Today I am highlighting Christian apologetics blogger, Yaser Makram. I met Yaser during my second summer residence in Biola University's apologetics program. He has a blog titled "Reasoned Defense" that you can check out here. To wet your appetite a little, here's his latest post; the first in a series exploring God's aseity. (If you are new to the term "aseity," Yaser explains it at the start of the article).
God’s Aseity in John’s Prologue
Aseity, from the Latin a se, means by itself. When spoken of God, it means, “The self-existence of God denotes that the ground of his being is in himself.” Simply stated, God’s existence is found in himself. To examine the case for God’s aseity, it is necessary to offer some preliminary insight into the language of existence. This will be followed by arguing the case for God’s self-existence from John 1:1-3 utilizing the tools of grammatical insight.
Existence, God’s Aseity, and Man’s Contingency
What does it mean to say that something exists, let alone, God? Is it meaningless to say that God exists? What of ourselves; certainly, we do not doubt our own existence, do we? Consider the following statement: Geckos exist. (My son has a leopard gecko). At the minimum, it would mean that there is some property of being a gecko and this property of being belongs to something. This belonging relation is known in metaphysics under the terms of exemplification, predication, or instancing, which simply means that some thing is exemplified, predicated, or instanced in something else. In the case of our gecko, “The claim that [geckos] exist is the claim that the essence of being a [gecko] (the what of being a [gecko]) is actually exemplified by or belongs to something (the that or fact of an individual [gecko] existing).” Thus, our statement that “Geckos exist” means to refer to the essence or nature of being a gecko and this expresses reality or existence.
When referring to God, we, further, speak of God as being (Latin, ens). Being, simply, refers to something existing. “In Protestant Scholastic theology, ens is the most simple predicate. It indicates the coincidence of esse, the act of existing, with essentia, the whatness of the thing.” How does attributes relate then to being? When speaking of the attributes of God, specifically, God’s aseity, the qualifier is made to how the attributes are predicted of God. Kevin Lewis offers some helpful insight:
(1) The attributes (attributa) are not accidents (accidentia) inhering in and separable from the divine substance but are attributa essentialia, i.e., the divine attributes are the essence of God himself. (2) Since God is not a composite being, the attributes are not parts of God but, in their identity with the divine essence, are also identical with each other. (3) Since there is nothing prior to God and since the divine essentia and divine existence (esse) are inseparable, the attributes are identical also with the existence of God, so that, e.g., in God being and being holy are identical. (4) The attributes are, nevertheless, truly and properly predicated of God. Thus, the attributes are not distinct from one another or from the divine essence realiter, really, as one thing is distinct from another, nor are they distinct merely rationaliter, rationally, in the reasoning of the finite subject only (ratio ratiocinans).
Thus, when speaking of God’s aseity; that is, God’s self-existence, it is important to recognize that this attribute is predicted of God, not as the whatness or essence of God, which would refer to what God is in Himself; but the thatness of God, which refers to the fact that something exists, namely God that can have the notion of existence predicted to Him. Lastly, there is no confusion between God’s being and being self-existing for they are the same.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. ESV
The glorious introduction to John’s gospel is not easily matched to the high Christology John highlights. Further, the profundity of this text, when properly understood and examined will emphasize two major points: God’s necessary self-existence and man’s contingent existence. The prologue “In the beginning…”(Ἐν ἀρχῇ), refers back to Genesis, chapter one, which also reads, “In the beginning, God…” This reference, for John, is to build the corollary that the logos, like God, was (ἦν ὁ λόγος) from the beginning. The Greek word translated was (ἦν) is the imperfect form of the verb eimi (to be), which is used to indicate a continuous action in past time. Here John, is using eimi to declare that the λόγος existed prior to the first moment of creation. The logical implication is that if the λόγος existed prior to creation, He cannot himself have been created. This is further reinforced by the phrase the Word was God (θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος). Here, “the absence of the Greek article before the word God…makes it clear that θεὸς is predicate, not subject, of the verb.” Why is this important, Kevin Lewis adds, “In Greek, an article is used in a copulative sentence to distinguish the subject from the predicate. In John 1:1, the subject is “the Word” (ho logos), the qualitative anarthrous predicate is ‘God’ (theos), the copula is ‘was’ (en).” Thus, the qualitative anarthrous predicate noun (theos) that precedes the verb (en) indicates that the λόγος “was as to His essence absolute deity.” The conclusion of John 1:1 is that God, who precedes the creation, must have existence apart from and not dependent upon creation; that is, God is self-existent.
The notion of Ἐν ἀρχῇ is further emphasized in John 1:2; however, it is within verse three that the notion of creation’s contingency is introduced. The third verse of John’s introduction can be further broken into two smaller sections beginning with the understanding of πάντα (Greek for ‘all things’, neuter plural). Here, πάντα is without the definite article, which would denote the whole of all things, but as it is without the definite article, it means all things taken severally. This distinction is important because if taken as ta πάντα (with the definite article), this would imply the totality of creation, including God, but verse one already taught God’s self-existence; thus, πάντα must mean all things individually created, not including God. This is, again, reinforced with the statement that “through him all things were created (πάντα δι᾽ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο), emphasizing the verb egeneto, the aorist form of ginomai, which means to originate or become denoting a contrast between all things and God, who simply was in the beginning and never came into being. Turning to the second half of verse three, William Lane Craig notes: “without him not one thing came into being” [καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν. ὃ γέγονεν]. The verb is again egeneto, the clause stating that nothing came into being without or apart from (choris) the Logos, oude hen being merely more emphatic than ouden (“nothing”). The second clause of v. 3 is thus simply the negation of the contradictory of the first clause.” The conclusion of verse three is that man, and creation altogether, is contingent; and where God existence always was, creation and man was not. The overall conclusion of John 1:1-3 is that without God’s necessary existence, man, not only has no existence, but has no identity. How does man find his identity? I’ll save that for a future post.
 William Greenough Thayer Shedd and Alan W. Gomes, Dogmatic Theology, 3rd ed. (Phillipsburg, N.J.: P & R Pub., 2003), 276.
 James Porter Moreland and William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 191.
 Kevin Lewis, Theology Proper: Part II (classroom lecture notes, Essential Christian Doctrines, Spring 2007), 5.
 Lewis, Theology, 6.
 This would relate to another of God’s attributes, namely, His simplicity, which would speak of his essence.
 Kevin Lewis, John 1:1-3 Excursus (classroom lecture notes, Essential Christian Doctrines, Fall 2006), 1.
 George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible : The Holy Scriptures in the King James and Revised Standard Versions with General Articles and Introduction, Exegesis, Exposition for Each Book of the Bible, 12 vols. (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1951), 464.
 Lewis, John, 3.
 Kenneth Samuel Wuest, The New Testament; an Expanded Translation (Grand Rapids,: Eerdmans, 1961), 209.
 William Lane Craig, Question 210 Subject: Biblical Basis of God’s Unique Aseity [on line]; accessed 17 November 2011; available from http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8793; Internet.