Lesson 5: The Mode of God’s Indwelling (The Architecture of Reality: Sacred Time & Sacred Place in Holy Scripture)


The Architecture of Reality: Sacred Time & Sacred Place in Holy Scripture
Lesson 5 – The Mode of God’s Indwelling


Father, we thank you for your indwelling presence, and that you are closer to us than we are to ourselves. We praise you for this knowledge that is too wonderful for us, and so high that we cannot attain it. And so we ask for help now as we attempt to ascend to You, give us the mind of Christ, for we ask this in Jesus name, Amen.

Review of Lesson 4

  • Last time we were exploring how the Tabernacle and the Temple are humaniform structures, that is, they are buildings that have human features or characteristics. And when you put these all together, what you have is the tabernacle or temple as a symbol of the human person.
  • We already know from the New Testament that Christ and the saints are temples/tabernacles, but from the perspective of the Old Testament, it is the tabernacle or temple that is the pointer to God’s future presence in the person of Christ and in the church, his bride.
    • We saw last time that this is hinted at by the fact that the dimensions of both structures are given in terms of the proportions of our body (a cubit, a span, etc.).
    • More explicitly, we saw that in Hebrew, in 1 Kings 6:3, the temple is said to have a face (עַל־פְּנֵי֙ הֵיכַ֣ל “upon the face of the temple”).
    • If we continue reading, we discover that the temple also has shoulders and even ribs.
    • Again, this is somewhat obscured in English where they translate כָּתֵף (shoulder) as side (Ex. 27:14-15, 1 Kings 6:8, 7:29), and צְלָע֖וֹת (צֵלָע) (rib) as chambers. This is the same Hebrew word that is used to describe the rib that God took from Adam and then built into a woman (Gen. 2:21-22).
  • So the temple has human proportions, a face, shoulders, ribs, and more. Depending on how imaginative you want to get, there are other humaniform features you can find such as eyes, mouth, nose, stomach, legs, feet, etc.
  • It could be argued that everything that man builds/creates is inherently humaniform because we cannot help but fashion things after our own image. The highest form of sub-creation is the begetting of children who are in our very image and likeness. And then there is a descending scale of image bearing that other things have (cars, houses, computers, furniture, etc.). We cannot help but leave marks/traces of our human nature (intelligent design) on whatever we build.
  • In a similar way, God cannot help but leave traces of his wisdom on all that he fashions, and so when He gives us detailed instructions for a place of worship, and then says that Christ and the Church are those places, we have in these structures a fruitful place for learning about Christ and the Church, and even what it means to be human.
  • So this is what we mean by humaniform structures. Any questions?

Lesson 5 – The Mode of God’s Indwelling Presence

Tonight, we are going to begin our study of God’s special presence in the saints. By way of reminder, who can tell us the three ways in which God is said to be present?

  1. Common Presence: as efficient cause of all that is.
  2. Special Presence: by grace in the believer.
  3. Hypostatic Presence: in Christ as the God-man.

We’ve already covered God’s common presence. In my sermon on Christmas Eve we studied hypostatic presence, and now we will explore God’s special presence in the saints. So the question before us is as follows:

In What Sense Does God Dwell In Us?

When the Bible speaks of God dwelling inside of us, what does this mean in reality (metaphysically)?

  • John 14:23 says, “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”
  • Romans 8:10-11 says, “And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”
  • Colossians 1:27 says, “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

So we know based on these passages and many others that God/Christ/Holy Spirit dwells in us, but how should we understand God’s presence within us?

In order to answer this question, I want to proceed by way of a process of elimination, and so tonight we are going to look at all the ways in which God being inside of us cannot be true. And my hope is that by eliminating some of these false notions, it will help us better grasp the true sense/mode in which God indwells the saints.

Aristotle identified eight different senses in which one thing can be said to be “in” another (Physics IV, Chapter 3). Philosophers have made additions to this list, and the Bible supplies us with examples of just about all of these different ways in which one thing can be said to in another. So let us consider if any of these modes of being “in” can account for God’s dwelling in us, based on what Scripture says about who God is.

The Possible Modes of Being In Another

1. As a body is in place.

  • Example: Paul is in the Areopagus. Or, you are in this room and not at home.
    • Is God in us like a body is in place?
    • No, because God is not a body, He is immaterial, He is infinite, therefore it would be impossible for God to be in us like a body is in a place.
    • This is however the primary(?) metaphor in the Bible for how God indwells us. The question we are asking is, “What does this metaphor of God being in us like a king is on his throne, or like a glory cloud is in the sanctuary, actually mean?”
    • To grasp the truth of this metaphor we have to first negate and strip away any body-ness or finitude about God. For as Solomon says in 1 Kings 8:27, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!”
    • So God is not in us like a body is in place.

2. As a part is in the whole.

  • Example: A finger is in the hand.
    • Is God in us like a finger is in the hand? God is the finger, and we are the hand, and so without God we are not wholly a hand.This is false for many reasons. Why?God is altogether simple and unchangeable, which means he has no real composition in himself, there are no parts in God, for “all that is in God is God.” So whereas we are composed of soul and body, God is a spirt, and you can’t take any parts of God and attach it to something else. (https://aquinas.cc/la/en/~ST.I.Q3.A7)If God was in us like a finger is in the hand, this would make God finite, and it would make us a part of God. This is monism, pantheism, etc.
    • So God is not us as a part is in the whole, and logically this means that God is also not in us in Aristotle’s second mode, which is as the whole is in its parts.

3. As the whole is in its parts.

  • Example: A hand is in the fingers, for there is no whole hand over and above the parts (fingers).
    • So God is not in us as a part is in the whole or as the whole is in the part, because this would make God dependent on creatures. He could not be God without us.

4. As a species is in its genus.

  • Example: The species (man) is in the genus (animal).
    • An animal is just a something that has a sensitive nature, i.e. some kind of sense organs (it can see, taste, touch, smell, and hear). We call this the sensitive soul. So man has five senses which places him in the genus animal (unlike plants). And then what kind of animal is he? He is the kind of animal that has a rational soul. In biblical terms, this is the image of God that distinguishes us from the animals.
    • So we say that man has the specific difference of rationality which is inthe genus (larger category) animal. And likewise, we can say that the genus animal (a sensitive nature) is in the species man.

5. As the genus is in the species.

  • Example: The animal (genus) is in the man who is of the species rational animal.
    • So is God in us like a genus is in its species or like a species is in its genus?
      • If God was in us like a genus is in a species, then that would make us God, which is false. Isaiah 46:5 says, “To whom will you liken Me, and make Me equal and compare Me, that we should be alike?”If God was in us like a species is in a genus, then that would make us higher than God, which is false.
    • In our mind, a genus is prior to what it contains, but nothing is prior to God either mentally or in reality. Therefore, God is not in any genus, and therefore also not in any species. For example, there is not a genus called divinity, wherein the Christian God is contained, rather, the Christian God just is divinity. (For more on this read: https://aquinas.cc/la/en/~ST.I.Q3.A5)

6. As form is in matter.

  • Example: The soul (immaterial form) is in the body (matter).
    • Is God in us like the soul is in the body? God is the form, and we are the matter.We already handled this question under God’s Common Presence and said the answer is “No,” because pantheism.This is also impossible because whatever is composed of matter and form is a body (that is, it has dimensive quantity, exists in three dimensions: height, width, length.) But God is not a body as already stated, and God is infinite. (https://aquinas.cc/la/en/~ST.I.Q3.A1)
    • God is not even in Christ as a form is in matter, because finite matter cannot contain the infinite divinity. Which is why we say that in the hypostatic union, the Son of God joined a human nature to his Divine person.

7. As an accident is in substance.

  • To understand this mode of indwelling, we have to explain what an accident is and what a substance is.
  • By accident we do not mean something that is unintentional (like a car accident), but rather as something that does not have existence in itself. Accidents, by definition, only exist in a substance.
  • For example, whiteness is an accident that exists in the substance Socrates, and yet if Socrates goes out in the sun and gets dark/tan, he is still Socrates despite no longer being white.
  • So substance is the principle of unity and self-identity that persists across all accidental changes.
  • In Aristotle’s famous ten categories/predicaments, which is his attempt to adequately reduce the entire created order into its most basic categories/predicates, there is first substance, and then 9 accidents (quantity, quality, relation, place, time, posture, having/habitus, action, passion) which only have existence in a substance. These accidents help us account for different kinds of change in the world.
  • To give you a few other examples, the accident in Centralia is in all of us substances sitting here, and yet we will still all be ourselves if we leave Centralia.In Centralia is accidental to our being.
  • The accident hard-working is in the substance Hank Doelman, so Hank has hard-working as a quality or habit of his being, but if Hank retired and did nothing but crossword puzzles all day, he would lose that habit of hard-working (unless those crossword puzzles are really hard!).
  • So is God in us like an accident is in a substance? Obviously not.
    • God is not an accident that only has existence insofar as He is in us, this is absurd and blasphemous.
    • God is not even a substance in that there is not a genus substance into which God can be placed, for we cannot know what God is in this life (Job 36:26). God is therefore “super-substantial,” or “substance beyond substance.”

8. As an agent is in its patient. (As an efficient cause it is in its effects.)

  • Example: As Tolkien is in Middle-Earth.
    • Yes! God is in us as the one who gives us our very existence (“in him we live and move and have our being,” Acts 17:28). However, this is God’s Common Presence in all things and all people, not His Special Presence in the saints.

Closing Question: Are there any other modes or ways that we say that one thing is in or united to another that you can think of?

Next time we will study the actual way in which God indwells the saints.