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Classical Theism is one of the main forms of monotheism, and dominant in at least Christianity. It says that God has aseity and also is immanent, transcendent, simple, immutable, impassable, and timeless. But these attributes are not just seen as being true independently, they arise from aseity. Chow explains:

The fundamental premise of classical theology is that God is the absolute source of everything that exists and is dependent on absolutely nothing for his own existence and nature. I will follow Plantinga in calling this the “sovereignty-aseity intuition.”
Chow, Dawn Eschenauer. Analogical Models of God: An Account of Religious Language. p79

In my readings it appears that Classical Theism is in turn dependent on realism, most notably in its explanation of simplicity: God's aseity means that God cannot depend on anything else. Realism would mean that, for example, goodness exists by itself, and so God cannot depend on goodness, and he does not then have an attribute of goodness. Instead concepts and attributes like goodness are equivalent to God's own essence (as is often said, the being of God is identical to the "attributes" of God), and any more complex attributes of God, like those that appear to be in tension like his justice and mercy, are only analogies.

My question is whether this philosophical realism is so integral to Classical Theism that anyone who is a conceptualist or a nominalist could not be considered a Classical Theist? Or if someone maintains all of the doctrines of Classical Theism but supports them through a philosophical foundation not based on realism, can they still be called a Classical Theist? In order to make this question not opinion based, answers could refer to when the label "Classical Theism" was coined and defined and what exactly its originators thought it entailed.

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  • By your own definition of realism above "Realism would mean that, for example, goodness exists by itself, and so God cannot depend on goodness, and he does not then have an attribute of goodness", then it immediately contradicts the referenced classical theism which asserts that God possesses the attribute of goodness on its own per aseity. So it seems per your definition classical theism is anti-realistic.... Oct 10, 2022 at 23:18
  • @DoubleKnot "the referenced classical theism which asserts that God possesses the attribute of goodness on its own per aseity" Which reference says that? Oct 10, 2022 at 23:29
  • Whereas most monotheists agree that God is, at minimum, all-knowing, all-powerful, and completely good. Oct 10, 2022 at 23:31
  • @DoubleKnot That doesn't mean that Classical Theists think God has an attribute of goodness, instead they'll often say that God is good or goodness itself. God's essence being identical to goodness (and justice, and truth, etc). Oct 10, 2022 at 23:38
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    In classic theism nothing can exist by itself without and except God thus your goodness cannot either, contrary to your definition. Once you delete that while God remains to have attribute of goodness then most classical theism could certainly be said to be a form of realism (God is the most real) except perhaps with the famous Scotus's univocity (that's why Dun Scotus is not in your reference list) since otherwise men's goodness must be real too under univocity, not an attribute, which as moral realism is not the uniform metaethics position apparently... Oct 11, 2022 at 6:01

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The answer is really going to depend on what you think is the essence of classical theism. If you think that Divine Simplicity is the core doctrine of classical theism, then all Catholics are bound to believe this as de fide credenda dogma, so any faithful Catholic must hold this view. Indeed, an argument can be made that Divine Simplicity is central, as Thomas Aquinas relies heavily on the doctrine to demonstrate how other, more complicated Church doctrines must be true. He even takes care to show how Church doctrines, such as the doctrine of the Trinity, never contradict Divine Simplicity. Whether one is convinced by him or not, the fact is it is clearly important to him and to others in the classical tradition that this dogma of simplicity be respected.

The "father of nominalism," so to speak, is William of Ockham, a Catholic friar of the Order of Friars Minor. Assuming that William did not reject any de fide credenda doctrines, he would have had to agree with the dogma of Divine Simplicity, which would make him a classical theist if that is all that is required for the categorization, and, hence, nominalism must be compatible with classical theism.

On the other hand, Ockham was a fideist, which means that he rejected the notion that reason played a part in coming to believe or understand theological truths. If you are more inclined to think that classical theism is a sort of rational framework for investigating truths related to God as classically conceived (as Divinely Simple, as Being Itself, etc), the Ockham, and probably any nominalist, cannot be a classical theist. Remember that Ockham's reason for fideism was his nominalism, since he had rejected any universals, he could not be convinced by reason of theological truths. Any honest nominalist theist, it seems to me, must go down the same route.

I think that either of these understandings of classical theism is compatible with your quote. The "fundamental premise" is a less-eloquent way (in my opinion) of stating the doctrine of Divine Simplicity. However, the fact that it is taken to be a premise implies that classical theism or classical theology is a framework.

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    "The answer is really going to depend on what you think is the essence of classical theism." Not what I think is the essence, but what the coiners of Classical Theism think. Aug 23, 2023 at 20:59
  • @curiousdannii my point is that I don't know if they would all agree. A thomist might try to make you adhere to the 24 thomistic theses, for instance, whereas a Muslim scholar would not, though his religion has scholars who are generally acknowledged to adhere to classical theism.
    – jaredad7
    Aug 24, 2023 at 12:39

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