KISS: The Skinny on How to Recognize God

Earlier this year, I ‘blind-watched’ Charlie Wilson’s War.  I knew nothing about it, didn’t pick it out: just sat down and watched it.  In one scene, the camera faces two characters head on, as they walk alongside a hedge, engaged in a highly unrealistic and cerebral discussion. 

Ah ha!” I exclaimed. “The Walk and Talk!” 

Sure enough, Aaron Sorkin, famous, er, almost notorious, for his often parodied Walk and Talk scene, directed Charlie Wilson’s War

The tell was so strong; unmistakeable.  I didn’t need to know anything else about the movie to know who had directed it. 

God and Simplicity

How do we relate to an invisible God?  This perplexing question makes believers wring their hands, and causes other to give up on God altogether. 

Part and parcel to having a relationship with God is understanding who He is.  What is He like?  Does He possess a “Walk and Talk” characteristic; i.e. something so distinguishing that when you see it, you remark: “Ah ha! The work of God is here!”

In The Confessions, St. Augustine writes that “God is truly and absolutely simple.” 

St. Thomas Aquinas comes to the same conclusion in Summa Theologica, where he affirmatively answers the question: “Is God altogether simple?” 

Here is Aquinas in his own words:

God is no wise composite, but is altogether simple.  Every composite is posterior to its component parts and is dependent on them.  But God is the first being.  Every composite has a cause for things in themselves different cannot unite unless something causes them to unite.  But God is uncaused.” 

Nothing composite can be predicated of any single one of its parts…..No part of a man is a man, not any of the parts of the foot a foot, but in whole, made up of similar parts.

In every composite there is something which is not “it”, itself...And so, since God is absolute form, or Absolute Being, He can be in no way composite.” 1  

To simplify, (ha ha) I think Aquinas is saying that simplicity is fundamental to God’s being because He isn’t made up of many parts, nor was He caused by anything: He is simply God. 

(Please note: if you want to understand the entire logical sequence that Aquinas uses to draw his conclusions, I'd recommend reading Question 3 of Summa Theologica Part I in its entirety). 

To put it another way: the reason we can say that God is “all good” and “all loving” is because He isn’t made up of many parts: He is just one part.  That is to say, then, that the most fundamental characteristic of God is His simplicity.

Simplicity in God's Movement

As simplicity is so fundamental to who God is, when discerning if something is of God, its simplicity can be a tell.  Just like the Walk and Talk with Aaron Sorkin: it’s an identifying mark. 

Where do we see examples of this simplicity?

Our Salvation

In Crossing the Threshold of Hope, Saint John Paul II describes God’s plan of salvation as “simple”: 

The history of salvation is very simple.  And it is a history that unfolds with the earthly history of humanity, beginning with the first Adam, through the revelation of the second Adam, Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:45), and ending with the ultimate fulfillment of the history of the word in God, when He will be “all in all.” (1 Corinthians 15:28). 2 

The Warning

The Warning, or Illumination of Conscience, which is widely spoken of and speculated about these days, is also an entirely simple conceit or phenomenon. 

During The Warning, in essence, God will reveal Himself, then tell each of us, individually: “Hey, here are all the ways that you’ve messed up.” —And then, by implication, give us the opportunity to seek reconciliation, conversion, and so repair our relationship with Him. 

It’s so simple! 

As I see it, the profound simplicity of The Warning the strongest indication that it comes from God.

Meandering Final Thoughts

What does the Walk and Talk suggest about Aaron Sorkin?  Perhaps that he thinks conversation is key to solving a problem or advancing a storyline. 

And what are the implications of knowing God is fundamentally simple?  Certainly it provides clues in how to listen and speak to Him.  

How does a simple Being communicate?  Generally, I’d think, with alarmingly directness (as exemplified with the Warning).  And how would He hope that we speak to Him?  Probably on similar terms—which gives us an important clue in how to pray! 

And some more speculative questions: if we know God is absolutely simple, does it then follow that everything that is simple is of God?  Or what about the contrapositive of this statement: if something is not simple, then is it not of God? 

And what is simplicity, exactly?  What are some concrete examples of it? 

These are some fun philosophical questions to mull on.  Perhaps I'll flesh them out another day. 

However, Aquinas and Augustine provide us with a really significant key to knowing and understanding our “Simple, Invisible” God. 

What’s your take?  How to you identify and recognize God in your life?  Or what's a tell in a movie that suggests to you who directed it? 

1 Summa Theologica Part I, Thomas Aquinas. 1213. Question 3. 2Crossing the Threshold of Hope, John Paul II, 1994. Pg 58.


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