Saturday, January 21, 2006

God: Both Immanent and Transcendent

Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lousville and an outspoken Christian commentator on cultural issues, appeared on Larry King’s program this past week, opposed by a homosexual actor. Mohler referred to the enduring standards of the transcendent God, which establish marriage as being between a man and a woman, and which condemn homosexual activity. His opponent replied that he also talked to this transcendent God, and that this God had told him in his heart that what he was doing was just fine.

You know how those talk shows work – you can never explain anything fully. I’m sure Mohler would have liked to critique the young man’s answer, because he had traded the transcendence of God for immanence. What we must learn to do is hold both in a balanced tension.

Transcendence means that God is “out there.” He is beyond the constraints of time and space and individual situations. He is above the fray; He is sovereign. But a problem arises when we remove transcendence from its tension with immanence. We begin to think of God as being so far away, He can be ignored, and we are left to live our lives as we please.

Immmanence means that God is “in here.” He has come close to us by revealing Himself to us, by sending His Son for our sakes, and by giving His Spirit to all who receive His Son in faith. But this does not mean that we can privatize God, individualize Him, or tailor Him to our own views and desires. He still remains the transcendent God whose morality is fixed eternally according to His righteousness.

One of the comforts of the truth of transcendence is that God is big enough to handle the biggest problems of the universe. One of the comforts of immanence is that God cares even about the smallest details of our lives. Our prayers often indicate that we are making the same mistake as the young man on Larry King, when it is all about “me, me, me.” Let’s try and stay in balance.

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