Christians regularly talk about God’s presence in space, but what do we mean when we use such language? I discuss this issue in the following passage on pages 22-23 of my 2009 book Finding God in the Shack:
“if you go to church on a Sunday morning you might hear the pastor address the hushed congregation with the words: ‘The Lord is in this place.’ But what does that mean? That God is only in this place? Isn’t he everywhere? Or one might hear the worship leader pray: ‘Lord, come into our presence!’ Come here … as if God wasn’t here already? Where is he coming from? If someone who had never heard of God before were to visit a church, he could easily think that God was a person [or three people] running around the world visiting different congregations: ‘Okay, the Holy Spirit will be at Poughkeepsie Pentecostal Church for the 9:00 A.M. service. Jesus, you go to the Albuquerque Alliance Church for the 9:30 and we’ll all meet up at St. Claire’s for the 10:00 A.M. mass.’” (Finding God in the Shack, Biblica)
Such a picture is absurd, of course. God doesn’t move about in space, he’s everywhere, a fact that the psalmist memorably conveys in Psalm 139:7-10:
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
The psalmist certainly does express the orthodox doctrine of divine omnipresence with eloquent poetry. But it still brings us back to the question: what does it mean to say God is in the heavens … and in the depths, and everywhere in between?
In this episode of The Tentative Apologist Podcast we take on the question of divine omnipresence with theologian James Gordon. Dr. Gordon has his PhD from Wheaton College where he is currently a guest professor of philosophy. He is also the author of the recently published book The Holy One in Our Midst: An Essay on the Flesh of Christ. You can visit him online at www.jrgordon.me.
In this conversation Dr. Gordon brings his formidable skills in analytic philosophy to bear in understanding the complexity of that simple declaration: God is everywhere.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download