God of the Paradox - The Paradox of Transcendence and Immanence
These two realities describe the very paradoxical nature of our relationship with God. Here are some well-known biblical examples: the first will be last, the last will be first - the least will be the greatest - deny yourself to free yourself - whoever saves his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Christ sake will find it. - you must humble yourself to exalt yourself and so on. The rules of the paradox apply, yet because God is God of the paradox, He who made the rules them can break them, and at the same time fulfill them. God can neither deny or contradict Himself, and in that sense our relationship with Him can be not of this world, and yet at the same time, fully present in this world. His promises to us can appear forgotten and broken, and yet be fulfilled. Our prayers can seem unheard and unanswered, and yet being heard and answered at the same time. To the faithless unbeliever this is absurd and the justified reason for their faithless unbelief. To the faith filled believer this is the profound paradox of the transcendent God who is far away and at the same time immanent; present and moving to, through, and in us. Apart and beyond yet connected and close. Possible, not possible?
Remember, omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing), omnipresent (all present at all times and places). Things that are impossible with man are fully possible with God.
The God of the paradox is about to get even better - because it is possible.
The ‘transcendence’ of God means that God exists apart from, and is not subject to the limitations of, the material universe. He is above and beyond, surpassing and excelling, superior to humankind.
Let’s read a Biblical description of the transcendent God from the book of Job, and from the great messianic prophet Isaiah.
“God thunders wondrously with his voice; he does great things that we cannot comprehend. 6 For to the snow he says, 'Fall on the earth,' likewise to the downpour, his mighty downpour. 7 He seals up the hand of every man, that all men whom he made may know it. 8 Then the beasts go into their lairs, and remain in their dens. 9 From its chamber comes the whirlwind, and cold from the scattering winds. 10 By the breath of God ice is given, and the broad waters are frozen fast. 11 He loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning. 12 They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world. 13 Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen. 14 "Hear this, O Job; stop and consider the wondrous works of God. 15 Do you know how God lays his command upon them and causes the lightning of his cloud to shine? 16 Do you know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him who is perfect in knowledge,17 you whose garments are hot when the earth is still because of the south wind? 18 Can you, like him, spread out the skies, hard as a cast metal mirror? 19 Teach us what we shall say to him; we cannot draw up our case because of darkness. 20 Shall it be told him that I would speak? Did a man ever wish that he would be swallowed up? 21 "And now no one looks on the light when it is bright in the skies, when the wind has passed and cleared them. 22 Out of the north comes golden splendor; God is clothed with awesome majesty.23 The Almighty-we cannot find him; he is great in power; justice and abundant righteousness he will not violate. 24 Therefore men fear him; he does not regard any who are wise in their own conceit."
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Now let’s contrast that to the ‘immanence’ of God. Biblical or divine immanence means that He moves to, through, and in; abides and lives, exists within, all who believe in Him. Because of this reality, it is then possible to not only know that God is out there existing beyond all universes and to experience the immediacy of His intimate friendship and love. To not only know of Him, but to intimately know Him who was and is to come. Let’s read together, from Paul’s epistle of Philippians and John’s gospel.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
“Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him." 8 Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." 9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.
According to the Biblical traditions of our Christian faith, the transcendent God, who cannot be approached or seen in essence or being, becomes immanent to us primarily in the person and presence of the incarnate Christ. The immanence of God is fulfilled in us - in Christ, and actively functions in the unity of the Spirit. The Biblical theology of the immanence of God is expressed as what is called the hypostases: the union of Christ's human and divine nature. That the transcendent God of the universe and beyond, became immanent by coming to earth in the flesh (humanity) so that each and every one of His creation could be moved upon by His Spirit (divinity), both to know and to have new life in Him.
We described last week the creative nature and energy of God - the movement of God creates life. This I believe, is our moment for truth and reality - this is a moment for the Spirit’s revelation. This is our spiritual understanding of how the God who transcends all, is also immanent and present in us.
God, who in his essence, is incomprehensible and transcendent, yet at the same time intimately present and living in us.
God the Father - God the Son - God the Spirit in complete and perfect unity immanently revealed to each one, in each one.
God of the paradox... wholly transcendent and incomprehensible; fully immanent and knowable all in the same moment.
The book of Job and the also speaks of God’s intimate friendship and love.
“And Job again took up his discourse, and said: 2 "Oh, that I were as in the months of old, as in the days when God watched over me, 3 when his lamp shone upon my head, and by his light I walked through darkness, 4 as I was in my prime, when the friendship of God was upon my tent, 5 when the Almighty was yet with me, when my children were all around me, 6 when my steps were washed with butter, and the rock poured out for me streams of oil!
“O LORD, you have searched me and known me! 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. 5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. 7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. 11 If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night," 12 even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. 13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you. 19 Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me! 20 They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain. 21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? 22 I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies. 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
It is only when we understand the transcendence of God that you we see how profoundly amazing his immanence is, and the privilege it is to be able to enjoy intimate friendship and love with the great and almighty God of the world without end. God of the paradox.
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