What It Really Means that God is Everywhere

Each of the divine attributes is both a cause for wonder at the majesty of God and a source of comfort for us in our daily lives.

This is particularly true of divine omnipresence, the reality that God is everywhere and is absent from no place.

Natural reason tells us this naturally follows from God’s very nature.

It’s also affirmed in Scripture. As Jeremiah 23:23-24 declares,

Am I a God near at hand only and not a God far off?
Can anyone hide in secret without my seeing them?
Do I not fill heaven and earth?

And also Psalm 139:7-9,

Where can I go from your spirit?
From your presence, where can I flee?
If I ascend to the heavens, you are there;
if I lie down in Sheol, there you are.
If I take the wings of dawn
and dwell beyond the sea.

That God must be omnipresent follows from nearly every other attribute. Some are obvious: Take His greatness. What could be greater than God? What could possibly be ‘larger’ than Him? What could possible contain Him? God is all-powerful. What could therefore be powerful enough to box Him?

Then there is God’s infinity. In terms of time we speak of His eternity. In terms of space we speak of His immensity. But remember, nothing can contain God, including conceptual categories. He does not merely have more time or more space than anything or anyone else. God is beyond time and space. His absolute transcendence is precisely what makes his immanence possible.

Another pathway to the same conclusion is through the attribute of simplicity. Everything around us compound: we are bodies and souls. All living things are compounds of cells. And most of the matter around us—the bacteria around on my desk, the plastic chair I am sitting in, the air I am breathing in, is comprised of molecules, which, in turn consist of atoms.

Even if we drill down to the smallest units of matter, quarks and leptons, they are ‘compound’ in the sense that they are complex. They have attributes and qualities. (A particle physicist will tell you there are six ‘flavors’ of quarks and leptons.)

But it is not so with God. He is absolute simplicity. First, this is because He is a pure spirit. He is not a body. He is not composed of matter. He created those things.

But this is so even with regards to His spiritual nature. God is His thoughts. Actually God does not think in the way we do. He does not ruminate. He does not toss and turn an idea over in His mind (to paraphrase Augustine). His thoughts are complete. So it is better to say God is His thought. And because His thought is complete we refer it to as the Word (as Augustine explains). God is His Word. The Word is God (John 1:1).  Likewise God does not have love. God does not sometimes love and sometimes not. God is love (1 John 4:8).

So it is with God’s attributes. He does not have justice and mercy, as if these were things he could acquire or lose. For where would He obtain them? Who could take them from Him? Rather, He is justice and mercy. As Augustine explains in De Trinitate, using the example of greatness:

In things that are great by partaking of greatness, things where being is one thing and being great another, like a great house and a great mountain and a great heart, in such things greatness is one thing and that which is great with this greatness is another—thus greatness is certainly not the same thing as a great house. … God is not great by participating in greatness, but He is great with His own great self because He is His own greatness. The same must be said about goodness and eternity and omnipotence and about absolutely all the predications that can be stated of God.

This truth should stir our wonder at God but it is also a great consolation.

First, God’s absolute simplicity—His lack of complexity—means that He is not ‘more’ in one place than another. His being is not accumulated in one place and diminished in another. Otherwise He wouldn’t truly be omnipresent as we have defined it. This means that God is always fully present to us. As the Psalm quoted above says, “Where can I go from your spirit? From your presence, where can I flee?” And as Jeremiah puts it, “Do I not fill heaven and earth?”

Second, it is more accurate to say that all things are in God. So it’s not so much that He is everywhere as to say that everywhere is within Him. He is not just in this place and that place. All places are in Him (as Aquinas says). As Colossians 1:17 declares, “in Him all things hold together.”

Third, the doctrine of divine simplicity indicates that God’s whole being is everywhere—not just some part or extension of Him. This means that His truth and goodness, His justice and mercy, His wisdom and love are also everywhere (see this source). This is not only a great comfort but also a cause for joy.

Stephen Beale

By

Stephen Beale is a freelance writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. Raised as an evangelical Protestant, he is a convert to Catholicism. He is a former news editor at GoLocalProv.com and was a correspondent for the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he covered the 2008 presidential primary. He has appeared on Fox News, C-SPAN and the Today Show and his writing has been published in the Washington Times, Providence Journal, the National Catholic Register and on MSNBC.com and ABCNews.com. A native of Topsfield, Massachusetts, he graduated from Brown University in 2004 with a degree in classics and history. His areas of interest include Eastern Christianity, Marian and Eucharistic theology, medieval history, and the saints. He welcomes tips, suggestions, and any other feedback at bealenews at gmail dot com. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/StephenBeale1

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  • Joey Kennedy Kepple

    Whooooooooo……..this makes my head spin and my spirit soar. Holy ground is everywhere!

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