Three Pictures of God

You can’t really have pictures of God. These drawings are more about three frames, or worldviews, that people have about how God relates to the universe. I drew them this week in preparation for Bible Mania where I will use them to speak to how these frames impact our understanding of scripture and how scripture relates to God.

Picture One: The God who is OUT THERE.

dualism
This is dualism. God is the infinite, eternal substance that is completely separate from the material, physical universe. God created the universe out of nothing and it exists on its own. Any interaction between God and the universe is one that requires supernatural penetration from God.

The classic theological term for this is transcendence.

Picture Two: The God who is IN HERE.

immanence
This is spiritual monism. God is not a separate substance from the universe, but is the animating energy of the universe. God is not a being, but is the ground of being from which life exists. Therefore, God is not a something or a someone who can be known, but an energy or a rhythm that can be tapped into or with which one can seek to resonate.

The classic theological term for this is immanence.

Picture Three: God is NOWHERE.

Material Monism
This is material monism. The only thing that exists is the material, physical universe. There is no spiritual. Anything that has been called spiritual or divine in the past was simply a human construction to explain unfamiliar phenomena. The human mind can and will be able to explain everything, eventually, through the use of Modern scientific method and mathematics.

This is the secular frame.

So What?

These three pictures have dominated the Western imagination during the modern era. Each of them exist because of intuitions that we have regarding the nature of the universe and the tradition of the Hebrew and Christian scripture.

If this were a class, I would stop at this point and ask you three questions:

  1. Which picture best describes the belief system in which you were raised?
  2. What role would scripture play, or how might scripture be viewed within each picture?
  3. What strengths and weaknesses do you see in each picture?