Last week we established the testimony of Scripture that God is Transcendent. We looked at a host of passages that indisputably teach that God is transcendent. Here are only a few offered to remind us of where we covered last week;
It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,
Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain
And spreads them out like a tent to live in. Isaiah 40:22
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9
I Chronicles 29:11 Yours, Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and on the earth; Yours is the dominion, Lord, and You exalt Yourself as head over all.
Solomon confesses that God transcends containment by the temple
I Kings 8:27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the [a]highest heaven cannot contain You, how much less this house which I have built!
Elihu declares the Lord to be beyond reach
The Almighty—we cannot find Him;
He is exalted in power
And He will not violate justice and abundant righteousness. Job 37:23
We noted that a biblical view of transcendence does not mean that God is unable to enter into His creation or communicate with it. God is also immanent, present within the universe that He has made (Ps. 139:7). Nevertheless, the idea of God being transcendent reminds us that the creation is not God (pantheism), nor does God depend upon the creation. Creation, instead, depends upon our transcendent Creator for its continual existence (Eph. 4:4–6).
Last week we then turned to define transcendence so as to be sure exactly what we were speaking of when we note the incommunicable attribute of God’s transcendence. Just for the sake of variety we offer again a definition of transcendence that communicates the same that we gave last week but in slightly different words.
When we speak of God’s transcendence we are saying;
“that God is other and set apart from everything else, that because he is un-created being He is in a class by himself. God is not just quantitatively greater than us, but qualitatively different in his greatness. He is sui generis – one of a kind — infinitely above or beyond us. The true God is distinct, set apart, from all that he has made as the only truly self-sufficient Being. All his creatures depend on him; he alone exists from within himself.
“The God who is, is distinct, set apart, from all that is evil. His moral perfection is absolute. His character as expressed in his will forms the absolute standard of moral excellence. As transcendent God is the absolute point of reference for all that exists – for the good, the true, and the beautiful.
It is this idea of God as transcendent who is the absolute point of reference for all that exists – for the meaning and definition of the good, the true, and the beautiful that we want to hone in on this morning. God as transcendent is thus the source of all meaningful meaning.
The illustration we have used serves again here. Experienced sailors in the ancient world before the rise of technology could navigate safely if they only had the North Star. The North Star was their point of reference that could guide them in their charts and in what course to set.
God Transcendent is the North Star for all truth … for all meaning. Because God is and because God is Transcendent we as mortals can find definitional handles on the good, the true, and the beautiful.
So, we come to one implication of the denial of God’s transcendence is the loss of objective truth and meaning. Without the transcendence of God then there is no point of reference by which we can have meaningful meaning or can approach defining the good, the true, and the beautiful.
Unless we have a God that is outside of us who by that outsided-ness becomes the transcendent point of reference then we are blind people stumbling around in the pitch dark seeking to see.
As we are currently seeing and living trying to build a functional social order apart from the reality of a one and many Transcendent extra-mundane personal God who has made Himself known in time and space is like the ancient mariners trying to navigate the oceans without the North star.
If the transcendent God of the Bible is not so then the Marquis de Sade is God.
Now those outside the Christian community, who know something of the Marquis de Sade may well think I am exaggerating here. The man was a monster.
But am I exaggerating or was de Sade just an example of a man being consistent with his denial of God?
I think the answer was found yesterday when the New York Times published an article claiming there’s a “time and a place” for “cannibalism.” Now you can be sure that after the fury the erupted the NYT will try to walk it back but that is how these things are initially interjected into a societies consciousness.
We have lost God transcendent as our final point of reference for truth and meaningful meaning and so the post-Christian world begins to look a great deal like the pre-Christian world.
This leads us then to a second implication of denying God’s transcendence as a point of reference for meaning – for the good, the true, and the beautiful
If we will not have God’s transcendence, it is not the case that transcendence goes away. Transcendence is an inescapable category. If we will not have God’s transcendence we will take something created and fill it with the attribute to transcendence so as to serve as our objective point of reference for meaning.
If we will not have God as the true Transcendent then what shall we make to be our Transcendent?
Hobbes offered the Totalitarian Sovereign
Rousseau & Locked offered the General Will / Social Contract
Bentham and Mill offered the greatest pleasure to the greatest number / happiness
Nietzsche offered the Will to Power (The Ubermensch)
Sartre & Camus offered the Meaningful experience
Modernity offers “Tolerance”
If we deny or misunderstand or misconstrue that there is a source of the transcendent (i.e., God), the category does not disappear, it is merely transferred to the highest immanent authority (i.e., the state). The attempt by the state to have all come to it as Big Brother as the source of all information and to be the truth dispenser for the hoi polloi is one more obvious indication that it is striving to displace God and so be the new Transcendent so as to rule as god walking on earth. For Christians to be silent in the face of this ongoing outrage represents disobedience to the 1st Commandment: “Thou Shalt Not Have Any Gods Before Me.”
Again I say, a rebellion against or a denial of the Transcendent One as accompanied by the inability to think in terms of a Transcendent Many does not result in the disappearance of Transcendence but rather results in the Transcendentizing of some component of the created Immanent. This means that some aspect of God’s created reality (most commonly the State) ends up as God walking on the earth. The state will become the reference point for meaning. At that point we all become idolaters.
A third implication of denying God’s transcendence serving as the eternal point of reference for all meaning is the rise of a philosophy that insists that true truth is community and even person variable.
If there is no transcendent God providing a transcendent point of reference for objective meaning then the local Congregational Church intern who told me a few months ago that all truth is subjective becomes the fount of wisdom.
Of course this is post-modernism on steroids. Capital “T” truth no longer exists though little “t” truth does exist per each narratival community. The immanent is cut off from the transcendent – the subjective cut off from the objective – so that each man now does what is right in His own eyes.
A fourth implication of the denial of God’s Transcendence as providing a point of reference so as to measure the good, the true, and the beautiful is the loss of language as a tool in order to communicate. (1500 words)
If it is God’s transcendence that is the point of reference for meaningful meaning then the loss of transcendence will eventually mean an inability for men who speak the same language to communicate. If there is no transcendence to stabalize the meaning of words then all we are left with is an ever increasing vicious post-modern version of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s language games.
We will be in Lewis Carol’s Humpty Dumpty World
“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”
Without a transcendent God who is Master, then each man becomes transcendent Master and so the ability to use language to communicate becomes increasingly tenuous – even among those who speak the same language.
I’ve often wondered if this is what happened at Babel when the language was confused.
We are all seeing this unfold before us. Here is recent example from Tim Keller on the usage of language that leaves me perplexed as to what he could possibly mean.
“Careful obedience to God’s law often serves as a strategy for rebelling against God.”
Now this is English but I have no idea whatsoever what this could possibly mean and I am sure Keller would be equally perplexed that I would have no idea what he means here. We are both using the same language but are clueless as to what the other means.
A fifth implication of the loss of a Transcendent God who is the eternal reference point for all truth is the undoing of the universe in favor for a multi-verse.
We are seeing increasingly this idea of the “multiverse.” The idea of the multiverse is that there is no component of unity whereby diversity can find meaning. We see this especially in our University system that have now become in reality multiversities. Go to the Mathematics department in many Universities and they will tell you of the Mathematical impossibility of Evolution to the point they will scorn the notion. Go to the Biology department of the same University and they may not graduate you if, if you doubt some form of Evolution.
The old idea of the University is that you had these host of disciplines that could be studied but all these disciplines could have a cohesiveness … a Uni … in the fact that all truth is God’s truth… in the fact that God as the eternal transcendent reference point the many-ness could find a unity in the University. This was because theology was the Queen of the Sciences.
However with the loss of the transcendent God who is the eternal point of reference that gives unity to the many-ness both our Universities and our Universe have increasingly become Multiverses and Multi-versities. If there is any unity that binds all together it is found in the agreement that there is no unity.
On this matter of the Universe becoming a Multiverse allow me to quote Michael Fort;
“God, as the Transcendent Creator and Sustainer of all things, is the single point through which all things are integrated, the single point through which all tensions are relieved, the single point through which all the particulars relate to one another. Without Him, harmonious dualisms like body and soul are turned into irreconcilable dichotomies.
Without transcendence unbelievers are inescapably left with a diversity that destroys unity and a unity that destroys diversity. Having a fundamentally broken view of the transcendent, universals become illusory, necessitating a multiverse in which each man possesses his own truth and his own ethics, becoming his own god. But a fundamentally broken view of the transcendent necessarily results in a fundamentally broken view of the immanent. Because limitless unrelated multiplicity inescapably leads to the death of meaning, particulars also become illusory, with the ultimate truth being the fundamental oneness of all being. In both the realm of transcendence and immanence, unbelieving thought is the death of distinctions and the triumph of equality.
In the Christian worldview, we preach one Lord, one faith, one baptism, while recognizing a multiplicity of people: male and female, parent and child, ruler and subject, black and white, slave and free, native and foreigner – yet all arose from a common pair of parents, who where themselves created by the one God. Christian Kinism is the systemization of this understanding, most specifically as it applies to sociological organization – from the micro scale of marriage to the macro scale of nations. Kinism is the death of equality and the triumph of distinctions, a unity that preserves diversity, and a diversity that preserves unity.”
A Sixth implication of the loss of God as the Transcendent point of reference is the loss of diversity in favor of a soul deadening Uniformity.
Now, if you were listening the last 5-7 minutes you should at this point being thinking … “Hey, but you just said that the fifth implication of the loss of God as the Transcendent point of reference is the undoing of the universe in favor of a multiverse.
The odd thing about the loss of transcendence is that everything becomes buggered. Not only do we lose the Universe in favor of the multiverse but we also at the same time lose genuine diversity in the name of absolute uniformity.
The multiverse we considered in the previous implication eventually leads to absolute chaos. There can be no order, no structure, no stability in a world that absolutizes diversity. As such eventually the chaos inherent in absolute diversity gives birth to its polar opposite and that is a godless uniformity.
So, the solution to the each man doing what is right in his own eyes multiverse is the top down uniformity found in everyone donning Mao suits and calling one another citoyen or comrade. God’s transcendence is exchanged for some tyrant taking up God’s transcendence but instead of the One and Many unity found in the transcendence of the God of the Bible what we get is an absolute soul deadening uniformity.
Go ahead … read the uniformity found in the Revolutions … French, Bolshevik, Maoist … resistance is futile… you will be assimilated into the borg.
Right now we are at the multiverse stage of the loss of the transcendent. As sure as I am standing here the Uniformity stage of the loss of the transcendent is coming. Take it to the bank.
Of course there is only one cure for all this decrepitude and moral anarchy and that is for the Spirit of Christ to convict men of the sin of determining to be as God determining good and evil. Men must not only be shown the absolute futility in navigating a meaningful life apart from the transcendence of God but they also must be convicted by God’s law of the absolute sin of daring to determine to rise to the most high to seize His transcendence. They must be told that God is justly wrath with their insolence … with their rebellion … with their seeking to de-God God and en-God themselves as God.
They must be warned of the wrath to come unless they repent of this usurpation of God’s transcendence and authority. They must be warned of the sure and present wrath of God’s intent to turn them over to their folly thus assuring their utter and complete destruction in space and time.
They must be told the only solution is to sue for relief from this promised temporal and eternal wrath by fleeing to the only safety that can be had – to the work of Jesus Christ who died for those who thought they could create their own transcendence.
They must be told of God’s favor to them that He has at this moment in this sermon exposed their folly so that now they might hear God’s command to all men everywhere to repent and to come under the umbrella of safety found in the finished cross work of Jesus Christ as the only place where forgiveness for their insolence and haughtiness can be found. Only an appeal to the cross of Jesus Christ can restore to them meaningful meaning that comes with the restoration of God’s transcendence so as to have once again an objective point of reference.
Can we not find not only an infuriating exasperation with the individuals who are spiraling our culture into a death swirl, but also a desperate pity for these rebels earnestly desiring that they might repent of this sin that is doing no damage to the exalted God but is instead utterly destroying them and their kinsmen?
All we can do them is point them to the character of God and the one place they can find relief from the penalty of dismissing His Transcendent and Holy character