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?”
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. Continue Reading →