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Omnipresence is the property of being present everywhere. According to eastern theism, God is present everywhere. Divine omnipresence is thus one of the divine attributes, although in western theism it has attracted less philosophical attention than such attributes as omnipotence, omniscience, or being eternal.
In western theism, omnipresence is roughly described as the ability to be "present everywhere at the same time", referring to an unbounded or universal presence (at the same time, some[who?] claim God is not omnipresent). It is related to the concept of ubiquity, the ability to be everywhere or in many places at once.
This characteristic is most commonly used in a religious context, as most doctrines bestow the trait of omnipresence onto a superior, usually a deity commonly referred to as God by monotheists. This idea differs from Pantheism.
Hinduism, and other religions that derive from it, incorporate the theory of transcendent and immanent omnipresence which is the traditional meaning of the word, Brahman. This theory defines a universal and fundamental substance, which is the source of all physical existence.
Some[who?] argue that omnipresence is a derived characteristic: an omniscient and omnipotent deity knows every thing and can be and act everywhere, simultaneously. Others propound a deity as having the "Three O's", including omnipresence as a unique characteristic of the deity. Most Christian denominations — following theology standardized by the Nicene Creed —explains the concept of omnipresence in the form of the "Trinity", by having a single deity (God) made up of three omnipresent persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Many ancient cultures such as Vedic, Native American civilizations share similar views on omnipresent nature; the ancient Greeks and Rome did not worship an omnipresent being. While most Paleolithic cultures followed polytheistic practices. A form of omnipresent deity arises from a worldview that does not share ideas with mono-local deity cultures. Some omnipresent religions see the whole of Existence as a manifestation of the deity. There are two predominant viewpoints here: pantheism, deity is the summation of Existence; and panentheism, deity is an emergent property of Existence. The first is closest to the Native Americans' worldview; the latter resembles the Vedic outlook.
Judeo-Christian beliefs constitute a third opinion on omnipresence. To both the Jewish and Christian religions, God is omnipresent. However, the major difference between these monotheistic religions and other religious systems is that God is still transcendent to His creation and yet immanent in relating to creation. God is not immersed in the substance of creation, even though he is able to interact with it as he chooses. He cannot be excluded from any location or object in creation (Thomas C Oden "The Living God: Systematic Theology Vol 1 pg 67). God's presence is continuous throughout all of creation, though it may not be revealed in the same way at the same time to people everywhere. At times, he may be actively present in a situation, while he may not reveal that he is present in another circumstance in some other area. The Bible reveals that God can be both present to a person in a manifest manner (Psalm 46:1, Isaiah 57:15) as well as being present in every situation in all of creation at any given time (Psalm 33:13-14). Specifically, Oden states (pg. 68-69) that the Bible shows that God can be present in every aspect of human life:
- God is naturally present in every aspect of the natural order, in every level of causality, every fleeting moment and momentous event of natural history...(Psalm 8:3, Isaiah 40:12, Nahum 1:3)
- God is actively present in a different way in every event in history as provident guide of human affairs (Psalm 48:7)
- God is in a special way attentively present to those who call upon his name, intercede for others, who adore God, who petition, who pray earnestly for forgiveness (Gospel of Matthew 18:19, Book of Acts 17:27)
- God is judicially present in moral awareness, through conscience (Psalm 48:1-2, Epistle to the Romans 1:20)
- God is bodily present in the incarnation of his Son, Jesus Christ (Gospel of John 1:14, Colossians 2:9)
- God is mystically present in the Eucharist, and through the means of grace in the church, the body of Christ (Ephesians 2:12, John 6:56)
- God is sacredly present and becomes known in special places where God chooses to meet us, places that become set apart by the faithful remembering community (1 Corinthians 11:23-29) where it may said: "Truly the Lord is in this place" (Genesis 28:16, Matthew 18:20)"
In the Judeo-Christian religions, God is omnipresent in a way that he is able to interact with his creation however he chooses, and is not the very essence of his creation.
While the majority of Christians consider their deity omnipresent, some find difficulty pondering the absoluteness of their deity's omnipresence because Hell is both a place and is also the absolute separation from God ("The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven with His mighty angels, In flaming fire taking Vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the Presence of the Lord, and from the Glory of his Power" (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9)), presenting a paradox. Can a deity be both omnipresent and absent from Hell?
In trying to rectify such paradoxes, Christian apologists of the Middle Ages found even more paradoxes, the most important being associated consent; how a deity that was omnipresent could simultaneously be wholly good; as they would of necessity be part of what is evil as well, such as Hell.
Thomas Aquinas held that God's presence is to be understood in terms of God's power, knowledge, and essence. (In this view he followed a formula put forth by Peter Lombard (late 11th C.-1160) in his Sentences, I, xxxvii, 1.) He writes, “God is in all things by his power, inasmuch as all things are subject to his power; he is by his presence in all things, inasmuch as all things are bare and open to his eyes; he is in all things by his essence, inasmuch as he is present to all as the cause of their being” (Summa Theologica I, 8, 3). Aquinas attempts to motivate this claim with some illustrations: "But how he [God] is in other things created by him may be considered from human affairs. A king, for example, is said to be in the whole kingdom by his power, although he is not everywhere present. Again, a thing is said to be by its presence in other things which are subject to its inspection; as things in a house are said to be present to anyone, who nevertheless may not be in substance in every part of the house. Lastly, a thing is said to be substantially or essentially in that place in which its substance is."
Perhaps there is a sense in which a king is present wherever his power extends. In any event, Aquinas seems to have thought so. He distinguished between being in place by “contact of dimensive quantity, as bodies are, [and] contact of power” (S.T. I, 8, 2, ad 1). In Summa contra Gentiles he wrote that “an incorporeal thing is related to its presence in something by its power, in the same way that a corporeal thing is related to its presence in something by dimensive quantity,” and he added that “if there were any body possessed of infinite dimensive quantity, it would have to be everywhere. So if there were an incorporeal being possessed of infinite power, it must be everywhere” (SCG III, 68, 3). So the first aspect of God's presence in things is by having power over them. The second aspect is by every thing being present to him, being “bare and open to his eyes” or being known to him. The third feature, that God is present to things by his essence is glossed as his being the cause of their being.
This way of understanding God's presence by reference to his power and his knowledge treats the predicate ‘is present’ as applied to God as analogical with its application to ordinary physical things. It is neither univocal (used with the same meaning as in ordinary contexts) nor equivocal (used with an unrelated meaning). Rather, its meaning can be explained by reference to its ordinary sense: God is present at a place just in case there is a physical object that is at that place and God has power over that object, knows what is going on in that object, and God is the cause of that object's existence.
This account of omnipresence has the consequence that, strictly speaking, God is present everywhere that some physical thing is located. Perhaps, however, this is exactly what the medievals had intended. Anselm had said, for example (Monologion 23), that “the supreme Nature is more appropriately said to be everywhere, in this sense, that it is in all existing things, than in this sense, namely that it is merely in all places”.[From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, cited below]
Another view simply states that God's wrath is fully present in hell as hell does not mean Godlessness.
One view describes hell as not a place, but the psychical torment of a deity-hating soul finding itself in an afterlife where the deity's omnipresence is more clearly perceived than when the soul was bound within a body.
- ↑ Oxford Dictionary of English: http://www.askoxford.com/concise_oed/omnipresent
- ↑ Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ubiquity
- ↑ http://www.ovrlnd.com/Teaching/omnipresence_hell.html
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