Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Would God truly dwell on earth? Behold, the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain You

Would God truly dwell on earth? Behold, the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain You, and surely not this Temple that I have built! (1 Kings 8:27)
On the surface the proclamation just cited by King Solomon as he dedicated the first Beith HaMikdash is obvious, intuitive. On the other hand, it can be seen as a little difficult insofar as it seems to limit God’s ability by saying He is unable to dwell in the Temple. In truth, it must be understood (I believe here and in other similar paradoxes) that the limitation isn’t on God, per se, but on the Universe. The Universe, the physical, was created by God, according to His will, unable to contain Him.

In a very significant passage in the Christian Bible Paul asserts the following: "For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him." And "For in Christ1 all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form." (Colossian 1:19, 2:9). While the T’nakh declares flat out that even the whole Universe is unable to contain God, Christianity teaches that all God’s fullness dwells in the bodily form of the Nazarene! Christian commentators and thinkers elaborate, "In Him dwelleth all the pleroma--this is a clear-cut statement of the deity of Christ. It could not be stated any stronger that it is here. In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead-not just 99.44 percent but 100 percent."2

"In Colossians 2:9 ‘the fullness of deity’ refers to ‘the whole glorious total of what God is, the supreme Nature in its infinite entirety.’"3

Though it may be tempting for a Christian to try to soften the conflict by qualifying the intent of Colossians it would be a mistake to do so. It is argued that:
Like many other theological terms, this term can be misleading. It might suggest that the eternal Logos by the act of incarnation was confined to the body of Jesus of Nazareth. The implication of such a construction of the result of the incarnation is that God the Son, kenotically "emptying" himself, divesting himself of the attribute of being always and everywhere immediately present in the universe. But to hold such a view is tantamount to contending that he who enfleshed himself as Jesus of Nazareth, while doubtless more than man, is not quite God."4
This formulation appears to take a swipe at Kenotic Theology (which we will touch upon later), though its proponents, to my knowledge, affirm the Nazarene’s omnipresence even during the incarnation.5 Nevertheless, while it would be a mistake to interpret Colossians as asserting that God was not present except in the body of the Nazarene, confined to his body as it were, it would be mistaken both from the thrust of this verse and the thrust of Christian doctrine do deny that God’s presence in the Nazarene (His "fullness") is any less than where we to imagine God confined to the Nazarene's body. While Colossians claim that in the Nazarene dwells the fullness of God may represent a "paradox", the doctrine of Trinity itself is a "paradox". In effect Paul indirectly asserts that the Temple can contain God, the "fullness" of God no less (in the incarnated Nazarene), affirming what Solomon denies, even though he presumably and paradoxically did not mean to deny God concurrent omnipresence. Conversely we may rightly see Solomon’s words as implying or alluding to God’s omnipresence, but he does so by denying that which Paul affirms, that the fullness of God can be contained in the physical world.
Michael Brown argues,
In fact, even the concept of God’s "fullness" dwelling in the Messiah in bodily form presents no problem when properly understood. For just as the glory of God filled the Tabernacle and Temple without it in any way emptying, depleting, or lessening God, so also his glory filled his son, without in anyway emptying, depleting, or lessening him. Isaiah 6:3 also teaches that the whole earth is filled with his glory, while in the New Testament, it is written that the church—the worldwide congregation of true believers in Yeshua—is "the fullness of him who fills everything in every way" (Eph. 1:23) Does this diminish God?6
God is not diminished, yet it is a diminished view of God. Many readers will have already noted that his analogy with the Temple fails because while the Temple was "filled" with God’s glory the verses in Colossians asserts a very different idea, that the "fullness" of God lives in the Nazarene’s bodily form. This is not the difference between a cup being half empty or half full, it is the difference between the cup being filled with water and all water being in the cup! In other words the verse does not say, "For in Christ’s bodily form is filled with Deity." Again, Solomon specifically says the Temple could not contain God while Colossians says that the Nazarene’s body does contain the fullness of God. Being filled with God’s glory is not the same as containing the fullness of God.

Proponents of the Trinity are accustomed to accepting beliefs that in other contexts would be considered mutually exclusive. They will not easily be swayed from their beliefs, particularly by theologically based arguments. We must, however, recognize that while Solomon said that the Temple cannot contain God, Paul says that the body of the Nazarene can contain the fullness of God. These are mutually exclusive beliefs. One must also note the irony that at the inauguration of the Temple, which Christians see as prefiguring the incarnation of the Nazarene, Solomon through ruach hakodesh asks "Would God truly dwell on earth?", a clearly rhetorical question whose answer is clearly "no" based on the context. Yet Christianity demands an affirmative answer, undermining the force of this verse, or more correctly out rightly contradicting it.

1 The word "Christ" does not appear here in the Greek, but is inferred from context.
2 Thru The Bible with J. Vernon McGee vol. 5, page 350.
3Quoted in Christ Before the Manger, page 50.
4Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, pages 555-556.
5While living on earth, He also was omnipresent in His deity." Cited in Christ Before the Manger, page 45.

No comments: