A country song some time ago said, “I ain’t never had too much fun.” It went on to say all the things that were better with more quantity. Whether you would have the same list or not, a good principle underlies the song – some things don’t need to be balanced out but must be fully embraced. This is true when we consider a couple of God’s attributes. The danger is trying to balance them out and losing something special. There is another way.

God is Big

First, think about the attribute of God’s transcendence. This is the idea that God is big. He is greater than we can imagine. He is above and beyond this created world. It is the idea that God is “wholly other” and emphasizes the creature/creator distinction. The medieval church emphasized this attribute and even captured it in architecture, which sought to capture the grandeur of God and lift the person’s gaze upward.[1]

The error associated with God’s transcendence is thinking that God is unapproachable or uninvolved in his creation. We might call this the God as clockmaker error. 

God is Near

Next, turn to the attribute of God’s immanence. Immanence emphasizes that God is near. God is not uninvolved or uncaring when it comes to His creation, but He is intimately involved. He is not a clockmaker God who creates the world and then lets it run. Instead, he cares for it and is always at hand.

An error associated with God’s immanence is thinking that God is just like us and not having proper reverence and awe. We might think of this as the “Jesus is my boyfriend” or “God is just like me” error. 

A Big God Who Is Near

How do we think about these two aspects? Can we have too much immanence or too much transcendence? Is that what the errors are from? Is that where we go wrong? I want to argue that we don’t need to balance them; instead, we should press into both, and that will even out the errors. In other words, the answer to the problems is not less of one but more of both. We combat the improper reverence not by dialing back God’s immanence but by properly recognizing God’s transcendence. In the same way, we rid ourselves of the clockmaker God not by neglecting transcendence but by giving immanence its proper weight. 

What About You?

It’s impossible to imagine God as too near or as too big. Is there one that you’re not giving its proper weight? Press into both firmly. God is big, and God is near.

[1] Stanley Grenz, David Guretzki, and Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 115.