Where Is God?

Paul Derengowski, ThM

 

A growing number of skeptics, atheists, agnostics, or just non-believers in general, often ask, well, if God exists, then where is he?  The supposition is that if God cannot be detected with the five human senses, then God cannot possibly exist.  Yet, given that God’s essence is wholly different than that which comprises the whole of existence, then to draw the conclusion that God is nowhere, simply because he does not exist according to physical observations of human inquiry is flawed at best.  For the despite that fact that no one can detect God using natural law in the three dimensions does not necessarily mean that God is not present.  It merely means that God is capable of concealing himself from human innovation to detect him, while at the same time being both immanent among humans, while transcending creation’s existence.  This seems evident from God’s revelation about himself.

From the opening verse in Genesis 1:1 we are told that God exists, yet we are not told exactly where that existence takes place.  The reader is left to assume that God merely is, which is similar to the response God gave to Moses when he inquired about the reply he should give to Pharaoh should he ask for the name of God when Moses approached him to release the people of Israel.  God reply was simply, “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex. 3:14).  In the beginning (Gen. 1:1) God was not necessarily anywhere in the sense that we would denote location, given that nothing had come into existence.  Nevertheless, God did exist somewhere in relation to himself, which could not be defined in finite terms, given that God is an infinite being.

Later on we are told in Scripture that God’s location could not be confined to one central locale, such as a Temple.  In the construction of Solomon’s Temple, Solomon in his dedicatory address asserts not only that “there is no God like Thee in heaven above or on earth beneath” (1 Kgs. 8:23), but then asks, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth?”  He goes on to answer his own question by stating, “Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain Thee, how much less this house which I have built!” (1 Kgs. 8:27).  The idea here is that although one may build a physical shrine to honor and worship God, that same fixed by time and space structure is incapable of containing the whole of the immensity and omnipresence of God.  The 17th century Puritan, Stephen Charnock, once commented,

God is present beyond the world.  He is within and above all places, though places should be infinite in number; as he was before and beyond all time, so he is above and beyond all place; being from eternity before any real time, he must also be without as well as within any real space; if God were only confined to the world, he would be no more infinite in his essence than the world is in quantity; as a moment cannot be conceived from eternity, wherein God was not in being, so a space cannot be conceived in the mind of man, where God is not present; he is not contained in the world nor in the heavens. 1

King David in Psalm 139 makes an even more adamant declaration concerning the location of God by asking, “Where can I go from Thy Spirit?”  Two things are implicit in this question.  First, that there is no place that God is not.  Second, that there is a harmonious union between God himself and God the Spirit.  Therefore, where one is, both are.  There is no place, either infinitely, or finitely that one can be without the other.  David then goes on to list possible locales where a finite person might be that some might assume that God is not.  Heaven, Sheol (hell), the remotest part of the sea, or to be simply covered in the darkest of darkness, David states that God is even in the midst of all of these locations.  There is not a place, in other words, where God is not present.

That said, though, one must be careful to not confuse God’s presence with creation’s existence.  For as stated elsewhere, God is not the creation.  He is distinct from it.  Therefore, even though God may be everywhere, God is not everything.  God is immanently present, but that does not mean that a “spark of the divine” immanently resides ontologically within creation itself.  Otherwise, all the Christian would have to do when asked by the skeptic or atheist where God was at, is to point at a tree, or a rock, or possible back at the skeptic or atheist.  In which case, the Christian also would not longer be advocating a monotheistic worldview, per se, but instead would be advocating a pantheistic worldview, which does say that everything is God.

Therefore, to answer the question of where God is, all one needs to do is point to revelation as say that God is everywhere, despite the fact that due to his divine nature and extra-dimensional features, God cannot be detected using naturalistic means or human sensitivity.  That God presence is whole and undivided, even though there is no one fixed locale in creation that can possibly contain him.  That despite the biblical fact that God is omnipresent and immanent, that in no way should be misunderstood to mean that God is everything.  Surely the prophet Jeremiah’s words ring true and clear when he records the Lord God saying, “Am I a God who is near,” declares the Lord, “Am not a God far off?  24 “Can a man hide himself in hiding places, So I do not see him?” declares the Lord.  “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the Lord.  Indeed, Lord, you do!

Notes:

  1. Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God (Grand Rapids: Baker, reprint 2000), 375.

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