Transcendent and Immanent

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 2 – The God who created

[Bible references: Genesis 1; Psalm 139:2-3; Isaiah 6:1-5; 40:22-23; Jeremiah 23:23-24; Matthew 10:30; Acts 17:27; Romans 8:29; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3]

Genesis tells us there was a time when the universe, the heavens and the earth, began to exist. Before that moment of time, they did not exist – but before that beginning there was God and then God created the universe. From that starting point, we can see the transcendent nature of God. He was not part of the universe but apart from the universe. No matter what happens in the universe or to the universe, those things do not affect God who is separate from all that. Fortunately, we are not simply left with a God who is unreachably “out there” leaving us to fend for ourselves. In some incomprehensible fashion, while God is “out there” existing outside of Creation, He is simultaneously inside Creation … everywhere at once.[1]

This paradox of God’s transcendence (existing outside of Creation) and imminence (existing everywhere within Creation) has sometimes bewildered many who try to examine it through sheer logic.

God is other and set apart from everything else, that he is in a class by himself. God is not just quantitatively greater than us, but qualitatively different in his greatness. He is transcendent, infinitely above or beyond us. The true God is distinct, set apart, from all that he has made as the only truly self-sufficient Being. All his creatures depend on him; he alone exists from within himself. “And the true God is distinct, set apart, from all that is evil. His moral perfection is absolute. His character as expressed in his will forms the absolute standard of moral excellence. God is holy, the absolute point of reference for all that exists and is good. Across the board he is to be contrasted with his creatures. At heart he is a glowing-white center of absolute purity …

But thankfully for us, God is not just transcendent; he is also immanent. Simply put, God is near. God is wholly present with and active in the created order. God is near us, present with us, active on earth and involved in our world. He is present and active in nature, in history, in our lives. He acts in this world and dwells with his people …

Both truths must be affirmed. The two ideas must be kept together in biblical balance. Only Christianity has the right mix. Pantheism denies God’s transcendence. Deism denies God’s immanence. Only Christianity affirms both, especially as we see in the incarnation. [2]

As we unwrap the significance of this paradox, we discover many interesting attributes of God. Here are a few:

  • Regarding God’s Transcendence
    • God’s existence apart from creation, and apart from the brokenness of the world is described as his holiness. This holiness is so profound that mortal, sinful people (as we all are) could not stand to be his presence.
    • God’s omnipotence is seen in his ability to not only create the universe, but in his ability to sustain it.
    • God’s omniscience is seen in his knowledge about the hairs on our head, our everyday actions and even in our destiny
    • God is omnipresent
  • Regarding God’s Immanence
    • Although God is apart from the universe, He is the one who holds the universe together
    • God is present throughout the earth and available to all who call for him and even to those who are not calling for him

In the chapters ahead, we will examine many of the ways God has inserted himself into the middle of creation and even address how God is involved in ways we can’t even imagine.


[1] Compelling Truth. “What is the meaning of ‘perichoresis’?” www.compellingtruth.org/perichoresis.html

[2] Muehlenbert, Bill. “On God’s Immanence and Transcendence Culture Watch, 5 Aug 2013 billmuehlenberg.com/2013/08/05/on-gods-immanence-and-transcendence/. The first portion is a quote from Thomas Trevethan

Reflect

If you’ve had a chance to look at the stars at night or at large landscape scene that’s miles long, what goes through your mind?[1]

Observe

Read Psalm 139:2-3; Jeremiah 23:23-24; Matthew 10:29-31; Acts 17:27. What does it mean to you that God is intimately concerned about your life?


[1] Getty Images, Stars in the sky http://www.gettyimages.com/photos/stars-in-the-sky ; Fine Art America, Landscape photographs fineartamerica.com/art/photographs/landscape

Author: transcendenttouched

I have been teaching the Bible to children and adults for over twenty years. Most recently, including teaching Discipleship/Confirmation classes. I have also been involved in various church leadership roles for many of those years. Until recently, my writing endeavors have been confined mainly to poetry. I've written an anthology of my first 40 years of writing poetry in my book, Growing. I have also written an overview of the Bible called, God Reveals Himself.

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