I Believe In God’s Self-Sufficiency: A Response To Thomas Mccall -- By: John Piper
TRINJ 29:2 (Fall 2008) p. 227
I Believe In God’s Self-Sufficiency:
A Response To Thomas Mccall
*John Piper is Pastor for Preaching and Vision at the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Tom McCall and I share a belief in God’s aseity. This odd word refers to God’s self-existence (a–from, se–oneself). God exists “from himself.” God owes his existence and completeness as God to nothing outside himself. I am thankful to Tom McCall for pressing me to clarify my understanding of God’s aseity. He thinks that my understanding of God implicitly, if not explicitly, denies this important truth.
I should simply confess at the outset that I have written sentences that by themselves could lead one to McCall’s criticism. What I hope to do here is explain what I meant and how those sentences carry my intended meaning in their context. I hope to try to write more carefully about this in the future.
The question of aseity arises for me because a huge part of my theological burden is the answer to the question why God created the universe. I recall wrestling in the Spring of 1971 in a class at Fuller Seminary with the dilemma of, on the one hand, thinking of God’s creation as purposeful (and therefore giving the impression that he depended on the accomplishment of that purpose to be complete or happy) or, on the other hand, thinking of God’s creation as unpurposeful (and therefore, apparently, whimsical and capricious). In the first case, we would sacrifice his aseity. In the second, we would sacrifice his wisdom.
I point this out to emphasize how difficult this problem is for all of us. The problem is not unique to only one theological tradition. As with most important doctrines, we are trying to say true biblical things about one aspect of God’s reality (joyful self-sufficiency apart from creation), without denying other true biblical things about another aspect of his reality (purposeful wisdom in creation). I certainly affirm both of these truths.
In my book Desiring God, written for a popular audience and first published in 1986, I ventured to say it like this:
TRINJ 29:2 (Fall 2008) p. 228
In creation, God “went public” with the glory that reverberates joyfully between the Father and the Son. There is something about the fullness of God’s joy that inclines it to overflow. There is an expansive quality to His joy. It wants to share itself. The impulse to create the world was not from weakness, as though God were lacking in some perfection that creation could supply. “It is no argument of the emptiness or deficiency of a fountain, that it is inclined to overflow.”
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