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Knowing God | Transcent vs. Immanent | Bible Says | Can I Know God? | How can I? 1 | How can i? 2-4 | What changes? | Reflections
Knowing God: Handout pdf | Study Questions | Video
For more materials: pdf | epub | ppt | | audio mp3 see the D3 Discipleship Library
Series Introduction| Knowing God | The Revelatory God | Goodness of God | Holiness of God | Power of God | Omnipresent God | Exalted God | Faithfuness of God | Wisdom of God | Mercy of God |Wrath of God | Love of God | Sovereignty of God | Providence of God
Purpose: Throughout the history of man, many various concepts of God have been suggested and deeply believed. Perhaps it is helpful to begin with a contrast to better understand these differences on a larger scale. We will do this by contrasting concepts of a transcendent God with immanent diety.
Some suggest that God is transcendent, that is, He is some mystical, powerful force way out there somewhere. Whether it is Star Wars version or Islam or some other belief and philosophy, God is conceived of as some distant and largely unknowable force or being. God is not associated or connected to the material world as we know it.
Christianity has had its distortions of transcendence too, such as the deists. God, for the deist, is like a clock maker. He made the clock, set it going and let it run on its own and not getting involved n the affairs on earth. God is not involved in earth’s affairs.
In all of these cases, God is not easily known. In some cases, God is a force, in other cases, He is merely an impersonal force.
The danger here is that God is not knowable or involved in man’s immediate affairs. Some like this notion as it gives them freedom from God’s influence. Atheism is a practical extension of this belief of no god works out practically the same as to a very distant God.
On the other hand, there are some who believe that God is distant but man still lives under His general accountability such as on judgment day. This brings fear and all sorts of religions to pacify and rectify their lives with this understanding of God. Sacrifices, for example, is an ancient rite to pacify this unknown God.
Mankind’s many religions and concepts of God and the associate fears in themselves reveal the dangers of having a transcendent God that one does not know about.
Others suggest God is immanent, that is, He is involved with the affairs on earth. The spiritual force, whether personal or not, is nearby. This again has many different and diverse aspects.
Pantheism reflects the impersonal presence of a mystical force in the things on earth. Pantheism states that this mystic force dwells in matter such as a tree or even sometimes in inanimate things like rocks.2
Idol worship believes that God can somewhat be appeased by certain rites. In this way, through bells ringing in a temple, people fasting, sacrifices being made, they believe that this god can be reached. Magic is an extension of this and thought more as controlling the deity or force through magic cants or sacrifices or secret knowledge). The key point is that what man does can connect them with the great God. It is through these devices the deity is made near.
Certain monotheistic religions entertain God’s involvement through other means such as appearances of God. The main monotheistic religions: Judaism, Mohammedism (Islam) and Christianity all adopt this perspective, largely because they traditionally all accept the Old Testament and appearances to people like Abraham.
The Bible also teaches us of another form of intervention through the appearance of God in the incarnation (literally God in human form) where God, Jesus the Christ, was born as a man (cf. Philippians 2:3-8). His divine powers through miracles or signs assert Christ’s claim.
Plenty of dangers exist here. How does one know the appearance is genuine? Surely some of these claims are wrong!
One is astounded at the acceptance of idol worship, but people are desperate to get along with life. When they are barren or sick, etc., they want to make sure they are doing things right. Unfortunately, they know other alternative and hoping they are right.
I remember one couple desperate to find a solution to their crisis. They went from idol to idol. When one did not help, they turned to another. They are not sure, but hope their actions can give them some leverage with god and bring him close to them so that he hears and responds to them.
Is God close so that we can know Him? These are some general categories to help us understand how people differently view god (God) and the way they connect with him (it).
In conclusion, we discover that the Bible purports both the transcendent and immanence of God. He is distant and beyond the creation that He made and yet regularly is involved in its affairs.
Scriptures typically quoted from the New American Standard Bible unless noted:
(C) Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1988