The Transcendence of God

Tozer laments how God is not treated with transcendence and awe but rather a familiarity that one uses when speaking with their best friend. The notion of a transcendent God is what leads to the fear of God. Even the idea of the “fear” of God is neutered now and taken to mean simply “reverence” rather than “fear.” But I was reading just this morning in Hebrews 10:31 that “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Consider that! The writer of Hebrews recognizes the transcendence of God to the degree that, even though Christians have been purified, it is still a dreadful proposition to cross him. Or as C.S. Lewis would write, “He is not a tame lion.”

Perhaps this is why the Psalms repeatedly appeal to the created order, the observation of the universe to grapple with the majesty of God. Psalm 19:1 says, “the heavens declare the glory of God, the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” And in Revelation the poetry and language is even more grandiose in describing God’s throne and his attendants. Of course, as Tozer himself says, we need to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is allowing descriptions of God that are anthropomorphic, meaning that God is lowering himself to be spoken of in such terms as having a “throne” and being attended to by angels.

The Bible also describes God in this way in Acts 17:25: “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’.” This is anthropomorphic language that God allows to be employed to describe Him while the reality of His nature is even far above such mean descriptors.

Or again in Psalm 8, “

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?”

We treat God like a gumball machine and have little regard for who he truly is: frightful, awesome, transcendent, majestic, severe, and yet humble, kind, patient, merciful. The English language cannot contain him and our trifling words can never approach him. Tozer is right in his description of most Christian preaching: “how strange to him and how empty would sound the flat, stale, and profitless words heard in the average pulpit from week to week.”

He is right to conclude that transcendent is the proper light in which to present God, and the proper response is self-evident: fall prostrate before him in worship. However, there is a great deal of clamoring in modern churches for preaching that is more “practical.” Were the transcendence of God put on display, no such desire for application would be needed; the application would follow as a natural consequence of the vision of almighty God.