What do I think about James Dolezal’s book published by Reformation Heritage? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
James Dolezal could be the leading voice in Protestantism on the simplicity of God and how important it is. What is striking about all of this is that you have someone here saying how important this is and the majority of Protestants I fear have no idea what simplicity is. If you go to most of them and say God is simple, they will be thinking you are talking about God being an easy concept to understand, such as saying 2 + 2 = 4 or something of that sort.
That is not at all what is meant. Dolezal says it is the underlying and inviolable conviction that God does not derive any aspect of His being from outside Himself and is not in any way caused to be. Ultimately, all that is in God, is God. He has no parts. He is not composed. No one puts God together.
Sometimes, some people think that this means that God has no physical body. That is important, to be sure, but that is not the main emphasis of simplicity. It goes beyond that. It means you cannot alter God in anyway and that God does not change and that He is not a composite being at all even in His attributes. God does not have love, for example. God IS love.
Dolezal’s main interaction in the book is with a side of theistic mutualism whereby it is said that God needs to have what is called a real relationship with us or else it isn’t real. God has to be able to experience our love in a sort of real-time scenario and be able to experience rejection from us. Our love has to affect God in some way.
The problem is that classical theism, as especially emphasized in Aquinas, held that God was loving already and the source of joy and that we should pray to Him and seek His blessings. Mutualism has not given us anything new. It has instead taken something away.
Too often, the idea starts out with “Well, I’m a person and this is how I function and God is like that.” God is not like us. He is not like us in anyway. This is putting the cart before the horse. It’s like saying the Mona Lisa is like the copy of the Mona Lisa. No. The copy is like the original. The original is the standard. It is not that God is like us. It is that we are to be like Him.
Consider that Scripture says He’s the Father from whom all fatherhood comes. If someone is a father, it is not that they are a father and God is like that. It’s that God is a Father and they are something like that.
When Aquinas wrote his Summa Theologica on the doctrine of God, he first established that God exists. After that, he went on to describe God and the first doctrine he started with was simplicity. Why? Because if you don’t do that, then all the attributes that are described are seen as parts of God and God is a composite being.
But isn’t God a composite being? What about the Trinity?! It’s odd that today, we say, how can the doctrine of simplicity work with the Trinity? For the early church, it was the opposite. How does the doctrine of the Trinity work with simplicity? When Nicea took place, no one disagreed with simplicity or questioned it. What was questioned was the person of Jesus.
Without simplicity, one statement you can see is that each person is part of God, which is denying the great creeds that indicate that each person is fully God. There is no division of the substance. If there is no simplicity, how is it that God is one also? Why not tritheism?
There is plenty in this book to chew on and I will be pondering it more. If anyone wants to learn about simplicity, I really urge them to read this book. If there was anything I would like more on, it would have been the way this works with the incarnation. It’s not that the Son took on a body, but it does look like an entering into time at one specific point.
However, while God is simple, theology rarely is. We cannot comprehend fully any aspect of the doctrine of God. We can only apprehend. I can say reading this book did leave me in more awe of who God is, something I am sure Dolezal would be pleased with.
Another note along those lines though is that this book is very much Calvinistic. I would have liked to have seen it stated that this is not a Calvinist doctrine, but a Christian one. I do not consider myself Calvinist at all and I hold definitely to simplicity.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)