When I was growing up in Chattanooga, my dad was fond of reminding his teenage sons that he had “eyes all over Chattanooga.” And there were times when he knew things about our lives that we had no idea how he found out. So one might imagine that he was “omnipresent.” But, of course, he was not. It was just his way of trying to help us behave ourselves! Looking back on it, we did do just that, well, most of the time.
Of course my dad was not ubiquitous. Indeed there was no way a flesh and blood human being could be “present everywhere at the same time.” However, that claim is made for God by the Holy Bible and has been given credence by many biblical scholars and theologians, not to mention preachers. The Psalmist says: “Whither shall I go from thy spirit, or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there; if I take my bed in sheol (a lifeless place/hell), behold, thou art there.” Psalm 139:7,8. God is present everywhere.
One theologian has said, “If there were such a thing as getting to a place where God could not be found, then it would be as though God did not exist.” In the Christian understanding of God such a thing is impossible. As Christians, we believe that God is, as the Gospels teach, “near” each of us. We believe that “in him we live, and move, and have our being.” Acts 17:28
At the very heart of our religion is the notion that we can seek and find God anywhere and everywhere. And that God can come to us at any time in any place. Or to put it another way, the thought that God can be worshiped anywhere and everywhere allows for experiencing the sacred in all kinds of places. It is the Bible that reminds us that Moses experienced the presence of God in a burning bush, that God was with God’s people in the desert, that God spoke to Elijah in the cleft of a rock by way of a still small voice, that God visited the temple courts and appeared to Isaiah and God in Christ came face to face with Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus road.
God is near and because God is near we are able to communicate with God. Perhaps Tennyson’s words speak as clearly to this particular understanding of God’s omnipresence in his “Higher Pantheism”;
“Speak thou to him, for he hears,
And spirit with spirit can meet;
Closer is God than breathing,
And nearer than hands and feet.”
– Doug Fairbanks
We believe that God is “The Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last.” In other words, we believe that God is and shall always be.
So, what about the divine attribute of eternity? This attribute allows us to think of God’s timelessness. Scripture says that “The eternal God is our refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Or to put it another way, the divine attribute of eternity means that God’s existence has no limits; God inhabits eternity. This gives us the assurance that God is not the creature of a day. There is stability, there is purpose, there is strength, there is hope, there is security. Thus, we are assured that God is sustaining us in and through everything (“the good, the bad, the ugly”) for always.
We can find in this particular idea of God’s eternity the inspiration to believe that the ways of God, according to the late Rev. Dr. Franklin N. Parker, “…….will yet bring peace out of the storm and order out of disorder and an eternal home unshadowed by doubt and sin, giving to God’s children the secret of strength and undying service.”
Perhaps the Psalmist sums up the divine attribute of eternity the best in the following words: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam though the mountains tremble with its tumult. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns.” Psalm 46: 1-5
The morning always “dawns” and God is always there when the morning dawns ready and willing to help.
– Doug Fairbanks
For the next few weeks, I am going to share with you what are considered, by many theologians, The Divine Attributes of God. These attributes include Omnipotence, Eternity, Omnipresence and Omniscience. So, what does each attribute tell us about our understanding of God? Also, I hope that a little different slant on these attributes will help us appreciate even more, what God has to offer us and the importance of what we choose to receive from God really is.
Omnipotence as defined by Webster means “having unlimited power or authority; all powerful.” And, often when this attribute has been ascribed to God, Webster’s definition is the one used by most believers. However, I would argue that a better understanding of God’s omnipotence comes from the following thought.
For instance, in The Creed we affirm that God is our Father almighty. How we understand almighty is very important in our appreciation of the word omnipotent. I believe a better way to look at this attribute of God is to understand that it means that God has sufficient resources for every life, for every need and the perfect fulfillment of God’s own desires. Getting our heads and hearts around this may take time, as we understand that God does not constrain any of God’s creatures, but moves so that they will act from their own wills (we have free will!).
The above helps us appreciate the fact that God does not use God’s almightiness to coerce, but beckons to us in order to bring to pass God’s plans and purposes so as to achieve the moral ends of life. Thus, as Christians, we are confident that God will withhold no good thing from our necessity. In other words, God does not withhold good from us. We choose whether or not to accept it.
Again, in this particular understanding of God’s Omnipotence, we appreciate that God is indeed “the source of human good” always ready, willing and able to guide our moral senses. God has all the resources necessary for a moral life and a moral world. In this way God is truly omnipotent! However, that is not the challenge. The challenge has been and continues to be whether or not we accept the good that God offers?
– Doug Fairbanks
In the preface of her new book entitled Solidarity Ethics: Transformation in a Globalized World, Rebecca Todd Peters discusses the idea of seeing with new eyes. She reminds the reader of the ethic of solidarity. Peters believes that when people of privilege engage in relationships with those who are different from them, there is an opportunity to help understand the social problems faced by others. She further implies that seeing with new eyes helps to change our vantage points and can disrupt what we think we know.
The core of solidarity entails the truth of Ephesians 4:25, which declares that we are all “…members of one another.” It reminds us of our mutual belonging to common humanity that is at the heart of Christian social ethics. Pope John Paul II said that “Solidarity is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people…On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common goal; that is to say, to the good of all of each individual, because we are really responsible for all.” In fulfillment of our primary calling may we seek to do all we can to rebuild bonds of solidarity as God uses us to transform lives, locally and globally.
– Linda McDaniel
You may recall a commercial from many years ago that pictured a man being slapped on the face with after shave lotion saying, “Thanks, I needed that.”
In my readings I came across a quote by the late Rev. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, the great proponent of positive thinking and the positive power of Jesus Christ. Many did not know two very important things about Dr. Peale. For one, he was prone to negative thinking himself at times. He once said that his greatest enemy was “The little man inside.” For another, Marble Collegiate Church, of which he was the Senior Pastor for sixty plus years, was very much involved in outreach ministries in the city of New York. And under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Michael Brown it continues to listen and respond to a variety of social needs in that great city.
The quote: “Keep thinking, keep interested, keep praying, keep dreaming. Be mentally sensitive at all times so that the magic word that motivates you may one day speak to your deep inner self.”
Today, I am looking heavenward and saying, “Thanks, Dr. Peale, I needed that.”
– Doug Fairbanks