God is Simple

By Andrew Kreye

Disclaimer: This one made my head hurt.

It also made me squeal with glee because I’m a theology nerd. When Scripture says, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord,” I’m guessing that’s not exactly what it means…

Most of my research for this article comes from Saint Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, First Part, Question 3. So if you like the slogan: “Reading words you already know but not understanding them because they’re put in an order you didn’t know was possible”, then you should check it out!

“God is truly and absolutely simple.” – St. Augustine

1. What’s in a Name?

“God replied to Moses: I am who am. Then he added: This is what you will tell the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.” – Exodus 3:14

Is there anyone in your life whose name just fits them?

Like, you can’t imagine them having any other name than the one they have. Maybe their name is Dan, and when you look at him you think, “You just look like a Dan!”

And yet, when Dan meets someone new, that person might forget your friend’s name.

“But how!?” I hear you cry from the other side of the internet in the future. “What other name could belong to that face!”

Well, to the stranger, any name could work because Dan’s name does not contain his being or define who he is. Meaning that, when I say, “Do you know Dan?” you have to ask, “Who are you talking about?”

There’s more than one person named Dan in the world, and even though they share a name, none of them are the same. Their name is just one aspect of who they are. One part out of many.

The name I want to focus on today is God’s name.

When God reveals His name to Moses, it isn’t just a pleasantry like the introductions we’re used to. (“Hi, I’m Cathy.” “Hi Cathy, I’m Dan. Nice to meet you.”)

This is because God’s name isn’t just a part of who He is. God’s name defines Himself. God’s name is who He is.

2. God is.

“[S]ince in God there is no potentiality… it follows that in Him essence does not differ from existence. Therefore, His essence is His existence.” – St. Thomas Aquinas

God is. Present tense. Neither past nor future. He is.

In the quote above, St. Thomas is saying that What God is, is the same as Whether God is.

Still sound like nonsense? Example time! 

Imagine a loaf of sourdough bread. This loaf can not be any other type of bread because at its core, it is sourdough. Its essence is that of sourdough bread. The “whatness” of this bread is sourdough.

Does the loaf of bread I’m writing about right now exist? No. If I were to bake a loaf of sourdough bread, would that loaf exist? Yes. But both loaves share the same essence. They are both sourdough bread.

Before I bake a loaf of bread, it has the potential to exist. Once the loaf has been baked, it exists in actuality.

To put it simply, all created things began with potential and then became actual. They have a past and then a present (and a future).

God is.

When He says to Moses, “I am who am,” He is saying that He has always been present. He never had potential because He was always actual. He was not created.

God’s essence, then, is ‘being’ itself. The essence of ‘to be.’

If the essence of God is ‘being,’ and if He exists, then the two are the same.

3.  Rest in Simplicity

“Now it has been proved that God is absolutely primal being.” – St. Thomas Aquinas

When we are constantly surrounded by the complexities and uncertainties of life, I find it comforting to know that the only essential part of life is “absolutely simple.”

Of course, when I say that God is simple, I don’t mean that He’s easy to understand. What I mean is that He is not complex, that is, not made up of various parts. He is one. He always has been, and He will always be.

When you find yourself dwelling on the past or feeling uncertain about the future, remember that God is present. Take a moment and be present with Him.

You exist because He intentionally caused you to exist.

He wants to be with you. And when He asks what we want, may we have the faith to imitate the words of St. Thomas Aquinas:

Non nisi te, Domine!

Nothing but you, Lord!

“Jesus, knowing everything that was going to happen to him, went out and said to them, ‘Whom are you looking for?’ They answered him, ‘Jesus the Nazorean.’ He said to them, ‘I AM.’ When he said to them, ‘I AM,’ they turned away and fell to the ground.”

– John 18:4-5a, 6

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