“He is an immeasurable and unbounded ocean of being” by Herman Bavinck

“God must always be God, distinct from and above all things, the Creator and Ruler of all that exists, on whom believers can rely in times of distress and death, or else God can no longer be God to them.

As such God is the strictly independent and only absolute being. This is what the concept of absoluteness meant in the past. ‘Absoluteness’ was not obtained by abstraction, deprived of all content, and the most general kind of being, but true, unique, infinitely full being, precisely because it was absolute, that is, independent being, belonging only to itself and self-existence. Absolute is that which is not dependent on anything else.

From ancient times Christian theology connected this view and description of God with the meaning of the name YHWH as that is given in Exodus 3:14. Now people can disagree on the question whether the concept of ‘absolute being’ is implied in the name YHWH, and we will expressly revisit it in the following section.

In any case it is certain that the unicity, His distinctness from, and His absolute superiority over, all creatures is highlighted throughout Scripture. However much He is able to descend to the level of creatures, specifically humans—represented as He is as walking in the garden, coming down to earth to see the city and tower of Babel (etc.)—nevertheless He is the Creator of heaven and earth.

He speaks and things come to be; He commands and they stand forth. From everlasting to everlasting He is God, the First and the Last, from whom, through whom, and to whom are all things (Gen. 1:1ff.; Ps. 33:6, 9; 90:2; Isa. 41:4; 43:10–13; 44:6; 48:12; John 5:26; Acts 17:24ff.; Rom. 11:36; Eph. 4:6; Heb. 2:10; Rev. 1:4, 8; 4:8, 11; 10:6; 11:17; etc.).

Stated or implied in this biblical teaching is all that Christian theology intended to say with its description of God’s essence as absolute being. God is the real, the true being, the fullness of being, the sum total of all reality and perfection, the totality of being, from which all other being owes its existence.

He is an immeasurable and unbounded ocean of being; the absolute being who alone has being in Himself. Now, this description of God’s being deserves preference over that of personality, love, fatherhood, and so forth, because it encompasses all God’s attributes in an absolute sense.

In other words, by this description God is recognized and confirmed as God in all His perfections. These attributes cannot, of course, be logically developed from the concept of absolute being, for what God is and what His attributes are can only be known by us from His revelation in nature and Scripture.

Yet all these attributes are only divine characteristics because they pertain to God in a unique and absolute sense. Hence, in that respect aseity may be called the primary attribute of God’s being.

We can even say—on the basis of God’s revelation, not by means of a priori reasoning—that along with His aseity all those attributes have to be present in God that nature and Scripture make known to us.

If God is God, the only, eternal, and absolute Being, this implies that He possesses all the perfections, a faint analogy of which can be discerned in His creatures. If God is the absolutely existing being, He is also absolute in wisdom and goodness, in righteousness and holiness, in power and blessedness.

As One who exists of and through and unto Himself, He is the fullness of being, the independent and supremely perfect Being.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: God and Creation (vol. 2; Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 2: 123–124.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Christian Theology, Doxology, God's Excellencies, Herman Bavinck, Jesus Christ, Preaching, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, The Gospel

Leave a Reply