God is not omnipresent

A few weeks ago, my 3 year old daughter asked me “where is God?” Before I could respond one of my 5 year old boys interjected with the Christian cliché “God is everywhere.” I looked straight at him and asked: “is God in the toilet?” Both my boys with their trademark grins and a flash of light in their eyes both laughed and said simultaneously: “Nooooo”.

To suggest God is everywhere is to suggest he is in the hearts of rapists. It suggests he is in the AIDs virus that infects an innocent child. It is to suggest he is forever forced to be present during every horrible sin. Of course God is not forced to be present during every sin. God makes this clear in Genesis 18:

Gen 18:20 And the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave,
Gen 18:21 I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.”

The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were filled with rapist homosexuals. God makes it clear that his knowledge of this is through the “outcry” (bad reputation) against Sodom and Gomorrah, and furthermore God wishes to go investigate. He then states he will “go down” (figuratively meaning that he is sending his delegates). Why would God “go down” or send delegates if he is already present? Should he not already know the state of Sodom and Gomorrah?

Abraham then engages in a negotiation with God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah based on the number of righteous people found in those cities. Does God not already know the exact amount? Does Abraham think God already knows the exact amount? If so, why doesn’t he ask God how many people there are instead of negotiating down?

God ends his discussion with Abraham by “going his way”:

Gen 18:33 So the LORD went His way as soon as He had finished speaking with Abraham

In 1 Kings, the text mentions a few more places in which God is not present:

1Ki 19:11 Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake;
1Ki 19:12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

This could be talking about “God did not cause the wind, earthquake and fire”, but the text indicates that all were the direct result of him passing by the mountain. It might also mean “God was not heard in the wind, earthquake and fire”, which is a possibility. But the most direct reading is that Elijah was waiting for God to be present in order to ask him questions, but God did not arrive until after the fire. Notice that God “passed by” the mountain.

Omnipresence (notice that it is a Latin term) is not found in the Bible. Instead it is found in the heart of Platonic theology. Here is Plotinus:

The authentic and primal Kosmos is the Being of the Intellectual Principle and of the Veritable Existent. This contains within itself no spatial distinction, and has none of the feebleness of division, and even its parts bring no incompleteness… every part that it gives forth is a whole; all its content is its very own, for there is here no separation of thing from thing, no part standing in isolated existence estranged from the rest, and therefore nowhere is there any wronging of any other, any opposition. Everywhere one and complete, it is at rest throughout and shows difference at no point; it does not make over any of its content into any new form; there can be no reason for changing what is everywhere perfect.

The pagans believed god (the One) was omnipresent because they believed god was also Immutable. To change location was to change. And any change would make a perfect being now imperfect. This paganism infected the early church fathers, as I have documented before.

Contrast the omnipotence of the pagans to the God of the Bible:

In Genesis 1 God hovers over the waters:

Gen 1:2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

In Genesis 3 we find God walking in the garden. Adam and Eve hide from his presence:

Gen 3:8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

In Genesis 4 Cain leaves the presence of the Lord, and moves to another land:

Gen 4:16 Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden.

In Job, Satan approaches God and God asks him where he has been. Suggesting God was located in heaven and not tracking Satan:

Job 1:6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.
Job 1:7 And the LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?” So Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.”

In Exodus 24 God tells Moses to come up to him. God’s presence then burns the top of the mountain:

Exo 24:12 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them.”…
Exo 24:16 Now the glory of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day He called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud.
Exo 24:17 The sight of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel.

In Exodus 33, God passes by Moses (covering him with God’s hand) and then lets Moses see his back:

Exo 33:22 So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by.
Exo 33:23 Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.”

The entire Bible is replete with references talking about God being temporal. In fact, it is just assumed into God’s dealings with man that this is his normal character. In order to come to the conclusion that God is omnipresent, hundreds of verses have to be ignored in favor of a few vague statements.

One such statement, the strongest evidence in favor of Omnipresence in the Bible, is Jeremiah 23:24. Putting it in context:

Jer 23:19 Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD has gone forth in fury— A violent whirlwind! It will fall violently on the head of the wicked.
Jer 23:20 The anger of the LORD will not turn back Until He has executed and performed the thoughts of His heart. In the latter days you will understand it perfectly.
Jer 23:21 “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.
Jer 23:22 But if they had stood in My counsel, And had caused My people to hear My words, Then they would have turned them from their evil way And from the evil of their doings.
Jer 23:23 “Am I a God near at hand,” says the LORD, “And not a God afar off?
Jer 23:24 Can anyone hide himself in secret places, So I shall not see him?” says the LORD; “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” says the LORD.

In Jeremiah 23, God is proclaiming a coming judgment of the wicked. God then emphasizes the judgment is real and that no one can hide. Then there is a statement that God “fills” heaven and earth. The laymen Calvinist will look at this and say that God is declaring no one can hide, apparently because God is so big he literally fills the universe. Note that the scholar Calvinist take a differing view of Omnipresence which states that God is literally outside the realm of temporal location (this is more attuned to the Platonists). Instead of everywhere, God is nowhere. They take this verse figuratively.

A better reading of these verses is that God is proclaiming a coming judgment, states that no one can hide, and states that this is because he can find people anywhere (not that he is so big he is forced to see everywhere). Compare this with other verses used to support Omnipresence:

Pro 15:3 The eyes of the LORD are in every place, Keeping watch on the evil and the good.

Job 34:21 “For His eyes are on the ways of man, And He sees all his steps.
Job 34:22 There is no darkness nor shadow of death Where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves.

Can God see everything? It seems to be the case. Can he choose not to see something he does not want to, other verses suggest so. Neither of these verses have anything to do with God’s location, but instead his knowledge of current events.

Those who adhere to Platonism like to cite verses that have nothing to do with the thing they are trying to prove. If they want to prove God controls all things, they point to verses that say he is mighty. When they want to prove God is outside of time, they point to verses that say God is everlasting. When this tactic is used, it should be apparent their evidence is slim and they are desperate for proof texts. Can God see everything but not be omnipresent? I can watch a live golf match on TV, I do not have to be present. How many more resources does God have? And note, as in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, God can choose not to know something.

To see other examples of dishonest verse quoting, all one has to do is find websites that argue for Omnipresense. link link link

About christopher fisher

The blog is meant for educational/entertainment purposes. All material can be used and reproduced in any length for any purpose as long as I am cited as the source.
This entry was posted in Calvinism, God, Omnipotence, Omnipresence, Omniscience, Open Theism, People, Plato, Plotinus, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to God is not omnipresent

  1. james jordan says:

    You’re the first Christian I’ve seen make this assertion that “God is not omnipresent.” It is of course interesting that in the Old Testament God only seems to know what is going on everywhere because of a massive network of angelic spies, kind of the same way the Emperor of Babylon would know what is going on in some remote region of the Empire because he has eyes (read spies) everywhere. “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth” does this means God’s own two eyes, or his massive spy network of angels? So, viewing God this way, we could say he is only present everywhere via delegation, via having trusted angels present everywhere to observe for him.

    This view poses no problem for Judaism, where one is not sent to hell to burn for all freaking eternity for one bad thought. But in Christianity where the most tiny sin equals eternal damnation, there is a need to make God literally know every infraction no matter how minute. For God to only know about your sin once it gets to a certain big level, works in Judaism. In Christianity, we can’t have that. God has to be an absolute monstrous tyrant who knows when you are sleeping and knows when you’re awake, who knows when you’ve been good or bad so be good for goodness sake, oh you better watch out, you better not pout, you better not shout, I’m telling you why, Jesus Christ is coming to town. If you commit the tini-tiniest of sin, God must instantly know, he must observe it literally himself, so he can damn you to hell for all eternity–so Christianity. But in Judaism, God need not see that you messed up once, or twice; the spy network of angels need not report it to him until it has become habitual. My oh my what a difference between the Testaments!

    • This is also not to say God does not have recording devices. In fact we know every human being has a mind which records past events. Could that not double as storage for things God might not want to know, but query later?

      • Simon says:

        That is not to say that God cannot hear the cry of our sins. And then investigate himself. he Bible does not seem to paint an Omnipresent God, but it doesn’t seem to say that God is confined to one temporal location either. When 2 or 3 are gathered together… Perhaps God can be in every church on a Sunday morning and still choose not to be in heart of the rapist. God can be where ever he wants, whenever he wants. If he wants to be in every blade of grass, he has that power, but that doesn’t mean he exercises that power 24/7 for all eternity.

        • Definitely. We see God as a human form in Genesis 18, but then as a God-figure in Exodus 33. God is a burning bush in Exodus 3 and a cloud of fire throughout temple references. I think it would be a mistake to claim that God’s form is unchangeable.

          There also seems to be a dual understanding of God’s location in the Bible. God is in heaven but also in the temple. It is an interesting dynamic.

    • Btw, most informative comment I ever received.

  2. Pingback: The Simpsons American Dad Family Guy episodes | humblejewishman

  3. William Bowdle says:

    My conclusion is that God is present everywhere He chooses to be present, knows everything He chooses to know, and has the power to accomplish anything he choses to accomplish. I think this qualified understanding of God’s omni-abilities is helpful for dealing with some of the problems you site with the notion of omnipresence. Further, it seems that God may choose to display His presence differentially, more at some times & locations than at others. E.g., when the Bible speaks about the glory of the Lord filling the Holy of Holies, it appears that either the Lord, or accompanying manifestations of His presence, were more vividly presence there than in other locations. I’m wondering if omnipresence isn’t another way of describing God’s pairing of omniscience and omnipotence, i.e., his capacity to immediately observe and know every reality everywhere (omniscience), and his capacity to immediately enact his power in any location he choses. Since these two capacities appear available to God, the notion of omnipresence really does not add that much to the picture, particularly for a Deity that appears to be non-material. An imperfect analogy is seen when our modern age has stateside pilots remotely piloting drone bombers on the opposite side of the globe. With drone “eyes” scanning the landscape & displaying them on stateside LED screens, and with remote controls capable of opening the belly of the drone to drop bombs, the US based pilot functions as a very present reality in the distant battlefield. If God can have immediate unmediated observation of any reality anywhere, and immediate unmediated power to impact any reality anywhere, then the question of “where God is” becomes largely mute. Lately, I’ve just begun to toy with the notion of quantum physics, which I don’t begin to understand very well, in relationship to the question of God’s omnipresence. It’s my amateur understanding that quantumly entangled particles, even a universe apart, can theoretically have an immediate (!!!) impact on their entangled counterparts with no time delay, despite incredible distances of separation. Phenomenal, and beyond my ability to understand!! If that reality can occur in the natural world, could we not say that, in effect, the quantum particle in one location is functionally “present” with the counterpart a great distance away. (See Wikipedia on “Quantum Entanglement”) The separation distance is without meaningful significance. The capacity to impact the state of geographically distant entangled particles renders the question of spatial distance as irrelevant. If such a reality exists in the natural world, I don’t find it too giant a leap of faith to conceive of a God whose omniscience and omnipotence can function together to generate effects “omnipresently.” So I’m not so sure that the notion of some divine substance permeating every location in the universe, is an adequate way to visualize God’s omnipresence. FYI, I’m a retired pastor. My speculations above are too recent to be peer-reviewed, and may have easy refutations that I don’t perceive right now.

  4. K7JLJ says:

    Enjoying the website… “Does Moses think God already knows the exact amount? If so, why doesn’t he ask God how many people there are instead of negotiating down?” Moses was not on the scene. 🙂

  5. Pingback: Ps 139 – easternhillsblog

  6. Hmm says:

    How can we be accountable for every word if He isn’t listening to every word spoken everywhere by everyone?, angels can lie. Look at satan.

    • K7JLJ says:

      Hmm… See brain as a recording device theory comment above.

    • There could be several ways this is true.

      Ezekiel 28:3
      you are indeed wiser than Daniel; no secret is hidden from you;

      In Ez 28:3 it says “no secret is hidden from you”. Suprisingly this is God talking TO the prince of Tyre. How does the prince of Tyre know all secrets? The phrase is hyperbolic. The Prince has intelligence plus a network of informants. He knows all secrets through his access to information. A bad objection to God’s phrasing is “but the king’s informants might be wrong”. This is not understanding the normal use of language, and treating the Bible as a car manual rather than written history.

      God could know things through informants, through recording devices, through direct observation. These are a few ways. In Malachi 3, a book of remembrance is written, the purpose is to inform God who the righteous are so that they are not accidently punished.

  7. Ralph Mills says:

    Interesting exchange. The future of the religious apologist is secure.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s