Omnipresence

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Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.
—1 Kings 19:11-13, New International Version

Omnipresence is the state of being everywhere at once. It is one of the major qualities that theologians attribute to God, along with omnipotence, omniscience and omnibenevolence.

Whence cometh evil?[edit]

A variation on the problem of evil arises from saying that God is perfectly good and in all places.

P1: God is perfectly good (by definition).
P2: God is in all places (by definition).
C1: Something that is perfectly good is in all places (P1, P2).
P3: If something perfectly good is in a place, then there cannot be evil in that place.
C2: There cannot be evil in any place (P3, C1).
P4: There is evil in at least one place.
C3: At least one of P1, P2, P3, P4 is false (from C2, P4 by contradiction).

Another way to think of it is this: if there is perfect heat, and it is in all places, then there ought to be no cold, because everything should be perfectly hot. If there is cold, then there either is not perfect heat or perfect heat is not in all places. If there is perfect brightness, and it is in all places, then there ought to be no darkness because everything should be perfectly bright. If there is darkness, either there is not perfect brightness or that perfect brightness is not in all places.

This problem was mentioned by Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica. As he put it, “…if one of two contraries be infinite, the other would be altogether destroyed. But the word "God" means that He is infinite goodness. If, therefore, God existed, there would be no evil discoverable; but there is evil in the world”. Aquinas denies this argument by claiming that God "…should allow evil to exist, and out of it produce good."[1] This arguably ignores the problem — that under the premises, evil shouldn’t exist to begin with.

See you in Hell[edit]

An interesting point from theologians who believe in Hell is that an omnipresent God must be in Hell as well, roasting with us sinners. So much for Hell being “separation from God”![2][3]

Always there when you need Him[edit]

Attachment theory is a psychological and evolutionary theory developed by John Bowlby. Since children, especially young children, are not self-sufficient, they have evolved an innate desire to seek caregivers, called attachment figures. These attachment figures provide the child with a “safe haven” during danger or uncertainty and a “secure base” from which they can explore and learn about the world. It’s easy to see how having a deity watching over someone would provide them with such safety.[4]

Children need to maintain a close proximity to attachment figures. When they cannot find their attachment figure, they suffer separation anxiety. Conversely, knowing that one can always reach their attachment figure minimizes anxiety.

By making God omnipresent, people can believe that they need never fear being separated from Him. Instead, He is always there, providing comfort and safety.

…(M)any Christians turn to God to restore a lost sense of felt security. The Psalmist describes God as "our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1), and St. Paul writes of how "neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38) …Then there are those (Christians) who are neither anxious nor avoidant in their relationship with God. These people, instead, seem to remain steadily connected to God through both ups and downs in their lives, and their relationship with God seems stable and integrated. These are patterns characteristic of secure attachment.
—Bonnie Poon Zahl[5]

He’s watching you![edit]

In an experiment, Jessie Bering and his former PhD students, Jared Piazza and Gordon Ingram performed the “Princess Alice” experiment.[6] In short: kids were told to try to hit a ball at a target for a certain number of points. They were given rules they could not break while aiming at the target.

The kids were divided into three groups. In one group, an experimenter would monitor the children playing. In another group, the experimenter would pretend to need to leave the room. The last group of kids were told that the room had 'Princess Alice', "(a) friendly magical princess … that could make herself invisible … and is in the room with us right now and is sitting in that chair" before the experimenter left the room. Of course, the kids whose experimenter left the room were blatant cheaters. Interestingly, "(t)hose in the 'invisible agent' condition, by contrast, were just as well-behaved when they thought Princess Alice was in the room as were those kids being watched by an actual, flesh and blood person sitting in the chair before them and supervising their behavior."

However, "(t)his rather astonishing Princess Alice effect only panned out statistically for those children who said that they believed that she was real. The more sceptical children in the 'invisible agent' condition, by contrast, were just as likely to cheat when left alone as those in the "no supervision” condition".

Bering argues that the idea of a God or gods (or angels or spirits or whatever) who are watching you no matter where you are was invented to control social behavior. "If our ancestors thought that they were alone and/or could get away with something, but were in fact underestimating other people’s finding out, then the illusion of a concerned 'invisible agent' would have helped them to inhibit selfish, impulsive decisions that could have seriously compromised their reputations, and hence their genetic interests…

The difference, of course, is that whereas we took great care to debrief the children in our study by telling them that Princess Alice was only make-believe and part of our silly little experiment, children in the past were never debriefed about the fictitious gods that they grew up with. The original fabulists died off without telling them that it was all made up. So when these children became adults and communicated the very same stories to their own children, they did so with all the potent conviction of true believers."
—Jesse Bering[7]

See Also[edit]

  • Monism, the belief that everything in existence shares one substance
  • Pantheism, the belief God is the universe
  • Pandeism, the belief that God created the universe by becoming the universe
  • Panentheism, the belief that God both exists inside of everything and is transcendent of everything

References[edit]