Divine Transcendence

Several weeks ago, I wrote a series of blogs entitled "Naked and Hiding" about the fear of God. I almost hate to revisit that theme after doing a whole series on it, but I'm going to anyway!

Recently I've been reading through (again) A.W. Tozer's "Knowledge of the Holy." His chapter on divine transcendence has provided some insight for me on why "christian" people no longer fear God as the once did. Perhaps it is because we misunderstand the transcendence of God. You see, all of us would admit that God is transcendent, but when we say that what we mean is that he is the highest being in a succession of beings. For instance, on our scale we would probably have single-cell organisms on the very bottom, then just above that would be middle school students. As you continue to move up the scale you would probably have insects, then mammals, etc. Near the top, in our minds, are humans, then maybe angels, then (of course) at the top is God. The problem with this thinking, however, is that it places God on the same scale as us. Of course, he's at the top, but he's placed on the same scale nonetheless. Listen to what Tozer has to say about this.

We must not think of God as highest in ascending order of beings, starting with single cell and going on up from the fish to the bird to the animal to man to angel to cherub to God. This would be to grant God eminence, even pre-eminence but that is not enough; we must grant Him transcendence in the fullest meaning of that word. Forever God stands apart, in light unapproachable. He is as high above an archangel as above a caterpillar, for the gulf that separates the archangel from the caterpillar is but finite, while the gulf between God and the archangel is infinite. The caterpillar and the archangel, though far removed from each other in the scale of created things, are nevertheless one in that they are alike created. They both belong in the category of that-which-is-not-God and are separated from God by infinitude itself.

In order for us to regain an awe-inspired fear of God, we must regain a proper understanding of the transcendence of God. Listen to what Tozer says about the fear of the Lord.

When men no longer fear God, they transgress His laws without hesitation. The fear of consequences is no deterrent when the fear of God is gone. In olden days men of faith were said to "walk in the fear of God" and to "serve the Lord with fear." However intimate their communion with God, however bold their prayers, at the base of their religious life was the conception of God as awesome and dreadful. This idea of God transcendent runs through the whole Bible and gives color and tone to the character of the saints. This fear of God was more than a natural apprehension of danger; it was a nonrational dread, an acute feeling of personal insufficiency in the presence of God the Almighty. 

This week as you spend time with God and when you pray, may you have an appropriate understanding of the gulf that separates you from God. May you have a renewed vision of the transcendence of God. And may you find a renewed awe-inspired fear him when you find yourself in the presence of God the Almighty.