Andrew Radde‐Gallwitz

in Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and the Transformation of Divine Simplicity

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780199574117
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191722110 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Early Christian Studies


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The Introduction defines divine simplicity and theological epistemology. The latter is distinguished from religious epistemology, which asks, ‘On what grounds is someone's holding a certain belief justified?’ Theological epistemology starts from beliefs about God held by religious people and asks, ‘In what sense does the believer attribute these to God?’ The doctrine of divine simplicity, according to which God's unity precludes a diversity of parts or attributes, raises problems for theological epistemology. Divine simplicity forces theologians to explain how divine attributes are predicated of God without introducing composition, complexity, or, most importantly, contradiction into God. In referring the various scriptural portrayals of God to a simple entity, early Christians attempted to explain how these can be coherent and consistent. Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nyssa are unique in their approach to these ideas. They steer a median course between the identity thesis, according to which God's attributes are identical with God, and radical apophaticism, which says that no attribute can properly be ascribed to God. Basil and Gregory view divine attributes as propria, unique identifying characteristics inherent in the divine nature, but not identical with its essence. Attention is given to Christopher Stead's interpretation of Basil and Gregory.

Keywords: divine simplicity; theological epistemology; identity thesis; radical apophaticism; propria; Christopher Stead; Basil of Caesarea; Gregory of Nyssa

Chapter.  6964 words. 

Subjects: Early Christianity ; Christian Theology

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