Friday, October 19, 2018

Is God really Omnipresent?

I love my men's group.  Last night we tangented into a discussion of whether God is actually omnipresent.  The idea there being that God is everywhere at all times.

This is one of those doctrines that I've always taken for granted.  But I tend to go along with ideas like this up until the point that I don't.  There are a lot of doctrines that sound kinda like some guys way back when wanted to make sure everybody understood just how big God is, so they came up with doctrines with no wiggle room.

And when I start thinking about it, I have some issues right off.  Because the impression I have is that in order for God to create a universe where free will is possible, He had to create something that is outside of Himself, that is Other than Himself.  Which makes me think He is not everywhere.  Not that He couldn't be, but that He has chosen not to be.

But what does the Bible say? 

Well, there are lots of verses that kinda sound like God is everywhere at once.  But a lot of them say things like 'He sees what you do in private' or 'He beholds all things in heaven and earth'.  But omnipresence isn't saying He can see everything - it's saying that He is everywhere.  So I'm gonna say those are not proofs for omnipresence.

Then there are verses like Psalm 139, where it asks 'Where can I go from Your Spirit?  Or where can I flee from Your Presence?  If I ascend to heaven, You are there.  If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.'

But that's in the Psalms.  And the Psalms are filled with hyperbole and metaphor.  I don't think my soul literally pants for God or that the wicked will all fall into their own nets.  I think you need to be extra careful when extracting theology from Psalms.  So when it says 'He knows my innermost thoughts', I'm not convinced that's supposed to be taken literally.  Just because I say to someone, 'I know what you're thinking', doesn't mean I actually do, even if I'm correct.  It's an expression of an emotion or a hunch.

Meanwhile, there are verses on the other side.  Like in Genesis, when Adam and Eve are naked, and then God show up and calls to them.  He isn't there, and then He is.

So where does that leave me?  It does seem like God can see everywhere, even allowing for figurative language.  And I'll allow that God CAN go anywhere He wants.  But I lean towards that idea that he's carved out that space for us so that we have some freedom.  Like letting your kid play in the back yard - you don't keep an eye on them at all times, and you're certainly not there in the backyard with them, but you're within earshot, so if something happens you can run and be there pretty quick.

That's where I'm leaning after one day of thinking about it.