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The “Holy” God – From Immanence to Idolatry

Posted by susanb99 on April 7, 2008

The following article explains the “category of thought” of Immanence, which leads to Pantheism (God and His creation are one and the same thing)

The “Holy” God – From Immanence to Idolatry By Pastor Larry DeBruyn

In the Old City of Jerusalem, I stood reverently before the massive stones that comprise the base and foundation of the mount upon which the Jewish temple once stood. Standing before the Western, or Wailing, Wall, I noticed little slips of paper tucked in the crevices between the giant-hand-hewn stones. Wondering what the papers were, I reached in with my fingers and pulled one out. The handwriting on the paper began “G-d.” I later found out that devout Jews hold the name of God, or the Lord, so sacred that they, out of respect for Him, refuse to spell His name in a profane (i.e., common) way. Omitting the letter “o,” they write “G-d” or “L-rd.” I fear that, within the pale of contemporary Christianity, such respect, or reverence, for God has been, or is being, lost. God has become “cuddly” common to us. In this spirit, we turn to address the subject of God’s nearness.

God’s “immanence” is opposite to His “transcendence.” Both of these categories of thought about God attempt to describe His relationship to His world–to nature, to nations, to people, to the animal kingdom, and so on. Theologians employ the terms to describe both God’s involvement with and distance from His created universe. The Bible pictures God as being both near and far from His creation. Not only is God with us, He is also above us. As the transcendent One, He is distant. As the immanent One, He is near.

While God is not spatial but Spirit (John 4:24), He is described as being both above and below. In our thinking about God, we should allow these opposites to remain in tension with one another. To view God as transcendently distant leads to Deism (i.e., God created, but is not actively involved in, the world.). To view God as immanently near leads to Pantheism (i.e., God and His creation are one and the same thing.). As one young blogger expresses it, “We need, somehow, to have God in our world without our world containing God. We need, somehow, God outside our world without eliminating him from it. . . . If God is in our world then he’s less than God, if outside it, He’s irrelevant.”[1]

Let me say I am uncomfortable with describing God as immanent. Such thinking about God–His transcendence and His immanence–is born out of philosophical, or speculative, theology. Erickson acknowledges that, “The doctrine of divine immanence was not prominent in much of the history of Christian thought.”[2] To me, the word “providence” better describes God’s relationship to His creation. Immanence denotes a state. Providence denotes activity. After having acknowledged biblical passages demonstrating God’s operation in the world (Genesis 34:14-15; Acts 17:27-28; Psalm 135:7; Matthew 5:45; 10:29-30; Colossians 1:16-17; etc.), Erickson admits, “It is significant to note that the texts that we cited as evidence of God’s immanence primarily refer to his action, his activity.”[3] In other words, that God is providently active better describes His relationship to His creation than His being immanently present. For some of you, this might appear to be quibbling over words. But given the state our religious culture currently finds itself in, I think, if you will stay with me, you will see that it is not…. Read More…

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