Geerhardus Vos – Omnipresence

1. Non-Occurrence of the Term in Scripture:

Neither the noun “omnipresence” nor adjective “omnipresent” occurs in Scripture, but the idea that God is everywhere present is throughout presupposed and sometimes explicitly formulated. God’s omnipresence is closely related to His omnipotence and omniscience: that He is everywhere enables Him to act everywhere and to know all things, and, conversely, through omnipotent action and omniscient knowledge He has access to all places and all secrets (compare Ps 139:1-24). Thus conceived, the attribute is but the correlate of the monotheistic conception of God as the Infinite Creator, Preserver and Governor of the universe, immanent in His works as well as transcendent above them.

2. Philosophical and Popular Ideas of Omnipresence:

The philosophical idea of omnipresence is that of exemption from the limitations of space, subjectively as well as objectively; subjectively, in so far as space, which is a necessary form of all created consciousness in the sphere of sense-perception, is not thus constitutionally inherent in the mind of God; objectively, in so far as the actuality of space-relations in the created world imposes no limit upon the presence and operation of God. This metaphysical conception of transcendence above all space is, of course, foreign to the Bible, which in regard to this, as in regard to the other transcendent attributes, clothes the truth of revelation in popular language, and speaks of exemption from the limitations of space in terms and figures derived from space itself. Thus, the very term “omnipresence” in its two component parts “everywhere” and “present” contains a double inadequacy of expression, both the notion of “everywhere” and that of “presence” being spacial concepts. Another point, in regard to which the popular nature of the Scriptural teaching on this subject must be kept in mind, concerns the mode of the divine omnipresence. In treating the concept philosophically, it is of importance to distinguish between its application to the essence, to the activity, and to the knowledge of God. The Bible does not draw these distinctions in the abstract. Although sometimes it speaks of God’s omnipresence with reference to the pervasive immanence of His being, it frequently contents itself with affirming the universal extent of God’s power and knowledge (De 4:39; 10:14; Ps 139:6-16; Pr 15:3; Jer 23:23-24; Am 9:2).

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