A Few Thoughts on God’s Non-Contingency

Sometimes theologians call God a non-contingent being. By this they mean that God does not depend on anyone or anything for his existence. Nothing caused God to exist and nothing outside of God keeps him in existence. We, in contrast, are contingent beings. We need food to stay alive and owe our birth to the choices of other people. One implication of God’s non-contingency is that we are unnecessary to him. This is somewhat frightening. If God does not need us he might choose to end our existence. In another sense it is comforting. We have all acted sometimes as if we were necessary to God’s plans; if we didn’t do something God would be hindered by our non-action. The result was immense pressure on ourselves and people that were forced to interact with us. The fact that we are not necessary to God lifts the burden. God’s plans are never hindered by us. They may be different from what they would have been had we acted, but they are never stopped.

A further implication of God’s non-contingency is that God is not forced to love or use us. God does not begrudgingly love us. Rather God’s outpouring of love towards us is spontaneous and free. He chooses to love us. God also does not look at humans as broken tools that he is forced to work with. We are completely unnecessary, but he freely chooses to use us anyway. It is a remarkable thing that he does.

There is another interesting implication of this non-contingency. Most Christians, when asked to name God’s attributes, would include love. Some would go even further and say that love is one of God’s necessary attributes, an attribute that if God lacked, he would not be God. Now love has three parts. There is the lover, the object of love, and the love that passes from the lover to the object of his or her love.

A question arises from this. If it is necessary that God loves, who then does he love? One could answer, “Ourselves, his creation.” The problem with this is that before God created us he would have been incompletely God. God would be dependent on us for his completeness; he would become contingent. Another possible answer is that God loves Himself. God is lover and the object of his love. This is a better solution. God is no longer dependent on his creation for his completeness. And yet I think this answer feels unsatisfying. We consider a human who loves him or herself to be, if not narcissistic, then possessing a shallow kind of love. The fullest human love only exists between people. We might make an exception in this instance for God. He is far more complex and perfect than any human being. Of all that exists, he is most worthy of love. For some people this answer is enough. However, I have an alternate suggestion.

The Christian God is unique among world religions. We consider him to be one being containing three persons. The Triune God loves other people while also being non-contingent. God the Father loves God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, God the Son loves God the Father and God the Spirit, and God the Holy Spirit loves God the Father and God the Son. At the very core of the Christian God is a continual interchange of love that has no beginning and no end, existing before time began.

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