In Anderson’s article, Van Til’s Serious Trinitarian Theology he says,

“8. It is somewhat ironic then that Clark has been dubbed “America’s Augustine”, since it was Van Til, and not Clark, who in fact championed an Augustinian understanding of the Trinity. (This observation is not original to me; a similar point was made by Greg Welty back in June 2000 on the Van Til list.) Clark cannot even find companionship with the Cappadocians, who, although often wrongly claimed as social trinitarians, clearly affirmed the doctrine of divine simplicity and the numerical unity of the Godhead.”

The first statement is true that Clark’s view of the Trinity was not Augustinian; a point which my Scripturalist friends still have yet to admit. However, when he says, “Clark cannot even find companionship with the Cappadocians, who, although often wrongly claimed as social trinitarians, clearly affirmed the doctrine of divine simplicity”, he is mistaken. First, the Eastern view is Social.   In the ecumenical dialogue The Trinity: East/West Dialogue (Studies in Philosophy and Religion), the Eastern view is clearly recognized as a social view. On page 23 the contrast is made in clear terms, “In recent years, may resourceful thinkers have brought a new clarity to the issues surrounding the doctrine of the Trinity. TWO INCOMPATIBLE FAMILIES OF TRINITARIAN DOCTRINE HAVE BEEN CLEARLY DISTINGUISHED: SOCIAL TRINTARIANISM AND LATIN TRINITARIANISM (Roman and Van Tillian-DS).” I have said it before and I’ll say it again, Scripturalism is Eastern Triadology. Next, Anderson implies that the Eastern Fathers had the same idea of Simplicity as Augustine and the Scholastics. This is so ignorant I’m begrudging even typing this out because the man seriously doesn’t even deserve to have access to this information being in the position he is in. Jaroslav Pelikan who wrote the preface to John Meyendorf’s biography of Gregory Palamas, says in his preface to the book,

“The striking description of Palamite thought as ‘a personal existentialism, applying the concept of divine ‘simplicity’ not to the essence but to the personal Divine Being which is revealed both in essence and in free acts-or energies-of God…and thinking of God Himself in existential terms, while holding to His absolute transcendence,’ suggests another source: the recognition among all Christian groups of the neglected ‘existential’ dimension in Christian thought. That recognition has come by various channels. For many in my generation, it was Soren Kierkegaard who first awakened this awareness; for me personally, because of my family roots Fydor Dostoevsky, whom I studied before ever hearing of  Kierkegaard , performed this service;” (Gregory Palamas, ed. John Meyendorf, Gregory Palamas The Triads, (New York*Ramsey*Toronto: Paulist Press., 1983), xii, xiii)

Farrell in Free Choice also mentions that simplicity is an energy. The essence and energies distinction is rejected in the West. David Bradshaw in his The Concept of the Divine Energies  says,

“The same would seem to be true of wisdom, being, power, life, love, holiness, beauty, virtue, immortality, eternity, infinity, and simplicity, all of which the Cappadocians (or other Fathers after them) list among the divine energies.” (pg. 14)

Moreover, the fact that simplicity was not understood the same way in the Eastern Fathers can be seen in Athanasius.

The following is from Against the Arians. (Orationes contra Arianos IV.) Discourse 3.64-66

“64. Therefore if the works subsist ‘by will and favour,’ and the whole creature is made ‘at God’s good pleasure,’ and Paul was called to be an Apostle ‘by the will of God,’ and our calling has come about ‘by His good pleasure and will,’ and all things have come into being through the Word, He is external to the things which have come to be by will, but rather is Himself the Living Counsel of the Father, by which all these things have come to be; by which David also gives thanks in the seventy-second Psalm. ‘Thou hast holden me by my right hand; Thou shalt guide me with Thy Counsel.’ How then can the Word, being the Counsel and Good Pleasure of the Father, come into being Himself ‘by good pleasure and will,’ like every one else? unless, as I said before, in their madness they repeat that He has come into being through Himself, or through some other . Who then is it through whom He has come to be? let them fashion another Word; and let them name another Christ, rivalling the doctrine of Valentinus ; for Scripture it is not. And though they fashion another, yet assuredly he too comes into being through some one; and so, while we are thus reckoning up and investigating the succession of them, the many-headed heresy of the Atheists is discovered to issue in polytheism and madness unlimited; in the which, wishing the Son to be a creature and from nothing, they imply the same thing in other words by pretending the words will and pleasure, which rightly belong to things originate and creatures. Is it not irreligious then to impute the characteristics of things originate to the Framer of all? and is it not blasphemous to say that will was in the Father before the Word? for if will precedes in the Father, the Son’s words are not true, ‘I in the Father;’ or even if He is in the Father, yet He will hold but a second place, and it became Him not to say ‘I in the Father,’ since will was before Him, in which all things were brought into being and He Himself subsisted, as you hold. For though He excel in glory, He is not the less one of the things which by will come into being. And, as we have said before, if it be so, how is He Lord and they servants ? but He is Lord of all, because He is one with the Father’s Lordship; and the creation is all in bondage, since it is external to the Oneness of the Father, and, whereas it once was not, was brought to be.

65. Moreover, if they say that the Son is by will, they should say also that He came to be by understanding; for I consider understanding and will to be the same. For what a man counsels, about that also he has understanding; and what he has in understanding, that also he counsels. Certainly the Saviour Himself has made them correspond, as being cognate, when He says, ‘Counsel is mine and security; mine is understanding, and mine strength .’ For as strength and security are the same (for they mean one attribute), so we may say that Understanding and Counsel are the same, which is the Lord. But these irreligious men are unwilling that the Son should be Word and Living Counsel; but they fable that there is with God , as if a habit , coming and going , after the manner of men, understanding, counsel, wisdom; and they leave nothing undone, and they put forward the ‘Thought’ and ‘Will’ of Valentinus, so that they may but separate the Son from the Father, and may call Him a creature instead of the proper Word of the Father. To them then must be said what was said to Simon Magus; ‘the irreligion of Valentinus perish with you ;’ and let every one rather trust to Solomon, who says, that the Word is Wisdom and Understanding. For he says, ‘The Lord by Wisdom founded the earth, by Understanding He established the heavens.’ And as here by Understanding, so in the Psalms, ‘By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made.’ And as by the Word the heavens, so ‘He hath done whatsoever pleased Him.’ And as the Apostle writes to Thessalonians, ‘the will of God is in Christ Jesus .’ The Son of God then, He is the ‘Word’ and the ‘Wisdom;’ He the ‘Understanding’ and the Living ‘Counsel;’ and in Him is the ‘Good Pleasure of the Father;’ He is ‘Truth’ and ‘Light’ and ‘Power’ of the Father. But if the Will of God is Wisdom and Understanding, and the Son is Wisdom, he who says that the Son is ‘by will,’ says virtually that Wisdom has come into being in wisdom, and the Son is made in a son, and the Word created through the Word which is incompatible with God and is opposed to His Scriptures. For the Apostle proclaims the Son to be the own Radiance and Expression, not of the Father’s will , but of His Essence Itself, saying, ‘Who being the Radiance of His glory and the Expression of His Subsistence .’ But if, as we have said before, the Father’s Essence and Subsistence be not from will, neither, as is very plain, is what is proper to the Father’s Subsistence from will; for such as, and so as, that Blessed Subsistence, must also be the proper Offspring from It. And accordingly the Father Himself said not, ‘This is the Son originated at My will,’ nor ‘the Son whom I have by My favour,’ but simply ‘My Son,’ and more than that, ‘in whom I am well pleased;’ meaning by this, This is the Son by nature; and ‘in Him is lodged My will about what pleases Me.

66. Since then the Son is by nature and not by will, is He without the pleasure of the Father and not with the Father’s will? No, verily; but the Son is with the pleasure of the Father, and, as He says Himself, ‘The Father loveth the Son, and sheweth Him all things.’ For as not ‘from will’ did He begin to be good, nor yet is good without will and pleasure (for what He is, that also is His pleasure), so also that the Son should be, though it came not ‘from will,’ yet it is not without His pleasure or against His purpose. For as His own Subsistence is by His pleasure, so also the Son, being proper to His Essence, is not without His pleasure. Be then the Son the object of the Father’s pleasure and love; and thus let every one religiously account of the pleasure and the not-unwillingness of God. For by that good pleasure wherewith the Son is the object of the Father’s pleasure, is the Father the object of the Son’s love, pleasure, and honour; and one is the good pleasure which is from Father in Son, so that here too we may contemplate the Son in the Father and the Father in the Son. Let no one then, with Valentinus, introduce a precedent will; nor let any one, by this pretence of ‘counsel,’ intrude between the Only Father and the Only Word; for it were madness to place will and consideration between them. For it is one thing to say, ‘Of will He came to be,’ and another, that the Father has love and good pleasure towards His Son who is His own by nature. For to say, ‘Of will He came to be,’ in the first place implies that once He was not; and next it implies an inclination two ways, as has been said, so that one might suppose that the Father could even not will the Son. But to say of the Son, ‘He might not have been,’ is an irreligious presumption reaching even to the Essence of the Father, as if what is His own might not have been. For it is the same as saying, ‘The Father might not have been good.’ And as the Father is always good by nature, so He is always generative  by nature; and to say, ‘The Father’s good pleasure is the Son,’ and ‘The Word’s good pleasure is the Father,’ implies, not a precedent will, but genuineness of nature, and propriety and likeness of Essence. For as in the case of the radiance and light one might say, that there is no will preceding radiance in the light, but it is its natural offspring, at the pleasure of the light which begat it, not by will and consideration, but in nature and truth, so also in the instance of the Father and the Son, one might rightly say, that the Father has love and good pleasure towards the Son, and the Son has love and good pleasure towards the Father.”

Yet can Western Scholasticism affirm Athanasius’ fundamental Orthodoxy distinguishing the nature from the will?

Thomas Aquinas said in Summa Contra Gentiles,

Moreover, since every agent acts so far as it is in act, God, Who is pure act, must act through His essence. Willing, however, is a certain operation of God. Therefore God must be endowed with will through his essence. Therefore His will is His essence…From this it appears that God’s will is not other than His essence.“ I:73:4 and I, pp. 243, 242- From Free Choice in Maximus the Confessor by Joseph P Farrell.

No. The doctrine of absolute divine simplicity eliminates the possibility of distinguishing the will from the nature. Will the Scholastics admit it?

Here is the entire Chapter in full from Aquinas’s Summa Contra Gentiles I.73.

“Chapter 73


[1] From this it appears that God’s will is not other than His essence.

[2] It belongs to God to be endowed with will in so far as He is intelligent, as has been shown. But God has understanding by His essence, as was proved above. So, therefore, does He have will. God’s will, therefore, is His very essence.

[3] Again, as to understand is the perfection of the one understanding, so to will is the perfection of the one willing; for both are actions remaining in the agent and not going out (as does heat) to some receiving subject. But the understanding of God is His being, as was proved above. For, since the divine being is in itself most perfect, it admits of no superadded perfection, as was proved above. The divine willing also is, therefore, His being; and hence the will of God is His essence.

[4] Moreover, since every agent acts in so far as it is in act, God, Who is pure act, must act through His essence. Willing, however, is a certain operation of God. Therefore, God must be endowed with will through His essence. Therefore, His will is His essence.

[5] Furthermore, if will were something added to the divine substance, since the divine substance is something complete in being it would follow that will would be added to it as an accident to a subject, that the divine substance would be related to it as potency to act, and that there would be composition in God. All this was refuted above. Hence, it is not possible that the divine will be something added to the divine substance.”

So he’s wrong on that point as well.