Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Transcendent vs. Immanent

Reading chapter 1 of Exclusion and Embrace, by Miroslav Volf there is a discussion of whether Abraham was transcendent or immanent? I found this hard to follow. Some of the discussions about the relative immanence and transcendence of God are also lost on me. But perhaps they should be because it seems the Tri-une God is both immanent and transcendent!
Such discussions also seem to be value laden, because they pre-suppose that one of these characteristics is a more desirable quality to have than the other.
What do they really mean?
I found the Wikipedia entries on Immanence and Transcendence helpful, but would welcome qualifications.


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  2. John Frame has a bit about transcendence and immanence at the beginning of his book, 'Doctrine of the Knowledge of God'. He compares a "secular" view of T&I to a "biblical" view.

    In Frame's so called "secular" view, transcendence means god is totally unknowable (other than us) and immanence means god is totally one and the same as us (together with us).

    Frame talks about the God of the bible being T&I in quite different terms. He talks about God as Lord in the triperspectival terms of control, authority and presence. God is transcendent (other than us) in his Lordship attributes of control and authority and immanent (together with us) in his Lordship attribute of presence.

    Volf, it seems to me, is setting up his discussion of distance and belonging by referencing the otherness and togetherness that T&I connote(as a metaphor, perhaps?). So he talks about Abraham's otherness from his culture (leaving to go to a land) as well as togetherness with his culture (going back there to find a wife for Isaac, perhaps?).

    I have no idea whether I'm answering the question you posed, but this was at least helpful for me to solidify my thoughts :)

  3. The God of all creation is so transcendent (more than just really far; rather, on another plane of existence, or wholly other) that this God is also immanent.

    It is a paradoxical tension and it is hard to grasp. The problem, it seems to me, is that we think of transcendence as just something really far out there...but in the same plane or mode of existence as the rest of creation. But God's transcendence is not out there far away...it is something completely different, allowing for also, God's intimate immanence. At least that is what I think...

  4. Dave and Jarrod thanks for both your comments. I found them extremely helpful.