UnApologetic

Christian Theology and Apologetics

Divine Aseity

falling-dominoes

First I must give thanks, where thanks is due. I attended a class (Coherence of Theism) by Dr. William Lane Craig and it has helped me tremendously in regards to the attributes of God and I suggest anyone that is interested and able to attend this class, you will not regret it.

God as a self-existant being is central to the Judaeo-Christian faith. If the universe and everything in it were to spontaneously disappear God would still exist though everything else that exists contingently would not. Thus, God exists a se and everything else is dependent on him. Perhaps the only threat to the doctrine of aseity is the philosophy of Platonism, which posits there are uncreated entities that have existed along with God—entities such as numbers. Contemporary Plutonists call these entities abstract objects, which they distinguish from concrete objects such as people, airplanes, or elements. Thus, contemporary Platonism is in stark contrast with the traditional doctrines of Divine Aseity and Creation.

Biblical Data on Divine Aseity

John 1:1–5 (NASB95)

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

2 He was in the beginning with God.

3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.

4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.

5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

According to John, everything with exception to God and his Logos (v. 1) were created. John says in v. 3 that all things “came into being” (γίνομαι, genommai). Ginomai carries the meaning “to come into existence—‘to be formed, to come to exist.'” Thus, John indicates that all things came into being by God. It’s likely that John did not have in mind abstract objects when he wrote his Gospel, but there is no reason to doubt that John thought that all things came into being through God; if he was aware of other concrete objects such as galaxies and planets undoubtedly John would say they came into existence through God. Moreover, if John would have known of what Plutonists deem abstract objects like mathematical objects He would have also thought they were created by God. To think of these abstract objects existed along with God is to betray Jewish monotheism.

Contemporaneous to John was Philo, who held to a sort of Middle Platonism and saw that this realm of ideas (abstract objects) was either formed by the Divine Logos or was part of the Logos mind (On the Creation of the World 16-19). Thus, it is possible that author of the prologue of John was aware of Philo’s writings. Thus, John like Philo, most likely understood these abstract ideas as existing in the mind of God prior to creation.

The early Church Fathers affirmed that God created all things both visible and invisible (Nicene Creed). Thus, their understanding was that with exception to God himself, everything else was created by God; Their domain of quantification was unrestricted in scope. The church fathers were familiar with the works of Plato and others which posited metaphysical worldview and agreed with their theory that everything in existence was due to an agentos. Where the church fathers differed from Plato is that they identified the agentos with the Hebrew God. These church fathers combined the Gospel of John’s representation of Christ as the Logos with Philo’s conception of the Logos as the Mind of God.

Tatian bears witness to this doctrine:

God was in the beginning; but the beginning, we have been taught, is the power of the Logos. For the Lord of the universe, who is Himself the necessary ground (ὑπόστασις) of all being, inasmuch as no creature was yet in existence, was alone; but inasmuch as He was all power, Himself the necessary ground of things visible and invisible, with Him were all things; with Him, by Logos-power (διὰ λογικῆς δυνάμεως), the Logos Himself also, who was in Him, subsists. And by His simple will the Logos springs forth; and the Logos, not coming forth in vain, becomes the first-begotten work of the Father. Him (the Logos) we know to be the beginning of the world.

Thus, we can see that the doctrine of Aseity is well established in Christendom. Nothing existed eternally along with God. Therefore, Platonism and its variants are opposed to Divine Aseity, which is a fundamental doctrine and a requirement for Perfect Being Theology. Divine Aseity is fundamental to Perfect Being Theology and God cannot be a maximally great being without the attribute of everything else coming into existence in and through him.

If abstract objects such as numbers existed sans creation and along with God then God would not be the source of everything that exists and this notion would do damage to the doctrine of Divine Aseity and would hamper Perfect Being Theology. Perhaps the biggest threat posed by Platonism is that it seems to make God’s divinity subject to his relation with abstract objects. Thus, He is God because he embodies deity, which is to say God is dependent on embodying the abstract object deity. Thus, Theism is essentially undone by Platonism, which doesn’t seem to be a viable option for Theists, especially Christians and the historic Orthodox position of God being the sole creator of all must be upheld.

Therefore, biblically, theologically, and philosophically Platonism is not a real option to the Christian.

Tatian, “Address of Tatian to the Greeks,” in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. J. E. Ryland, vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 67.

Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 157.

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