The Challenge of Omnipresence

[Excerpt from: A Spiritual Journey] 

After a talk that I gave, where I spoke of the concept of the omnipresence of God – everywhere present, equally at the same time – I was challenged by an individual who considered the negative thinking of a person as a place where God is not. They reasoned that the only way God could be present in the negative thinking of a person was for God to have the capacity to think negatively.

It is, of course, difficult for many to set aside their anthropomorphic views of God and think instead in terms of law and principle. A person can hold the belief, for example, that 2+2=5. We could argue that the principle of mathematics states that 2+2=4, and this is true everywhere but in the thinking of the person who holds that 2+2=5. Does this person’s false belief actually create a place where 2+2 does not equal 4? No. The principle of mathematics remains applicable everywhere, regardless of the erroneous thinking of any individual. Their mistaken thinking does not create some special vortex where mathematical principles make exceptions and do not apply.

We know there was a time when the public held that the earth was flat. Did this universally accepted belief in any way alter the fact that the earth is and has always been round? Of course it didn’t. Believing it to be so did not make it so; it only made it appear to be so. A flat earth has never existed.

We say thoughts are things. Does this mean that if I hold in my mind the thought that God does not exist, I have created a place where God is not? Things, after all, are objects that occupy their own unique space. A rock is a thing. Are we prepared to say that a rock lying on the ocean floor represents a place where the ocean does not exist? If you pull the rock from the ocean, it is true that you would then have a rock and an ocean. If the ocean were omnipresent, however, it would not be possible to separate the two.

A false belief and the thinking it generates does not represent a place where God is not. The young Jacob’s belief that he had traveled outside of God’s presence while fleeing his brother’s wrath did not make it true. It seemed true to him only because he accepted a false belief passed on by his ancestral authorities. The belief that he could leave the presence of God evoked the same level of fear and uncertainty as if it were true. His dream, however, opened his eyes to what was actually true.

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I did not know it.” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven” (Genesis 28:16-17).

We can probably generate dozens of clever riddles and word games to undermine the truth of the omnipresence of God. To do so, however, places us in a weakened position. The above text states that Jacob was afraid, but the proper word, as indicated in his exclamation, should have been awestruck. He was, in fact, suddenly free of fear, totally empowered to move forward with a level of enthusiasm that had been absent while fleeing the wrath of his brother. Yesterday he had been running from a problem. Today he was running to a new possibility. Aside from his own attitude, nothing in the entire universe had changed. Generations of worshiping a localized God did nothing to confine God to a specific locality. It only affected the way Jacob and his family thought of God.

The truth of omnipresence makes it possible for us to say, wherever I am, God is. Poking logic holes in the idea only makes it possible for us to say, God is everywhere but where I am. With this logic, we can justify our misery and our failures, if this is what we want to do. How much better it is to know the full power of God is behind us always, every moment of every day. The instant we awaken to this truth is the instant we become empowered by it.

In the work of ministry, someone is always raising a question because something they read or heard does not jive with their understanding. Those of us involved in ministry do well to seize such opportunities to think through and clarify our understanding of the implications of the issue in question. In the past, we could simply accept it on faith. Now we need settle for nothing less than understanding faith that makes it possible to explain the spiritual logic behind an otherwise abstract teaching.

Omnipresence is not merely a thing we affirm. It is a potent reality that enables us to awaken from our sleep, to rise from our fears and our feelings of being trapped in a life we do not want and to move forward into the life we do want.

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