A Review Of Our Own Sham Gods: Taking A Look At The God Who Must Be Either Here Or There

The Indwelling of the Spirit

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend into heaven, 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 (Psalm 139:7-10).

Looking at the above title, you might be thinking, “Who among us could believe such a thing?” Well, if my experiences are indicative of brotherhood norms, then there are more than a few New Testament Christians who think this way. But before proceeding further, I want to make it clear I do not think my fellow Christians who think this way are intentionally trying to create a sham god. Nevertheless, this is what they do when they argue that the actual indwelling of the Holy Spirit in every obedient believer could only be accomplished by either a fragmented or multi-located Holy Spirit. By this they mean that if the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in every Christian is actual, rather than “only in and through the Word,” as they are wont to say, then this could only be accomplished by either breaking (or dividing into pieces) the Holy Spirit, or by means of a multi-located Holy Spirit (i.e., a Holy Spirit that could be in more than one place at the same time, an idea they think is absurd). One who takes this position accused me of believing that “the Holy Spirit is scattered, one-to-a-believer, into thousands, perhaps millions, of fully functional, self-contained, independent units, each one the perfect clone of all the others.” Of course, this caricature does not represent what I believe, as such would be polytheism, pure and simple. But it does represent the kind of maneuvering that goes on in the minds of those who think God is somehow limited by space.

The one true God is infinite in His characteristics and attributes. This means He is not restricted by any external limitations, which does not include, of course, those internal limitations He may place on Himself or which are due to His nature. Therefore, this infinitude is defined by God’s self-existence, eternalness, and omni-characteristics, which are omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence. If we, in our theological surmisings, try to take any of these away from Him, then we honor a god who could no longer be the God of the Bible. Instead, he—and I’ve purposely dropped the capitalization here—becomes just another of the sham gods that populate the Pantheon of man-made religion.

Why then do otherwise faithful, intelligent Christians engage in such thinking? I don’t know all the reasons, but in some cases, at least, they think themselves to be defending the faith once and for all delivered (Jude 3) against whatever false “ism” they happen to be zeroing in on at the moment. Consequently, it is difficult for them to see themselves as anything other than faithful servants of the Lord and His Word. When it comes to the Holy Spirit, this “ism” is most often Pentecostalism. As one who has taught and helped to convert many Pentecostals, I certainly understand the many errors associated with such doctrine. But when one thinks he is defending the faith by denigrating the characteristics and attributes of God, then it seems to me that these folks have involved themselves in an equally terrible delusion. Yes, Pentecostals are wrong about the Holy Spirit, seemingly unable to decide whether He’s a “He” or an “it.” They fail to distinguish between the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. They readily misappropriate passages to teach that all Christians are to be directly guided by the Holy Spirit. They believe the miraculous manifestations (“gifts”) of the Spirit are continuing today, even after that which is perfect has come—that is, the completed Word of God (1 Corinthians 13:8-13). There are, in fact, a whole host of errors associated with Pentecostalism. But to diminish God’s infinitude in the name of fighting Pentecostalism is a gross error that causes one, however unintentionally, to imbibe idolatry.

Theologians have argued that “God, in the totality of his essence, without diffusion or expansion, multiplication or division, penetrates and fills the universe in all its parts” (Jack Cottrell, What The Bible Says About God The Creator, pages 264-273). Although I do not feel the need to defend anyone’s theological construct but my own (and I am aware that my thinking could itself be in error), I do think this quote accurately represents the nature of omnipresence as set forth in the Bible (Psalm 139:7-10; Jeremiah 23:23-24; 1 Kings 8:27). However, I wish to make it clear that I totally reject the idea of Pantheism, a concept that says everything is God and God is everything (i.e., that the material universe somehow makes up the very fabric of God). I make this disclaimer because several over the years have accused me of this very thing. More than likely, these charges were made by those who have never even talked to or, what’s more, helped convert a pantheist. Unfortunately, pantheism is a terribly wrong concept that presently enslaves more than a billion people, and I feel blessed to have taught and helped to convert pantheists. No, the uncreated, self-existent, eternal Creator is not some pantheistic everything. He does not consist of that which He has created. Instead, He stands above and beyond that which He’s created. Consequently, the transcendent God is not limited by the space-time continuum and is not, therefore, a spatial being (viz., He transcends all spatial limitations).

All Created Beings Are Spatial Creatures

Space, like time, is a product of creation. Therefore, all created beings are spatial creatures. This means that both the material and spiritual dimensions are spatial, though not necessarily in the same way. Although spiritual “space” is obviously not like material space, each of these dimensions must, by nature of their creation, have spatial limitations. Consequently, space of some sort is characteristic of all created beings.

The material universe of which we humans are a part is three-dimensional space. Our bodies themselves are spatial and, therefore, limited by the three-dimensional boundaries of space. Included in these limitations are the following: a material body can exist in only one space at a time; to get from one space to another, a material body must pass through the intervening space. This means that given the limitations of three dimensional space, it is impossible, when we factor in the fourth dimension of time, for a material body to occupy two different spaces at the same time.

In contrast to this, and evidently at the same time, fully spiritual creatures, such as angels and demons, do not normally occupy our space, as we do (Jude 6). Therefore, it can be safely concluded that these spiritual creatures are not restricted by the limitations of three-dimensional space, as we are. Nevertheless, as created beings, they have their own spatial dimension, with whatever limits that exist there. As I don’t occupy that dimension, I can’t tell you what it is like, but that this dimension exists is evident from Scripture. Further, the Bible teaches that when these spiritual creatures interact with material space, they are not totally outside its limits. For example, a spiritual creature, although he can evidently act multi-dimensional, can still only be in one space at a time. This is illustrated by the angelic appearance recorded in Daniel 10. The prophet Daniel had been “mourning” (which clearly included praying) for “three full weeks” (verse 2). When the angel appeared, he said:

Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia (Daniel 10:12-13).

He went on to say, “Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come” (verse 14).

So, when interacting with our material dimension, this angel could not be in two places at the same time. He had been sent to answer Daniel and make known to him what would happen to his people in the future, but the “prince of Persia” (evidently another spiritual entity) withstood him for “twenty-one days.” The struggle was so intense that Michael (another spiritual creature) had to come and help him. Then, after administering to Daniel, he still needed to return and “fight” with the prince of Persia, knowing that the “prince of Greece” would eventually be involved (verse 20).

It is clear from Scripture, then, that a spiritual creature (remember, I’m not talking about God here) cannot occupy more than one space at a time. This means that spiritual creatures (angels and demons) are not omnipresent. Satan himself cannot be everywhere at once and, therefore, uses other spiritual creatures to represent his interests around the world.

What all this means, once again, is that created beings, whether they be spiritual or material, are spatial beings. But in complete contrast to His creation, God, the uncreated Creator, is not a spatial being per se. Instead, He is unlimited by space and is, in fact, transcendent by means of His infinitude. The traditional word for this is immensity. However, because this word has come to mean “very large in size,” one must be very careful to exclude this connotation when speaking of God.

God is not immensely large, so as to fill all of space, even to infinity. Such thinking would be totally false and is manifested in Pantheism. The word itself literally means unmeasurable, not because God is too large to measure, but because, as a non-spatial being, He is not the kind of Being that can be measured. The term simply means that God is not limited by space. As such, all the limitations of space—extension, location, and distance—simply do not apply to Him.

Therefore, God is universally present to all of space at all times. This does not mean, however, that He is dispersed throughout the infinite reaches of space so that every part of space has at least a little part of God. God is not present in all of space, which is pantheism; instead, He is present to all of space. This means that the unlimited God in His whole Being is present at every point of our space. Perhaps a better way of saying this is to say that all space is immediately present before God. Personally, I don’t care how you look at this as long as you understand that the God who has revealed Himself in the Bible is not limited by space, as are His creatures.

(to be continued)

3 Comments

    1. Allan,
      I am a new subscriber, and I want to thank you for providing a source or forum for the study and discussion of some interesting and important ideas at greater depth.
      However, I find myself in disagreement with you about your comments in recent articles about the (personal) indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the omnipresence of God. If I understand you, the relation you see between these two subjects is that the supposed correct understanding of divine omnipresence offers a basis for understanding how the Holy Spirit actually, literally, or personally dwells in the physical body of the Christian. That is, if we can understand that God is actually, literally, personally everywhere, as per your view of omnipresence, than there should be no impediment to believing that the Holy Spirit can dwell in such a manner in the body of the Christian.
      It seems to me that the basic fallacy in your thinking consists in your failure to comprehend the difference between the person of God and the presence of God. God’s person is God Himself, or as I or others have put it, His essence or form. It is His being or existence. A person, by definition and nature, including God, can be in only one place. God is located in heaven.
      God’s presence, on the other hand, is what might be thought of as His influence, reach, power, or the projection or extension or manifestation thereof. God’s omnipresence does not mean He is present absolutely everywhere in the same sense that I am bodily present in a particular place. Rather, God’s omnipresence means that it is as if He were present like that everywhere. In other words, He is what we would think of as effectively present everywhere. This is simply to say, that God is able to exert His power or manifest Himself everywhere. So, it might be said that God is omnipresent but not omniperson.
      To illustrate, if I want to tap someone on the shoulder (directly with my hand), I have to move within arm’s reach of him. This is because my presence (or at least my direct tactile presence) is limited to my person. However, since God is omnipresent, there is effectively no difference between His person and His presence (in the context of my illustration). Therefore, He can tap me on the shoulder just as effectively from a million miles away as He could if He were standing right next to me. So, I would agree with you to this extent: God’s omnipresence collapses all space and time and renders Him unlimited by such.
      However, I think your confusion of person and presence sets you up for some insurmountable problems. I will start off with your quotations from Jack Cottrell:
      “‘God, in the totality of his essence, without diffusion or expansion, multiplication or division, penetrates and fills the universe in all its parts.’” (Thinking It Out and Thinking It Through, A Review of Our Own Sham Gods, I, Aug. 10, 2014)
      “‘Who is this One whose power and presence penetrate and envelope every particle of the cosmos?’” (Thinking It Out and Thinking It Through, Aug. 14, 2017)
      Although you endorsed Cottrell’s definitions, here is one from you:
      “In fact, while it is true that His ontological Being is present to all of space equally, He has, at various times and for various reasons, entered space at specific points and become present in it.” (Thinking It Out and Thinking It Through, A Review of Our Own Sham Gods, II, Aug. 11, 2014)
      The first quotation from Jack Cottrell strikes my ear like a cacophony of contradictions. How is it possible for God to penetrate and fill “the universe in all its parts” without being diffuse and expanded throughout all the parts of the universe? If you look up “diffuse” in the dictionary, you will see that it means something like extended or expanded or spread out throughout. It sounds to me like “fills” is synonymous with “diffuse.” So, God penetrates and fills every particle of the universe but He is not diffused or expanded throughout it? If so, which part of the universe is He not expanded or diffused into but He does fill?
      You say that God is present to all of space equally (a statement that I do not think I would disagree with) but has entered space at specific points and become present in it. Now, if He entered space, that implies that He was not in that space previous to the point at which He entered it? How could God enter something where He already was in His ontological Being? If God is present to all of space equally, how can He become present in any part of it?
      I will explore and apply yours and Cottrell’s thinking a bit farther. If God is literally present in every part and particular of the universe, how does He dwell in the body of the Christian any more, or in any way different, than He indwells the body of the unbeliever? After all, is not the body of the unbeliever among all the parts of the universe which God is supposed to penetrate and fill? So, in what way does the Holy Spirit, who is God and, along with the Father and the Son, partakes of all the characteristics of deity, including omnipresence, dwell any more in a person after He has been baptized into Christ than He did before he was baptized?
      In fact, if you believe that the Holy Spirit dwells in the body of the Christian by virtue of His omnipresence, does the Father and the Son, who are equally divinely omnipresent, dwell or live in the Christian (Gal. 2:20) in any way different than the Holy Spirit does?
      Psalm 139, which you prominently cite as a proof-text for your view, says that God is in Sheol (vs. 8). Jesus was also in Sheol while He was in the grave (Psa. 16:10). Now, since Jesus was always and is God and, therefore, omnipresent, in the sense you claim, how was He any less in Sheol before He died than afterward, and how was He any less in Sheol after He was resurrected than He was while He was dead? Remember: Sheol is part of the universe which God fills and penetrates. In fact, would not the Father and the Holy Spirit be just as much in Sheol as Jesus was? Are they not still there, as per your view?
      In fact, is Satan part of the universe? If he is, and God personally penetrates and fills every part of the universe, does He fill Satan?
      The Scriptures repeatedly assert that God dwells in heaven (e.g., 1 Kgs. 8:30). Now, if God is present everywhere else just as much as He is in any one point, how is heaven any more His dwelling place than earth is? What sense does it make, then, that the writer of Ecclesiastes said God is in heaven and we are on earth (Eccl. 5:2), if God is on earth in the same sense, and to the same degree, that He is in heaven? In fact, this passage implies a distinction between God’s person and His presence, since we are cautioned about bringing up a matter “in the presence” of God even though His person is in heaven. However, you cannot make this distinction because you do not recognize a difference between God’s person and His presence by saying that His ontological Being is present to all of space equally.
      Now, if you want to say that God is present to all of space but not present in all of space, I might agree with you, depending on what you mean by that. However, in making such a distinction, you are falsifying your definition of omnipresence.
      While on earth, Jesus said He had not yet ascended to the Father (Jn. 20:17), but He shortly ascended to the Father and sat down on His right hand (Mk. 16:19). However, if He fills every part of the universe, how could He ascend from earth and sit at God’s right hand? Was He not there just as much as He was before?
      If a Christian falls into sin and commits fornication, does the Holy Spirit cease to dwell literally in His body? If He does, does He cease to be in that part of the universe which is occupied by the body of that sinner? If so, does He not fail to be in His ontological Being in that part of the universe? If not, then how do you agree with Cottrell’s definition of omnipresence that God penetrates and fills every part of the universe?
      You cite John 3:13 as teaching Jesus’ omnipresence (and I am inclined to agree), but, as per your definition of omnipresence, Jesus, as God, was already on earth and in heaven. Then, how could He descend to where He already was or ascend to where He already was?
      The Scriptures say that God did (1 Kgs. 8:13; Psa. 132:13,14; Matt. 23:21), and did not (1 Kgs. 8:27; Acts 7:48; 17:24), dwell in the temple in Jerusalem. Yet, according to you definition of omnipresence, God did dwell in the physical temple in Jerusalem every bit as much, and in the same sense, as He dwells in heaven, because you and Jack Cottrell have said in His ontological Being, even in the totality of His essence, He penetrates and fills every part of the universe? Would that not include every molecule of Solomon’s temple? In fact, Solomon himself apparently understood the distinction between person and omnipresence, for He said in His dedicatory prayer that God did dwell in the temple he built (1 Kgs. 8:13) but later said He did not do so (vss. 27) but, instead, actually dwells in heaven (vs. 30). This is to be explained by the fact that Solomon understood that the temple was only the place where God manifested His presence (in that instance in the cloud which filled the temple, vss. 10,11) or, in a sense, met with His people or they met Him there.
      Whether God is in fire (Ex. 13:21) or not (1 Kgs. 19:12) is not to be taken literally but figuratively, since at times He can be in fire and at other times He is not. All this refers to is whether or not God speaks (cf. Psa. 99:7) or manifests Himself in fire. This does not have to do with whether or not His person is there or not. Yet, your definition does not allow for this, since it makes no distinction between God’s person and His presence.
      It seems to me that your (and Cottrell’s) definition of omnipresence leaves much to be desired and that we simply must make some distinction between God’s person and His presence in order to make sense of the Scriptures.
      Gary P. Eubanks, Aug. 19, 2017

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