THE PRINCIPLE OF PRESENCE

LEADER TIMES WEEKEND RELIGION ARTICLE FOR

August 8, 2015 by William H. Scarle, Jr. 813-835-0129

Today I experienced one of those existential moments where one’s theology becomes perceptible.   It was not a profound moment.  It was just an ordinary crisis, an encounter with a tropical deluge that has been hitting Tampa for the last two weeks.

I first published my take on the Bible’s teaching of the presence of God in an article for “Sola,” a journal of theology in 1989.  I called it “THE PRINCIPLE OF PRESENCE, Toward a Hebraic Understanding of the Incarnation.”  Through the years this has been a key element in my writing and teaching efforts.  I expanded the work in a paper presented to the Eastern Great Lakes Biblical Society in April of 1990.  It was entitled “PLURALITY IN UNITY, Toward a Hebraic Understanding of the ‘Trinity’.”

Brother Lawrence probably expressed it more simply in his seventeenth century work, “Practicing the Presence of God”  The idea of God being present with us goes back to the third chapter of Genesis where we read that Adam and Eve had a regular time of the day set aside for fellowship and communication with God.  Following their disobedience they felt awkward “when they heard the sound of YAHWAH Elohim (The Lord God) walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of YAHWAH Elohim among the trees of the garden.”

The entire Bible is dedicated to the story of how that breach in the fellowship of humanity with their Creator is bridged.  It is a long story but it ends in Revelation with the statement that there was no need of a Temple in the New Jerusalem because God was present and available everywhere (21:22).

What has this to do with a drive in the rain?  Well, it was like this.  I had a doctor’s appointment this morning, and it was raining.  We have had a lot of street flooding in Tampa the last few days.  However, the rain had let up a bit, and my street was passable, so I took off for the doctor’s office.  When I got a block from the office I found myself deep in a rain filled flooded lake that used to be a street.  I managed to pull into the hospital parking lot which was connected to my doctor’s parking lot, and made my way to the office.  When I arrived at the office it was closed which was understandable since the office was surrounded by deeply flooded streets.  I was stranded on an island.

You need to know I really don’t like driving very much and I have no sense of direction.  If I was to get home I had to find a new rout, first out of the lakes and then some clear roads home.  I could imagine myself ending up in Tampa Bay.  It was then when I actualized my theology.  I started a conversation with God, whom I knew was right there with me in the car.  All that complex theologizing and biblical exegesis came down to, “Lord, I’m in a mess here and I need some help.”  I was fully confident that God was hearing me.  I wasn’t sure he wasn’t trying to teach me not to be so foolish as to drive when the roads could be flooded.

The story ends well.  I threaded my way through some different paths and got home without drowning the car.  I also remembered to say “Thank you”

“Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (Josh. 1:9):” Even in the middle of a flooded street.

(Bill Scarle can be contacted at ravscarle@verizon.net).  END-whs

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