Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | June 23, 2006

The Simplicity of God

Today we are embarking upon a new series in reviewing the Belgic Confession, which is the doctrinal standard that my denomination subscribes too.  This is a confession of the Reformed faith (not the only one, there are other good ones too), which is what I believe is the most consistent with Scripture out of all other forms of Christianity.  Thus far, we have been conducting an overview of Basic Christian doctrine common to all orthodox denominations.  However, in the coming weeks we will be reviewing things that are not necessarily common to all Christians.  

The first topic that will be covered is not unique to the Reformed faith, but will find unity among many other denominations.  The confession begins with affirming the belief in God who is defined by His attributes revealed in Scripture.  Our understanding of God is essential to our knowledge of all other things.  The understanding of our Creator also helps us to understand ourselves more accurately, as John Calvin states in his Institutes:   

As a consequence, we must infer that man is never sufficiently touched and affected by the awareness of his lowly state until he has compared himself with God’s majesty. 1.1.3  

There are some people who dismiss the pursuit of knowing God by assigning Him to the category of being unknowable.  However, this is not what the saints throughout history have understood nor is taking serious that fact that God has revealed Himself through His Son, His Word and the creation.  This topic is very timely for my life, since for the last couple months I have been reading about God’s attributes from Francis Turretin and this last week in Tabletalk magazine.  Against this criticism of dismissing the concept of knowing God the June 19 devotional in Tabletalk provides the following response:  

If God is completely unknowable, it is assumed, then no one could possibly know for sure that Jesus alone is the way of salvation.  At the beginning of our study of the divine attributes we must insist on the incomprehensibility of God.  However, incomprehensible does not mean He is totally unknowable…Our Creator is high above us, but when we say He is incomprehensible, we only mean that our minds cannot fully grasp the depths of His being.  Yet we can know true things about Him.  “The Study of God” Tabletalk Ligonier Ministries and RC Sproul, June 2006  

We are also advised in Scripture to seek to know our Creator.  For example, Hosea 6:3:  “So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.  His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth.” 

Let us concede that we must be humble when seeking to define our Creator.  Since we are finite, to boast that we can possess and exhaustive knowledge of our Creator is folly.  Nonetheless, this does not condone the position of remaining completely ignorant to knowing what God has revealed to us about Him.  After clarifying this, let us proceed with reviewing Article 1 of the Belgic Confession:  

The Only God – We all believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths that there is a single and simple spiritual being, whom we call God – eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, unchangeable, infinite, almighty; completely wise, just and good, and the overflowing source of all good. 

In the past couple of weeks we have affirmed the belief of only a single God, however the confession goes to state He is also a simple spiritual being.  There are some today who would seek to eliminate this term from our understanding of God.  And at first glance to assert that God is in anyway simple seems to be demeaning to Him.  However, the Reformers here are not in anyway using this term in a derogatory fashion.  No, they are affirming an essential truth that separates the Christian faith from all forms of pantheism.  Pantheistic religions, such as Hinduism, Buddishm, and more ancient relgions such as Gnsoticism and Manicheanism promote the idea that God is all and all is God.  The intent of this term is to affirm that God is a single being and not to be confused with being composed of any created thing.  About this concept, Francis Turretin, comments in his Institutes of Elenctic Theology: 

But as God rejects all composition in himself, so his simplicity hinders him also from being compounded with any created things so as to hold the relation of some part either of matter or form (against the opinion of the Platonists who supposed God to be the soul of the world; and of the Manicheans who held that all creatures were propagated from the essence of God).  This is so both because he is altogether diverse from creatures, and because he is immutable and incorruptible (he cannot coalesce in one with any mutable and corruptible created thing.)  For all composition infers mutations by which a thing becomes part of a whole, which was not before.  3.7.6 

Our God must be separate from the creation, since it is impossible for Him to change or be corrupted.  We are fallen creatures and if we are part of God then that would make Him sinful.  This cannot be, thus we affirm the simplicity of God.



  1. […] As we discussed in our 6/23/06 post, God cannot be confused with the creation itself.  Thus, He remains simple in this sense which must be taken into consideration when shaping our understanding of Him being infinite.  The implications of God’s infinity are that we can never calculate or reach the end of Him.  Thus, there is no end to growing in the knowledge of Him.  Although, we can study God for the rest of our lives we will never arrive at the completion of this study.  We’ll never run out of things to learn or consider about God.    […]

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