God is transcendent.
He is really, very different than anything or anyone else. Even that phrasing is misleading because it suggests that God is a ‘thing’ or a ‘one’… that he is able to be categorized by familiar concepts. He can’t. God is completely and totally other. Without his help, we can’t relate to him, we can’t see him, we can’t touch him, we can’t understand him, we can’t measure him, we can’t know him, we can’t describe him… really we can’t even know where to begin to imagine him.
God is really, really different.
There is an essential distinction between Creator and created. In other words, God’s essence is altogether different from our own. God’s being is not just an elevated version of a human’s being – it is a completely different kind of being. When Christians say that God exists, we don’t mean that he exists in the same way as a watermelon exists. He is totally separate from his creation… he is not limited to the confines of spatial dimensions or the passage of time. His existence, if that’s even the right word, is of a different sort.
If you frequent religious discussion forums or have ever glanced at the comments section of a YouTube video, you will have no doubt come across this line of thinking that God is only useful insofar as he fills in the gaps in our knowledge – and since our knowledge is increasing, and these gaps are theoretically decreasing; the idea of God has pretty much outlived its usefulness. He has been relegated to the ever diminishing cloud of darkness being chased away by the illumination of empirical science.
Religion, people like to say, was simply a human invention to explain things that we didn’t understand. It was once thought that God was the cause of thunder and lightning; but the predecessors to our meteorologists have put an end to such superstitious nonsense. Thunder and lightning can be explained without having to invoke God. There are natural processes at work, and nothing more is necessary for an adequate explanation with predictive capabilities.
The problem… well, one of the problems, with these ‘god of the gaps’ accusations is that they don’t at all take into account the Christian worldview. It’s an understandable error. The people making these sorts of accusations typically believe that nothing exists beyond the natural world and they are most often unaware that this belief is no more than an assumption and that it falls in the realm of metaphysics and not empirical science. Because of this underlying assumption, they further believe that all forms of ‘existence’ must be of the same kind, which has the effect of placing God in the same category as all created things. It then follows that if we can see the natural world and understand how it functions without ever even having to consider the God question, then God must not be present or active in that part of the world. If he exists at all, he must be somewhere else.
Seems reasonable… I guess… as long as you’re willing to reject the notion that God is transcendent. As long as you’re willing to assume that God is some kind of created thing rather than Almighty Creator.
Christians, obviously, do not agree with such a ridiculous assumption. God is not just some part of the material world. God cannot be examined under a microscope or observed through a telescope. If he could, he wouldn’t be God.
The Christian worldview is not one of strict materialism – it is one of sacrament. God is “over all and through all and in all”. He is present in and through every part of his creation. The divine presence of God is made available and accessible through ordinary, tangible, material means.
This truth is nowhere more evident than in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the “image of the invisible God”; the full and final revelation of God the Father. In Jesus, Almighty God has entered into ordinary human flesh. Though it may be difficult to grasp, the Christian position is that this Jesus is fully God and fully man. He is not one or the other, he is both. If ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’ are helpful categories at all, they are not mutually exclusive – there is overlap between them. In Jesus the transcendent God of the universe is made physically accessible.
If you could examine the flesh of Jesus of Nazareth, what would you find? Would you see God there or would you determine that he must be ‘somewhere else’?
God is certainly the God of the many and various gaps in our understanding… but he’s the God of everything else too.
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.