The Rhythm of Transcendence and Immanence—
Reflections on Christian Worship of the God of Wonder(s):
A Christological Reflection
(Blog Article Part 4)
Jesus Christ. Immanuel. God with us. The very idea of God walking among sinful humanity is an astounding thought. God drew near. His omnipresence became ultra-presence. God became one of us. He walked like us, talked like us, worked like us, and played like us. Why would God choose to become a man? He had no need to do so, in himself, as God. Yet, he chose to dwell with his people as a human. Astonishing!
Christ was the means by which God chose to physically abide with his people. In Christ, God tangibly drew near again—a seemingly impossible action in light of the great separation that took place in Genesis 3. The infinite took on finitude. The Creator became a creature. Holiness mingled with the unclean. The timelessly eternal experienced aging. The omnipotent took on frailty. The all-sufficient one became dependent on a carpenter and his wife. The immutable became wrapped in flesh that bled, skin that perspired, eyes that wept, a heart that grieved, and a body that fatigued. Remarkable! Immanuel—God being “with us” is an incomprehensibly glorious and gracious act of mercy and love. Thanks be to God!
God’s drawing near in Christ is the subject of one of the most profound meta-storylines of Scripture. However, to fully appreciate the person and work of Jesus, we must step back and apprehend the fullness of this Jesus who was God with us. The immanence of God the Son, like the immanence of God the Father, is grounded in his transcendence. When Christ became a man, his transcendence was not obliterated or diminished in the least. Instead, he permanently added humanity to his deity while in no way subtracting deity from himself. He was indeed more than a carpenter. He was more than a carpenter’s son. He was first transcendent and remains transcendent throughout all eternity.
Today, much focus is placed on Christ’s immanent love for us, his sacrifice for us, his finished work on the cross for us, and his compassion for us. In focusing on what Christ did for us, we can too often lose sight of who Christ is apart from us. He is the King of glory. He is God, the almighty—the one who dwells eternally with the Father and the Spirit. He is the voice (Word) of creation while simultaneously being the one whose word is upholding creation. He is timeless and unchangeable and the rock of humanity’s salvation. He needs nothing and is dependent on no one. Possessing the wisdom of the ages, he rules and reigns with divine regal authority over all that he has made.
Yes, Christ is God in the flesh. He was born, walked among us, and became one of us. Yet, may we never forget that he is the transcendent God of the universe who is worthy of worship, reverence, wonder, fear, and praise.
In the next blog, I will highlight the models of the rhythm of transcendence then immanence represented in Scripture specifically in personal and corporate worship encounters with God and in prayers offered to God.
Grudem, Systematic Theology, 543.
This blog article is written by Chuck T. Lewis, Ph.D. Dr. Lewis serves as Assistant Professor of Church Music and Worship at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Lewis is also currently serving as Worship Associate at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky and has formerly served as Worship Pastor of the First Baptist Church of West Palm Beach, Florida. Lewis’s complete research on the rhythm of transcendence and immense can be viewed under the “Complete Dissertation” tab found at worshipdesignproject.com. Also, worshipdesignproject.com features the findings of a nationwide survey of the largest Southern Baptist Churches in America designed to discover the prime influencers on how worship pastors select elements to be included in their worship services and how those elements are sequenced.