I was at a gathering of church folks recently most of whom, I would guess, were more liberal in persuasion than myself. At times this was rather boring and at other times it was maddening! At one point a gentleman who was in a position of authority within this group (he was on the board or whatever) began to blabber on about a pet-peeve of his (news flash: no one asked!). He didn’t like the presumption of some Christians, who might be visiting sick and shut-in people, that they were in some fashion the presence of Christ to said sick/shut-in. At this point he let us all know of his mantra, “we are always in the presence of God” and that the task of the person ministering is to point towards this (which sort of begs the question, what is said person ministering?).
This is a fairly common presupposition amongst many people, I think: God is everywhere. But if God is everywhere, then God is no where. But for the orthodox Christian God is somewhere, somewhere in particular. Namely, God is in Christ. What does God look like? Jesus. Where is God? In Jesus.
It is precisely this loss of particularity that seems to characterize (generally speaking, of course) liberal fashions of Christianity. Oliver O’Donovan elaborates:
“The inner shrine of the liberal gospel was its attitude of respectful attentiveness to the world as it is. The term “incarnation”, used without an article, speaks of this embrace of the world. This is something different from the incarnation, the historical birth of Jesus the Son of God from Mary, which is now reconstructed as a paradigm or model for a conjunction of the human and divine to be effected in all times and places. The incarnation of the Word takes place continually,” (O’Donovan, Church in Crisis: The Gay Controversy and the Anglican Communion, 8).
We see evident here a loss of particularity. To speak of God’s self-revelation is not necessarily to speak of the Virgin Birth or the person of Jesus of Nazareth but it is rather to speak of an ongoing process of embracing and knowing the world as it is. It is to make a positive conjunction of God and the world. However, there are two reasons why the orthodox Christian must reject this claim one eschatological and one ontological. For the orthodox Christian there is an eschatological frontier between this world and the next as well as an ontological frontier between the Creator and the creature. In the liberal paradigm, these frontiers are collapsed so that the world as it is is the world as it ought to be and so that the distinction between Creator and creature all but evaporates. O’Donovan continues:
“This world being the sanctuary of God’s full self-disclosure, talk of a reign of God can only be talk of this world projected to its logical term. The present harbors no ultimate antithesis; it faces no final judgment. God’s worldly self-disclosure may be seen as the dynamic of world history, as in the confident progressivism of an earlier liberalism…But one way or the other the theological liberal looks to “see the hand of the Lord in the land of the living” (Ps 27:13), and knows that when seen it will be stretched out in blessing, not in judgment,” (O’Donovan, 8-9).
If God is everywhere then God is no where and the world is going no where for it has already arrived.
God is not everywhere.
God is in Christ Jesus who will come again to judge the living and the dead.