The purpose of this paper is to consider whether the Calvinist's typical understanding of why God created the world is consistent with the assertion of God's independence and self-sufficiency—an attribute theologians have labeled "aseity." The essence of the problem is this: the Calvinist's typical assertion that God's fundamental purpose in creation is to demonstrate his glory seems to entail that God have an "other" to whom his glory must be demonstrated. But if this is the case, then God is dependent in some sense on this "other" for the demonstration of his glory and, ironically, less sovereign than in a theology where the demonstration of God's glory is less central. While this is not a new objection, it has not been a primary locus of discussion for some time. The reason for this is not that the objection is too obscure to be recognized, but rather that the objection has apparently been deemed to be answered. I will begin by defining the central terms of the dispute: aseity, divine freedom, and Calvinism. Then, after sketching the basic contours of the objection, I will consider the answer of arguably the greatest American theologian, Jonathan Edwards, whose treatment of this topic has been enormously influential. After arguing that Edwards's answer fails, I will close with a consideration of the various options open to Calvinists with respect to this objection.
Biblical and Theological Studies
Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Beilby, James K., "Divine Aseity, Divine Freedom : A Conceptual Problem for Edwardsian-Calvinism" (2004). Biblical and Theological Studies Faculty Works. 38.