Why do we sometimes feel that God is not present? Why do we sometimes sense his presence so strongly?
In the same way that sometimes we are (or are not) aware of our own breathing; God is constant, but our consciousness is volatile. Also, I do believe that sometimes God is relationally closer to us than at others — though that isn’t always correlated with feeling His presence.
If you really believed in the omnipresence of God you would know that he is with you in the times when nobody else is around. How could you use this truth of God’s omnipresence as a help to living a more holy life?
I actually have rarely doubted God’s presence. It is usually His Love — and His Wisdom — that I struggle with.
Summarize the conclusions to the class discussion question above.
Read RCS #14(incl. Bible passages).
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Doctrine 101: Learning about God
Worksheet 5 – God’s Presence
Charles Hodge makes the following distinction in his Systematic Theology
(Vol. I, p. 383):
The infinitude of God, so far as space is concerned, includes his immensity and his omnipresence. These are not different attributes, but one and the same attribute . . .. His immensity is the infinitude of his being, viewed as belonging to his nature from eternity. He fills immensity with his presence. His omnipresence is his infinitude, viewed in relation to his creatures. He is equally present with all his creatures at all times and in all places.
1. What does R. C. Sproul emphasize when he discusses immensity? (p. 43; p. 45, PDF)
That God is fully present at each and every point in creation.
2. In trying to help us think about what it means for God to be everywhere, Sproul makes the following statement (p. 43, 2nd paragraph; p. 44, PDF): ‘To meet God, there is not a “where” to go or a “when” to occur.’ Do you think this means you can meet God whenever you want?
That seems a logical inference, yes.
Do you agree? Why or why not?
Whenever, yes; However, no. Clearly, there are constraints due to God’s holiness which impact our ability to approach Him. In addition, we can’t (always) manufacture spiritual feelings of closeness, though there are disciplines which often make it easier to achieve. Much like human intimacy…
If you think the statement means something different, please write down what
you think Sproul means.
3. Sproul continues, “To be in the immediate presence of God is to step into another dimension (p. 43, 2nd paragraph; p. 44, PDF).” Write down what this means to you.
I take that as metaphor, since (as a physicist) I have a very technical definition of “dimension“. However, I agree with the general concept, that every point in our space-time continuum has immediate access to the fulness of God — though even that it isn’t very well-defined. I guess it is easier to define in terms of what it is not — e.g., God is not localized, limited, or divided in His attention.
Do you find it (helpful, confusing, frustrating) to think about God’s presence the way Sproul suggests?
I find it helpful, since I occasionally amuse myself by trying to visualize extra dimensions. 🙂
Does it sound like something mysterious and difficult that you must do?
Not particularly, though it does sound unnatural — that is, contrary to our natural inclination. Yet much of spiritual growth is learning how to step at “right angles to reality”, rather than continue linearly along our own understanding.
Does it sound like Sproul is saying that God is right there, but you can’t get to him unless you know how?
Not to me. Why do you keep asking such leading questions? Do you dislike Sproul’s choice of metaphors?
4. Describe the presence of God in your life? Answer the following questions as you write.
Are you (always, sometimes, rarely, ever) aware that you are in His presence?
Is God in your presence even when you don’t think so?
Actually, I would say I am in His presence.
Explain why you answered the way you did.
To be in my presence usually implies to be within my sphere of awareness, which isn’t the case. But I am still within God’s sphere of awareness.
Are you in God’s presence even when you don’t think so?
Explain your reason for answering as you did.
I just answered that. 🙂
5. If God is always present, why do Christians talk about “coming into His presence”?
It is like quality time — I can be around my wife for hours without actively interacting with her or enjoying her presence. To be in God’s presence is to actively focus on Him, and invite Him to manifest His glory (His many attributes) among us.
Do you ever experience “coming into His presence”?
Have you discovered that there is a way to do it? Is there something you can do to experience His presence?
Again, it is like intimacy. There are no guarantees, but there are bad habits that make it harder, and good habits that make it easier. Worship, repentance, confession, forgiveness, etc.
6. Does knowing that God is always with you and that He is always relating to you help you be more aware of Him?
I suppose, though again that isn’t my usual point of struggle.
7. Do you agree with R. C. Sproul that there is no corner of the universe where God is not present? (p. 44; p. 45, PDF)
8. Do you think it is right to say that the wicked in hell are not separated from God’s presence, only from His benevolence? (p. 44; p. 45, PDF)
I think he has a point, but I don’t think that’s the whole answer. I suspect hell is a bit more than just the absence of God’s benevolence, though I’m not sure exactly what.
9. Are people who have died in God’s presence right now? Support your answer.
Well, as discussed before, everything is always in God’s presence. 🙂 The more interesting question is whether they are aware of God’s presence, or merely sleeping. I tend towards the latter, but given most definitions of eternity the concept of “right now” is ill-defined…
10. Write out the words of Psalm 18.25-26.
With the kind you show yourself kind;
with the blameless you show yourself blameless;
with the pure you show yourself pure,
And with the crooked you show yourself astute.
What do these verses say about how you will experience God?
God responds to us according to the spirit in which we approach Him.
Why do you think God does this?
It is a manifestation of God’s justice, and (among other things) necessary in order for us to learn that we can’t outsmart God.
11. Read Psalm 139. What statements in this Psalm help explain why God is relating to each person the ways He is?
- God has searched me and known me
- God understands my thoughts, analyzes my actions
- He knows my habits well enough to predict what I will do before I do
- God made us who we are, even before we could make conscious choices
- God foreknew all the days of our life
- God continually thinks about us.
- God wants us to partner with Him in His work of justice and redemption.
- God wants to cleanse us of “hurtful” ways, so that we walk in “eternal” ways.
12. Read 1 Kgs 8.27. On what occasion does Solomon say these words?
At the dedication of the temple.
Why did he build a temple for the Lord’s dwelling when God is omnipresent?
To provide a localized, authoritative experience of God as Yahweh. To serve as a focus for prayer, sacrifice, repentance, assembly, and judgement.
13. Look at Job 11.7-9. Do you think the speaker is saying that there is a limit to God? Why or why not?
“Zophar, but no phurther.” I’m not sure if Zophar knows whether or not God has limits, but that’s probably his point: that any limits God might have are beyond our ability to measure.
14. In Jer 23.23-24 the Lord asks three questions. Write out each question and indicate whether it is referring to His immensity or His omnipresence.
- “Am I only a God nearby,” declares the LORD, “and not a God far away?” Omnipresence.
- “Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?” declares the LORD. Omnipresence
- “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the LORD. Immensity.