Little Theology – The Transcendence and Immanence of God
One of the most remarkable things about the Lord Jesus Christ was his ability to communicate ENORMOUS truth on a level that could be understood (except when it was intentionally veiled as in the case of some parables) by his contemporary audience of Jewish peasants but would eventually be wrestled with and debated by the most sophisticated intellectuals of our generation. Our Lord illustrated truth in a way that transcends culture, ethnicities, economies and even age. Children found Him very approachable.
This being true, I find it both challenging and edifying to attempt to teach theology to my youngest daughter Caitlyn. Recently she approached my wife and asked, “Is God in the sky, above the sky, or in space?” The remainder of this post is my response to Caitlyn’s question:
Simple Answer: God is far higher and far closer than you might imagine.
Expanded Answer: The words Jesus used to, “teach us to pray” are helpful – he began by saying, “Our Father who is in Heaven”.
- Transcendence – God is described as being in Heaven – as such we are told to consider and restrain our words when we approach him as is advised by Solomon in Ecclesiastes 5:2. Heaven is the dwelling place of the Almighty, the throne room of God. In that place the glory of God is so majestically revealed that the seraphim must cover their heads with their wings, but they cannot help but call out to one another, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God of Host”. This magnificent revelation of God is such that, “no man can behold God and live”. Where is Heaven? Frankly, we don’t know. Perhaps it’s in a different dimension that humans can comprehend, perhaps it is simply beyond the gaze of our most advanced technology. Either way it is nonetheless real and authentic. David writes in Psalm 97:9 For You are the Lord Most High over all the earth; You are exalted far above all gods.
- Immanence – God is described as a Father –The scripture never teaches the universal Fatherhood of God. Jesus said, of the Pharisees, “You are of your father the devil”. Such is the case of all who are apart from Christ. They are under the domain and influence of demonic authorities. However when we are born from above by faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ we are made children of God and fellow heirs with Christ. We have every right to approach our Father as Christ does – for Christ is our righteousness. We are clothed in His Work, we are washed by His blood. Not only that, but the Spirit is given to us which cries out, “abba Father”. The Prophet Jeremiah speaks for God in Jeremiah 23:23–24 “Am I a God who is near,” declares the Lord, “And not a God far off? 24 “Can a man hide himself in hiding places So I do not see him?” declares the Lord. “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the Lord.
So in a sense God is far away and exalted and simultaneously God is intimately close. As Paul writes in Ephesians 4:6, “one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.”
- To reject the transcendence of God is to be a pantheist
- To reject the immanence of God is to be a deist.
- To embrace both is to see God as He is.