He Who Is: A Study in Traditional Theism

By E. L. B. D. Mascall | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER X
TRANSCENDENCE AND IMMANENCE

THE God of traditional Christian theism is both transcendent and immanent. He is transcendent because, as we have maintained in a previous chapter, "a first cause who was himself in even the very least degree involved in the mutability, contingency or insufficiency of the universe would provide no more in the way of an explanation of the existence of the universe than it could provide itself; such a God would provide a foundation neither for himself nor for anything else."1 He is immanent because unless every finite being was sustained at its ontological root by his incessant creative action--unless, to use the scholastic terms, he was in it by "essence, presence and power"2--it would collapse into non-existence through sheer insufficiency; it would, in Julian of Norwich's phrase, "fall to naught for littleness." And both the terms "transcendent " and "immanent" are relative to the created world; God is transcendent to it and immanent in it. Furthermore, they are intimately related to each other, for they both arise out of the fact that the world is God's creation. As Fr. Przywara puts it, God, "as the pure 'Is,' is on the one side so inward to the creation that the transient 'is' of the creation is only from him and in him--and yet on the other side, differentiated from the creation, above it as the pure 'Is,' for whom no relationship to anything which is 'becoming' is in any way possible."3 The precise relation of these two elements of transcendence and immanence, and their consequences for religion, have been workd out with great profundity of thought and profusion of detail in the work from which these words are quoted, and the doctrine of analogia entis (that is, the doctrine that creation is a similitude of God's being, deriving both essence and existence from his creative act, while being in no way necessary to him) is there made the foundation of a general theory of religion which is of quite exceptional significance. In the present chapter we shall attempt a more modest task, and

____________________
1
p. 96supra.
2
Cf. S. Theol., I, viii, 3.
3
Polarity, E.T., p. 33. An exposition of this difficult but most illuminating book, by its translator, Dr. A. C. Bouquet, appeared Theology, December 1934. A short discussion of Przywara's teaching be found in W. M. Horton Contemporary Continental Theology, p. 65 f.

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