Hodge Contra Scholastic Simplicity

Continuing with the Oliphint controversy.  If Oliphint is guilty of teaching contra to the Reformed Scholastics, then so is Hodge.  If Oliphint goes, Hodge goes.  Simple (sorry!) as that.

…[S]tart with the revelation that God has made of himself in the constitution of our own nature and in his holy word.  This method leads to the conclusion that God can think and act, that in him essence and attributes are not identical (I: 564).

It’s also interesting to note Hodge’s comment about God constituting our nature in a certain way.  Shades of Thomas Reid.

To say, as the schoolmen, and so many even of Protestant theologians, ancient and modern, were accustomed to say, that the divine attributes differ only in name, or in our conceptions, or in their effects, is to destroy all true knowledge of God…If in God knowledge is identical with eternity, knowledge with power, power with ubiquity, and ubiquity with holiness, then we are using words without meaning (I: 371-372).

The attributes of God, therefore, are not merely different conceptions in our minds, but different modes in which God reveals himself to his creatures…just as our several faculties are different modes in which the inscrutable substance self reveals itself in our consciousness and acts (I: 374).

So what do we mean by simplicity?  Rome has a thorough, if ultimately chaotic, answer to this question.   Orthodoxy has an outstanding response to Rome, but nothing in terms of a constructive view of Simplicity.  Following Turretin, Hodge writes,

The attributes are to be distinguished not realiter, but virtualiter; that is, there is a real foundation in the divine nature for the several attributes attributed to him (I: 370).

What does virtualiter mean?

Richard Muller defines it as “literally, i.e., with virtue or power” (Muller 371).

It’s interesting that Muller mentioned “power.”  This corresponds with Radde-Galwitz’s interpretation of Gregory of Nyssa.  Alluding to Michel Barnes he notes that divine power is the causal capacity rooted in the divine nature; inseparable from the divine nature and gives rise to the divine energies (183; Barnes).  Further, each “Good” (or attribute, in our case) entails another.

Works Cited:

Hodge, Charles.  Systematic Theology, volume 1.

Muller, Richard.  Dictionary of Greek and Latin Theological Terms

Radde-Galwitz, Andrew.  Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and the Transformation of Divine Simplicity.


One thought on “Hodge Contra Scholastic Simplicity

  1. While there’s a few examples of EO claiming to have been always the case that are highly contestable if not most probably unlikely, I’m pretty convinced that the essence-energies distinction is something that goes back very far, even among ante-nicaean heterodox who start sliding towards a collapse the Word and Spirit into energies. Its pay-off is that it ultimately allows the Bible’s grammar to make sense, and not just reduce everything to dull-brained anthropomorphisms.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s