Self-Existent God – The Definition of Aseity
When we talk about the character of God, we realize that His incommunicable attributes, such as being a self-existent God, cannot be seen. An incommunicable attribute refers to an attribute that God does not share or “pass on” to us, such as omnipresence or unchangeableness. God’s independence, or self-existence, is defined as:
God does not need us or the rest of creation for anything, yet we and the rest of creation glorify him and bring him joy.1
Sometimes God’s self-existence is referred to as His aseity (from the Latin words a + se, which mean “existence derived from itself, having no other source”).2
People may assume that God created human beings because He needed companionship and was lonely. This would mean that God is not entirely independent of creation. Or, in order for God to find complete satisfaction and happiness, He would need to create humans to fulfill His existence. In John 17:5, Jesus prays, “Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” There was love and communication between the Father and the Son long before creation. Sharing the glory between the Father and Son provided a fellowship with no shortcomings.
By His very nature, the Scriptures remind us that He is a self-existent God. He was never created and never came into being. “You are worthy . . . to receive glory, honor, and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being” (Revelation 4:11). While these are words of adoration, it is affirmation that God preserves and is the final cause of all things.
“Our Maker exists in an eternal, self-sustaining, necessary way—necessary, that is, in the sense that God does not have it in Him to go out of existence, just as we do not have it in us to live forever. We necessarily age and die, because it is our present nature to do that; God necessarily continues forever unchanged, because it is His eternal nature to do that. This is one of many contrasts between creature and Creator.”3
God is not dependent on any part of creation for His existence or His nature. Before the earth gave birth to life or before the beginning of time, God had being.
Self-Existent God – He is Totally Unique
As the one true Self-Existent God, His being is totally unique. Beyond God not needing creation for anything; God would not need the creation for anything. The difference between the Creator and human is so vast that He exists fundamentally in a different order of being. God essentially exists in an infinitely superior, stronger, more excellent way. It’s as if one compared the sun and a candle, the ocean and a raindrop, or the universe and the room we are sitting in.
God reminds Job of the infinite distance and imbalance between man and Him, showing that the Creator alone is unique. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?” (Job 38:4-5). There is no imperfection or limitation in the Creator. All else can pass away in an instant; God inevitably exists forever.
There have been objections to God’s aseity, suggesting that a self-existent God or Being is a self-caused Being. Some argue that a self-caused being is impossible for it would be ontologically prior to itself.4 We can attribute everything in the world that is able to be perceived through our senses, to something. But this determination cannot be continued into infinity. By reason, there was something existing prior to all other things. Thomas Aquinas stated that God is the prime mover: “. . . in the world, some things are in motion . . . it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, moved by no other; and this everyone understands to be God."5 One thing caused the first movement—God is an uncaused Being.
Self-Existent God – Are We Insignificant?
Learn More of God’s Attributes!
One might wonder, “Why would a self-existent God bother with our existence?” We must guard against the idea that God’s independence makes our existence insignificant. We are very meaningful because God created us and by His will has proclaimed that we would be meaningful to Him. God speaks of His sons and daughters from the ends of the earth as “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (Isaiah 43:6). God derives great pleasure in adopting us as His children (Ephesians 1:5). He freely chooses us to be recipients of His power (Luke 9:1–2), peace (John 14:27), joy (John 5:11), grace (James 4:6), and eternal life (John 10:27–28). To be significant to the Self-Existent God is to be significant in the most ultimate sense.
1 Cottrell, Jack. What the Bible Says About God the Creator. Joplin, MO: College Press Co., 1983, p. 216.
2 Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition, 2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers
3 Packer, J. I., Concise Theology. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2001, p. 26.
4 ontologically [adverb] – of or pertaining to the branch of metaphysics that deals with the nature of being.
5 The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas, Second and Revised Edition, 1920. Literally translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province.
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