Aseity, Unity, Simplicity, Trinity

by Aaron

A couple of weeks ago we led an updated Gospel Class that we called The Weekender. Our Gospel Class eventually grew from an original 7-week course to an 8-week course as we refined our vision over the years. The point of the Gospel Class was to give people who were considering making Element their home a quick primer on basic theology and why Element functions the way it does (from our mission to our vision in how we accomplish God’s call as a church). Since people tended to have “life” happen to them and couldn’t make all 8 weeks, this year we decided to try something new and streamline the course by doing a Friday night/Saturday morning class.

In streamlining the class, there were a couple topics that became condensed. One of those was who God is in His person and the other was the fall of humankind (into what we call sin). These two things have been running through my heart and head in the last couple of weeks, so I wanted to write a couple of short blogs to round out what may have been missed in the class. Let’s first talk about God (you know, because God is always first).

When we speak about God, we speak about God’s shared and unshared attributes. God’s shared attributes are the ones that He shares with His people. This includes Spirit (we have a spirit because God gave us life), Holiness (God gives us the gift of being set apart for His purposes), Love and Goodness (we love because He first loved us), Truth (we can know and live in the truth), Justice and Righteousness (we know true righteousness and just because they stem from God Himself), Mercy (God doesn’t give us what we deserve, He gives us grace and we are to show that same grace to others), and Beauty (God creates in beauty and allows His creatures to also create works of beauty).

God also has attributes that He does not share. These would be His Omnipresence (God is everywhere at all times), His Omniscience (He has complete and perfect knowledge of all things), His Omnipotence (He is all-powerful and able to do all that He wills unopposed), His Immutability (God does not change because He is perfect), His Eternality (God has no beginning or end and is not bound by time), His Sovereignty (God is supreme in rule and authority over all things), and His Aseity (God is sufficient in Himself and does not need anything from creation (including us) to complete Him.

All the above may be review and could lead you to ask the question, “Why this blog?” The answer is that there is another point I wanted to make regarding God and His attributes…all of this is only relatable to us when we understand that God is within a Trinity and His unity is correlative only to Himself. All the complexities of the attributes above stem from God’s person—which is unity in Trinity. I hope I am not confusing you.

While God Himself is unity in trinity, He made the world in diversity; sometimes that diversity causes us to misunderstand God’s Aseity. As created beings, we are dependent upon things outside of ourselves for life, but God Himself is not like us. Let’s take something as simple as love…if God were not a unity in Trinity, then what would be the object of God’s love? Us? The world? John Frame wrote, “…love in the fullest biblical sense by its very nature reaches out to another, not merely to the self.” That means if God was not a Trinity, He would then need someone or something else to love to be God. Frame writes, “On a Trinitarian basis…God’s love is both interpersonal and self-contained.” God’s love is a love among the Father, Son, and Spirit—it is not dependent upon anything else.

The reason the Trinity is so important a doctrine is that it guards God’s Aseity. Without God being a Triune God, He would be dependent upon the world. As Frame writes, “Trinity…guards the personality of God: He is not blank unity, which would be impersonal. Rather, He is a unity of persons.” Michelle, who I have proofread these blogs, responded with these words after reading the above paragraph, “And—if I’m understanding this correctly—He would HAVE to love us/creation, right? Which would not only compromise His omnipotence, but also detract from the goodness that…He actually chooses to love us of His own free will.” Correct, but it would compromise His Aseity as well.

This is a doctrine that theologians call God’s “Simplicity.” God is not made up of the attributes listed above because there is nothing in Him that is independent of His person…every good thing we know stems from who He is. If you take God’s goodness, for instance, that is not an external thing that God focuses on in order to be good. Goodness is not an attribute that God conforms Himself to; goodness comes from God Himself. If goodness came from outside of God, then goodness would essentially be another god (a second deity) that God would conform Himself to—He would cease to be God. Cornelius Van Til has been quoted as saying, “Denial of God’s unity of simplicity violates God’s unity of singularity.”

Hopefully you can see why I am sharing this in a blog. This whole discussion, while fascinating to me, could take us into the weeds if I were to do it in class. Suffice to say, a proper understanding of God’s simplicity, unity in Trinity, and Aseity tells us that there is not any “non-being” (attributes) that have/had any power over God. Logic, ethics, truth, mercy all come from His person and are just some reasons why we worship and ascribe worth to who He is. It is why we are a people who are lost and broken without the God who made us. We are dependent and He is sufficient in Himself yet chooses to love us; that is a great God!