The Aseity of God: God is God All by Himself

The old folks used to say, “God is God all by Himself.”  In theological language these saints are describing God’s aseity.

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I don’t generally like to use theological jargon outside of the classroom, but the word “aseity” got me excited.  I first heard of the term while studying systematic theology in seminary.  Immediately I latched onto the word because it finally gave me a name for one of the first principles of God.  His independence.

Aseity Means God’s Independence

Herman Bavinck in his Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 2 describes God’s aseity this way.

“The first thing Scripture teaches us concerning God is that he has a free, independent existence and life of his own that is distinct from all creatures.”

Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, God…”  These initial words of Scripture contain the concept of aseity.  The Bible gives no explanation for where God came from.  It simply assumes His existence from before the beginning of creation.  God is uncreated, uncaused, and the only truly independent Being.

All other existence depends on God as the Creator.  “All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made” (Jn. 1:3).  By contrast, God depends on nothing for His existence.  In Exodus 3:14, God reveals His name to Moses as, “I Am Who I Am” (Yahweh).  God simply is.

Aseity is one of God’s incommunicable attributes.  It is an aspect of His existence that belongs uniquely to Him. Like His unchangeableness (immutability) or His eternality, no other other created being shares in God’s aseity.

Aseity means that God is categorically different in His essence from all creatures.  He stands above and apart from all creation as the One who has no source, no cause, and no dependence.  He is perfectly God, with or without the world He made.  God needs nothing and no one in order to be God. In contrast, all things depend on Him.

Aseity Means We Cannot Manipulate God

The aseity of God teaches human beings how to relate to their Maker.  We cannot manipulate God.  If God is truly independent, then He does not need anything we can offer Him.  He does not need our worship (though it pleases Him), He does not need our good works (though He commands it), He does not need our faith (though He desires it).  We cannot put God into our debt.  No amount of piety or earthly power can force God to perform.  He always acts from His own will, grace, and pleasure.  An independent God is a sovereign God.

Aseity Means God Can Provide for All our Needs and Wants

God’s aseity also means we need look only to Him to fill all our needs.  Although as men and women we are daily confronted with our dependence, God does not want for anything.  He contains all love, fellowship, delight and more in an infinite supply.  So as believers we can go to God with our needs and wants knowing that He can supply all of them.  Although, by His own free decision, He chooses to use many means to provide for us, we know the source of all provision comes from the all-sufficient One. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17).

Our Understanding of God Must Include His Aseity

Humankind must undestand God’s aseity as the first of His attributes.  Aseity makes God sovereign, authoritative, and absolute.  He does what He wills because He depends on no one and all of us depend on Him.  We creatures can add nothing to God nor take anything away.  He does not need our help, but instead offers the life-restoring help we need because of sin through faith in Jesus Christ.  He gives this gift graciously, freely, independently because, as the old folks say, “God is God all by Himself.”

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10 thoughts on “The Aseity of God: God is God All by Himself

  1. I remember the first time a Nigerian brother showed me that the the burning bush in Exodus 3 was a perfect manifestation of God’s aseity – the bush that burned “all by itself” with no help or combustible material being consumed, and God being God “all by himself” – the un-caused Cause … I wanted to run up and down the aisles of the classroom shouting “glo-ray!” You’ve left us with a beautiful picture of how He uses us – without consuming us. Thanks for the reminder of a wonderful truth.

    1. Awesome story, Karen. That’s a conclusion I’d never thought of regarding the burning bush. I wish I could have been a student with you. But I’ll settle for one day being a student in your class 🙂

      1. He was arguing that God cannot be immutable and also Creator, that the act of creation changes Him from not Creator to Creator, which means that he changed. He was, I believe, making an argument based on the mutual dependence between God and His creation.

      2. I see. That’s a tricky one. Perhaps some similarity to the dynamics involved in God’s existence pre-incarnation and the historical event of the incarnation. Glad he asked you that question and not me, though. 🙂

      3. The aseity of God is an important starting point. Beyond that, I explained to Him that God is outside of time, that creation was always present to Him, and that His decree of creation always existed in Him, that He did not at some point in time decree what He had not previously. This was in a conversation in the prison where I work as chaplain, with one of my chapel clerks who is a Buddhist.

      4. My answer was along the lines that God is outside of time, that creation was always present to Him, and that He always contained in Himself the decree of creation. There was not a time when God “decided” to create, not having decreed it before.

      5. This Buddhist was one of my inmate chapel clerks at the prison where I serve as chaplain. We have some interesting conversations at the prison! We have every belief under the sun.

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