Who Made God? הָיָה and Divine Aseity

Who created God? Have you ever wondered? Been asked that question? It is a hard question to ponder. We often argue that nothing comes from nothing, and that everything which is must be created. So how can we say that God is eternal–He has no creator? How can we say that God wasn’t made? When we speak of God being eternal, we are affirming that God is unmade, uncreated, unformed and uncaused. This facet of God’s nature is referred to as Divine Aseity. God’s Aseity is “That attribute of God by which He is the self-sufficient ground of His own existence and being.”[1]

 

Aquinas and the Philosophical Principle of Divine Aseity

God’s self-existence (aseity) is a prerequisite for our universe. Thomas Aquinas argued this point in the second of his “Five Ways” for knowing God exists. He said, “Therefore, if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate cause. But if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient cause, neither will there be an ultimate effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes; all of which is plainly false. Therefore, it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.”[2] If there is no unmoved Mover or uncaused Cause, then we would be left with the impossibility of a series of infinite regress. This is the theme of Aquinas’ third way of the Five Ways.

Therefore, if everything is possible not to be, then at one time there could have been nothing in existence. Now if this were true, even now there would be nothing in existence, because that which does not exist only begins to exist by something already existing. Therefore, if at one time nothing was in existence, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist; and thus even now nothing would be in existence—which is absurd. Therefore, not all beings are merely possible, but there must exist something the existence of which is necessary. But every necessary thing either has its necessity caused by another, or not. Now it is impossible to go on to infinity in necessary things which have their necessity caused by another, as has been already proved in regard to efficient causes. Therefore we cannot but postulate the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God.[3]

There must be something which stands outside our transient existence of space and time in order for this existence to exist. God is the necessary eternal foundation for everything which is. “Now, in Him who truly exists, and who said by Moses, “I am who I am,” all things, whatever they are, participate; which participation in God the Father is shared both by just men and sinners, by rational and irrational beings, and by all things universally which exist.[4] This self-existent quality of God is called Divine Aseity.

 

God’s Theological Name הָיָה

The Scriptures are God’s revelation of himself and his nature. Therefore, we learn about divine aseity first from the Scriptures. The self-existence of God is taken for granted in the creation narrative. Nothing is said of God’s origin. Rather, his existence is taken for granted. The story began with God who is and what God did to make everything else.

In Exodus 3:14 we see God claim his eternal self-existing nature. This is where God revealed his character to Moses. God is I AM (הָיָה).[5] Moses likely still wondered who this God was. “Moses asks after God’s name so he can pass it on to the Israelites, and Yhwh responds by providing not a label but a theology. But at last Moses is further told, in what looks more like a straight answer to his question about God’s name, that the name of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is Yhwh (Ex 3:15).[6] God said he is the one who is..[7] The God Who Is concept is described by John in the book of Revelation. There God is described as the one who was and is and is to come (Revelation 1:4; 4:8; 11:17; 16:5). When God described himself as “I AM” it was more than just a name—it was a description of his entire being. הָיָה “is more than a name. It is a descriptive name, pointing to all that God is in himself. In particular, it shows him to be the One who is entirely self-existent, self-sufficient and eternal.”[8]

 

The Divine Aseity of Jesus

The divine aseity of the Father is affirmed by God the Son and claimed by God the Son as well. John 5:26 says, “For just as the Father has life in himself, so also he has granted to the Son to have life in himself” (CSB). There we are reminded of the Father’s self-existence and also the Son’s self-existence. Neither were created. The Father, Son, and Spirit are eternal beings necessary to the existence of every created thing. John recorded seven instances in which Jesus described himself as “I AM.” These are important to John’s Gospel. The listing of seven of these occurrences is certainly no accident. Jesus presented himself as the “I AM” or the “Self Existent One.”[9]

 

From Theology to Doxology

            He is the God who is. We are the one’s who depend upon him for our existence. It is easy to praise God when we remember he is the provider of all things. Our children grow up singing, “He’s got the whole world in his hands.” We are able to sing that song because of Divine Aseity. He made all things to be and makes all things to continue be. Perhaps Divine Aseity will help us to understand Paul’s hymn of praise to Jesus in Colossians 1:16-17, “For everything was created by him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rules or authorities—all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and by him all things hold together” (CSB).

 

Notes

[1] Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics, ed. Richard B. Gaffin, trans. Annemie Godbehere et al., vol. 1 (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012–2016), 8.

[2] Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne, n.d.).

[3] Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne, n.d.).

[4] Origen, “De Principiis,” in Fathers of the Third Century: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Parts First and Second, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. Frederick Crombie, vol. 4, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 253.

[5] Very early the Jews thought that Leviticus 24:11, 16 forbade them to pronounce the holy name of God. They always replaced it with Adonai. Later, when vowels were added to the Hebrew text, the vowels of Adonai were used. Thus, the pronunciation “Jehovah” came into existence. We cannot ascertain with certainty what the original pronunciation was, but most probably the pronunciation was Jahweh. However, we are already so used to the sound of Jehovah that it would almost be irreverent to change it at this stage. According to Exodus 3:14, Jehovah is a covenant name and signifies: (a) self-existence; and (b) God’s immutability and faithfulness.Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics, ed. Richard B. Gaffin, trans. Annemie Godbehere et al., vol. 1 (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012–2016), 4.

[6] John Goldingay, Old Testament Theology: Israel’s Gospel, vol. 1 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 335.

[7] “Most likely the name should be translated something like “I am he who is,” or “I am he who exists” as reflected by the LXX’s ego eimi ho ōn. The echo of this is found surely in the nt, Rev 1:8. More than anything perhaps, the “is-ness” of God is expressive both of his presence and his existence. Neither concept can be said to be more important than the other Victor P. Hamilton, “491 הָיָה,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 214.

[8] James Montgomery Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith: A Comprehensive & Readable Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 102.

[9] The absolute (nonpredicated) “I am” statements go further, however. Four of these statements make explicit claims to Jesus’ identification with God (8:24, 28, 58; 13:19). The clearest and most remarkable of these is John 8:58, “Before Abraham was born, I am!” This was Jesus’ reply to His opponents’ exclamation, “You are not yet fifty years old … and you have seen Abraham!” (v. 57). Jesus’ statement clearly alludes to Exodus 3:14, and the response of His opponents makes it clear that they understood Jesus’ words as a claim to identification with deity. They prepared to stone Him for what they understood to be blasphemy (v. 59).Roy B. Zuck, A Biblical Theology of the New Testament, electronic ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), 181.

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