The Aseity of God

The Aseity of God

(notes from our discussion July 28, 2021)

Since our adult Sunday School is currently studying the attributes of God, we won’t spend time working through all the attributes described in Chapter 2 of our Confession. Since this is an attribute that runs through these first two paragraphs of chapter two, however, it would be good for us to touch on it and consider the implications.

The 1689 Confession:  Chapter 2 - God and the Holy Trinity

1. The Lord our God is one, the only living and true God.1  He is self-existent2 and infinite in being and perfection. His essence cannot be understood by anyone but him.3  He is a perfectly pure spirit.4  He is invisible and has no body, parts, or changeable emotions.a He alone has immortality, dwelling in light that no one can approach.5  He is unchangeable,6 immense,b,7 eternal,8 incomprehensible, almighty,9 in every way infinite, absolutely holy,10 perfectly wise, wholly free, completely absolute. He works all things according to the counsel of his own unchangeable and completely righteous will11 for his own glory.12  He is most loving, gracious, merciful, and patient. He overflows with goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin. He rewards those who seek him diligently.13  At the same time, he is perfectly just and terrifying in his judgments.14  He hates all sin15 and will certainly not clear the guilty.16

a passions

b transcends all space

11 Corinthians 8:4, 6; Deuteronomy 6:4. 2Jeremiah 10:10; Isaiah 48:12. 3Exodus 3:14. 4John 4:24. 51 Timothy 1:17; Deuteronomy 4:15, 16. 6Malachi 3:6. 71 Kings 8:27; Jeremiah 23:23. 8Psalm 90:2. 9Genesis 17:1. 10Isaiah 6:3. 11Psalm 115:3; Isaiah 46:10. 12Proverbs 16:4; Romans 11:36. 13Exodus 34:6, 7; Hebrews 11:6. 14Nehemiah 9:32, 33. 15Psalm 5:5, 6. 16Exodus 34:7; Nahum 1:2, 3.

2. God has all life,17 glory,18 goodness,19 and blessedness in and of himself; he alone is all-sufficient in himself. He does not need any creature he has made nor does he derive any glory from them.20  Instead, he demonstrates his own glory in them, by them, to them, and upon them. He alone is the source of all being, and everything is from him, through him, and to him.21  He has absolute sovereign rule over all creatures, to act through them, for them, or upon them as he pleases.22  In his sight everything is open and visible.23  His knowledge is infinite and infallible. It does not depend upon any creature, so for him nothing is contingent or uncertain.24  He is absolutely holy in all his plans, in all his works,25 and in all his commands. Angels and human beings owe to him all the worship,26 service, or obedience that creatures owe to the Creator and whatever else he is pleased to require of them.

17John 5:26. 18Psalm 148:13. 19Psalm 119:68. 20Job 22:2, 3. 21Romans 11:34–36. 22Daniel 4:25, 34, 35. 23Hebrews 4:13. 24Ezekiel 11:5; Acts 15:18. 25Psalm 145:17. 26Revelation 5:12–14.

Why did God create human beings?

Was it because He was lonely and needed fellowship?

If that were the case, what would be the implications for who we would understand God to be? (His attributes, etc.)

If God needs us to be fulfilled or happy, then God would not be independent of His creation.

But as our confession states, God is “self-existent…is all-sufficient in himself. He does not need any creature he has made nor does he derive any glory from them… for him nothing is contingent or uncertain.”

The theological word for this is “aseity” which means “from-himself-ness.”  

Several things in our confession flow directly from this:

• “He alone is the source of all being, and everything is from him, through him, and to him.”

• “Angels and human beings owe to him all the worship, service, or obedience that creatures owe to the Creator and whatever else he is pleased to require of them.”

What are the implications for our worship?

When we give Him something, we are only returning to Him what is already His (Psalm 24:1) and, it follows, that He does not owe us anything in return (see Luke 17:10).

Consider Acts 17:24-30

And what are the implications for how we understand other religions?

See Isaiah 44:6-20

What does all of this mean for us and our relationship with God?

Does this mean that we do not matter to God?

Does this mean that He is not relational?

Matthew Barrett argues that : “While God does not need us and is in no way obligated to enter into a relationship with us, he created us in his image and made us to have fellowship with him (Gen. 1-2). We matter because God determined that we would be meaningful.”

What else might we say about God’s aseity? What might we conclude from it?

God is necessary.

Anything or anyone whose existence is dependent on something might not of existed at all. But of the things that do exist, from what do they owe their existence? And, then, from what does THAT thing that they were dependent upon owe its existence?

We might take the big bang theory as an example. You might ask “Where did the universe come from?” Someone might reply that the universe is the result of a “big bang” that occurred some time ago. It would be appropriate to, then, ask: “Where did this “big bang” come from?” They might reply that it was the result of the forces of gravity, etc. that created the perfect scenario for it to occur. Once again, we respond, “Well, where did the gravity come from?” On and on it goes as we keep on pushing back in search of finally coming to that which caused it all while not being caused by anything itself. The only option to this would be that the chain would never end but would, instead, be like an eternal train of boxcars that is moving down the track but does not have an engine at the front pulling them. We know this is illogical. There must be SOMETHING at the beginning that simply “IS.” This “uncaused cause” is God.  

As the uncaused cause Who is not dependent upon anyone or anything, God exists “necessarily.” He, in fact, is the only necessary Being. Therefore, the statement “There is no God” makes no sense.

What does it mean for how we understand the rest of His attributes?

God must be personal.

Whatever is uncaused must, in some way, be said to “self-actuate.” If the uncaused cause were impersonal, then nothing else would ever exist. Think of a rock that is the only thing in existence. How would anything else come to be? The only way anything else could come about is if the rock were to somehow have the ability to “choose” to make something come to be. Otherwise, that rock would just sit in perpetual isolation for eternity. But if it could “decide” to make something else and had the power to make it, then suddenly there is the potential for a new universe to come into being.  

God must be perfect in all of His attributes. Less-than-perfection would imply that there is something equal to or more powerful than God which prohibits Him from achieving perfection. If such a thing or being existed they would, then, be God or, at the very least be co-equal with God and, in essence, another god themselves.  

God is Triune.

God’s aseity may also be an argument for the Trinity.

If, we understand relationships to be essential for completing persons and making them more fully who they are than they otherwise would be, what does that mean for God?

If He had to go outside of Himself for such a relationship, then He would, now, be dependent on His creation and “God” would not be “God” in the sense that we know Him. In fact He would cease being God at all.

But if “relationship” is a attribute of God Himself, He does not need to go outside of Himself to be “fully realized” and His godhead is retained.

Thus, an understanding of aseity can rule out the existence of “Allah” as understood by Muslims in favor of the Christian Trinitarian God.

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