God Is Transcendent and Immanent: Okay, Now What?

God Is Transcendent and Immanent-

If you are familiar with Cru, you probably know that we raise our own support to fund our ministry. In 2012, Jen and I were processing through the decision to join staff with Cru. The fact that we raised support was an idea we had to work through. Personally, it was a huge hurdle. I was afraid of failing, afraid people would think I didn’t have a real job and afraid that I wasn’t actually providing for my family.

One thing that helped me make the decision was working through these fears. It was understanding God’s attributes of transcendence and immanence that allowed me see the truth of who God is and confidently join staff with Cru.

Wayne Grudem states in his book, Systematic Theology, that there are two ways in which God relates to creation. God is transcendent from creation and immanent within creation.

Grudem defines transcendence as God being “…distinct from his creation.” He continues, “He (God) is not part of it, for he has made it and rules over it.”

However, God is also immanent. God is, “…involved in creation.” Creation “is continually dependent on him for its existence and its functioning.”

These two doctrines are crucial to understanding Gods relationship to his creation.

God is transcendent from creation and immanent within creation.

In addition, this doctrine is what separates Christianity from other world views. Grudem continues to explain how other belief systems understand God and how they see Him relating to the universe.

  • Materialism denies both doctrines and suggests that there is no God and the universe is all that exists.
  • Pantheism rejects God being transcendent and proposes that God is actually a part of creation.
  • Deism, suggests that God is transcendent, but after He created the world, He no longer interacts with it, therefore denying immanence.

Grudem then suggests that we can be practical materialists, pantheists or deists. I think we do this more often that we realize.

This doctrine is what separates Christianity from other world views.

In my story above, what made the idea of raising support hard for me is that I didn’t understand that God is immanent. I was in all practical sense, operating under the deistic framework. I took pride in providing for myself and not needing help. However, if we are truly dependent upon God sustaining us, as the doctrine of immanence suggests, then that doesn’t change no matter what job I have. I am not as dependent upon myself I as once thought I was.

Another way we are practical deists is when we don’t look to him to provide. I work with Oklahoma State Cru and more often than not I find myself laboring as if success depends upon my effort and not God. The reality is that each interaction I have with students is dependent upon God graciously giving me success.

The next time we share our faith, have a follow-up appointment or meet with someone for discipleship, let’s stop ignoring the fact that we are dependent we are on God.

The next time we share our faith, have a follow-up appointment or meet with someone for discipleship, let’s stop ignoring the fact that we are dependent we are on God.

I frequently ignore Gods transcendence as well. Again, in all practical sense of the idea, I am operating as a pantheist, where I worship the creation. This is not the traditional sense of pantheism, however seeking money, success, meaning, stability, pleasure and entertainment as God is in reality practical pantheism.

When I was considering coming on staff, I placed too much emphasis on what others thought. At a heart level, I elevated my image, my success and my pride (things God created) above or equal to God (the creator).

On campus, when God has called us to the Great Commission, we ignore his transcendence when we function as if the creation and God are equal. Thoughts similar to, “I want to do good in class so I can’t commit to being involved with the Great Comission” show this. When you look at a heart level, often times I wanted to success in class so I could get a good job, so I can make money and then I would be happy. Another thought is, “I would rather play video games or go to the next function, so I can’t commit to being involved.” These thoughts are practically pantheistic.

These are all good things. However, our mistake is when we make Gods creation equal to Him and His calling.

On campus, when God has called us to the Great Commission, we ignore his transcendence when we function as if the creation and God are equal.

God calls us to love him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. I hope that by understanding His transcendence and immanence, you will grow to love God in a richer manner. To apply this understanding, I am going to do three things:

  1. Pray before ministry events asking for an immanent God to move.
  2. Ask my heart what are things that I elevate to the level that God is worthy of.
  3. Continue to learn about other characteristics of God so I can have a better picture of who God is and in turn, worship Him correctly.

I would love to hear other ways in which you see these qualities play out in your life. If you would like to share one, please leave a comment below.

For more on this idea see the source for my quotes, Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology.”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: