God is simple


The first attribute classically held about God is that He is simple. Wait, is God dumb? No, not quite. Simplicity is one of the most challenging and strange attributes of God for us finite humans to reflect upon. The attributes, particularly simplicity, help us see just how other than us God is (but this otherness comes close in the Incarnation, the greatest of mysteries). If you struggle with this one, that’s alright! It’s not required to know this stuff for salvation, but it can be very helpful, comforting, and awe-inspiring, drawing us nearer to God in worship.

God’s Simplicity is typically understood as the fact that God has no parts; God is not a composite (pieces put together in a whole). This means God is not a body (John 4:24), as He does not have arms, legs, eyes, etc. But it’s more than that, because while bodies are physical, God is not. But wait, how can non-physical things have or not have parts?? This is where things get weird.

Think about it (sort of) like this: a blue suit is made up of a jacket and pants, with sleeves, legs, lapels, pockets, etc. The whole suit has parts and each part is blue. But what part of the suit is the “blue” part? What is the “blue” itself here? Try thinking now about the “blue” without the suit. Without anything, actually. Can you do it? Don’t worry if you can’t, it’s incredibly difficult. “Blue” itself is something philosophers call an abstract universal; it’s real and exists (well, arguably; some don’t think so), but isn’t physical or able to be tested or seen or touched or anything like that. That “blueness” cannot be broken into parts, it’s a single thing, so it’s simple. God is sort of like that (actually, “blueness” is sort of like God!).

But “blueness” doesn’t cause other things to exist, doesn’t do anything. God, on the other hand, does cause all things to exist and upholds their being. Which means God can’t just be another being that exists, but is Being itself. God is the source of all being, because as Being He is simple and not made of parts nor possesses parts.

I stress that sort of, since God is ultimately beyond all our ideas and words, and this is simply meant to help us reach out a little further towards the God Who is near to everyone of us (Acts 17:27). But why does this matter? So what if God is sort of like “blueness;” we’re in a pandemic! This sort of head-in-the-clouds thinking isn’t useful.

Here’s why (I think) it matters. Because God is simple and is not made up of parts (Yes He has many attributes, but these aren’t actually parts. More on that later) this leads us to a truth that is profoundly comforting: God is fully and always and totally Himself. This is absolutely crucial to the Jewish understanding of God. “The Lord our God, the Lord is One” (Deu.t 6:5). There’s no leg to get hurt, no toothache to distract Him from our prayers and cries, no parts that could decay, no lungs to contract COVID-19, nothing in Him to prevent Him from loving us. God’s simplicity means there is a total unchanging-ness to Him, which makes Him Who He is always. So in a time of, say, a global pandemic, there is not a part of God that can get sick or distracted. He sees you; He sees us. He is sustaining the birds and trees and doggos and you and me through it all.

The God Who called Abraham, called Israel, sent the Messiah, and raised Him from the grave, is the God Who is utterly simple, One, sustaining all things. Your breath, right now, is from God. The One Who Is (Ex. 3:14) is wholly Himself and nothing else. And He is for us, so who can be against us? (Rom. 8:31)

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