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The essence of God is "incomplex"?


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#1 Brad D.

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Posted 22 November 2011 - 11:54 PM

I am reading Michael Pomazansky's Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, and in it he quotes Basil the Great as saying:

...the Essence of God [is], unmoving, unchanging, unalterable, dispassionate, simple, incomplex, indivisible, unapproachable light, unutterable power, infinite magnitude, resplendent glory, most desired goodness, immeasurable beauty that powerfully strikes the wounded soul, but cannot worthily be depicted in words." (emphasis mine)


Can anyone tell me what he means in saying that the essence of God is incomplex?

Thanks,
Brad

#2 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 23 November 2011 - 12:11 AM

It is a perfectly cromulent word that embiggens our vocabulary.

I am afraid that Michael is being unnecessarily redundant. Google Divine Simplicity and eschew obfuscation.

Herman the Simpsons-watching Pooh

#3 Brad D.

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Posted 23 November 2011 - 12:25 AM

It is a perfectly cromulent word that embiggens our vocabulary.

I am afraid that Michael is being unnecessarily redundant. Google Divine Simplicity and eschew obfuscation.

Herman the Simpsons-watching Pooh


Did you google "incomplex" prior to posting that? lol...

So when St. Basil says "incomplex" he is just saying that God is not made up of any parts... I guess I was viewing "incomplex" as "uncomplicated"...which made no sense. :)

Thanks,
Brad

#4 Michael Stickles

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Posted 23 November 2011 - 12:50 AM

Is there a citation for the Basil quote (i.e., where in Basil's writings it comes from)? I was wondering if Basil uses asungkerastos or asungkratos there.

#5 Brad D.

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Posted 23 November 2011 - 12:54 AM

Is there a citation for the Basil quote (i.e., where in Basil's writings it comes from)?


Nope, and a quick Google search doesn't provide a reference either. The text is quoted in a few places in Google, but there is not a reference given. It is attributed to St. John the Damascene on one site I found from Google, but the book definitely says St. Basil.

#6 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 23 November 2011 - 12:55 AM

Well, if you want to get technical, St. Basil did not actually use the word "incomplex" because he didn't write in English. Perhaps someone chose to translate what he actually wrote as "incomplex", but that is not a proper word to begin with (in addition to being redundant to "simple"). God is not "uncomplicated" but He is "simple" in the most "simple" definition of the word. Sometimes simple is hard.

Herman the unnonincomplex Pooh

#7 Michael Stickles

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Posted 23 November 2011 - 01:17 AM

Irenaeus may have used the same word in his Against Heresies, Book 2, Chapter 13, paragraph 3 (word sometimes translated incomplex is in bold):

These things may properly be said to hold good in men, since they are compound by nature, and consist of a body and a soul. But those who affirm that Ennœa was sent forth from God, and Nous from Ennœa, and then, in succession, Logos from these, are, in the first place, to be blamed as having improperly used these productions; and, in the next place, as describing the affections, and passions, and mental tendencies of men, while they [thus prove themselves] ignorant of God. By their manner of speaking, they ascribe those things which apply to men to the Father of all, whom they also declare to be unknown to all; and they deny that He himself made the world, to guard against attributing want of power to Him; while, at the same time, they endow Him with human affections and passions. But if they had known the Scriptures, and been taught by the truth, they would have known, beyond doubt, that God is not as men are; and that His thoughts are not like the thoughts of men. For the Father of all is at a vast distance from those affections and passions which operate among men. He is a simple, uncompounded Being, without diverse members, and altogether like, and equal to himself, since He is wholly understanding, and wholly spirit, and wholly thought, and wholly intelligence, and wholly reason, and wholly hearing, and wholly seeing, and wholly light, and the whole source of all that is good—even as the religious and pious are wont to speak concerning God.


I'd imagine "simple" was not used because in the days of Ye Olde English, "simple" was normally opposed to "wise" (as in Psalms where the Scriptures "make wise the simple"). Our language is not simple, but it can be simple sometimes.

If Basil and/or Irenaeus did use asungkerastos or asungkratos in their respective statements, I believe the meaning would roughly be "not mixed, not compounded". It may have been adopted specifically in refutation to some heretical view(s) regarding God, but that's mostly speculation on my part.

In Christ,
Michael

#8 IoanC

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 04:32 PM

I think the word "incomplex" helps us in not trying to imagine God, or "what" He is. We know that God is beyond all mental description, and trying to think or imagine God as complex, even infinitely complex is not desirable because even such a description will fail and could interfere with Prayer. This is just one impression that the use of "incomplex" leaves on me.




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