“Its 10:00 pm. Do you know where yourGod Is?”
The answer in classical Christian theologies -with exceptions–is that God is everywhere. And it is a very serious question.
Yet logically, He who is everywhere is as if nowhere as well, and may verge in the future toward a secular or even nihilistic answer.
New Testament Revelation Teaches that the Lord God Is At All Times.
The Prologue of St. John contradicts as an answer to God’s location that He is -only-everywhere, the classical orthodoxy rapidly contributing to the secularization of our culture. “Everywhere” is the start of a description, by virtue of localization, of a Nowhere Man deity.
Statement of the Scriptural Origins of the Question: On “Story” in Scripture
The first view verses of the Gospel of John, the Prologue, immediately broaden how the narrative of the Lord’s temporal existence includes both (a) his being everywhereas the True Light and also (b) localized as the Savior.
Whenever we meet Him in Scripture, do we not meet him in a local context, within the context of a revelationthat is the revealed telling of a narrative? Why narrative?
“A religious explanation . . . does not resolve a dispassionate query of interest,” notes Paul Holmer, Noah Porter of Philosophical Theology Emeritus in his book, The Grammar of Faith.
But in narrative, the purpose of theological language then intends “to intensify and to purify religious passion,” id. At p. 69.
Metaphysics, science, theology-we are gradually learning– are not “necessarily incompatible. But they are in fact incommensurable,” id, but thereby protected by each other’s criticisms. Narrative combines without loss of all forms of truth through reductionism into just science, or just theology, but also all these truths in to a narrative that aims through the power of the Holy Spirit to nourish a spirit like ours, through the form of story.
Narrative Acquaints Us with the Savior and His Doctrines
And from scriptural narrative we typically learn about the Lord. Teach all of us the stories of Jesus, especially those stories you played a part in.
We may learn from scriptural narrative what we notice. Does He speak? Orgo silent? Is He interacting with an ambitious disciple, with the dregs of society, or to an innocent child? What makes the Lord happy, and what breaks the Lord’s heart? Perhaps we see the Lord performing and teaching a basic action, like prayer or healing (even on the Sabbath). Or only apparently alone heading out to the desert, without his disciples. From a single scripture in the Book of Mormon, for example, we can picture him -perhaps though a glass darkly–as best we can imagine bringing order out of chaos. III Nephi 9:15.
And so too, we learn even how He is both everywhere as Light, the Light enlightening all, but in a localized position too, as He sits even now, at the right hand of the Father, awaiting with us the “last things” and their “yet not yet” culmination, as the Yale-trained theologian Richard Fern puts it in a recent book. Narrative in the Prologue rules out the Lord only being everywhere.
Simultaneous with God the Son’s specific location within time and space, the Lord’s being -also– everywhere as part of the equation’s answer has led to confusions both acute and chronic, for both Christendom and Mormon investigators.
Statement of a Solution, Statement of a Question
“Ask the wrong question,” the professor warned, “and you will get the wrong answer.”
The traditional questionif God is everywhere is a misstatement of the question that arises directly from the Prologue or first verses to the Gospel of John as John therein manifests it.
As the Doctrine and Covenants at Section 88:41 can clarify–and as the Father of President Eyring of the First Presidency explained shortly before his death of bone cancer-quote:“God is both a personage with body and location and a power and influence pervading everything, everywhere.”
The Prologue of the Gospel of John: A Double Answer is Required
“In Him was life; and His life was the light of men.
“All creation took place though Him because in Him was life, and that life was the light of men.He is the true Light.The light was light absolute and in Him appeared life. He is the source of life.
“We can bear witness to having seen his glory, the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father that the Only Begotten-his unique Son– was in the world that had its being through him. For in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made and without him was not anything made that was made.
“And Christ became a human being and lived here on earth among us and was full of loving kindness or grace and truth.”
All quotations above are from The Gospel According to Saint John, Chapter One. They have a literary or poeticordering or translation fromthe Prologue to verse 14.
What the Prologue Teaches Us All
The Word is situated in the Prologue in a locale, a place on Earth, while also described as light absolute, the true Light, which was the source of life because that life was the light of men.
Again, Father Eyring can explain this: God is both a personage with body and location and a power and influence pervading everything, everywhere.
Also, Elder Joseph Fielding Smith unpacks this explanation to bring it perhaps closer to each of us in volume I of Doctrines of Salvation, when discussing section 84, chapter 3. If we find in the Judgment, a righteous judgment, that we have sinned, our self-consciousness will become alert that those sins were also against the constituent dimension of the True Light that originally formed us. Sounds soul-shattering-without a word from God. Just to have used the Light of our creation in constructing habits of Darkness, no wonder we would wish to be hid under mountains. Which wouldn’t really help-the pain is in our heart already.
The Hazards of Logic-Chopping with the Scriptures
I most recently came across Augustine’s theory of God’s omnipresence while editing a colleague’s soon to be published book by an Oxbridge University Press.
Said Augustine of God’s location, “He is present everywhere, and entirely everywhere; we can reach Him then not by foot, but by character.” A theologian but in modern times, Thomas F. Torrance, takes exception to Augustine-as a scientist as much a theologian, and he’s my candidate for the next C.S. Lewis after graduation from all of the works of Lewis, has to choose his words much more carefully.
“While the Word or Son of God is identical with God himself,” this is Torrance,”yet he is also clearly distinguished from the Father through his incarnation and crucifixion. And he is also clearly dististinguished from the Holy Spirit through whom Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, by whom he fulfilled his earthly ministry, through whom he offered himself to God in atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world, and by whom he rose again from the dead, the same Spirit whom the ascended Lord poured out upon the Church at Pentecost as other than himself.
“It is then of this one God in his intrinsically homoousial and perichoretic relations as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that we are to think of him as Sovereign Creator.”
There are explanations why Torrance here harmonizes with the Trinitarian teachings of the Book of Mormon-explanations that go far beyond the present topic in much less pretentious words (though to Torrance they were not pretentious). Still Father Eyring has expressed the answer with a clarity we are grateful for.
Two books are recommended for further research: by Henry Eyring, Reflections of a Scientist (Deseret Book 1983) and the works of Thomas F. Torrance. The quote above is from The Christian Doctrine of God (T&T Clark 1996). On narrative, see the posthumously published Theology & Narrative, by Hans Frei, and on dealing as I have here with Scripture, see the notes at 23 for a start.