Logical Gal tracks down meaning for ‘immanence’

16 Jun

Talk about confusing!!

Trying to digest different philosophical views of God and suffering, I came across a reference to ‘the immanent frame of our culture’.  And I had NO idea what that meant!

Building Blocks

You know by now the importance of clarifying terms.  So I looked up ‘immanence’. First I learned (or was reminded) that we should NOT be confused with ‘imminence’ with a middle “I” which means impending or immediate.  Second, I read that ’eminence’  with an initial “E” is yet a different concept as found in titles for certain Catholic officials.

But where matters REALLY got loopy was that depending on which metaphysical camp you choose, you could be thinking of two different properties or attributes when claiming ‘God is immanent’ .

If you consider yourself to be ‘spiritual’, you might say: ” Yes, God is immanent” and you would be referring to your personal divine experience of God.  And God would be whatever you describe him/her/it to be, as the below book cover suggests:

Immanence per Humanists

Many ‘modern-day’ thinkers consider God to be immanent.  And they are referring to what retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong of New Jersey writes is just our own experience of God:

I seek to escape the theistic definition of God as an external being, supernatural in power, who invades our world periodically in miraculous ways. That definition of God simply no longer translates to a post- Galilean, post-Newtonian and a post-Darwinian world. Indeed, I think human beings should give up their almost idolatrous attempt to define God at all. We can experience God, but we cannot define God. So most religious God talk is nonsensical. (from his Facebook page , dated 16 May 2013)

And as quoted by recently deceased UVa alum John Morris (Law ’48), Spong allegedly wrote: ” God, to me, is a call to live fully, to love wastefully and to be all that I can be.”

But Biblical Christians mean something entirely different when they extol the immanence of God.

Immanence per Christians

They believe that God, though immaterial by essence, at one time in history DID ‘invade’ our world and walked among us as Jesus from Nazareth.  And God IS present now, inside those who are His followers, in the form of immaterial, invisible Holy Spirit.

Remember – just because something is immaterial (not measurable by our 5 senses) does NOT mean it is UNREAL.  You can’t touch or measure memories or love or covetousness or gravity.  But you can see the effect of these real but invisible ‘things’.

All this underscores how important it is to invest the time to clarify terms.  I’m beginning to realize that the simple question:  What do you mean by X? will do more good in the discussion that might follow, then jumping in to state or question assertions.

Just because someone uses the same term as you does NOT guarantee that they have in mind the exact same concept.

Question: What are some of those equivocal terms you encounter during your reading or discussions? Phrases like ‘saved by grace’  or ‘heaven‘ or ‘prayer‘ or  even ‘homework‘  can refer to entities that are poles apart in the minds of two people.

One Response to “Logical Gal tracks down meaning for ‘immanence’”

  1. Trish June 16, 2014 at 8:07 am #

    existing or operating within; inherent.
    “the protection of liberties is immanent in constitutional arrangements”
    (of God) permanently pervading and sustaining the universe

    I don’t think God “checks in” now and then, but is “permanently pervading and sustaining the universe” (Google search definition).

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