Saturday, January 27, 2024

Post #33 The Doctrine of God: P1 Divine Omnipresence and Immensity Within the Trinity.


    In today's post I want to begin by quoting a prayer from the early church father, Gregory of Nazianzus (329-390 A.D.) that I heard Dr. Carl Trueman mention in the closing of his recent lecture "Classical Theology and the Modern Mind", 

“Oh all-transcendent God, what words can sing your praises? No word does you justice. What mind can probe your secret? No mind can encompass you. You are alone, beyond the power of speech, yet all that we speak stems from you. You are alone beyond the power of thought, yet all that we can seek conceive springs from you. All things proclaim you, those endowed with reason and those bereft of it. All the expectation and pain of the world coalesces in you. All things utter a prayer to you a silent hymn, composed by you. You sustain everything that exists and all things that move together. You are the goal of all that exists. You are the one and you are the all, yet you are none of the things that exist - neither apart nor the whole. You can avail yourself of any name. How shall I call you, the only unnamable, all transcendent God?” 

    That prayer touches upon the two attributes of God that are of interest in today's post - omnipresence and immensity. To say God is "omni-present" means He is everywhere ("omni") present at every point in all of creation, wholly and completely. To say God is "immense" describes His relationship to all of creation, whether visible or invisible, in how nothing can contain God. Together, the attributes of immensity and omnipresence confront us with the very nature of God Himself who is Father, Son, and Spirit. What I want to specifically consider today is how we can speak of God's omnipresence and immensity within His own nature as He is as Father, Son, and Spirit. In other words, how do we talk of God as omnipresent and immense before there was a creation? These explorations will serve to show that these attributes are intregal to our overall understanding of the doctrine of God.

A word on how God's Divine nature and attributes work in relationship to the Persons of the Trinity

    In our continuing study of "Theology Proper" or the doctrine of God, we once again remind ourselves that the goal of this overall study is to understand what the Bible teaches about the being, attributes, and identity of God. As we will focus today upon God's omnipresence and immensity in more detail, I felt it necessary to remind us of how the Divine nature operates within and among the three persons of the Godhead. 

    God's being and attributes summarize His nature, essence, or being. I often use the phrase "what God is" to refer to His essence; and the phrase "how God is" to talk about the attributes or perfections of God. As for God's identity, I use the phrase "who God is" to point us to the Biblical truth of the Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

    We can never make God's being and attributes something like a "fourth" piece of God on the one side, and the Triune persons as somehow "parts" of God on another side. Rather, the Biblical and historical doctrine of the Trinity asserts that God's being is equivalent to His attributes (what theologians call "Divine simplicity"). The term "simplicity" derives from the Latin "simplex", meaning "unmixed, uncompounded, and uncomposed". 

    Thus, God's attributes aren't like a cake recipe that has eggs, flour, salt, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and water to make a cake. Those said ingredients are not cake, but instead their own respective substances, composing together the said cake. When we say "God, by nature, is His attributes", we're meaning that all that is in God is God. In reference to the "stuff" or substance of Divine being (eternal, unchangeable, omnipresent, omniscient, and all the rest), each perfection is an active expression of the Divine nature. In this classical, historical understanding of Theology proper, each attribute operates as an action of the Divine nature. 

    Consequently, the Divine nature or essence of God resides entirely and wholly in each of the Divine persons, with each distinguished only by their eternal relationship to one another - what theologians call "eternal relations of origin". How is this spelled out historically and Biblically? 

    The Father begets or communicates the Divine nature to the Son. In a portion of the historic Athanasian creed we are reminded, "The Father was neither made nor created nor begotten".  Sometimes early theologians, such as Gregory Nazianzus (cited above) and later John Calvin called the Father "the fountain of the Divine nature within the Trinity". The Father and Son's co-equality, co-eternality are affirmed in these statements, with the idea of designating the Father as "unbegotten, not made" for the purpose of distinguishing Him from the person of the Son. 

    The Son is defined historically and Scripturally as "the only-begotten" from the Father (John 1:14,18; 3:16; 1 John 4:19). What this means is that the Son is truly God by nature. All the divine attributes of the Divine essence which the Father has maps point-by-point, quality-by-quality in the Son. Biblically, the entire Divine nature resides in the Son as much as it resides entirely within the Father (see Colossians 2:9). Both Father and Son share the undivided, simple, Divine essense (John 10:30; 1 Corinthians 8:6-7). 

    The Holy Spirit, in His co-equality and co-eternality with Father and Son, is said to "proceed" from them both. In other words, the same divine essence is communicated to the Spirit by way of "spiration" or breathing forth from the Father through the Son (see John 15:26). To quote the Athanasian Creed once more, 

"Now this is the catholic (i.e. 'universal') faith: We worship one God in Trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the divine being."

The nature of God, the Trinity, and the Divine attributes of omnipresence and immensity

    Again, the whole divine nature resides in the Spirit as much as it does in the Son and the Father. The Three Persons, in turn, mutually indwell one another, thus enabling us to say that the one undivided essence of God truly is in the Three Persons (see John 14:21-23). When we consider the Divine nature in the Trinity, we include of course the attributes of omnipresence and immensity. Since the eternal relations between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit constitutes their sharing of the Divine nature, the nature itself necessarily includes omnipresence and immensity. 

    God cannot be contained by any created thing. Before there was a creation, God as a Trinity was self-sufficiently existing. With no such things as time and space coordinate with God's existence, we can say that God has existed from all eternity without boundaries, "inhabiting eternity" and persisting, world without end, from eternity to eternity (Psalm 90:1-2; Isaiah 57:15; Hebrews 1:10-12). 

    These truths are at the very heart of what we talk about when referring to God's "immensity".

    On the same token, the Divine nature is wholly and completely in the Divine persons of the Trinity. The nature and attributes of the Divine essence, being forever truly in the Father without beginning, is communicated by the Father's eternal begetting of the Son. Within the Trinity itself, the whole eternal essence truly and wholly fills each person - as one author notes, "three times over". 

    Jesus Himself affirms this point of the "Father indwelling Him and He indwelling the Father" (John 10:38; John 14:10-11). Thus, before God created the heavens and the earth, the attributes of Divine omnipresence and immensity were being expressed by His very nature among the Father, Son, and Spirit.

    In our next post we will continue discovering further truths about God's omnipresence and immensity, noting how they work in relationship to all that God has made.

No comments:

Post a Comment