Friday, January 14, 2005

Trinity and Aseity

According to classical theism, one of the divine attributes is aseity. The word translates the Latin aseitas which derives from a se, from itself. The divine aseity, therefore, is the divine from-itself-ness. God is from himself, not from another: He is uncreated, self-sufficient, and not dependent on anything else for his existence or nature. I take ‘from himself’ to have a privative, rather than a positive, sense. It simply means that God is not from another; it does not mean that God creates himself or causes himself to exist – notions that are arguably (though not obviously) incoherent.

The divine attributes, including aseity, are possessed by God essentially: he has them in every possible world in which he exists. Since God is a necessary being – one that exists in all possible worlds if it exists in any possible world – we can say something stronger: God has his attributes necessarily. (Socrates exemplifies humanity essentially, but not necessarily.)

Is the divine aseity compatible with the divine trinity? Consider this reductio ad absurdum argument, where ‘Person’ refers to the Persons of the Trinity.

1. God is a se.
2. Each Person is (identically) God.
3. Each Person is a se.
4. The Son is not a se: the Son is from the Father ("begotten not made").
5. The Holy Spirit is not a se: the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father filioque (and the Son).
6. It is not the case that (3).
7. (3) and not-(3)
8. One of the premises must be rejected; but all of them are commitments of orthodoxy.

Question: Can this reductio as absurdum be defeated? How?