The Divine Transcendence -- By: David Foster Estes

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 076:304 (Oct 1919)
Article: The Divine Transcendence
Author: David Foster Estes

The Divine Transcendence *

David Foster Estes

[The paradoxes of science are matched by the paradoxes of theology. Freedom and certainty, immanence and transcendence, have always perplexed systematic theologians. Their harmonization seems about as difficult as the squaring of the circle. Nevertheless, there is an ultimate harmony.

In accordance with the policy of Bibliotheca Sacra to present both sides of important doctrines which are in dispute (illustrated by the articles upon Millenarianism in the July No.), we are glad to present the accompanying paper as a counterpart to the one, by the same eminent theologian, on Divine Immanence which we published last year (July, 1918, pp. 399—128).

These two papers state both sides of the subject in a manner to merit universal attention, and should do much to justify faith in both aspects of God’s inscrutable but inspiring attributes here brought to view.—Editor.]

In these days it is as important to assert and to guard the doctrine of the Divine Transcendence as to emphasize the Divine Immanence. Over against the many who deny or ignore, the doctrine must be asserted as an important, an essential part of the truth of God; while over against the many who exaggerate or misapprehend, it must be stated with clearness and accuracy, in order that these errors, which presumably are as perennial as multiform, may yet be minimized so far as possible. In the progress of human thought these two ideas of immanence and transcendence have too often stood over against each other as if challenging the world to choose between them. In the intellectual and spiritual experiences of individual thinkers the emphasis on the one or the other has too often led to what has been practically Pantheism or practically Deism. Those who have come to combine the two ideas

* Copyright, 1919, D. F. Estes.

have perhaps more often made the pilgrimage from transcendence to immanence than from immanence to transcendence; yet such is the vogue and ascendancy of the idea of immanence to-day, at least in popular literature and common speech, that it may be better in this discussion to take the hitherto less traveled road, and, assuming the fact of the Divine Immanence, to consider the grounds for holding also to the Divine Transcendence and the significance and importance of this truth.

To those who accept the truth of immanence it often seems in itself sufficient and satisfying. But, however vital monogamy may be to the welfare of society, intellectual monogamy is no virtue; and they greatly err who act as if the Mosaic prohibition, “Thou Shalt not take a woman to her sister, to be a rival...

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