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  • Love and Liberty

Nowhere and Everywhere?

Does God have a form that can be seen?

Many claim that God cannot be seen because the Bible says 1) he is Spirit and 2) he is said to be invisible. While it certainly says both, could it be that assumptions borrowed from Platonic doctrines contributed to faulty explanations of what it means for God to be Spirit and what it means for God to be invisible?

As Spirit, God is not flesh and blood, but this does not mean that being Spirit rules out having a physical or material form.

Being invisible means that something cannot be seen. But this does not mean the object cannot be seen under any circumstances, only that for some reason it is hidden from view. An object can be veiled so that it is invisible, but why would it need to be veiled if it was “unseeable?”

The Bible identifies instances where God appears to have taken on human form, but does God have a form, albeit veiled, that can be seen if he chooses to reveal himself?

Notice what the Bible tells us in Exodus 33. The Word says:

“And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle.” Exodus 33:11

I bring up this verse first, because later in the chapter we read that God told Moses that no one can see his face and live. Some see this as a contradiction, but the scriptures show this is not the case. The key word is the word “spake” in verse 11. Moses could speak with God “face to face”, an idiom expressing the fact that Moses could speak to God directly, but not see his face directly.

Numbers 12:6-8 says:

“And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”

The Lord communicated with Moses differently than he did others. God would speak to him directly, unlike he would the prophets, and we even read that God said Moses would behold his similitude. As we go further in Exodus 11, we notice that Moses indeed would see God, though God would not allow him to see his face.

“And Moses said unto the Lord, See, thou sayest unto me, Bring up this people: and thou hast not let me know whom thou wilt send with me. Yet thou hast said, I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight. Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people. And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest. And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence.

For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth. And the Lord said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name.

And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory. And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.

And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. And the Lord said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.”

God himself stated he has a face that can be seen, but God has veiled himself, that is, made himself invisible as it were, for no man shall see his face and live.

God himself stated that he would cover Moses with his hand while he passed by, thus protecting him from the full glory of God that no mortal man can behold and continue to live.

God himself said that he would take away his hand and that Moses would be allowed to see his back parts.

“It’s just an anthropomorphism” we are told by those who reject that God has a form.

Though there are metaphors and figures of speech in the Word, none of them are meant to be deceptive or to convey something that is the opposite of the picture they are portraying. What would God be teaching here if this is a metaphor? A metaphor for what? That God doesn’t really have a form or substance, but he is going to pretend that he does to humor Moses, his friend? God could’ve easily said, I am unable to be seen Moses – I am an invisible Spirit, but I will take on the form of something you can look upon. That’s not what happened.

The only reason why many will reject that God has a material form is because that is not what they have been conditioned to believe. I can go with the opinions of men so that I fit in, or I can take the Word of God at face value and say – God is not flesh and blood, but he has a form that can be seen, though he keeps it hidden from mankind.

Perhaps the main reason people say God cannot be seen is because of the influence of Platonic thought in the early Church. Plato was a Greek philosopher (influenced by Socrates) whose thoughts shaped the views of some of the people connected to the early Church. Hebrew conceptions of God were replaced by the notions of Greek philosophy, and this has impacted other doctrines as well.

Is God everywhere all of the time?

The Bible repeatedly speaks of God as being in an exact location, or having spatial dimensions, not everywhere all of the time.

“In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.” Isaiah 6:1

Must be another anthropomorphism.

And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.” Revelation 4:2-3

One can argue that the Book of Revelation is highly symbolic and that visions are not meant to be literal, and I do not completely disagree, but would God give John a vision of himself that was very unlike God?

God is not depicted here as formless, omnipresent, and immaterial but as one who sits on a throne and to look upon him is like looking upon a jasper and a sardine stone.

It reminds one of Daniel’s words:

I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire” (Daniel 7:9).

In 1 Kings 8:30, we read that heaven is God’s dwelling place:

And hearken thou to the supplication of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place: and hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place: and when thou hearest, forgive.

Do we believe the Bible, or the words of men?

In Genesis 3, the Word says God was walking in the garden and Adam and Eve hid themselves from his presence. But isn’t God everywhere all of the time?

“And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.”

In Genesis 4 Cain leaves the presence of the Lord and moves to another land. Is it possible to leave the presence of the Lord?

“And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.”

In Exodus 24 God tells Moses to come up to him on the mountain. Wasn’t God already wherever Moses was standing?

“And the Lord said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them.”

These verses do not portray God’s person filling all space.

But the Bible says this:

“Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord" (Jeremiah 23:23-24).

And this:

“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 make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me” (Psalm 139:7-10).

Solomon said this:

But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?

And this:

The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3).

What do these verses teach? Do they contradict the verses I listed earlier?

First, I must point out a contradiction by those who claim that God is immaterial, but then say that God is everywhere all of the time. On its face, this is a nonsensical statement. If God is not physical in some sense, perhaps super physical, he cannot be anywhere, much less everywhere. How can an invisible, immaterial, non-spatial God be omnipresent in the sense that he fills every molecule in the physical universe?

Some have identified this problem and have posited various ways of explaining that God filling the heavens, and his eyes being in every place, has to do with his power and knowledge not his personal presence.

“This way of understanding God’s presence by reference to his power and his knowledge treats the predicate ‘is present’ as applied to God as analogical with its application to ordinary physical things….As applied to God, ‘is present’ is neither univocal (used with the same meaning as in ordinary contexts) nor equivocal (used with an unrelated meaning).” (Source)

Can God see everything? The Bible says his eyes are in every place, so yes, but it doesn’t describe how this occurs. Some suggest that God's spirit agents are his eyes and keep him informed. The point I wish to make here is that the Lord’s eyes being in every place doesn’t refer to his location, but his knowledge of current events. Can he choose not to see or know something he does not want to? According to Genesis 18:20-21 God can choose not to know what is going on when wickedness is transpiring. He doesn’t watch, he isn’t there, and it doesn’t automatically become a part of his knowledge. In fact, David did not assume that all that is in existence automatically becomes a part of God’s knowledge for he asked God to search him, to see if there was any wicked way in him. God searches to find out, at least some things, according to the Bible.

I affirm that God can perceive and do anything, anywhere, at any time, without being present in person. God is present everywhere by having the ability to know all that is in the universe, and because there is no area of the universe beyond his power to act or intervene, and no part of the universe beyond the reach of his spirit.

The Bible says:

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Here is just one example of many of Christ speaking of God as being in heaven, not physically present in every part of the universe.

“And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.”

Why does the Bible speak of God in these terms? Did he come down to see the city and the tower, or not?

“The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.”

Some will call this figurative speech. Was Christ using figurative speech when he said that God the Father is in heaven?

Taking all of this into consideration, what might David have meant when he said:

“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 make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.”

David had a tendency to use poetic expressions in his writings for emphasis (Psalm 51 is a prime example) and the same is likely true in this Psalm. The Bible writers did use figures of speech, but disagreement arises over what is literal and what is a figure of speech. Following the principle of non-contradiction is helpful. When we read passages of scripture that clearly tell us something using straightforward speech, our interpretations of other passages should not contradict these. Unfortunately, many in Church history have imposed extra-biblical concepts on the Word and then interpret the seemingly straight forward passages by their unscriptural assumptions. The Bible says that Cain left the presence of the Lord and moved to another location. This cannot be metaphorical. It either happened or it did not, and I for one will not accept that the Bible tells us things that are the opposite of what actually occurred. So David was speaking about God being with him, no matter where he goes, no matter what he does, not about God inhabiting every molecule in the universe. Why do many Christians reject this evidence that God is not everywhere all of the time?

What about Jeremiah 23:24?

“Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.”

In this chapter, God proclaims a coming judgment of the wicked and he emphasizes that no one will be able to hide. But is it because God inhabits every molecule in the universe and necessarily sees all? Here again many contradict themselves by saying that God is outside of the realm of physicality, yet he sees all and knows all because he is omnipresent, that is, again, he inhabits every molecule in the universe. The implication of their teaching is God is both nowhere and everywhere at the same time. And they have the nerve to criticize others for not accepting their view of God.

It appears to me that God has a form (as the Bible reveals), that his throne is in heaven, that he keeps himself veiled (he is hidden from mankind), and that he is infinitely resourceful, and no part of the universe lies beyond his knowledge and power, and the reach of his spirit. Though I do not see the necessity of using the term omnipresence, it might be said that omnipresence is a function of God, rather than a physical description of God.

God has a surveillance system unparalleled in the world. He has innumerable spirit beings, or angels, acting as his eyes and messengers in the universe. God does not have to be physically present everywhere at all times; he can receive information from his creatures. In the Book of Daniel we read that God even uses angels to answer prayer, and that answers to prayer can be hindered because of conflict between his holy angels and the powers of darkness.

"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

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