St. Cyril on divine simplicity
June 22, 2009
In the discussion to a recent post (The debate on Bekkos’s Epigraphs), some skepticism has been expressed concerning an identification, made by theologians like Thomas Aquinas and Bessarion of Nicaea, between God’s will and God’s being. For this reason, I thought I would present here a couple of passages which show St. Cyril of Alexandria asserting this very identification; i.e., he explicitly states that God is whatever he has, and that will and being in God are the same. A strong view of divine simplicity is traditional Christian theology, not a medieval, Latin invention or a Platonizing corruption.
St. Cyril of Alexandria, Dialogues on the Trinity (Ad Hermiam), book V; SC 237 (de Durand, ed.), p. 290; PG 75, 945 C.
|Hermias. And how, they say, is the divine simple if, in existence on the one hand and in will on the other, it is conceived of separately? For then it would be composite and as though it existed, in a way, out of parts that had come together into a closer unity.||Β. Καὶ πῶς ἂν εἴη τὸ θεῖον ἁπλοῦν εἰ καὶ ἐν ὑπάρξει νοοῖτο, φησί, καὶ ἐν θελήσει διωρισμένους; Σύνθετον γὰρ ἤδη καὶ οἱονεί πως ἐκ μερῶν εἱς ἓν τὸ ἀρτίως ἔχον συνδεδραμηκότοιν.|
|Cyril. Therefore, since, in your view, the divine is simple and exists above all composition (and this view of yours is correct), his will is nothing other than he himself. And if someone says “will,” he indicates the nature of God the Father.||Α. Οὐκοῦν, ἐπειδήπερ ἁπλοῦν τὸ θεῖον καὶ ἄμεινον ἢ κατὰ σύνθεσιν εἶναί σοι δοκεῖ (δοκεῖ δὲ ὀρθῶς), οὐχ ἑτέρα παρ᾽ αὐτὸ εἴη ἂν ἡ βούλησις αὐτοῦ. Θέλησιν δέ τις εἰπών, τὴν τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ Πατρὸς κατεσήμηνε φύσιν.|
|Hermias. So it would appear.||Β. Ἔοικεν.|
St. Cyril, Dialogues on the Trinity, book VII; SC 246 (de Durand, ed.), pp. 200-202; PG 75, 1109 B-C.
|Cyril. How then can that by which and in which God accomplishes his operations with regard to the creation and makes himself known as Creator of all things be a creature, subject to becoming? For perhaps it is already time for us to make this claim. If they pretend that such is the state of things, they will be obliged, even unwillingly, to confess the created character of the divine energy. And what is the consequence? An odious blasphemy, opinions opposed to good sense, good for bringing an accusation of the height of stupidity. For if one is not too poorly endowed with the decency which befits wise men, one will say that the divine being is properly and primarily simple and incomposite; one will not, dear friend, venture to think that it is composed out of nature and energy, as though, in the case of the divine, these are naturally other; one will believe that it exists as entirely one thing with all that it substantially possesses. Thus, if anyone says that his energy, that is, his Spirit, is something created and made, even while it belongs to him in a proper sense, then the Deity, surely, will be a creature, given that his operation is no other thing than he himself. Isn’t the claim abominable and hateful, and one which has a great tendency towards practical impiety?||Α. Πῶς οὖν ἄρα τὸ δι᾽ οὗ καὶ ἐν ῷ Θεὸς ἐνεργὸς περὶ τὴν κτίσιν καὶ τῶν ὅλων ὁρᾶται δημιουργὸς γενητὸν ἂν εἴη καὶ ἐκτισμένον; Ὥρα γὰρ ἤδη πως ἡμᾶς εἰπεῖν ὡς, εἴπερ ὧδε ἔχειν ἐροῦσι τὸ χρῆμα, κτιστὴν εἶναι τοῦ Θεοῦ τὴν ἐνέργειαν καὶ οὐχ ἑκόντες ὁμολογήσουσι. Καὶ τί τὸ ἐντεῦθεν; Θεομισὴς δυσφημία, παλίμφημοι δόξαι, καὶ τῆς εἰς ἄκρον ἡκούσης ἀμαθίας ἐγκλήματα. Ἐρεῖ γάρ, οἶμαι, τὶς τῆς ἀνδράσι πρεπούσης σοφοῖς εὐκοσμίας ἠφειδηκὼς ἁπλοῦν καὶ ἀσύνθετον κυρίως τε καὶ πρώτως τὸ Θεῖον, ὦ τᾶν, οὐκ ἐκ φύσεως καὶ ἐνεργείας ὡς παρ᾽ αὐτὸ φυσικῶς ἑτέρας συντεθεῖσθαι νοούμενον, ἀλλ᾽ ἕν τι τὸ σύμπαν ὑπάρχειν μεθ᾽ ὧν ἂν οὐσιωδῶς ἔχοι πεπιστευμένον. Οὐκοῦν εἰ λέγοιτο κτιστὴν καὶ πεποιημένην τὴν ἐνέργειαν ἔχειν, ἰδίαν οὖσαν αὐτοῦ, τουτέστι τὸ Πνεῦμα, καὶ αὐτό που πάντως ἔσται κτιστόν, ἐπεὶ μὴ ἕτερόν τι παρ᾽ αὐτὸ τὸ ἐνεργὲς αὐτοῦ. Ἆρ᾽ οὐ στυγητὸς καὶ ἀπεχθὴς ὁ λόγος, καὶ πολὺ διανενευκὼς εἰς τὸ πεποιῆσθαι δυσσεβῶς;|