Lesson 11: God’s Presence Everywhere and in Everything

the birds of the air Although the Bible finds God’s presence primarily in the story told by a particular people about themselves, it also includes a more general picture in which God is embedded in his creation. You see that in the Wisdom tradition (Proverbs 8: 22-31), the logos theology (John 1: 1-11), various sayings of Jesus, and Paul’s use of wisdom (Colossians 1:15-18). The Incarnation Theology of the Eastern Orthodox enhances many of these perspectives as do the modern works of scholars such as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Richard Rohr.

All of these claim the divine is present in the design and processes of creation that are sometimes identified as the Son or the Christ who is preexistent to creation, active in it, and especially caring for humankind. The Old Testament often describes this presence as the Law that we should remember always includes care for the needy. Jesus enhances this compassionate characteristic when he asks us to consider the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, to remember God sends rain and sun on the good and the evil, and to be assured God knows what we need before we ask. Often overlooked is how maternal and feminine his presence is in this tradition. Wisdom is personified as a woman who gives birth and nourishes.

Some version of this tradition is often evoked as an answer to concerns about a parochial Christianity being unable to minister in a multicultural global society. However, creation hides as well as reveals. One reason our secular society acknowledges only amoral values such as efficiency and security is because the world cultures cannot agree on common ethical principles. Those professing some kind of natural religion or natural law seem more informed by the particular stories they bring than a neutral reading of creation.

Problems also surface when this tradition tries to deal with suffering and evil. The watchmaker God in this self-operating moral creation pretty much endorses anything that happens. Its message is that there is no need to be anxious, because God is caring for you in spite of what you see all around you. It is easy to fall into a kind of positive thinking that supports egoistic self-regard but offers no empathy or resources for dealing with those who truly do suffer from this world’s evil. Sadly, this kind of theology also too often enables those of us who are successful to ignore how our actions often perpetrate this evil.

We’ll examine how a theology of the cross deals with this next week.

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