Some years after writing this article on God’s aseity, I was pointed to a reply by ‘TheSire’ (hereafter, ‘the objector’) that more or less misses the point of my original post. It’s not very long or well-conceived, but I’ll address his main points.
Lack of Explaining Power
The first of his objections involves people ‘explaining’ God.
Van Til thinks of aseity as God being self-contained. Nothing can further explain God other than himself but on Thibodaux scheme, God being is explained by creatures. But how can a being that is a se or self-explained be further explained by created things(people and their choice)?
It isn’t really clear what he’s asking. If he’s talking about how we define God, He most certainly is, in some ways, defined by His creation.
“God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’” (Ex. 3:15a)
“But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob…” (Isa. 43:1a)
God identifies Himself by both His relationship to His people and status as Creator (which of course requires a creation).
Nobody is making the argument that free will requires us to create God’s being.
Yes they were in fact: the post was addressing a particular fallacy by a Mr. Prussic that amounted to just that. That said, if that’s not what our dear objector is arguing for, then the objection against us ‘explaining’ God is apparently as irrelevant as it is ill-defined and poorly explained.
Our objector’s piece here is a bit of a facepalm. Calvinists are no strangers to the idea of God’s transcendence over time (that is, in addition to being within time [immanent], God also exists outside of time, and is therefore not limited by time or the ‘present’ as we see it, see John Frame’s The Doctrine of God, pp. 570-71), but when it comes to arguing against free will, they temporarily fall into a state of obfuscating ignorance (à la Hays and his ilk), which makes for some hilarious noob arguments.
If their choices ground these future contingents, then how can God know prior to what they are going to do before they choose to do it?
From a perspective of prior to creation, it is hard to see how it is coherent to suppose God knows something that is either false or has no truth value.
How could non-existent things ground God’s knowledge?
Maybe because being in the stretch of all time that is clear to God is not non-existent from God’s perspective.
It is easy to see on a Calvinist scheme that God simply thinks of agents making particular choices and that is what makes it’s true.
Per Calvinism, that would be ‘decreeing,’ not ‘thinking,’ though neither road will avoid slamming headlong into the author of sin problem.
It’s a short walk to Open Theism at this point.
Indeed, if we were to adopt the “How kin God know yer tomorree choice-makins’ if dey ain’t done happund yet?” stance that he’s posited for the moment, then I suppose Open Theism would follow.
He does try to address the main argument in the post, but sadly falls flat.
That clearly makes some aspect of God dependant on my choices.
The dilemma either an essential attribute of God is dependant on human choices or God simply doesn’t know the future.
I address this point in the post linked to above, comparing God’s knowledge to His faithfulness: God is both omniscient and faithful regardless of whether the world exists or not, but the specifics thereof – who He knows about and who He is faithful to, depends upon our existence.
[Me]: Let’s look at another one of God’s attributes: faithfulness. God is indeed called “faithful and true” (Revelation 19:11, see also Deuteronomy 7:9, Isaiah 49:7, 1 Corinthians 10:13, 1 Thessalonians 5:24, 2 Thessalonians 3:3). Knowing this, I ask, has God ever made a promise or oath to anyone? He certainly has. His covenant with Abraham and his descendants is a prominent example (Genesis 22:16-18). Second question: for God to remain faithful to what He has promised, does the one(s) to whom He made such promises have to exist? I would think so: Abraham and his descendants apparently must exist for God to remain faithful to His promises that He made to them.
So then God’s attribute of faithfulness actually does depend upon His creations (their existence in this case), provided that He has chosen to make a promise to them. This type of dependency wouldn’t attack God’s aseity, as making the promises in the first place (and thus establishing that dependence) was His decision alone. This clearly wouldn’t imply that He has some innate need of creation, but would definitely indicate that such a dependency exists according to His will.
To which we get the reply,
[Objector]: God’s faithfulness comes from His Holy nature. For example, God is faithful between the persons. Aseity is connected to the fact God is a trinitarian being. God isn’t dependant on the world to be faithful. Its seems rather obvious that God’s moral character isn’t dependant upon the world.
That is true, God is faithful regardless of whether there is a world, just as He is omniscient. Catch is, God’s faithfulness now doesn’t just exist by itself, He is not only innately faithful, but He is now faithful to people like Abraham. God being faithful to Abraham requires that there be an Abraham. Our over-eager objector is confusing God’s immutable attributes with the relational, optional specifics encompassed by those attributes. To show what I mean by comparison:
- God is faithful (immutable attribute)
- If God did not create the world, there would be no human persons to be faithful to, but that would not detract from His faithfulness
- God did create the world and is faithful to His covenants with His creation
- Said faithfulness to His creation is an optional aspect of God’s faithfulness contingent upon Him creating
I think those points are beyond dispute here, so why is it so hard to grasp:
- God is omniscient (immutable attribute)
- If God did not create the world, there would be no human persons to know about, but that would not detract from His omniscience
- God did create the world and knows everything about His creation
- Said knowledge of His creation is an optional aspect of God’s omniscience contingent upon Him creating
What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Our objector failing to understand the comparison shows that he’s not yet grasped the issue: if God knowing our free choices would make God’s attribute of omniscience “dependent on man,” then by his logic, God being faithful to people would likewise make God’s attribute of faithfulness “dependent on man!”
The Final Nail – God Needs us to Create us to Remain Omniscient?
When I studied the subject some years ago, it dawned on me just how nonsensical was the idea that all of God’s knowledge is innate to Him rather than some aspects of it being dependent upon things like His choice to create. It actually raises a rather awful implication:
[Me]: If God’s knowledge is innate to Him, then everything He knows is innate to Him. My existence is one of the things God knows about. If God innately knows that I was born some time in the latter part of the last century, then that fact has eternally been an innate part of God’s knowledge; God therefore had no choice but to create me, else He would falsify His knowledge. Thus God’s omniscience is now dependent upon my existence.
This could even be taken a step further: I’m a believer in Christ, part of the elect. God has innately and eternally known that I’ll be part of the elect -that fact is part of His divine essence (according to Mr. Prussic anyway). By that logic, God not only had to create me, but to make His knowledge true, had no choice but to elect me as well (and Calvinists accuse me of being “man-centered”), else falsify His knowledge. Even the Potter doesn’t have any real freedom by such backwards thinking! We could go on and on, but suffice it to say that divine simplicity interpreted in such a way as Mr. Prussic does breaks down into complete incoherence.
In an ironic twist, the [high] Calvinist view actually militates against God’s aseity: If the specifics of God’s omniscience, such as His knowledge of us, are essential parts of God’s being, then God must create us for His knowledge to hold true! The idea of God having some innate compulsion and having no choice as to whether He creates or redeems people also runs afoul of another one of His attributes: maybe after a refresher on transcendence, our objector can study up on a certain attribute known as Sovereignty. I’ve heard some Calvinists believe in that too.