By John Frame
When people philosophize about God, images of his distance often predominate. God is, we say, far from us, in a different realm from the earth in which we live.
There is some truth in this.
The Bible often says that God reigns “on high” (Job 16:19; Ps 18:16). That is a synonym for heaven, a place above and beyond us. When Jesus ascended to heaven, he rose into the air until he was out of sight (Acts 1:9–11).
But Scripture also says that God is near us, with us, in every place:
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you. (Ps 139:7–12)
Paul’s sermons on Mars Hill and earlier in Lystra (14:15–18) draw on nature. Although Paul alludes in these passages to Old Testament teaching and sets forth the Old Testament view of the world, he is addressing pagans who have not known the Bible, and he does not assume they are acquainted with it. So in Acts 17:26–28, he is saying that even apart from Scripture we should be able to detect the presence, the nearness of God, through the created world.
He is a person who makes himself available to our experience. We can know his greatness, his oneness, his wisdom, and his goodness. Indeed, if we cannot know him, we cannot know anything else, for all truth, beauty, and goodness depend on him. The greatness, oneness, wisdom, and goodness of the world around us are revelations of God. So to know any fact is to know God in that fact.
And we can pursue this point still farther: we cannot know ourselves without knowing God. The Bible does not define human nature except to call us the image of God (Gen 1:26–27). The closest it comes to defining “image of God” is by saying that this image qualifies us to “have dominion” over the earth. God is Lord of all; he has dominion over everything. So his image has a dominion similar to his. This is not an absolute or ultimate dominion, but a dominion under his that is higher than that of any other created thing.
Like God, we have glory and honor, and dominion over all the beasts, the birds, the fish, and whatever other creatures there may be. This means that just as we can know God through his greatness, his oneness, his wisdom, and his goodness, we also know him by knowing ourselves. He is closer to us than anyone or anything else. Every part of our mind and body reveals him.
Each person is one but with an amazing complexity of organs and cells. Together we express sexual diversity (a mark of God’s image in Gen 1:28), and a wide range of abilities and disabilities. What amazing creatures we are! How much more amazing must be the one who put us together!
That one is as close to us as the mirror in which we look each day. He is as close as the blood rushing through all our organs. He is as close as the electrical impulses that move our brains from one thought to the next. And from his presence we know he exists.1
This excerpt is adapted from John Frame’s Nature’s Case for God: A Brief Biblical Argument.