Kids are often the best instigators of theological thought. I am becoming more and more convinced that if those who are called to teach the Bible and theological truths are not making it a consistent habit to prioritize the education of kids, they may quickly get lost in a sea of irrelevant thinking that has no connection to the real world. Kids have a way of grounding us. I remember one time when my sister, Kristie, was eight-years-old. My mother sat on her bed telling us about Jesus’ return. “Jesus could return at any time,” my mother said. Suddenly, Kristie jumped off the bed and ran out of the room as fast as lightning. My mother called her back and asked why she was running. Kristie responded, “I’m going to get my shoes!”

Just the other day, I was talking to Zach, my three year old, about God. He asked me where God was. I am always at a bit of a loss with that question when kids ask it. When my daughter Katelynn was his age and asked the same question, I told her that he was right here with us. “In this room?” She said, “Yep,” I told her. She then ran and hid. She thought Jesus was a ghost walking around in our house. Zach asks, “Where is God. I don’t see him.” I told him, “I don’t know. Where do you think he is? “Up in the sky,” he responded. I said, “God is everywhere. No matter where you go, you cannot get away from him.” For a three year old, that is about the best I can do right now. But we need to be careful. Technically speaking, the “God is everywhere” response can be very misleading.

My associate, Tim Kimberley, executive director of Credo House Ministries, was recounting how a professor of ours in seminary, Dr. Jeffery Bingham, chair of the theological studies department at Dallas Theological Seminary, used to have fun with the notion that God is everywhere. While speaking about it in class, he would pause, take a deep breath, and say, “Wait, did I just breathe in some God?”

Transcendence

When we talk about the essence of God, we are talking about a God that does not have a relationship to time, space, and matter. In other words, God created everything (time, space, and matter) out of nothing and does not share in its physical attributes. This is such an important statement that it bears repeating: God created everything (time, space, and matter) out of nothing and does not share in its physical attributes. The theological term for this is “Transcendence.”

The dictionary defines transcendence as “Having continuous existence outside the created world.” Good, but not quite as much as we need. God does not really have an extension in space. One cannot measure the breadth of his stature. In his trinitarian essence, he has no height, weight, color, or gait to his walk. Being transcendent is another aspect of God’s “holiness.” To be “holy” means “to be set apart,” “to be different.” God is not only morally holy, but he is also ontologically holy. In other words, his very being—his essence, his ontos—is separate, distinct, and beyond us. This means that in a very real sense, we will never “see” God with our eyes. Notice what Paul says here:

1 Timothy 6:16
[God] who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen. (NAS)

I love this verse. Notice that he dwells (or has his place of existence) in a light that is unapproachable (apositon; a negation of positon, meaning “to come before” or “approach”). And if that were not enough to convince us of the utter transcendent holiness of God’s nature, Paul goes on to say that no one has seen or can (dunatai; “has the ability”) see him. I have heard people say that the Western Evangelical concept of God and his transcendence are not found in the Bible, but are left overs from distorted Greek thought. Someone forgot to tell Paul!

I know that some of you are disappointed since you don’t think you will be able to see God. While it is true that we won’t ever see his essence, we do see real manifestations of him in his relational presence.

Immanence

If I stopped with transcendence, we would have nothing but the primary ingredients for a worldview called “Deism.” Deists believe that God is transcendent to all of creation, but they also think that he cannot, due to his utter transcendence, interact within creation. Hence the uniqueness of the Christian worldview. The Bible teaches us that God is both transcendent and immanent. He is both far off and near. He is both creator and sustainer. He is beyond time and acting within it. He is holy and active. God is relationally present, manifesting his love and power in many ways, not the least of which is the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Each member of the Trinity are active in time, space, and matter in a very real way.

Is God Everywhere?

Having run through some of this theological prologue, I think we can now begin to deal with the idea that God is everywhere. We believe that God is omnipresent (omni “all” + present). But his omnipresence does not have to do with his extension in space as if God’s being is spread out all over the universe (Stop. Did I just breathe in some God?). It has to do with space’s relationship to him.

Here is what I believe to be a better definition of God’s omnipresence:

“God is Everywhere.”

“Everywhere is in God’s immediate presence.”

I write this because I see many Christians describing God in such a way that toys with pantheism. While  we might accommodate to some degree to such concepts when our children are three-years-old, we must quickly graduate to a proper view of God that recognizes the tension between the transcendence of God’s being and the immanence of his presence and activity.

Pantheism is the belief that God’s being is present everywhere and in every thing. Indeed, for the pantheist, when you breath, you do breath in God. The “god” of pantheism is an impersonal being who created all that there is out of necessity. The universe is what he is. The God of the Bible is in no way physically dependent or a part of his creation. He freely created all things out of nothing (ex nihilo).

However, sometimes the Christian definition of God’s omnipresence feels very pantheistic (Hold on. Did I just breathe in some more God?). Often our understanding of God’s omnipresence suggests that God is some extremely large being, taking up a vast amount of space, or that he is somehow evenly spread out across the entire universe. Folks, we are not pantheists. We believe in a God who stands in a transcendent relationship with all his creation, yet is actively and relationally engaged in it. This is a great mystery to be sure, but it is a mysterious necessity and should not yield to descriptions that do more harm than good.

While God’s essence is not everywhere, God’s presence is everywhere. Therefore, there is nowhere that can flee from God’s immediate presence.

Psa 139:7-12
“Where can I go from Thy Spirit? Or where can I flee from Thy presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, Thou art there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, Thou art there.9 If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,10 Even there Thy hand will lead me, And Thy right hand will lay hold of me. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,” 12 Even the darkness is not dark to Thee, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to Thee. (NAS)


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    11 replies to "Did I Just Breathe in Some God?"

    • cherylu

      Michael,

      Thank you for this post. This is something I have been thinkng about and wondering about–trying to put the pieces together. Some of the background I have come out of had this view that borders on pantheism. It was believed that we could breath in His presence and the Holy Spirit/”anointing” could be poured, thrown, sucked in, etc.

      This article has helped clarify my thinking on this a lot.

      Thanks again.

    • Bruce

      I wonder how many other “isms” we border on. It is so impotent to pursue our understanding of God to keep from possibly, unknowingly building on sand. After reading this I am now wondering what it meant when Jesus “breathed on them the Holy Spirit”.

      Loved you thoughts.

    • John From Down Under

      Question:

      If as you say we will never “see” God with our eyes, is your position that the reference of ‘face to face’ (προσωπον προς προσωπον) in 1 Cor 13:12 is just a metaphor?

    • Brandon E.

      Very clear, thoughtful points!

      There’s another matter I believe is equally important to show the irreconcilableness of pantheism and biblical revelation.

      Not only is it true that God “stands in a transcendent relationship with all his creation, yet is actively and relationally engaged in it.” It also is equally true that God dwells within His chosen, redeemed and regenerated people in a way that is not true of non-believers/God’s creation at large.

      He indwells them in a very subjective way (John 14:20; John 14:23; John 20:22; Rom. 8:9-11; 1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Cor. 13:5: Gal. 2:20; Gal. 4:19; Eph. 3:17; Col. 1:27), which is something further than doing things to them or having a relationship with them.

      The Triune God is actually inside His redeemed, not merely as an effect, influence or substance, but personally, intrinsically. Hence, it is true only of believers that “he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit [Gk: pneuma, ‘breath’]” (1 Cor. 6:17).

    • Christian H

      This is a great, easily digested explanation of God’s being. I found it very helpful. In response to those who mentioned the nearness of the Christian worldview to other “isms” I would say this. I think the similarities are evidence of the way the enemy tries to counterfeit the truth. The things that are blatantly different are of little threat but the things that seem close are. This could be one underlying reason for the popular idea that “all religions are basically the same.” Yeah, on the surface they may look similar but look again and you will see the significant difference. Good stuff and Godspeed!

    • Skeptic Heretic

      Well, there’s pantheism, and panentheism.

      Acts 17:27-28 shows this thought most clearly I think and is built upon a history of Greek (& pre-Greek?) thought.

      To me:
      God is everywhere & everywhere is in God’s presence.

      If God is infinite (in magnitude, duration, Being, etc) then there is no place (physical or spiritual) that God is not. Otherwise He is not infinite.

    • Steve Martin

      As Luther used to say, “God is everywhere, He is even in my pea soup. But His saving revelation is found only in His Word and Sacraments.”

    • Donnie

      We cant see God but are always in His presence. Seems hard to understand but easy to accept. I had a 17 year old ask me Sunday night, “Why cant we see our souls?”. As I research an answer and read your post, I wonder, can our Invisible God see our invisible souls (which are also in His presence), or are they only invisible to us?

    • Gina M. Danaher

      I am enjoying this blog and especially this one. I have often avoided the answer, “God is everywhere,” precisely because of how pantheistic it sounds. I will be rereading this to get a better sense of how to respond to the question, “Is God Everywhere?”

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