concrete but also by abstract names—life, light, truth, etc.
...

X. The decrees of God can be regarded in two ways: either subjectively (if it is right so to speak, i.e., on the part of the internal act in itself and absolutely); or objectively, extrinsically and relatively with respect to creatures (respectively). In the former manner, they do not differ from God himself and are no other than God himself decreeing. But in the latter, they do differ because they may be conceived as many and various (not as to the thing, since God has decreed all things by one single and most simple act, but as to the objects), even as the knowledge of God is conversant with innumerable objects without detriment to his unity. ”

“XI. The decrees of God are free, not absolutely and as to the principle, but relatively and objectively and as to the end. For there could be no external object necessarily terminating to the divine will, for God stands in need of nothing out of himself. Therefore they could be and not be. But this does not hinder them from being called necessary as to the principle and internal act because the act of intelligence and will could not be absent from God at all. He could not be God without intelligence and will. They are necessary, therefore, as to internal existence, but free as to external relation (schesin) and habit. Nor can the will of God be said to cease absolutely, but with respect to the external object on which it is terminated.

XII. The decrees of God are immanent acts of the divine will, but not properly its effect. God ought not to be called so much the cause as the principle of them. Hence there is no need that they should be posterior to God except in our order and in the manner of conceiving them.

“XIII. Although the essence of God (considered simply in itself) is absolute and implies no relation to creatures, yet this does not hinder it (when considered with relative opposition to creatures and as determining itself in the manner of vital principle to the production of this or that thing out of itself) from having a certain reference (schesin) and relation to creatures. Nor can that manifold relation make composition in God, more than the relation which his omniscience and omnipotence bear to things ad extra, constituted a real difference between God and his omnipotence and omniscience. ”
...

“XV. The relative attributes do not argue composition, but distinction. The formal nature of relations is not to be in, but to be to. Nor do they superadd a new perfection to the essence, but only imply a habitude of the essence to other things. Paternity and dominion do not render him another being, but in a different manner dispose the possessor without superinducing a change in him. ”

Excerpt From
Institutes of Elenctic Theology (Vol 1)
Francis Turretin
This material may be protected by copyright.

You can read the full section online here by logging in with a free account and `borrowing` the book:
 
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@py3ak, I've been trying to go through Muller to bridge the seeming gap. I have more to say in reply to your last post, but I want to gain some clarification:

py3ak said:
Denotatively diverse means that the same idea is not communicated to us by the same words. A simple example is that when God is described as faithful and true that is not a different God than when he is described as gracious and merciful. But I don't get the same idea of God from "true" that I do from "merciful."

Did you mean to say that the meaning of denotative diversity is that “different ideas are not communicated to us by the same words”? Otherwise, I'm not sure I understand your first sentence. If you really mean what you said, then perhaps you are trying to harmonize it with Duby's correlative expression of "referential identity."

To clarify what that means, does the statement that the divine attributes are “referentially identical” simply mean that the same subject is referred to when we state different predications (as you do)? If so, then I don’t think one needs to affirm a “strong” view of divine simplicity to agree.

On the other hand, if for the divine attributes to be “referentially identical” means that the attributes themselves are identical to each other within the referent such that there is no distinction between said attributes except in our own minds, then it appears any distinct conceptions you have of God would be literally, metaphysically false (since there is no such distinction within the divine essence). Before you answer this or the above question, see the Muller citation below.

py3ak said:
I don't think the syllogisms have that much constraining force! I'm not going to deny divine immutability, however hard the syllogisms sweat.

Ha! At any rate, that is not the goal of the syllogisms.

py3ak said:
I appreciate you making this point, as I think it maybe brings us closer to the source of our different perceptions. The words we use to describe God are not convertible because they all cohere in God in a unity higher than our conceiving, and certainly higher than our vocabulary. Nothing in my understanding of simplicity prevents me from saying "God wills" or "God knows" or "God rejects" or "God loves" or "God hates" and using them in different ways to convey a different relation to whatever the direct object is. But in none of those expressions is it anyone other than God in view. That you find it tautological sounds to me like an evidence that I haven't made my actual position clear.

Depending on how you answer my question regarding Duby, I am almost beginning to wonder whether you fall into the category of the sort of “strong” divine simplicity in which I sense tension. Mention of “coherence” is suggestive that you might not think the divine attributes are identical to each other?

How you answer the above questions might be helpful if I provide the following citation of Muller as a point of reference. Honestly, I should have followed up on Muller sooner like I said I would (post 12). For example, on pgs. 286-287, Muller writes:

Muller said:
The Reformed orthodox (as was typical in the theology and philosophy of the seventeenth century) followed the scholastic tradition in recognizing a series of different kinds of distinctions, some of which clearly cannot refer to God, others of which may, and still others which certainly do. Maccovius offers four levels of distinction: real, formal, modal, and rational – which, as we shall see, cover the entire range of possible distinctions. Others, like Ames and Maresius, indicate other traditional terms for rather discrete kinds of distinction that fit within the broader paradigm, namely, eminent and virtual. There are, in the first place, what the scholastics called “real distinction” – distinctions between one res and another res, one thing and another thing. These real distinctions can obtain between different things of different essences (e.g., between a flower and a table), or between two things of the same essence (e.g. between two tables), or between the separable parts of a composite thing (e.g., between the tabletop and the legs of the table). Since there is only one God and since God is one and non-composite or simple, this kind of level of distinction does not apply to God.

There are, second, also distinctions in things, identified variously by the scholastics as “formal,” “modal,” “eminent,” and “virtual” distinctions. There are, thus, distinctions that do not separate a particular thing from other things or render the thing composite but which indicate the ways “by which a thing is differentiated within itself. These are not, therefore, distinctions of essence but less-than-essential distinctions within an essence or, indeed, within a thing, such as the formal distinctions between the woodiness and the hardness of a table, or the formal distinction between the volitional and the intellectual capacities of a human being. In the case of the trinitarian relations and divine attributes, such distinctions can and do apply to God.

This was extremely helpful, and I wish I had read this earlier. It sounds as though Muller is stating that an affirmation that the divine attributes are not identical to each other within the divine essence was a live option within the Reformed tradition (per Maccovius). This also seems to directly address what I wrote in my very first post:

Knight said:
Regarding the intelligibility of allowing for real distinctions between divine attributes without also advocating for composition, I would attempt an analogy: on page 120 of Dolezal's All That Is in God, he writes (footnote 31):

Some critics of the doctrine of divine simplicity, such as R. T. Mullins, mistakenly believe divine simplicity means there are "no real distinctions in the simple God" and that "God has no distinctions." For Mullins, simplicity is thus obviously at offs with any affirmation of a real distinction among the divine persons. The End of the Timeless God (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 184. But divine simplicity does not deny distinction in the Godhead - not even real distinctions - but only such distinctions as would entail composition and so undermine God's pure actuality.

Okay: if the divine persons may be really distinct without entailing composition, why might not the divine attributes be really distinct without entailing composition?

If I were to rewrite my original question with Maccovius (not Dolezal) in mind, I might rhetorically ask, "if the divine persons may be formally distinct without entailing composition, why might not the divine attributes be formally distinct without entailing composition?" It seems Muller's reply would be that yes, "In the case of the trinitarian relations and divine attributes, such distinctions can and do apply to God."

Does this not allow me grounds for denying that the attributes themselves are identical to each other within the referent? If I appear confused, the source of my confusion is how Dolezal has framed the issue seems to contrast with how Muller frames it above. For as I cited in post 1, Dolezal said in a footnote to pg. 120 that "divine simplicity does not deny distinction in the Godhead - not even real distinctions - but only such distinctions as would entail composition." According to Maccovius, real distinction is precisely what must be denied, formal distinction affirmed.

Further confusing me is that in Chapter 4 of All That Is In God, Dolezal contradicts the above footnote:

Dolezal said:
Distorting Divine Simplicity

There is a third group of modern evangelicals—those who do not undermine divine simplicity by disregarding or denying it, but by reconceiving it in a way that distorts its true meaning and significance.
Many of these theologians belong to churches or schools that require subscription to one or another of the classical Reformed confessions. Accordingly, they may feel the pressure to explicitly affirm God’s simplicity in ways that nonconfessional evangelicals do not.

We must first note that many of the revisionists affirm important aspects of the classical doctrine, such as the identity of God, with His existence, essence, and attributes. John Frame, for instance, writes, “Since God has no accidents, everything in him is essential to his being. So he is, in a sense, his essence.” Kevin Vanhoozer similarly states, “God does not ‘have’ properties or perfections…that stand over against or above him…. Divine simplicity stipulates that God’s essence is identical with his existence.” On the face of it, these affirmations are wholly consistent with the classical doctrine, and one might wonder wherein the departure from the traditional view lies.

The trouble arises when we discover that the revisionists do not believe that the divine essence itself is simple. Vanhoozer insists that while God’s attributes or properties are “coextensive,” this does not mean “that all God’s properties are identical with one another.” Frame maintains that God’s attributes “all refer to his essence, but they describe different aspects of it. God really is good and just and omniscient. The multiple attributes refer to genuine complexities in his essence.” Frame believes that conjunctions in our statements about God pick out real conjunctions of attributes and so real distinctions in the divine essence itself. He is concerned to avoid the odd claim that the attributes of God are all synonymous. Yet the only way he can conceive of doing this is to assume that the nonsynonymous complexity of terms in our language directly maps out a corresponding complexity of being in the divine essence. Indeed, Frame has great confidence in the ability of human thought and language to adequately represent the being of God. “God,” he writes, “is as clearly revealed to us, and as clearly known to us, as any created thing.” Accordingly, he continues, “we need not be afraid of saying that some of our language about God is univocal or literal. God has given us language that literally applies to him.” Frame means not only that the truth of our propositions corresponds to the reality of God’s nature, but that the form of our propositions mirrors the form or manner of God’s intrinsic act of being. Frame is by no means alone in his univocist claims, as similar remarks can be found in older Calvinist theologians such as Charles Hodge and R. L. Dabney and, more recently, in Robert Reymond.

How does the notion of a complex divine essence distort the classical doctrine of simplicity? In short, it reconceives the unity of the divine essence as a corporate unity comprised of more basic units of actuality and intelligibility. No particular attribute is ontologically identical to the divine essence as such. This relativizes the being of God by making His essence to depend on principles or sources of being which are not strictly identical with it. On this scheme, something other than divinity makes divinity to be. When Frame says that God is His essence, he means that God is identical to the summative set of really distinct properties which collectively comprise His essence. The essence as a whole is evidently ontologically reducible to the particular, distinct attributes that comprise it. This is rather unlike a doctrine of divine simplicity.

What Frame says does not seem so wrong to me if we qualify the distinction between the divine attributes as "formal" a la Maccovius. That is, in pointing out a distinction or non-identity between the divine attributes, we can and should simultaneously deny that what we are talking about is something like a distinction:

1. between different things of different essences (e.g., between a flower and a table),
2. or between two things of the same essence (e.g. between two tables),
3. or between the separable parts of a composite thing (e.g., between the tabletop and the legs of the table)

Distinctions between the attributes within the divine essence don't imply a different essence for each attribute, do not suggest numerically multiple essences, and aren't separable parts ("real" distinction). Nevertheless, they are not identical to each other because they are formally distinct.

I also cited Dabney on page 1, and Dolezal takes aim at him too here. I am realizing that throughout this thread, I have just assumed that the way in which Dolezal presents what I have regarded as the "strong" view of divine simplicity in All That Is In God was noncontroversial. Given the above and the earlier question of his language on "eternal creatorhood," however, I am now beginning to wonder if @83r17h was more right in his first post than I have realized.

Like I said, I know you wrote more in your last post @py3ak, and I do want to respond to that. But I'm hoping the above paves a path to some clarity. If I am understanding Muller and Maccovius correctly, I would affirm:

"All that is in God is God" is true in the sense that the "all" in question includes formally distinct, strictly non-identical attributes.
"Referential identity" of the divine attributes is true in the sense each attribute refers to the same subject, God.
 
@py3ak: to follow up on responding to the other points in your post which are also deserving of interaction:

py3ak said:
Distinguishing God from his knowledge would seem to me to raise the question then of God knowing by participation in something outside himself, which of course is well outside the mainstream of Reformed theology. God is not different than his knowledge or his will or his existence or his essence. Yet his knowledge and his willing are not identical to one another denotatively. God knows all things and yet God does not will all things.

We can agree that God’s knowledge is by no means sourced in something external to His nature or will. But if we cannot distinguish God from His knowledge and instead say that God’s knowledge is identical to God Himself, I think we run into the following problem:

Premise 1. If God is necessary, then that which is identical to God is necessary.
Premise 2. God is identical to all of God’s knowledge.
Premise 3. God is necessary.
Conclusion. All of God’s knowledge is necessary.

Problem: any conclusion that all of God’s knowledge is necessary would preclude God’s knowledge of contingent truths. In fact, this argument might even be stronger than the one I've put forward regarding God’s willing.

Now, this is not to say that I think God’s knowledge must be grounded in contingencies. As I told someone earlier this week, when I was younger (early 2010s), the very reason I purchased Muller’s PRRD was to be able to better articulate the grounding objection to Molinism. I think God’s knowledge of contingent truths is sourced or grounded in the exercise of His own free will. For that very reason, I think there must be a distinction between knower and known (cf. post 20). In turn, this corresponds to a distinction between willer and willing (i.e. actor and the actor's acting).

Your words seem to support this: "God knows all things and yet God does not will all things." I agree with this if "all things" is equivocal (as I think it must be understood, unless you have an objection). That is:

"God knows all things," where "all things" here refers to what is actually the case (including contingencies that are given within the world which God's freedom has realized); vs.
"God does not will all things," where "all things" here refers to what might otherwise have been the case had God willed differently.

If I can just make one more point: you say, "his knowledge and his willing are not identical to one another denotatively." To return to a question I raised in my last post, are they identical to each other referentially? If so, does that mean that God's knowledge and God's will are strictly identical to each other (cf. Muller on pg. 287 of PRRD Vol. 3: any distinction you might make between them "may belong more to the mind performing the analysis than to the thing being analyzed") or just that both refer to the same subject (or both)?

py3ak said:
Here, again, I think the problem is in treating terms as interchangeable. I don't think language functions on a sort of mathematical principle where it doesn't make any difference whether you have 6-2 or 3+1 or 2x2. Heppe's statement is equivocal, of course; "will" is used with reference to the content of the decree and it's affirmed that God may decree otherwise; but "will" is also used with reference to the nature of the decree, when it's affirmed that God could not have a temporal, mutable, necessary decree. The objects decreed and the quality of the decree cannot be conflated.

Are you distinguishing between the decree and its execution? Perhaps that may also shed a little light.

Fair point regarding Heppe.

I think your question in bold is an insightful one. Yes, I am. Let me ask you:

1. If you also distinguish between the two, do you think God "executes" the content of His contingent (created?) decree by God's act (with which God is identical)?
2. If you do not distinguish between the two, how is it that one particular "content" comes to be effected rather than another (since God would be one and the same act regardless of any "content" decreed)? That is, how exactly is it that God's "one act" (with which He Himself would, in this case, be identical) terminates on a particular set of contingent affairs rather than another?

I might have one or two follow-up points to this, but I think an ask-answer to this alone is worth some simplicity.

Thanks again for the continued conversation.
 
This was extremely helpful, and I wish I had read this earlier. It sounds as though Muller is stating that an affirmation that the divine attributes are not identical to each other within the divine essence was a live option within the Reformed tradition (per Maccovius). This also seems to directly address what I wrote in my very first post:

If I were to rewrite my original question with Maccovius (not Dolezal) in mind, I might rhetorically ask, "if the divine persons may be formally distinct without entailing composition, why might not the divine attributes be formally distinct without entailing composition?" It seems Muller's reply would be that yes, "In the case of the trinitarian relations and divine attributes, such distinctions can and do apply to God."

Does this not allow me grounds for denying that the attributes themselves are identical to each other within the referent? If I appear confused, the source of my confusion is how Dolezal has framed the issue seems to contrast with how Muller frames it above. For as I cited in post 1, Dolezal said in a footnote to pg. 120 that "divine simplicity does not deny distinction in the Godhead - not even real distinctions - but only such distinctions as would entail composition." According to Maccovius, real distinction is precisely what must be denied, formal distinction affirmed.
Bingo. That would also be my philosophical argument for accepting formally distinct divine attributes. Namely, I don't see how one can hold to real Trinitarianism yet still insist on divine hyper-simplicity, i.e. the divine attributes are internally identical. I can't think of an attribute more central to Who God is than that of personhood. And certainly not ALL of His other attributes are a greater indicator of His "primary substance" (to use Aristotelian categories).

(Of course, my theological argument would be simply that the Bible teaches us to praise God for His MANY attributes, and the Bible is true.)
 
Bingo. That would also be my philosophical argument for accepting formally distinct divine attributes. Namely, I don't see how one can hold to real Trinitarianism yet still insist on divine hyper-simplicity, i.e. the divine attributes are internally identical.

We have always insisted, if not always clearly, on formal, rational distinction of the attributes.

One of the problems is we aren't really familiar with the Latin nuance of "res." The reason we deny real (res) distinctions is we are denying different res (rem? I'm confusing my declensions probably) in God. A res suggests a thing. God doesn't have different things in him.

As for saying personhood is the ultimate attribute, that risks reading post-Cartesian connotations of person into the Godhead. That might be the right way to go and the truth would be with Descartes, but I suggests there are greater dangers that way.
 
We have always insisted, if not always clearly, on formal, rational distinction of the attributes.

One of the problems is we aren't really familiar with the Latin nuance of "res." The reason we deny real (res) distinctions is we are denying different res (rem? I'm confusing my declensions probably) in God. A res suggests a thing. God doesn't have different things in him.

As for saying personhood is the ultimate attribute, that risks reading post-Cartesian connotations of person into the Godhead. That might be the right way to go and the truth would be with Descartes, but I suggests there are greater dangers that way.
I was actually trying to avoid saying that personhood is the ultimate attribute. Because God is perfect, I would say that all of His attributes are equally necessary. He has no accidental attributes. It follows that no attribute can be MORE ultimate than personhood, which because of Trinity entails some sort of distinction.
 
Did you mean to say that the meaning of denotative diversity is that “different ideas are not communicated to us by the same words”? Otherwise, I'm not sure I understand your first sentence. If you really mean what you said, then perhaps you are trying to harmonize it with Duby's correlative expression of "referential identity."
I think if you make an equivalent sentence the original comment makes more sense.
Original: "Denotatively diverse means that the same idea is not communicated to us by the same words."
Equivalent: "Denotatively diverse means that the same idea is communicated to us by different words."

What Frame says does not seem so wrong to me if we qualify the distinction between the divine attributes as "formal" a la Maccovius.
It might be helpful to pull in the English translation of Maccovius. From the link I provided earlier to Maccovius:
1707535012887.png
1707535031758.png

 
I was actually trying to avoid saying that personhood is the ultimate attribute. Because God is perfect, I would say that all of His attributes are equally necessary. He has no accidental attributes. It follows that no attribute can be MORE ultimate than personhood, which because of Trinity entails some sort of distinction.
I see now.
 
I think if you make an equivalent sentence the original comment makes more sense.
Original: "Denotatively diverse means that the same idea is not communicated to us by the same words."
Equivalent: "Denotatively diverse means that the same idea is communicated to us by different words."

That's not an option I had even entertained given that @py3ak went on to say, "I don't get the same idea of God from "true" that I do from "merciful.""

It might be helpful to pull in the English translation of Maccovius. From the link I provided earlier to Maccovius:
View attachment 10848
View attachment 10849


Which link? That reads as though Maccovius did not accept "formal" distinctions. Do you think Muller is at all misleading in the citation I provided from PRRD? I certainly got a different initial impression when reading those paragraphs on pg. 286. (EDIT: it comes to mind perhaps Muller is just using Maccovius to summarize positions held among different Reformed Orthodox theologians?)

At any rate, one can swap out something like [Reformed Orthoxod theologians who accepted formal distinctions] for [Maccovius] in the appropriate places in my post.
 
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Which link?
Should be at the bottom of post #6 in this thread.

Do you think Muller is at all misleading in the citation I provided from PRRD?
No, I think he highlights the same distinctions that Maccovius highlights (real, formal, modal, rational). If you read the next paragraph on 3:286, we see:​
Third, there are rational distinctions concerning things, what the scholastics call distinctions "by reason of analysis (ratio ratiocinata) founded in the ting" - which can be viewed as pointing toward such inward distinctions as those identified by the terms "eminent" and "virtual." As implied in the preceding paragraph, this understanding of rational distinctions was typical of the thought of Aquinas and subsequent Thomists. And, fourth, there are purely rational (ratio rationans) distinctions made with reference to the externally perceived relationships of things to other things - both of which can be illustrated like the so-called formal distinction, given the philosophical problem that the qualities or formalities identified in the distinction may belong more to the mind performing the analysis than to the thing being analyzed.
The whole section there is just providing conceptual background. He starts the discussion of the Reformed Orthodox views at the bottom of 3:287. The general consensus was the eminent distinction, or ratio ratiocinata. When "formal distinction" is used, it seems to be used with the meaning of eminent (see Muller's comment on Voetius on 3:289). The summary of the three views among the Reformed on 3:289 is also helpful. The basic theme is a refusal to delve into speculation about how the attributes are distinct within God's essence, since re: God's transcendence, we deal with his revelation rather than a God's-eye view into God.

There are basically two extremes that are being avoided. The first extreme: our distinctions in attributes are a one-to-one ontological correspondence with God's inner being. The Reformed Orthodox rejected this, given God's incomprehensibility and aseity. The second extreme: our distinctions in attributes have no basis in the reality of God. Again, the Reformed Orthodox rejected this, given that the attributes do in fact reveal God. So calling them eminent distinctions fits the best. They don't refer to one-to-one ontological distinctions within God's essence (that is speculation beyond revelation and human capacity), but they are based on God's revelation of himself rather than being speculation themselves. I thought that Maccovius' analogy to the value of precious coins being enumerated by its value in lower coins was helpful in indicating how the eminent distinction works. There aren't actually ten lesser-valued coins inside of or composing the single larger-valued coin. But we apprehend the value of the larger coin through that concept. So the concept by which we apprehend its value is based in its nature/reality, but formulated by our reflective analysis using concepts that we can grasp.​
 
Should be at the bottom of post #6 in this thread.


No, I think he highlights the same distinctions that Maccovius highlights (real, formal, modal, rational). If you read the next paragraph on 3:286, we see:

The whole section there is just providing conceptual background. He starts the discussion of the Reformed Orthodox views at the bottom of 3:287. The general consensus was the eminent distinction, or ratio ratiocinata. When "formal distinction" is used, it seems to be used with the meaning of eminent (see Muller's comment on Voetius on 3:289). The summary of the three views among the Reformed on 3:289 is also helpful. The basic theme is a refusal to delve into speculation about how the attributes are distinct within God's essence, since re: God's transcendence, we deal with his revelation rather than a God's-eye view into God.

There are basically two extremes that are being avoided. The first extreme: our distinctions in attributes are a one-to-one ontological correspondence with God's inner being. The Reformed Orthodox rejected this, given God's incomprehensibility and aseity. The second extreme: our distinctions in attributes have no basis in the reality of God. Again, the Reformed Orthodox rejected this, given that the attributes do in fact reveal God. So calling them eminent distinctions fits the best. They don't refer to one-to-one ontological distinctions within God's essence (that is speculation beyond revelation and human capacity), but they are based on God's revelation of himself rather than being speculation themselves. I thought that Maccovius' analogy to the value of precious coins being enumerated by its value in lower coins was helpful in indicating how the eminent distinction works. There aren't actually ten lesser-valued coins inside of or composing the single larger-valued coin. But we apprehend the value of the larger coin through that concept. So the concept by which we apprehend its value is based in its nature/reality, but formulated by our reflective analysis using concepts that we can grasp.​
If I could summarize this for @Knight, one of the things you see in Frame is that he believes that we have some sort of univocal understanding of God and makes that the basis for distinctions within the attributes. What Reformed Orthodox insisted upon is that our minds can properly apprehend distinctions between His attributes, but that doesn't mean we comprehend those attributes in the very Being of God Himself. We keep getting back to the archetypal/ectypal distinction. If we think we're thinking as God thinks about Himself, then it presents all kinds of confusion.

It would be more helpful to just stop our language around God's essence when Revelation stops. I think some strong assertions of Divine simplicity are using mental categories in such a way as to insist that the human person must think of God's attributes as being all the same. That is, to my mind, a way of confusing archetypal and ectypal theology. It's probably better to just say that what we apprehend is that God's attributes are distinct in the way we apprehend them, but that doesn't mean that we penetrate the Divine essence and that they are "parts" of God that make God a composite of those attributes.
 
I have been swamped the past few days, so I'm just helicoptering in quickly. On a quick rush through, I'd like to associate myself with the remarks from Albert and Jacob, and heartily commend the historical discussion in PRRD 3.153-226 and 271-325, especially 284-298.
@py3ak, I've been trying to go through Muller to bridge the seeming gap. I have more to say in reply to your last post, but I want to gain some clarification:



Did you mean to say that the meaning of denotative diversity is that “different ideas are not communicated to us by the same words”? Otherwise, I'm not sure I understand your first sentence. If you really mean what you said, then perhaps you are trying to harmonize it with Duby's correlative expression of "referential identity."

To clarify what that means, does the statement that the divine attributes are “referentially identical” simply mean that the same subject is referred to when we state different predications (as you do)? If so, then I don’t think one needs to affirm a “strong” view of divine simplicity to agree.

On the other hand, if for the divine attributes to be “referentially identical” means that the attributes themselves are identical to each other within the referent such that there is no distinction between said attributes except in our own minds, then it appears any distinct conceptions you have of God would be literally, metaphysically false (since there is no such distinction within the divine essence). Before you answer this or the above question, see the Muller citation below.



Ha! At any rate, that is not the goal of the syllogisms.



Depending on how you answer my question regarding Duby, I am almost beginning to wonder whether you fall into the category of the sort of “strong” divine simplicity in which I sense tension. Mention of “coherence” is suggestive that you might not think the divine attributes are identical to each other?

How you answer the above questions might be helpful if I provide the following citation of Muller as a point of reference. Honestly, I should have followed up on Muller sooner like I said I would (post 12). For example, on pgs. 286-287, Muller writes:



This was extremely helpful, and I wish I had read this earlier. It sounds as though Muller is stating that an affirmation that the divine attributes are not identical to each other within the divine essence was a live option within the Reformed tradition (per Maccovius). This also seems to directly address what I wrote in my very first post:



If I were to rewrite my original question with Maccovius (not Dolezal) in mind, I might rhetorically ask, "if the divine persons may be formally distinct without entailing composition, why might not the divine attributes be formally distinct without entailing composition?" It seems Muller's reply would be that yes, "In the case of the trinitarian relations and divine attributes, such distinctions can and do apply to God."

Does this not allow me grounds for denying that the attributes themselves are identical to each other within the referent? If I appear confused, the source of my confusion is how Dolezal has framed the issue seems to contrast with how Muller frames it above. For as I cited in post 1, Dolezal said in a footnote to pg. 120 that "divine simplicity does not deny distinction in the Godhead - not even real distinctions - but only such distinctions as would entail composition." According to Maccovius, real distinction is precisely what must be denied, formal distinction affirmed.

Further confusing me is that in Chapter 4 of All That Is In God, Dolezal contradicts the above footnote:



What Frame says does not seem so wrong to me if we qualify the distinction between the divine attributes as "formal" a la Maccovius. That is, in pointing out a distinction or non-identity between the divine attributes, we can and should simultaneously deny that what we are talking about is something like a distinction:

1. between different things of different essences (e.g., between a flower and a table),
2. or between two things of the same essence (e.g. between two tables),
3. or between the separable parts of a composite thing (e.g., between the tabletop and the legs of the table)

Distinctions between the attributes within the divine essence don't imply a different essence for each attribute, do not suggest numerically multiple essences, and aren't separable parts ("real" distinction). Nevertheless, they are not identical to each other because they are formally distinct.

I also cited Dabney on page 1, and Dolezal takes aim at him too here. I am realizing that throughout this thread, I have just assumed that the way in which Dolezal presents what I have regarded as the "strong" view of divine simplicity in All That Is In God was noncontroversial. Given the above and the earlier question of his language on "eternal creatorhood," however, I am now beginning to wonder if @83r17h was more right in his first post than I have realized.

Like I said, I know you wrote more in your last post @py3ak, and I do want to respond to that. But I'm hoping the above paves a path to some clarity. If I am understanding Muller and Maccovius correctly, I would affirm:

"All that is in God is God" is true in the sense that the "all" in question includes formally distinct, strictly non-identical attributes.
"Referential identity" of the divine attributes is true in the sense each attribute refers to the same subject, God.
No, I mean we use different words for different ideas. That's denotatively diverse. Those different ideas should not be taken to imply composition in God or anything inconsistent with his supreme oneness. That's referentially identical.

There's a certain amount of diversity in how different Protestant Scholastics speak about the relation of the attributes between themselves. Within that diversity, I'm not entirely sure how much genuine difference there is, or if some ways of speaking are just more suitable for certain contexts than others. But I don't have any brief to argue against any of the slightly varying positions that Muller identifies, although I would not concur with Dabney, and I won't speak as to Dolezal.

@py3ak: to follow up on responding to the other points in your post which are also deserving of interaction:



We can agree that God’s knowledge is by no means sourced in something external to His nature or will. But if we cannot distinguish God from His knowledge and instead say that God’s knowledge is identical to God Himself, I think we run into the following problem:

Premise 1. If God is necessary, then that which is identical to God is necessary.
Premise 2. God is identical to all of God’s knowledge.
Premise 3. God is necessary.
Conclusion. All of God’s knowledge is necessary.

Problem: any conclusion that all of God’s knowledge is necessary would preclude God’s knowledge of contingent truths. In fact, this argument might even be stronger than the one I've put forward regarding God’s willing.

Now, this is not to say that I think God’s knowledge must be grounded in contingencies. As I told someone earlier this week, when I was younger (early 2010s), the very reason I purchased Muller’s PRRD was to be able to better articulate the grounding objection to Molinism. I think God’s knowledge of contingent truths is sourced or grounded in the exercise of His own free will. For that very reason, I think there must be a distinction between knower and known (cf. post 20). In turn, this corresponds to a distinction between willer and willing (i.e. actor and the actor's acting).

Your words seem to support this: "God knows all things and yet God does not will all things." I agree with this if "all things" is equivocal (as I think it must be understood, unless you have an objection). That is:

"God knows all things," where "all things" here refers to what is actually the case (including contingencies that are given within the world which God's freedom has realized); vs.
"God does not will all things," where "all things" here refers to what might otherwise have been the case had God willed differently.

If I can just make one more point: you say, "his knowledge and his willing are not identical to one another denotatively." To return to a question I raised in my last post, are they identical to each other referentially? If so, does that mean that God's knowledge and God's will are strictly identical to each other (cf. Muller on pg. 287 of PRRD Vol. 3: any distinction you might make between them "may belong more to the mind performing the analysis than to the thing being analyzed") or just that both refer to the same subject (or both)?



Fair point regarding Heppe.

I think your question in bold is an insightful one. Yes, I am. Let me ask you:

1. If you also distinguish between the two, do you think God "executes" the content of His contingent (created?) decree by God's act (with which God is identical)?
2. If you do not distinguish between the two, how is it that one particular "content" comes to be effected rather than another (since God would be one and the same act regardless of any "content" decreed)? That is, how exactly is it that God's "one act" (with which He Himself would, in this case, be identical) terminates on a particular set of contingent affairs rather than another?

I might have one or two follow-up points to this, but I think an ask-answer to this alone is worth some simplicity.

Thanks again for the continued conversation.
Since I'm still pressed for time, let me try a brief positive statement, and if that leaves unanswered questions I can come back to them later, or you can press me further.

God knows all things through himself. In more concrete terms, God knows everything he can do. He stands in a relation of awareness to the full scope of his power and the logical limits of possibility. God does whatever he wills (Psalm 115:3). He stands in a causal relationship to everything he effects from the whole range of his power. Now we dimly understand that God could have done other things, e.g., plant corporeal inhabitants on Jupiter also, which he hasn't done (as far as we know). But it is always the same, identical God who stands in those relations of awareness and causality.

We distinguish those relations, and we do so properly. But I don't affirm that I know what it is like to know all (possible) things through myself, nor to cause all (actual) things through myself. So while, for me, knowing and willing are definitely distinct; and while, from my standpoint for analysis, I correctly distinguish those relations in God, I don't affirm that they are distinct for God in the way that they are distinct for me.

How is it that God's one act terminates on one state of affairs rather than another? I don't think I can answer how. At least, I don't see how (!) I would, and I'm not trying to. That's back around to there being no other or higher cause than the will of God, which is God himself willing. I think that is properly basic and the inevitable starting point, as well as being the Biblical starting point.

Thank you, also. I know I didn't explicitly answer every question, but I did read them all and hope that this shorter post will allow for some progress on the main point, rendering some of the other points relatively minor and easier to address when I have a bit more leisure next week.
 
Did you mean to say that the meaning of denotative diversity is that “different ideas are not communicated to us by the same words”? Otherwise, I'm not sure I understand your first sentence.
Yes, sorry, that was a slip of the mind. I meant to say that different words give us different ideas.
 
I haven't meant to ignore everyone's recent posts. My attention has shifted elsewhere, but I appreciate the discussion and everyone's transparency. Feser here was helpful (and fair) to a view of divine simplicity which is close to mine (and certainly not Feser's own), but I'd like to get a better handle on the historicity of the subject. Before winding things down completely, I have one further question. On pg. 295-296 of PRRD Volume 3, Muller writes (regarding Turretin):

Turretin’s argument — the third approach — draws on the language of eminent and the language of formal distinction, arguing an ad intra application of the eminent or virtual distinction and an ad extra application of the formal distinction. The attributes, Turretin indicates, are not distinct either from the divine essence or from one another realiter but, nonetheless, “the may properly be said to be distinguished both intellectually as to the diverse formal conception and objectively and effectively as to the various external objects and effects.” Yet, like his Reformed contemporaries, Turretin is quite unwilling to argue a distinction that is purely or entirely ad extra — and ready to argue an ad intra distinction of attributes that borrows on the language of the distinction per eminentiam. Turretin continues, “it is evident that this distinction is neither simply real [as] between things and things, nor formal (which is only in our manner of conception), but eminent (which although it does not hold itself on the part of the thing as between thing and thing, yet has a foundation in the thing on account of the diversity of objects and effects).” In Turretin’s language, the mind isolates attributes by a “praecisive abstraction” that is simple and negative, but neither exclusive nor privative — we conceive of the divine goodness by abstracting it or mentally isolating it from other attributes, like power, but not by arguing God to be good as opposed to his being merciful or just.”

The language here is both curious and significant: the distinctio formalis is denied, but on the ground that it was purely rational — that is, identical with the distinctio rationalis or rationis rationans — which was certainly not the intention of Scotus’ usage. (Indeed, Turretin appears to reverse Burman’s mistake, removing the formal distinction from the real order rather than identifying it too closely with a real distinction.)*” In addition, an “eminent distinction’ is affirmed as having a “foundation in the thing,” echoing the language of the distinctio rationis ratiocinatae cum fundamento in re, but following out the line of argument we have seen Keckermann draw from Cajetan. At the same time, Turretin associates this more Thomistic language with a sense of intellectual distinctions that can be made concerning the divine essence resting on our “diverse formal conception” of the divine acts ad extra.*"’ Turretin thus appears, like Voetius, to draw on elements of Scotist vocabulary while using a fundamentally late Thomistic paradigm for the basic distinction of attributes.*”

It sounds like Muller is saying Turretin confuses Scotus' formal distinction with a "purely rational" distinction (cf. pg. 287). In fact, when I initially read Turretin's statement in the first paragraph above, I was delighted to find Muller raise the very curiosity I thought of in his second paragraph above. But that leads me to ask: what exactly is the difference supposed to be between a formal distinction and an eminent distinction? I didn't get a clear understanding of the difference on pgs. 286-287 either.
 
With some measure of trepidation, I'll offer the observation that distinctions that are capable of confusing either Turretin or Muller are likely to be rather too much for most of us! In any individual writer one will have to notice if he treats formaliter as something that rests entirely in the analyzing subject or gives it a more properly Scotist emphasis.

A distinctio formalis is between "formal aspects of the essence of a thing," for instance, intellect and will (DLGT, s.v. distinctio). I think this is where denotatively diverse continues to provide some clarity.

Per eminentiam I would take to reflect the via eminantiae. To the degree that there is a distinction discernible between eminently and virtually (and in some sentences they clearly overlap substantially) it would be just the difference between the via eminantiae and the via causalitatis. These "things" are in God, truly, eminently, in the sense that he causes their existence in creatures. They are distinct in such a way that produce quite distinct effects. But the divided and disparate way they exist in creatures will not reflect their unity in God.
 
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