The new issue of Credo Magazine focuses on The Aseity of God. The following is an excerpt from Liam Goligher’s feature article, Not Served by Human Hands: Why God is Life in and of Himself. Liam Goligher (D.Min., Reformed Theological Seminary), a native of Scotland, is Senior Minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, PA. Liam has contributed to more than seventeen books and authored six, including A Window on TomorrowThe Fellowship of the KingThe Jesus Gospel, and Joseph—The Hidden Hand of God. Liam and his wife Christine have five adult children (Louise, Ruth, David, Sarah, Andrew) and ten grandchildren.

When the apostle Paul visited Athens and was confronted by the scope and depths of idolatry there, he said, “I see that you are very religious…” and went on to alert them to the existence of one God they did not chose to know. Of course, he didn’t stop there; instead he proceeded to describe the God they did not know: “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:24-25). This statement is a classic introduction to the Christian understanding of the existence of God.

God’s Uniqueness

Paul immediately pointed them to the fundamental ontological distinction between the creator and the creation; between the God “who made” and “everything” that was made. On the one hand there is God the Maker and on the other hand there is everything that is not God. He was teaching them and us that we cannot and must not speak of God and speak of creatures as if they belong to the same category of “being,” as if he were simply a larger version of ourselves. The apostle then unpacks this in two directions:

First, God the Creator is the Lord of heaven and earth; he is not confined within the time and space of his creation, rather, he exists in every reality both inside and outside created reality. Had Paul expounded Genesis 1 he would have made the point that there is nothing prior to God’s act of creation and no attempt to give an account of God’s own beginning. Had it done so, God would have ceased to be God. All reality, visible and invisible, material and spiritual exists by divine faith: “He spoke, and then it was, he commanded, and then it stood!” (Ps. 33:8-9). God alone is the source of all that exists, and all that is exists to serve him as Lord.

Second, God is independent of his creation, God is not “served by human hands” because he doesn’t need anything, that is to say he is entirely self-sufficient and does not depend on anything outside of himself for his existence or blessedness.

Third, God is the superabundant source of the creature’s total existence (“he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything”); he is, in himself the fullness of life, being and everything. Anselm of Canterbury wrote, “You alone …Lord are what you are and are who you are…He alone has of himself all that he has, while other things have nothing of themselves. And other things, having nothing of themselves, have their only reality from him.” [1]

Read Dr. Liam Goligher’s entire article in the new issue of Credo MagazineThe Aseity of God.


[1] Quoted in John Webster, God without Measure: Working Papers in Christian Theology, Volume 1: God and the Works of God (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2015),  p.15.