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|Attributes of God|
The omnipresence of a supreme being is conceived differently by different religious systems. In monotheistic beliefs like Christianity, Judaism, and Islam the divine and the universe are separate, but the divine is present everywhere. In pantheistic beliefs the divine and the universe are identical. In panentheistic beliefs the divine interpenetrates the universe, but extends beyond it in time and space.
Hinduism, and other religions that derive from it, incorporate the theory of transcendent and immanent omnipresence which is the traditional meaning of the word, Brahman. This theory defines a universal and fundamental substance, which is the source of all physical existence.
Divine omnipresence is thus one of the divine attributes, although in Western Christianity it has attracted less philosophical attention than such attributes as omnipotence, omniscience, or being eternal.
In western theism, omnipresence is roughly described as the ability to be "present everywhere at the same time", referring to an unbounded or universal presence. Omnipresence means minimally that there is no place to which God’s knowledge and power do not extend. It is related to the concept of ubiquity, the ability to be everywhere or in many places at once. This includes unlimited temporal presence. William Lane Craig states that we shouldn’t think of God as being in space in the sense of being spread out like an invisible ether throughout space. He is not like an invisible gas that is everywhere present in space. This would be incorrect for several reasons. For one, it would mean that if the universe is finite, which is perfectly possible, then God would be finite. We do not want to say that because God is infinite. More seriously, if God is spread out throughout space, like an invisible ether, that means that he is not fully present everywhere.
Some argue that omnipresence is a derived characteristic: an omniscient and omnipotent deity knows everything and can be and act everywhere, simultaneously. Others propound a deity as having the "Three O's", including omnipresence as a unique characteristic of the deity. Most Christian denominations — following theology standardized by the Nicene Creed — explains the concept of omnipresence in the form of the "Trinity", by having a single deity (God) made up of three omnipresent persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Several ancient cultures such as the Vedic and the Native American civilizations share similar views on omnipresent nature; the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans did not worship an omnipresent being. While most Paleolithic cultures followed polytheistic practices, a form of omnipresent deity arises from a worldview that does not share ideas with mono-local deity cultures. Some omnipresent religions see the whole of existence as a manifestation of the deity. There are two predominant viewpoints here: pantheism, deity is the summation of Existence; and panentheism, deity is an emergent property of existence. The first is closest to the Native Americans' worldview; the latter resembles the Vedic outlook.
Judeo-Christian beliefs constitute a third opinion on omnipresence. To both mainstream Jewish and Christian religions, God is omnipresent. However, the major difference between these monotheistic religions and other religious systems is that God is still transcendent to His creation and yet immanent in relating to creation. God is not immersed in the substance of creation, even though he is able to interact with it as he chooses. He cannot be excluded from any location or object in creation. God's presence is continuous throughout all of creation, though it may not be revealed in the same way at the same time to people everywhere. At times, he may be actively present in a situation, while he may not reveal that he is present in another circumstance in some other area. The Bible states that God can be both present to a person in a manifest manner (Psalm 46:1, Isaiah 57:15) as well as being present in every situation in all of creation at any given time (Psalm 33:13-14). Specifically, Oden states (pg. 68-69) that the Bible shows that God can be present in every aspect of human life:
- God is naturally present in every aspect of the natural order, in every level of causality, every fleeting moment and momentous event of natural history...(Psalm 8:3, Isaiah 40:12, Nahum 1:3)
- God is actively present in a different way in every event in history as provident guide of human affairs (Psalm 48:7)
- God is in a special way attentively present to those who call upon his name, intercede for others, who adore God, who petition, who pray earnestly for forgiveness (Gospel of Matthew 18:19, Book of Acts 17:27)
- God is judicially present in moral awareness, through conscience (Psalm 48:1-2, Epistle to the Romans 1:20)
- God is bodily present in the incarnation of his Son, Jesus Christ (Gospel of John 1:14, Colossians 2:9)
- God is mystically present in the Eucharist, and through the means of grace in the church, the body of Christ (Ephesians 2:12, John 6:56)
- God is sacredly present and becomes known in special places where God chooses to meet us, places that become set apart by the faithful remembering community (1 Corinthians 11:23-29) where it may said: "Truly the Lord is in this place" (Genesis 28:16, Matthew 18:20)"
In the Judeo-Christian religions, God is omnipresent in a way that he is able to interact with his creation however he chooses, and is the very essence of his creation. While contrary to normal physical intuitions, such omnipresence is logically possible by way of the classic geometric point or its equivalent, in that such a point is, by definition, within all of space without taking up any space.
- Oxford Dictionary of English: http://www.askoxford.com/concise_oed/omnipresent
- Craig, William Lane. "Doctrine of God (part 9)". Retrieved 20 May 2014.
- "ubiquity". Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. Retrieved 2013-01-18.
- "Nature and Attributes of God". Catholic Encyclopedia. NewAdvent.org. September 1, 1909. Retrieved 2013-01-18.
- Craig, William Lane. "Doctrine of God (part 8)". Retrieved 20 May 2014.
- Oden, Thomas C. The Living God. Systematic Theology Vol. 1, 67.
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