God’s aseity

August 20, 2014

Frederiks Kirke, Copenhagen

Frederiks Kirke in Copenhagen. The inscribed Danish text is John 17:3.

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I tend to value those theologians who have a notable capacity for descriptive analysis, with a healthy measure of an imaginative semantic range, which bespeaks a healthy imagination itself.

That’s a turgid way of saying that I am not inclined toward overly analytic theology. Even where formal accuracy is achieved, the material richness is impoverished and thereby the “accuracy” has only a relative value, namely for those who have already assumed the truth.

This capacity for descriptive analysis is especially important in matters pertaining to the doctrine of God proper and especially all matters pertaining to God’s aseity, that is, his perfection as the One whose being derives from himself. This is metaphysics, and metaphysics requires eloquence — notwithstanding Paul’s self-approbation in 1 Cor 1:17.

You can consider the above musings as a preface to the following brief excerpts from Hans Martensen. Yes, Martensen again. This is part of his description of God as The Eternal:

As the Being who has life in Himself (John 5:26), in whom is contained all fulness (πλήρωμα), God is The Eternal. In the eternal God are all the possibilities of existence, all the sources of the entire creation. The eternal is the one who is, the I AM, who is a se, the unalterable and unchangeable. But His unchangeableness is not a dead unchangeableness; for it is to produce Himself with infinite fruitfulness out of Himself. His eternity, therefore, is not an eternity like that of the “eternal Hills;” it is not a crystal eternity, like that of the “eternal stars;” but a living eternity, blooming with neverwithering youth. But His self-production, His Becoming [Werden], is not the fragmentary growth or production we witness in time. Created life has time outside of itself, because it has its fulness outside of itself. The Eternal lives in the inner, true time, in a present of undivided powers and fulness, in the rhythmic cycle of perfection. The life He lives is unchangeably the same, and yet He never ceases to live His life as something new, because He has in Himself an inexhaustible fountain of renovation and of youth. For this reason the Church magnifies the “Ancient of Days,” as the “incorruptible” (ἄφθαρτος) and eternal King, who alone hath immortality (1 Timothy 1:17; 6:16; Psalm 90:2.)

And a little later, Martensen correlates the various attributes of God, very well stated:
Considered in relation to the universe the communication of the Divine life is goodness; considered in relation to personality, it is Love. All creatures participate in the goodness of God; but personal creatures alone can be constituted partakers of His love. God is love (1 John 4:16). He neither can nor will be without His kingdom— the kingdom which is constituted by “I and Thou,” in which not merely Divine powers and gifts, but the Divine personality itself dwells in the soul and the soul in it. All the Divine attributes are combined in love, as in their centre and vital principle. Wisdom is its intelligence; might its productivity; the entire natural creation and the entire revelation of righteousness in history are means by which it attains its teleological aims. When the fulness of the time came love revealed its true nature to the object beloved, and prepared itself in Christ a Church for eternity. And as Christ in His gospel made known to our race the inmost thoughts of His wisdom —” if He had had a better gospel, He would have given it us “—so does He make those who believe partakers of His own divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). This unity is more than a moral union; it is one of essence; it is more than the mystical unity of pantheism, for it is one of holiness. Viewed in relation to sin eternal love is compassionate grace; viewed in relation to the education of sinful man, it is longsuffering; viewed in relation to its promises and the hope which it awakens in the hearts of men, it is faithfulness (1 Peter 4:19: “As unto a faithful Creator.”)

[p. 99]

2 Responses to “God’s aseity”

  1. Daniel Svendsen said

    This is a beautiful excerpt, thanks. I remember Horton saying things like ‘he is not the sum of his attributes, his attributes are identical with his existence. He is what he is at all times and outside of time.’

    • Kevin Davis said

      That’s good, I like Horton on the doctrine of God. The point about “his attributes are identical with his existence” is a major part of Barth’s discussion of the divine perfections in CD. II.1.

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