Summary of “God Over All”: Chapter Two, “God: The Sole Ultimate Reality” pt. 2 – Aseity According to the Apostle Paul

In our previous post, we looked at William Lane Craig’s treatment of the prologue of John’s gospel. This post will look at Paul’s writings on God’s aseity. There are several passages that Craig looks at:

“There is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” (1 Cor. 8.6)

“For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman; but all things come from God. (1 Cor. 11.12)

“For from him and through him and to him are all things.” (Rom. 11.36)

“He [Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation; for by him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been created through him and for him.” (Col. 1.15-16)

Craig again argues here that Paul, like John, is clearly stating that he believes God to be the sole ultimate reality. In the same manner that Craig doubts the concepts of abstract objects were foreign ideas to John, Craig also argues that there is evidence to believe Paul was as least familiar with the philosophical systems of thought that dealt with these realms of ideas. Citing theologian Douglas Moo: “The concept of God as the source (ek), sustainer (dia), and goal (eis) of all things is particularly strong among the Greek Stoic philosophers. Hellenistic Jews picked up this language and applied it to Yahweh; and it is probably, therefore, from the synagogue that Paul borrows this formula.”[1] With this in mind, Craig again asks of the biblical author wether they use the terms “all things” in a universally quantifiable sense, or in a more limited sense. The point is that the Christian Platonist would have to say that the domain over which Paul is speaking of is restricted so that abrstract objects are not included. But if Paul was familiar with these philosophical ideas, he would doubtlessly include these abstract objects within the domain of objects created by God (if they exist).

To summarize, “Paul is affirming that everything apart from God has been created by God through Christ. The domain of Paul’s quantifiers is unlimited: everything other than God has been created by God.” [2]

Two Theological Questions

Before moving on to discuss how the early church fathers understood the doctrine of divine aseity, Craig takes this time to identify two theological questions that arise from a study of the biblical passages concerning the doctrine.

Question One: In what sense can the Divine Logos be said by John or Paul to have brought into existence “late creation” entities?

This question addresses the issue of things coming into being after the initial act of creation. The biblical authors were aware that new organisms come into being everyday through birth/conception. So how does one make sense of these two ideas? Craig references several models of this “late creation” by Brian Leftow that are available to the creationist. [3]

(i) God created out of nothing the fundamental particles which compose material things. Composite objects therefore owe their existence to God.

(ii) God created not only the stuff out of which material things are made, but also established deterministic causal systems primed to produce certain effects at later times. God is the remote cause, and creatures are the proximate cause.

(iii) God could will and cause an entire sequence of events terminating in the production of some creature. This model differs from the previous in that God not only causes the first event in a sequence, but every event in the sequence.

(iv) An extension of model (iii), it could also be said that God conserves objects in being from moment to moment by willing that they persist from one time until a later time.

Question two: Shall we take aseity to be an essential attribute of God or merely a property that God happens to possess contingently?

Craig answers this question by suggesting that positing a possible world in which God is “confronted with some independently existing, contingent being, uncreated by Him, would impugn God’s power and majesty. Thus, we should take God’s being the sole ultimate reality as belonging to God’s nature.” [4]

_____________________________

[1] Douglas Moo, qtd. in Craig, “God Over All,” 24.

[2] Craig, 27.

[3] Brian Leftow, God and Necessity, referenced in Craig, 28-9.

[4] Craig, 30-1.

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