Aseity (from Latin a “from” and se “self”, plus -ity) is the property by which a being exists in and of itself, from itself, or exists as so-and-such of and from itself. The word is often used to refer to the Christian belief that God contains within himself the cause of himself, is the first cause, or rather is simply uncaused, though many Jewish and Muslim theologians have also believed God to be independent in this way. Notions of aseity as the highest principle go back at least to Plato and have been in wide circulation since Augustine, though the use of the word ‘aseity‘ began only in the Middle Ages.
Aseity has two aspects, one positive and one negative: absolute independence and self-existence. In its “negative” meaning, which emerged first in the history of thought, it affirms that God is uncaused, depending on no other being for the source of God’s existence. In its “positive” meaning, it affirms that God is completely self-sufficient, having within Himself the sufficient reason for His own existence. The first concept derives from “the God of philosophers”, while the second one derives from “the living God of Revelation” (I Am Who I Am: Exodus 3:14).
As a part of this belief God is said to be incapable of changing (see Hebrews 13:8) Changing implies development. Since God was, and is, and is to be the Absolute Perfection, there is no further need to change: he is αὐτουσία (unchanged: Gregory of Nyssa), actus purus and ipsum esse subsistens (Thomas Aquinas).
Many (St. Thomas, for instance) have also thought that aseity implies divine simplicity: that God has no parts of any kind (whether spatial, temporal, or abstract), since complexes depend on their individual parts, with none of which they are identical. Classical theists have often drawn a further implication: that God is without emotion or is “impassible“: because, it is said, emotion implies standing as patient (pass-) to some agent – i.e., dependence. This is so because, although God has created everything, he is not in dependence on his creation.
Whether or not this being should be described as God turns on whether the label ‘Creator’ is a rigid designator of God. Given that most theists believe all that is not God to be brought about by God, and that many (for example, St. Aquinas) argue from the non-aseity of the universe to the existence of God, this problem is highly theoretical. There is also a possible threat to divine aseity by the existence of abstract objects, a threat that philosopher William Lane Craig attempts to provide reconciliations for in his book, God Over All. John 1:3 states that “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being”. The aorist tense implies that everything that exists (other than God) came into being at some time in the past. This verse carries the weighty metaphysical implication that there are no eternal entities apart from God, eternal either in the sense of existing atemporally or of existing sempiternally. Rather everything that exists, with the exception of God Himself, is the product of temporal becoming.
Aseity has also been criticized as being logically incompatible with the concept of God as a being or of God as existing. Furthermore, it can be argued that for the notion of aseity not to be logically circular or inconsistent, the supposed entity to which it applies would have to be identified with its properties, instead of instantiating, exemplifying or having its properties, and would therefore be a nonsentient force or potential of indeterminate vitality (see Monad). This, however, seems to contradict the notion that God is a person or a causal agent, for what person or agent can also be a property (or complex of properties)? Schopenhauer attributes Aseity (self-dependent) to will, as the only being by and of itself, apart from causal relationships.
- Sauvage, George (1907). “Aseity”. Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent. Retrieved July 15, 2012.
- Clarke, W. N. (January 1, 2003). “Aseity (Aseitas)”. New Catholic Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on March 28, 2015. Retrieved 2014-11-30.
Aseity has two aspects, one positive and one negative. In its negative meaning, which emerged first in the history of thought, it affirms that God is uncaused, depending on no other being for the source of God’s existence. In its positive meaning, it affirms that God is completely self-sufficient, having within Godself the sufficient reason for God’s own existence.
- Jean Daniélou (1957). “The God Of True Philosophy”. God and the Ways of Knowing. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. p. 210. Retrieved July 15, 2012. ISBN 0-898-70939-3; ISBN 978-0-89870-939-1.
- Pohle, Joseph (1911). Dogmatic Theology, Vol. 1: God, His Knowability, Essence, and Attributes. Freiburg im Breisgau: B. Herder.pp. 162, 172, 174.
- Summa Theologica, I, Q. 3, Art. 7.
- For an exposition of Augustine’s theory of emotions, especially with respect to God’s perfection, see Nicholas Wolterstorff’s “Suffering Love” in Philosophy and the Christian Faith, ed. Thomas V. Morris (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame University Press, 1988).
- Craig, William Lane. “Biblical Basis of God’s Unique Aseity”. Retrieved 19 May 2014.
- Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1951) 236ff.
- Richard M. Gale, On the Nature and Existence of God
- Payne, E. “The World as Will and Representation” (Vol.2) Dover. 1958, p. 320
- Alston, William P. “Hartshorne and Aquinas: A Via Media”, in Divine Nature and Human Language. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989.
- Hartshorne, Charles. The Divine Relativity: A Social Conception of God. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1948.
- Morris, Thomas V. Our Idea of God. Chap. 6. Downer’s Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1991.
- Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica, I, Q. 3. Many editions.
- Brower, Jeffrey E. “Simplicity and Aseity (Forthcoming in Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology)” (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on February 21, 2007. Retrieved July 15, 2012.
- Pohle, Joseph (1911). “ASEITY-THE-FUNDAMENTAL-ATTRIBUTE-OF-GOD (pp. 165 ss.)”. Dogmatic Theology, Vol. 1: God, His Knowability, Essence, and Attributes. Freiburg im Breisgau: B. Herder. ISBN 1-440-05281-6; ISBN 978-1-44005-281-1. See also: .
- Craig, William Lane. “The Platonic Challenge to Divine Aseity”. Retrieved 19 May 2014.
Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia