“God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. Amen.”
That’s the first prayer I remember learning as a small child. It’s short (as prayers before meals should be). It rhymes. It’s really quite a good little prayer.
The thing I like best about it is that it communicates something about God which is foundational. Packed up in this little pre-meal prayer for children are the concepts both of God’s transcendence and His immanence.
Transcendence – “God is great. God is good.”
Immanence – “Let us thank Him for our food.”
The term transcendence refers to the reality that God is distinct from and above all Creation.
Distinct from: The universe is not God. The earth is not God. The trees are not God. I’m not God you’re not God. God is “other” than us.
Above all: God is the origin and sustenance of all Creation. He is the owner of all Creation. He has all authority over all Creation. He is superior to all Creation. His superiority includes every category of existence. He is eternal; Creation is finite. He is morally perfect; Creation is good, but broken, fallen. The list could go on.
The term immanence refers to God’s nearness and involvement with Creation day by day, moment by moment. God is not far away and uninvolved, but rather unimaginably close and deeply involved in the tiniest details of life.
If I minimize God’s transcendence but hold to His immanence, I wind up being a pantheist. For if God IS near and involved in our lives but is not distinct from us and not over us, then God is everything and everything is God.
If I minimize God’s immanence but hold to His transcendence, I wind up being a deist. For if God is distinct from us and over us but is not near to us and involved in our lives, then God is far away and inaccessible; the cosmos is simply a complex watch and the watch maker has moved on to other things.
When we respond to God in worship we humbly surrender before the transcendent One. We bow before His greatness. There is a biblical principle in place as we do this. He inhabits our praise. We enter His gates with thanksgiving.
Get this! As we exalt His transcendence, we experience His immanence. What an amazing privilege.