Classical theism e personal theism
- The classical theist tends to start from the idea that whatever else God is, he is essentially that reality which is absolutely ultimate or fundamental, and the source of all other reality. Different classical theists might spell this basic idea out in different ways. The Aristotelian will emphasize the thesis that unlike everything else that exists, God is not a mixture of actuality and potentiality but is instead pure actuality or actus purus. Neoplatonism emphasizes that unlike everything else in reality, God is in no way composed of parts, either physical or metaphysical, but is absolutely One, simple, or non-composite. Thomists will emphasize that God is not “a being” alongside other beings, and does not merely “have” existence; rather his essence just is existence.
- Theistic personalists, by contrast, tend to begin with the idea that God is “a person” just as we are persons, only without our corporeal and other limitations. Like us, he has attributes like power, knowledge, and moral goodness; unlike us, he has these features to the maximum possible degree. The theistic personalist thus arrives at an essentially anthropomorphic conception of God.
- Classical theists insist that God is absolutely simple or without parts;
- theistic personalists tend to reject the doctrine of divine simplicity.
- Classical theists also insist that God is immutable, impassible, and eternal in the sense of outside time altogether, while theistic personalists tend to reject these claims as well.
- These differences also affect how the two views interpret claims about God’s omniscience, will, goodness, and sovereignty, with theistic personalists tending to interpret these in a more anthropomorphic Paley-style “design arguments” have at least a tendency in the theistic personalist direction.