Some Perils Of Current Views Of Immanence -- By: George S. Rollins

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 065:257 (Jan 1908)
Article: Some Perils Of Current Views Of Immanence
Author: George S. Rollins

Some Perils Of Current Views Of Immanence

George S. Rollins

Every great and precious truth suffers from perversion. Unfair applications are made of it, unjustifiable conclusions are drawn from it, and sometimes it is so confused with specious error as either to lose its proper place and function, or be put under the ban of suspicion. Such is the peril that now threatens that inspiring and comforting conception of God comprehended under the term immanence. When the preacher refers to some aspects of this doctrine, unless he is unusually clear and discriminating, he will be misunderstood. Either he will be set down as a pantheist, or be interpreted as favoring Christian Science, Theosophy, New Thought, or some other of the current sects, most of which are propagating a jumble of subjective idealism and Hindu pantheism.

What Immanence Is

1. It is a theory of the mode of the divine existence. Immanence means indwelling. It is the essential indwelling of God in the universe. Yet he is distinct from the universe which he has made and is superior to it. Bowne defines the doctrine thus: “God is the omnipresent ground of all finite existence … the world continually depends upon, and is upheld by the ever-living, ever-present, ever-working God.” Illingworth, basing his view upon the analogy of the indwelling spirit of man in his body, says: “The divine presence

which we recognize in nature will be the presence of a Spirit which infinitely transcends the material order, yet indwells it.” John Caird affirms: “God is not simply the Creator of the world, but the inward principle and ground of its being.” Clark describes immanence as “omnipresent energy,” and adds, “Immanence means that God is everywhere and always present in the universe, while transcendence means that He is not limited by it. He is a free Spirit inhabiting His universe, but surpassing it.” Some one has illustrated the immanence of God in the world by a sponge filled with water. The water is in every part of the sponge. The illustration fails in that it contains no suggestion of the transcendence of God. It seems to invest God in the world in such a way as to deprive him of freedom and transcendence. Illingworth’s suggestion is wiser. God is in his world as I am in my body. Yet I am greater than my body. I transcend it. I am in every part of my body, potentially. It may be convenient to aid thought with some such illustration, because it is difficult to associate our ideas of personality with that of a universal Spirit. We are accustomed to thinking in the terms of time and space. Hence we localize God. The Hebrews did the same thing. Yet the attempt to free the idea of God from spatial limitations is inevitable i...

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