Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Omni-Characteristics of God (Part 2: Omnipresence)

This will be my second post in a five part series discussing the common characteristics of God and how I see them in light of my universalism. The five parts are:
  1. Omnibenevolence (God is all-loving)
  2. Omnipresence (God is present everywhere in space and time)
  3. Omniscience (God is all-knowing, past, present, and future)
  4. Omnipotence (God is all-powerful)
  5. The Problem of Evil (The question of why, if God has the above 4 characteristics, evil exists in the universe)
For my second post in this series, I continue with God's omnipresence. The word omnipresence comes from the Latin words "omnis" (all), and "praesentia" (presence), and it's literal meaning is pretty self-explanatory. Basically, it means God is everywhere. While simple enough to define, I feel the implications of God's omnipresence are deep and complex.

Personally, I believe in the concept of panentheism. Panentheism contains two aspects of God: transcendence and immanence, both of which form part of His omnipresence.

God's Transcendence-

To say God is transcendent is to say that He exists outside the physical world, away from time and space. This is the picture of God most religious people seem to have (even if they do say things like "God is with you!"). They imagine God as a distant entity, observing us, and judging us, from far away and only rarely interjecting into the world. Its almost as if God's transcendence is viewed a superlative human being with supernatural powers and a rather nasty temper.

My picture of God's transcendence is quite different. I see it as the ineffable part of God, the part that is vast consciousness we are too microscopic to comprehend in any way. It is God who is Mystery. It is the God which created the universe, with its billions of galaxies, trillions of stars and planets, and who could count every single subatomic particle He used to build it all. It is the God who designed the laws His universe is founded on, allowing everything from the Big Bang, to nuclear fusion in the core of a star, to the unique density curve of water, and the evolution of single-cells to human beings.

God's Immanence:

To say that God is immanent is to say that He completely permeates the physical universe and exists within the space and time of this universe. As I noted above, I feel this quality of God is often ignored, even if a belief in it is professed. For me, it is easy to understand this seeming paradox. During the most challenging moments of our life, God's presence can seem extraordinarily remote, almost like He is indifferent to our sufferings. At the same time, the idea that you are not important enough for God's attention is common. I cannot tell you how many times thoughts like "Out of the almost 7 billion people on Earth can God actually give a damn about me?" have crossed my mind, and I greatly doubt I am alone.

However, once self-doubt has been put away, God's immanence is more clearly seen. If God's transcendence is His Mystery, than God's immanence is His Love. It is God's immanence that allows Him to enjoy and even grow a personal relationship with each being in His creation. In His immanence, God becomes a parent and a friend, allowing us to relate to Him, instead of being overwhelmed by the vast mystery of His transcendence.

God IS with us always, even those times when we cannot perceive His presence. Even better, God is not following us around with a clipboard, taking notes and docking points every time we screw up. He is here to support us, guide us, and love us, no matter our past crimes.

Yet God's omnipresence does not end with God being with us. God is also within us. Although the most common belief about human creation is that of creatio ex nihilo (creation from nothing), I believe in creatio ex deo (creation out of God). We are literally children of God, and our souls were created from God Himself. We can never be separated from God because we are made from God.

God's omnipresence encompasses His transcendence, His immanence, and His creation of us from Himself. Since omnipresence brings together aspects of God which almost seem contrary, I believe it is hardest to understand. Despite this challenge, I find great comfort as it allows us to be in awe of God's mystery, experience His Love, and know the Source from which we came and to which we will eventually return.


    1. If God's transcendence is His Mystery, than God's immanence is His Love.

      My favorite line of the post. I consider myself a closet panentheist. I would come out publicly if I didn't live in the Bible Belt.

    2. I understand completely. I grew up in the Bible Belt. My family does not know of my religious beliefs. They think I'm an atheist, although I have told them multiple times I am not. In their eyes, it is conservative Christianity or nothing.

      Honestly, it is quite difficult. It is easy to feel alone when you must keep your most cherished beliefs secret. I write this blog under a pseudonym so that my family cannot find it. It is not an exaggeration to say that, if discovered, much of my family would cut off contact with me if they read this blog. It makes me weary of their version of "Christian love".