Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Retreating into pious nonsense

I'll comment on this post:
God is in time because there is no time unless God is in it.
Unfortunately, Shannon gives the reader no reason to agree with that claim, on its own terms. It's just a tendentious slogan. 
At best, he shifts gears to a different argument:
That’s a little Vos-Van Til talk, but we could infer the same from omnipresence and eternity. Eternity does not mean that God as God cannot touch temporality (again, unless you are entangled in Thomistic simplicism; but then you have created your own problems). It means that he fills all time, just as omnipresence doesn’t mean that God cannot be in places (spatially located); it means that he fills all places. This is an unbiblical non sequitur: He fills all time, therefore he cannot be in time. So is this: He fills all space, therefore he cannot be in a place.
It doesn't even occur to Shannon that his comparison might backfire: just as omnipresence doesn't mean God literally fills space, eternity doesn't mean God literally fills time. Shannon doesn't anticipate that move, or give the reader reason to deny it. 
So if we affirm, say, omnipresence, what then is condescension (which the divines worked into the confession—WCF 7.1)? If God fills all space, what does it mean that he ‘comes down’? To where does he come down? Well, to the top of Mt. Sinai (Ex 19), for example—even though being omnipresent, he was already there. He ‘comes down’ to covenant with Israel. Mt. Sinai is a particular place; and Ex 19 records the Lord’s presence there at a particular time. And so: if God fills all time, we may say that he condescends in order to covenant with his people at Mt. Sinai, at that time. The Lord speaks to Moses, then and there. 
That's a theophany or angelophany. A manifestation of God's presence. A manifestation is the effect of something else, and not the thing itself. 
Take a hologram. I could see and hear your holographic presence in my living room, but that doesn't mean you are physically present in my living room. It's a concrete representation
In principle, I might be dead by the time you receive the hologram. In that event, not only am I not actually in your living room, I'm not even offsite. 
And this presence of God with his people is no innovation; it is the telos of covenant history:
“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” Rev 21:3 
That presumably alludes to Christ dwelling with his people. That involves the communication of attributes. The usual Reformed construction is that what's said of each nature can be said of the person, but what's said of one nature can't be said of the other.


  1. Thanks for the interaction. How do you know the presence of the LORD on Mt. Sinai (Ex 19) is a 'manifestation', as is not the real presence of the LORD? What is a 'concrete' representation? So the LORD is not present in Ex 19?

    1. Because the God of Biblical theism is not a corporeal being. Your notion of God's "real presence" in time and space is implicitly pantheistic (or, at best, panentheistic).

      A "concrete representation" is a physical representation, viz. the statuary cherubim in the inner sanctum were concrete representations of the cherubim.

      To ask whether God was "present" at Exod 19 is equivocal. "Present" in what sense? Take my illustration of a hologram. Simulated presence.

      Or take the Shekinah. A visible, luminous "cloud," like plasma. That's a physical manifestation of God. But God in himself is not a physical entity. Theophanies *represent* God. A dynamic symbol, in space and time.