Divine Simplicity & The Atonement

Our knowledge of God is on a pre-heaven level —theologically speaking. So, we speak of His divine simplicity. The doctrine of simplicity, is a way of saying that (1) God is unlike any other being; “ (Psalm 145:3) and that (2) God is perfect, that is, God’s actions do not share in the limitations of human actions. God’s intentions, what He purposes to do, He does.⁠1 There is no “space” between what He intends to do and what He accomplishes. It is only in “time” we see these two ideas as distinct. (God’s predestination and His omniscience continues to raise theological discussions among the scholars.) But His Word declares: “my word…will not return to me empty” (Isaiah 55:11)  

Looking at God, then, through a single lens (and that of divine love), interpreting His actions in terms of His love for us, not only inspires our understanding of God’s Word (it is biblical) but it explains everything about our relationship with Him as believers. (Jeremiah 29:11) It is our limited reasoning, limited by how we experience life and what we have learned about our own humanity that we, in error, compare our thoughts with God’s and asks questions about Calvary that may not be answerable—for now. When we talk about justice, we picture a courtroom and a jurist but not necessarily what the Bible means by righteousness. (1 Corinthians 1:30) When we talk about “the Law,” Mosaic or criminal or whatever, there is much we do not know about God’s judgment seat. What is the “law of Christ”? (Galatians 6:2) Or the “Law of the Spirit” (Romans 8:2)

This much we do know: “…the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin’s power so that the promise might be given on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ to those who believe..” (Galatians 3:22) God’s love was not going to let this matter go. He created us for His glory and that desire of His, His intention in this matter, remains unchanged and unchanging. (Isaiah 43:7)

Simplicity teaches that He does all things as an expression of His love. “The doctrine of simplicity, then,” Prof. Vidu explains, “must be defined such that mercy and justice are two different names for God’s only moral attribute: his love. Mercy and justice are therefore synonymous.”⁠2 (Ps. 33: 5; 89:14)

Perceiving God in this way, simplifies explanations.

So what exactly is the atoning work of Christ all about? Does it provide a punishment to satisfy injustice against the holiness of God or does it provide for our restoration to fellowship with a holy God. We can affirm: both because they are one and the same divine act by the one and only God whom we sinned against.

“The history of atonement theories,” Vidu asserts, “is really a debate about the nature of God,3 …that is to say, the nature of Divine Love.


1 The doctrine of divine simplicity is not intended as an apophatic sublation of all talk of divine nature.” … That is to say, we are not trying to minimize a conflict of interest between mercy and justice, or forgiveness and punishment, by arguing that justice is not justice, punishment is not really punishment. As Adonis Vidu points out, ““It is precisely such capriciousness, on the one hand, or impotence, on the other, that the concept of simplicity expressly denies.” -Vidu. 29, 31
2 Ibid. 29
3 Ibid. 236
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