The Self-Existence of God: What does it mean? Why does it matter?

When someone uses words like “the self-existence of” anything, it sounds like something philosophical and esoteric. And, with that comment, my philosopher friends just cringe and think, “No one appreciates philosophers.” If I had used the term “aseity,” the reaction might be even more quizzical: “What … ? Get real, man. Let’s just talk about fly fishing or the coming World Series.”

For those of us who believe that God truly exists and truly cares about His creation, God’s self-existence matters — if it exists within the teachings of the Bible itself. As human beings we can involve ourselves in unending speculation and preoccupy ourselves with reading “the white spaces,” rather than simply looking at the print. Philosophical speculation, however, normally falls within the realm of “what if …” — not absolute truth. And, yes, I realize that we’ve just passed through an era (indeed, might still be in it) of nearly wholesale denial of absolute truth. But, I digress. Let’s get on with the topic at hand.

God is self-existent. Why? Because, as God He was not created. He has no source, no maker, no origin. Instead, He Himself is the Creator of all else. God exists from all eternity and to all eternity. Scripture opens with “In the beginning God …” (Genesis 1:1). Moses doesn’t write about the origin of God, but about the origin of the universe. He assumes the existence of God. We might also look at God’s self-description to Moses: “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14). God doesn’t defend His existence; He declares His existence. No one else and nothing else caused itself or themselves to exist. Everything and everyone has an origin — except God. He is the only uncaused Cause — something you might have heard in either a theology class or a philosophy class.

The prophet Isaiah provides us with much needed help with regard to why the self-existence of God matters, how it impacts our lives — assuming we believe in a God who truly exists:

  • God alone is God — there is no other. Isaiah 45:5-7, 14, 21-22
  • God alone is Creator. Isaiah 45:18; 48:12-13
  • God’s word alone is true and based upon who He is. Isaiah 45:23
  • God alone is Lord. Isaiah 45:23
  • God alone is completely holy and righteous. Isaiah 6:3; 40:25; 45:24
  • God alone can be trusted completely. Isaiah 44:8
  • God alone can save us from our sins and forgive us. Isaiah 45:21-22

In other words, God’s self-existence makes Him the sole determiner of absolute truth — truth we can depend upon. God is someone we can trust completely. He is always there. Therefore, He will not leave us or forsake us the way others do. Since He alone is completely holy and righteous, He sets the standard for truth, for holiness, and for righteousness or justice. God is the only one who doesn’t fail, default on a promise, run out when trouble comes, lie, or die. He provides us with everything we look for in the character of someone we can rely on. And, that even extends to our great need to be completely forgiven.

Perhaps the writer to the Hebrews summarized all of this best by concluding that our hope finds an anchor in God (Hebrews 6:13-20). That’s why the self-existence of God matters. He provides hope in the midst of a world that is too often rocked by relativism, confusion, hypocrisy, hatred, rejection, violence, and death.

My Recommendations: Book of the Week, September 3

How can someone break away from tradition and family pressures to seek the truth about life and God? Nabeel Qureshi lets us look into his life, his home, his Islamic religion, and his heart as he struggles his search for truth. Through his personal story we have the opportunity to understand more about the Ahmadis, who stand as an Islamic sect separate from the Sunnis and Shias. We become immersed in a warm and caring Muslim home life and see how 9/11 impacted moderate Muslims. Above all, however, Qureshi exposes us to the long process of true conversion and what it took for him to find out who Jesus really was and is. Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus rightly received the 2015 Christian Book Award: ECPA Medallion of Excellence. For the first time in the award’s history, the title won in two categories: New Author and Non-Fiction. The spiritual journey Qureshi describes in his book does not speak just to Muslims, it speaks to agnostics, atheists, cult followers, Hindus, Buddhists, and many members of Christian denominations. Do NOT read this book, unless you really seek truth!

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Hebrew Whiteboard Update, Psalm 104:1-12

Completing the first third of Psalm 104, our analysis takes another distinct turn in its point of reference: the topic becomes the ongoing natural order of the earth as determined by its Creator. If, however, we are correct in understanding Psalm 104:6-9 as a reference to the Flood of Noah’s day, we must also see God as Judge and King–thus His strong “rebuke” in Psalm 104:7. But, Psalm 104:10-12 (included in this update) reveals that God also restores, beautifies, and provides for the post-Flood world. An apt line comes to mind from Isaiah 61:3, “To give them beauty for ashes” (NKJV). And, what better way to describe beauty than to use beautiful Hebrew poetry?

Click on Hebrew Whiteboard to download Psalm 104:1-12 or any of the previous studies of Psalms 1-6 and 120-122.

Messianic Hope and the Gentiles–Thinking Through Romans 15:8-13

Romans 15:8-13 provides us with the apostle Paul’s theology of Messianic hope as founded upon the scriptures of the Hebrew Bible. In this significant text he builds upon the revelation of hope about which he speaks in Romans 15:4. With emphasis the apostle refers first of all to revelation twice-written, then follows up with key Scripture citations in each of the three divisions of the Hebrew Bible to demonstrate that the totality of the Old Testament testifies to the Messianic hope of the Gentiles. Not finished yet, Paul then mentions “hope” three times in the closing verses of this section (Romans 15:12-13) to drive home his point. With such amazing focus, how could we miss this truth’s importance to believers, to the Church, and to missions? May your heart be challenged as mine has been in meditating on this text in Paul’s epistle to the Romans.

As a contributor to ParkingSpace23’s blog, I posted an article about the hope the Gentiles possess in Jesus Christ as the Messiah. I hope you will click on the following link Messianic Hope and the Gentiles, read, and praise the Lord for being included in God’s redemption program from the beginning.

Home with the Lord: Dr. James A. Barrick (1948-2017)

My post on ParkingSpace23’s blog this week expounds 2 Timothy 4:6-8 in regard to my brother Jim’s sudden and unexpected death on August 11. On August 15 I conducted his memorial and graveside services in Cody, WY. Jim had pastored First Baptist Church there for the past 28 years. You can access his obituary here: James A. Barrick. The picture at the right shows Jim in a boat on the Sea of Galilee in April 2015 when his church sent him and his wife Rhoda to Israel on a tour with my church, Placerita Bible Church, as thanks for 25 years of pastoral ministry at First Baptist.

The Garden Tomb became the site for a family picture–Rhoda (Jim’s wife), Jim, yours truly, and Barbara (my wife). No one can visit this site without deep contemplation of the significance of the resurrection of our Savior. Jesus went to prepare a place for us and Jim has arrived there ahead of the other three of us.

At Genesis World most of our group got to ride a camel–either to Abraham’s tent or back from his tent. Jim and Rhoda road a camel to the tent where we experienced a wonderful meal while reclining at the tables. Riding a camel certainly seemed to be quite different than driving his school bus or his old Suburban to and from Meeteetse and Cody (see the link to a newspaper article about that later on this page). But, as with everything else he did, he was game to give it a go–and enjoyed it in the process.

The last Sunday I heard my brother preach was in April 2015 at En Gedi in Israel. I’m only sorry that I didn’t get a better picture of him on that occasion. Jim loved the Lord and His Word. He believed that it was inspired and inerrant. His favorite English version was the old King James Version, which he loved for its rich literary cadences that made it easy to memorize. Our family’s pastor, Dr. John Weidenaar, who led our parents to the Lord in 1962, would be pleased to know that Jim preached the Word so faithfully.

On September 21, 2014 First Baptist Church of Cody honored Jim and Rhoda for 25 years of ministry as pastor of that church. Jim had also pastored for a year in Ennis, MT and was an associate pastor under Dr. Ralph Martin and Memorial Baptist Church in Rockford, IL for 17 years. Jim’s total pastoral ministry experience at the time the Lord called him home amounted to 46 years. Jim served faithfully and filled many roles–pastor, counselor, Christian school administrator, Christian school teacher, Christian camp director, and coach for a variety of sports. The local newspaper published “Team-driving Preacher” about the coaching experience and practices of this remarkable man for whom God allowed me to be big brother.

Blessing–Even in Affliction

Sometimes our lives seem as fragile as a bluebell clinging to its perch on an ancient chapel’s stone wall. The prophet Jeremiah caught the deep emotional pain disobedient Jerusalem must endure as the Lord brings upon her the covenant curses as discipline. Lamentations 3:1-6 reads as follows in the ESV:

I am the man who has seen affliction
under the rod of his wrath;
he has driven and brought me
into darkness without any light;
surely against me he turns his hand
again and again the whole day long.
He has made my flesh and my skin waste away;
he has broken my bones;
he has besieged and enveloped me
with bitterness and tribulation;
he has made me dwell in darkness
like the dead of long ago.

As I read and meditated on this significant central chapter of the Book of Lamentations, the thought came to mind that, through Christ, the believer’s experience, even in the midst of affliction–be it discipline for disobedience or just refining fire–should be markedly different. Significantly, an interior portion of Lamentations 3 (vv. 19-33) focuses on the steadfast love and mercy of God. Thankfully, we, unlike Jeremiah’s lament on behalf of disobedient Jerusalem, might sing the following (a psalm of my own composition attempting to reflect the truths of Scripture texts reflecting similar terminology and phraseology):

I am the one who has seen blessing
even in affliction–a
he has removed his wrath and protects me with his rod.b
He has brought me out of darkness
into his glorious light;c
surely his good hand is upon me
again and again the whole day long.d
He has made my flesh dwell secure;
he has healed my bones–
and kept each one from breaking.e
The LORD surrounds me all day long
and preserves me amidst shouts of deliverance.f
He is my lamp and has turned darkness
into his marvelous light.g

Footnotes:

a Genesis 33:11; Psalms 21:3-7; 144:15; Romans 4:5-9; Ephesians 1:3

b Psalms 23:4; 85:1-3; Romans 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9

c 2 Samuel 22:29; Job 33:28-30; Psalms 27:1; 112:4; Isaiah 9:2; 42:16; Micah 7:8-9; John 8:12; Romans 13:12; 2 Corinthians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:5; 1 Peter 2:9

d Ezra 7:6, 9; 7:28; 8:18, 22, 31; Nehemiah 2:8, 18; Psalm 111:7; Isaiah 49:2; Matthew 8:3

e Job 19:26; Psalms 16:9; 34:19-20; 51:8; 73:26; Proverbs 3:7-8; Isaiah 58:10-11

f Deuteronomy 32:10; 33:12; Psalms 31:21; 32:7, 10; 125:2

g 2 Samuel 22:29; Job 29:3; Psalms 107:13-15; 112:4; Isaiah 9:2; 42:16; Micah 7:8; John 8:12; 12:35-36; Acts 26:17-18; Romans 13:12; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Ephesians 5:7-10; 1 Thessalonians 5:5; 1 Peter 2:9

Hebrew Whiteboard Update: Psalm 104:5-8

Continuing with our analysis of Psalm 104, we soon discover that the exegetical evidence favors a change of topic at verse 6. The transition commences with mere implications–a delicate poetic transference that gradually prods the reader into a different direction. While arguments can be made to retain the topic of Creation, David takes the readers on a journey that begins with creation, but continues into a time between Creation and the present before bringing them into their own context in time. Subtle uses of both vocabulary, phraseology, and syntax make the excursion a continual delight.

Click on Hebrew Whiteboard to download Psalm 104:1-8 or any of the previous studies of Psalms 1-6 and 120-122.

My Recommendations: Book of the Week, July 23

In yet another superb ebook, Michael Vlach tackles the issues involved in determining how the New Testament writers use the Old Testament. How Does the New Testament Use the Old Testament?: A Survey of the Major Views examines seven major viewpoints. Vlach’s aim in this 78-page book is to list and explain the methodologies providing viable options to evangelicals, to identify objections and questions about each view, to provide test cases by which the differences between views might be more clearly understood, and to offer some suggestion regarding future discussion of the key issues. Every student of the Bible will find this book extremely helpful as an introduction to the topic and the issues involved.

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My Recommendations: Book of the Week, July 16

William Watson finds philo-Semitism, premillennialism, and even pretribulationism to be more prevalent before the nineteenth century than most theologians and church historians try to make us believe. Over four years of research reveals that some Westminster Assembly divines, Anglican bishops, and renowned Puritans on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean held a premillennialist viewpoint. Watson examined more than 350 primary sources, most of which have not been read (much less cited) for centuries. Holding a M.A. in European history, and a Ph.D. in seventeenth-century and eighteen-century English history (University of California, Riverside), he helped compile the English Short Title Catalogue (English works published between 1473 and 1800) that led to creation of the Eighteenth Century Collections Online. He was a Fulbright Senior Scholar to Moldova in 2004, a visiting fellow at Oxford-Brookes University in 2007, and is occasionally an adjunct instructor at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Dispensationalism before Darby: Seventeenth-Century and Eighteenth-Century English Apocalypticism counters the theological myth that dispensationalism and pretribulationism commenced with J. N. Darby.

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My Recommendations: Book of the Week, July 9

No greater subject for our contemplation exists aside from Jesus Christ Himself. We all need to spend significant time meditating on our Savior’s work and His role in our world, our life, and our future. John Owen’s classic, The Glory of Christ: His Office and Grace, will profoundly impact your life. It is not an easy read, because of the richness of its topic and the depths that Owen plumbs. This edition provides definitions for old English terms that have gone out of use to help the reader understand him better. Occasional boxes provide summaries and charts organizing some of the key observations. Consider just a few of the jewels to be gleaned from this superb work on Christ:

  • “The revelation made of Christ in the blessed gospel is far more excellent, more glorious, and more filled with rays of divine wisdom and goodness, that the whole creation and the just comprehension of it, if attainable, can contain or afford.”
  • “he knows not Christ, he knows not the Gospel”
  • “It is in Christ alone that we may have a clear, distinct view of the glory of God and his excellencies.”
  • “all our present glory consists in our preparation for future glory”

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