I am currently reading Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology and last night I came across a section on God’s incommunicable attributes. This refers to the fact that God possesses certain attributes that he has not shared or passed on to mankind. For example, God is eternal and infinite in his being, having neither beginning nor end. However, man is finite and has a definite beginning. God is independent in that he does not depend on any source outside of himself to sustain his existence. Since he created all things he does not require creation to ‘Be’. Man cannot claim this attribute. These traits are opposite of his communicable attributes, or those qualities of God that he has shared or passed on to mankind. Examples of this would include God’s love, justice, and mercy. Man has the capacity to express each and everyone of these divine attributes, though not to the degree and scope that God does.
I found myself overwhelmed last night when I studied God’s incommunicable attribute of omnipresence. David writes in Psalm 139, “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!” (v. 7-8.) This is not to imply that God is a super-sized being who occupies the universe in a spatial way. As Grudem noted, God the Father is spirit and does not occupy a physical body as we understand it. His entire being permeates the entire expanse of the cosmos – and well beyond. We can’t say, for instance, that the hand of God is in the Milky Way and his finger is upon the earth in some kind of physical sense. What we can say is that God’s presence, his entire being, occupies the full measure of the Milky Way as well as across the entire face of the earth. His entire being equally occupies the space in my study, or the inner parts of my body or the chair I’m sitting in. Jeremiah 23:24 proclaims, “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth? says the LORD“. This may sound shockingly similar to the false teachings of Pantheism, but there is an important distinction. Pantheism teaches that God is everything and everything is God. This is not what the bible teaches. In the very first verse of Scripture we plainly see that God is distinct and utterly independent from his creation: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. (Genesis 1:1) God’s entire being is in all places at all times. This is what theologians intend to convey with the word omnipresence.
My mind cannot quite wrap around the concept of God being in all places at once. Especially considering it is his entire being that is present in all places. I just can’t comprehend it – but I do accept it. The counsel of Holy Scripture gives my mortal mind no choice but to believe and accept it. In turning this concept over in my mind, trying to visualize this intangible, incomprehensible God I was joltingly reminded of a recurring dream I had when I was a young boy. The dream was frighteningly vivid, causing beads of cold sweat to run down my forehead in the dead of night. I pondered the vision into my adulthood but just couldn’t make any sense out of it. It will be difficult for me to explain it, being rather incorporeal in nature, but I’ll give it a shot.
In this dream I am floating in a type of nebulous void. No material matter, other than myself, is present. I float aimlessly through the void for a time when I suddenly come face to face with what I can only describe as a wall. I cannot tell you what the wall was constructed from, I cannot at all describe the texture, but it extended endlessly in every direction. It didn’t appear to have any foundation as it ran forever downward. It had no top to scale for it extended upward beyond my sight. I could not navigate around it for it ran eternally to my right and left. As I came closer and closer, it appeared to grow larger and larger until it eclipsed my vision. The wall terrified me. In comparison to it I was nothing, less than a speck of dust. I felt small and insignificant. I felt that the colossus considered me, as if it were an intelligent entity, pondering my fate. I continued moving toward it but I just could not grasp its immeasurable depth and breadth. I could not define the object I beheld with my own eyes. My mind would become so overwhelmed by the majesty and horror of it that I would wake up suddenly, sitting upright in my bed, heart thundering in my chest.
As I consider the doctrine of God’s eternity and omnipresence I suddenly see how this enigmatic vision demonstrates how my limited human mind attempts to grasp God. I had little exposure to Christianity as a child, but my parents did teach me about the concept of God. I knew him to be big, powerful and in all places at all times. I think this dream was a 8-year-old mind wrestling with that understanding. I am now 37 and outside of the bible’s teaching I would be no closer to grasping the infinite majesty and holiness of God then when I was as a child. The Lord said to the prophet Isaiah, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Is 55:9). He is incomprehensible in the sense that he cannot be fully understood. The Holy Spirit empowers us to understand what he has revealed to us in his word. Yet,“The secret things belong to the LORD our God” (Deu 29:29). The bible reveals that God has “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:6-7). We, the people of God, will be in perpetual awe of his majesty and goodness throughout eternity. I don’t believe we will ever fully grasp God’s wonder, his holiness, goodness or mercy. More sobering still, is the knowledge that the reprobate in hell will never fully grasp his holy justice, anger and wrath. How does one fully comprehend the infinite and eternal? The saints will never tire of beholding the glory of his being or become weary of praising his perfections. God will never fail to leave us in awe over who he is and how kind, merciful and loving he is toward us.
My dream shows how awesome and incomprehensible God truly is. Even as an adult I have only understood in part, but I shall spend all eternity exploring just how majestic and glorious a God I love and serve.