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High Above It All: What Does God’s Transcendence Mean?
High Above It All: What Does God’s Transcendence Mean?

Waters roar and mountains fall
Still You reign high above it all
You are high above it all
King will fade and nations shake
But you remain high above it all
You are high above it all
Almighty God

High Above It All by For All Seasons (2013)

Through the ages, man has tried to be above all else, like attempting immortality or declaring one’s self as a “demigod”. Roman Caesars erecting statues of themselves for worship. King Charles the First obsessed with his “divine right” and flippant over the consequences of his choices. Alexander the Great attempting to be immortal so he could rule forever. Heck, remember Jack Sparrow trying to find the Fountain of Youth in Pirates #4?

Of course, we know that no man can live forever and become a god. I don’t care what scientists say – it ain’t gonna happen. The only one who can be eternal and rule over the universe is Yahweh, the God of the universe. This is because He transcends everything.

…Wait, what?

What is transcendence? Basically, the transcendence of God means that God is above, other than, and distinct from all he has made – he transcends it all.

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, transcendence means, “Surpassing others; preeminent or supreme.” Theologically, it refers to the fact that God is above and beyond all creation. Thus, transcendence is not an inherent trait of God, but a relational one. Inherently, God is infinite, but in relation to His universe, He is transcendent. This is not the same as holiness, though. Holiness means God is separate from His creation because He is transcendent.

Thomas Aquinas pinpointed it this way: “God is above all things by the excellence of His nature.”

Many believe that man is at the center of everything – this is a humanist belief. Others believe that nothing is necessarily at the center, because there is no purpose – this is commonly held by evolutionists and atheists. Then are those who believe God is real, but he’s not interested in what’s going on in the world – this is deism, and the premise of theistic evolution.

Each of these beliefs rejects God’s transcendence. Yet, Job 11:7-8 says, “Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than the heavens – what can you do?” Man is finite, as in we are limited in our abilities and mental capacities. Compared to God, we are as small and helpless as ants! When I think of God’s transcendence, I think of God’s response to Job in Job Chapters 40 – 41. There, God asks if Job can control great animals, command creation to cease or continue, or humble men who have made themselves proud. My response would have been like Job’s in 40:4, “Behold, I am insignificant.”

God is transcendent in three ways: (1) originally, because He is absolutely independent, who neither has nor can have anything prior or superior to himself; (2) formally, because he has an absolutely infinite essence; and (3) virtually, because his activity has no finite sphere, nor does he need the concourse of any cause in acting, but does all things whatsoever he wills.

The transcendence of God should elicit three things in us:

  1. A sense of awe. For as Psalm 8:1 says, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.” We shouldn’t reject God’s transcendence out of fear, spite, or skepticism. Instead, we should see it as something to be amazed at.
  2. A sense of sinfulness. Isaiah 6:1-5 says, “I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple…’Woe to me!” I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.’” In order for God to be transcendent, He would have to infinite and perfect. We, on the other hand, are not. For as Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Thus, we recognize our sinful nature, our imperfections.
  3. A sense of reverence. God, the greatest of anything in the entire galaxy, universe, whichever, created a way by sending His Son to pay the price for our sin.

 

What do you think? What does God’s transdence elicit in you?

 

Oh, and here is the High Above It All song by For All Seasons, to usher you into worship of God and His transcendence:

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