Transcendence, Immanence & Generation Gaps in the Church

There is a tension in scripture between our God’s transcendence (being so much higher and greater and “other” than us) and God’s immanence (being close and personal and intimate with us). On one hand, God dwells in the heavens. On the other His Spirit dwells within us. There is a real tension there in how God can be both at the same time.

Generations tend to emphasize one over the other. You can see this reflected in the worship songs of a given generation. Speaking very generally here, older generations tend to have a more transcendent view of God. If you listen to many of the older songs we sing you will hear it. God is found in majestic mountain views, oceans, and in the heavens. The worship songs of the younger generations are personal. They are about Jesus, God in the flesh…who made his dwelling among us. Both are important.

It is important that in our worship we recognize the gap and cross over it regularly. When we emphasize the songs of a single generation we run the risk of alienating what resonates with the other. What is even more important is actually bridging the gap by helping the other group appreciate the aspect of God they don’t tend to emphasize so they can have a both/and appreciation for the God who is both “other” and “among”.

One Response to Transcendence, Immanence & Generation Gaps in the Church

  1. John says:

    Matt, I do believe that those who hold strongly to the immanence of God embrace the transcendence of God well, while those who hold to the transcendence of God, especially the more legalistic, find the immanence of God something to be quite leary of. The idea of God actually living in the human being is just too much for many of them. Even those within the CoC who believe in the literal indwelling of Holy Spirit would have a more difficult time with someone speaking of the “literal indwelling of God”.

    “God in all things and all things in God” is something the conservative evangelical fears greatly to grasp. But, if all things are held together by the power of God, then how could God not be where God’s power is?

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