Friday, February 3, 2017

This simple picture helps explain "Divine Simplicity" and God's many "attributes".

This post is more of a theological reflection rather than an apologetics argument. Oftentimes I've heard people talk about how God is "both infinitely Merciful and infinitely Just," or some similar comparison, as if God somehow was able to hold together many conflicting "attributes" at the same time. I think the answer to these kinds of questions is to recognize that what we think of as God's "attributes" are only half the picture. Consider the following diagram:

This is a picture of White Light (sunlight), which is invisible to the human eye, but when this White Light hits a Glass Prism, the White Light reflects off it and result is the spectrum of the colors of the rainbow. (This is real science you can do at home.) 

The analogy to draw from this example is that God is similar to the White Light in that He is normally invisible to us, while the Prism is similar to Creation, and when God interacts with Creation we see Gods many beautiful attributes throughout nature and in divine revelation. The point being that the colors of the rainbow represent God's attributes, such as Justice, Mercy, etc, and these are truly distinct from Creation's point of view, but in reality these terms are only human terms to describe an ultimate reality (White Light) that is far beyond our mind's ability to grasp. This is one reason why Christian theologians throughout history have described God as "simple," not to suggest God is easy to understand, but rather to say that God isn't composed of many 'parts'. We cannot really fathom or understand God directly, but we can still understand Him 'indirectly' in a real and true manner.


Anil Wang said...

Knowing the science behind the spectrum, I have some reservations. In white light, all the colours are already present, it's just that we don't perceive them as such. So white light isn't any more simple than a spectrum.

I don't know what is a good illustration, but I've always thought that divine simplicity is the reason Justice vs Mercy, Truth vs Beauty vs Goodness, etc are not dichotomies or trichotomies but different facets of the same thing...sort of how light is both a wave and a particle. So there can never be any real conflict conflict between God's Justice versus God's Mercy as various doctrines of the atonement, and Cardinal Kasper insists, since Perfect Mercy is Perfect Justice; there is no conflict between being just or merciful or truthful on earth and being faithful to God. The reason we see a conflict is because we are imperfect and do not (or can not) act perfectly just or perfectly merciful. But the closer we are to Christ (as the saints are), the more clear this is.

Nick said...

I know what you mean but I think the analogy holds up as a simple analogy. Pushing any analogy too far leads to problems and there is no perfect analogy, but if you can find a better one I'm certainly always about learning and improving my apologetics writing.