WrestlingOne of the most difficult challenges which we all face is trying to comprehend what (not who) God is and how it is possible for Him to have created the cosmos with its billions of galaxies each containing billions of stars, and yet hear the prayers of an insignificant part of that creation — me! David said it incredibly well in Psalm 8:3 – 4, “When I consider your heavens, … what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?”

Before we go any further in this discussion let me make it clear that I make no claim to have it all figured out. I do believe I have some understanding that might be helpful to others, partly because I have seen the struggles of thousands of others as I have studied with them in our correspondence courses, letters, and e-mails over the past 42 years. I still am in awe of God; and though I view Him as my friend and confidant, I struggle with some questions and concepts of God’s nature and function in daily life.

There are two basic concepts that need to be mastered to resolve most questions about God, the creation of the cosmos, and the creation of man in God’s image. To master these concepts one has to think differently than most of us are used to thinking. However, this difference in thinking really only involves the same thought processes required to understand quantum mechanics, cosmology, relativity, or any attempt to take what the Bible says literally. What I hope to do in this article is to briefly explore these two concepts.

CONCEPT 1. God is outside of time and space — not three dimensional, not physical, and not human. What is meant by “outside of time” is that God is not limited by time or any time-dependent quantity. The Bible says it this way, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, …” (Revelation 21:6) and “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3:8).

The implications of God’s being outside of time are huge. God has all of eternity to listen to every prayer of every person that ever lived on the planet and yet each of those time segments is “now.” The length of time God has to do something is not an issue because every instant of time and all time is “now.”

One of the models we physics teachers have used to introduce students to Einstein’s concept of gravity is to show students an air mattress with one side labeled time and the other side labeled space. Gravity is then defined as depressions in space/time. We put a bowling ball on the air mattress and say to them, “OK, this is Jupiter.” We would then put a baseball on the air mattress and say, “This is the Moon.” You can explain gravity as well, or in some cases better, in this way than in defining it as a property of mass. In this model the students are outside space and time. Any point on the mattress can be “here” and “now.” As beings exterior to space and time, we can make changes at will.

In Genesis 1:1 God created space and time. The concept of “beginning” would mean that once space and time were created, gravity wells would have been formed and these would be filled with appropriate masses becoming what Genesis calls “the heaven and the earth.” The Hebrew word natah translated “stretch out” (see Isaiah 40:22) could convey such a process.

Miracles for God are simply external actions in the fabric of space/time. What may be a violation of common sense for us may turn out to be a logical consequence of those entities that may be outside of space and/or time. In quantum mechanics this is commonplace. In biblical matters we have to be reminded of the statement by God in Isaiah 55:8, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, …”

CONCEPT 2. God is a spiritual entity, which means that since God is outside of space and time His properties have no physical characteristics. God is not an old, Caucasian, white-haired, bearded Godmale with blue eyes. It was interesting that in the wildly popular novel The Shack, God is portrayed as a motherly African-American woman with Jesus as a carpenter and the Spirit as a cross between Tinker Bell and a lightning bug. It is understood that this was not a serious theological work. The images used had more to do with human social issues than comprehending the real nature of God.

The very nature of spirit involves moral choice between good and evil. Any spiritual beings must be capable of recognizing and acting on good and evil. To be created in the image of God means to be a sentient being who can make that choice. That unique ability in the physical world in which we live was bestowed upon humans. God Himself is incapable of evil and has no tolerance for evil (James 1:13). Spiritual beings that are outside of time have no recourse once they have chosen to embrace evil. Angels who sinned (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6) have separated themselves from God and being outside of time have no salvation. The Bible tells us there is a place prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41) which would be a separation from God, and again is outside of space and time.

God came to the earth, becoming flesh (John 1:14), to provide man with a path back to God, completely severing man’s connection to evil. Romans 6:1–14 gives a vivid description of how this works, telling us that in baptism we die to self and to sin and are raised a new creature.

Jesus and followersThe primary thing this does for us in the physical world is give us the capacity to love fully. The classic example of this capacity is seen in John 21:15 –17 where Jesus asks if Peter loves Him with unconditional love (agapao) and Peter keeps saying he loves Jesus with brotherly love (phileo). When our spiritual bodies are totally cleansed we have the capacity for full love (agape), an unselfish, self-sacrificing love, pure and void of evil. We are incapable of sustaining that fellowship but the blood of Christ continuously cleanses us so we can walk in God’s light (1 John 1:5 –10).

This understanding and belief in the nature of God and how we are in His image radically affects our view of death, pain, love, church, and how we treat one another. It is reflected in how we give and whether we find joy in giving and not only in our money but in our relationships. It is seen in how we spend our time, what kind of things we enjoy doing, and how we view our family.

People like Richard Dawkins may claim evil and good do not exist (River Out of Eden, Basic Books, 1995, page 133) but all experience and evidence says they do. We see it portrayed in all of our science fiction, in novels, in children’s cartoons, and on the front page of our newspapers on a daily basis. Why do we find it so hard to believe that God is also a part of our personal life, giving us a reason to exist, the capacity to withstand suffering and loss, and the capacity to love God and our fellow man freely?
--John N. Clayton
Pictures in this article: Art Explosion by Nova Development Corporation, © 1997– 2001.

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