Transcendence and Immanence

A few of the responses to the Vox Apologia seem to focus on the fact that God is outside of the physical universe and therefore discussions of the physical universe don’t need to include God. Blogotional especially is making this argument in his post.

Isn’t this an explicit denial of the incarnation? God is both transcendent and immanent- He is outside the system, but He created the system and works in the system constantly. To deny God’s immanence is to deny the incarnation and the resurrection of Christ.

When Thomas doubted that Christ had risen from the dead, Jesus didn’t say, “well, it’s just a matter of faith, it doesn’t ultimately matter what happened in the physical world”. No, he said, “Touch the nailprints on my hands, and feel the wound in my side.” Yes, God is outside the world, but He explicitly claims to be working in the world, and calls us to bear witness to that. The foundation of the faith, as expressed in the Apostles’ Creed, is historical events- things that happened on earth, which could be demonstrated scientifically. Science is not and never will be the basis of our faith, but if we say that faith and science don’t agree and don’t need to agree, we have just denied the importance of the incarnation. We are saved because God works in the universe, in history.

It’s one thing to say that God doesn’t require scientific support for faith, and that is of course exactly true. That’s a big part of my argument here. But if my scientific theories directly contradict the Bible, then that is a problem for faith, a big one. If I say that God is great and I love Him but then deny that He created the universe in the way that He said that He created the universe, then I am belying my claim to faith. How can I worship God, but not believe what He said?

The question, then, is fundamentally a hermeneutical one. What is Genesis 1-2 saying? If a reading of Genesis can be produced to show that God did not actually create the world in six days about ten thousand years ago, then we’ve got a basis for discussion. But I’m not interested in such a reading that is designed to simply accommodate the text to the opinions of atheists. Start with the text, limit your concerns to the text and have as your goal the understanding of the text. Blogotional’s whole discussion never once even references what Genesis 1 says, which tells me his concerns lie elsewhere.

“Has God really said?” Yes, He has.

2 thoughts on “Transcendence and Immanence

  1. A little off the subject, but what is your response to those who would take a position like Augustine’s where creation is in an instant? I don’t see how see how this view could be interpreting the Bible in terms of science, as it wouldn’t buy you anything with regard to old-earth thinking.

  2. Thanks for reading. And that’s a good question. Augustine’s position was an interpretation of the text. It’s one I disagree with, but it’s at least an interpretation of the text. Augustine, as I recall, thought that the six days must be an analogy of some sort, seeing no reason why an almighty God would need six days. I’d say that there are good interpretive reasons for thinking that God had something specific to teach us with the six days, and that doing it in an instant loses the interpretive significance of Genesis 1. If God did it in an instant, why didn’t He tell us that? The Jews could have understood that.

    I never meant to communicate that the six-day, young earth reading was the only possible reading, though I think it is the correct one. What I meant to communicate is that the only understandings I am interested in talking about are understandings that meaningfully deal with the text, instead of accommodations to atheists and unbelievers.

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