Divine presence

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Divine presence, presence of God, Inner God, or simply presence is a concept in religion, spirituality, and theology that deals with the omnipotent ability of a god or gods to be "present" with human beings. Most gods are commonly understood to be capable of interacting with the natural world, and more important, with human beings, such that they would be able to hold some influence with any human being.

According to some types of monotheism, God is omnipresent and telepathic— can read, see, interpret, evaluate, and understand all human thoughts and concepts, and can project his will in various ways. Such ways are commonly said to be quite subtle (cf. divine illumination), but religious texts typically deal with important occurrences wherein God deals directly with particular beings.

There are three distinct but related concepts of divine presence:

  • God's presence in nature
  • God's presence among all human beings
  • God's presence in each human being

In theological terms, a god's presence in nature is irrelevant next to his or her presence among humanity. Such presence could be in the mind, but an unseen being that influences human perception would be perceived by human beings as an external, environmental, or natural entity.


The concept is shared by many religious traditions, is found in a number of independently derived conceptualizations, and each of these has culturally distinct terminology. Some of the various relevant concepts and terms are:

Other beings as a divine presence

  • Angel - typically a transcendental being, but in some usage may refer to a manifestation of God under a pseudo-identity that has human personality, and can therefore interact with a person without revealing himself overtly
  • Immanuel - "God [is] with us," is a Biblical concept that deals with the concept of divine presence, often used by Christians as a title for Jesus
  • Elohim - various theorized meanings such as "the host of angels," or an indication of God as a being with many aspects and manifestations
  • Angel of the Presence - name to refer to the angel of the Exodus

In Christianity

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A related concept is the ability of Jesus to be present in human life—a Trinitarian concept that may be specifically indicated or described by various terms:

  • Christ - A term meaning the "anointed one" meaning the messiah and saviour of humanity in the past, present and in time yet to come.
  • Eucharist or Holy Communion - The re-presentation or remembrance in Christian liturgy of Christ's sacrifice manifested through bread and wine
  • Real presence - The concept of Christ being truly present in the sacraments
  • Consubstantiation - Lutheran concept of Christ being "infused" within the species of communion with these aspects still substantially present
  • Transubstantiation - Catholic and Orthodox (terminology differs) concept of Christ fully, truly and substantially present in the Eucharist with the physical species being substantially absent

The Revealing and Saving Presence of Christ

Considering the notion or belief of Jesus' presence within the Christological area of study, one can articulate an account of presence in nine themes and so throw light on Christ "in himself" (in se) and Christ "for us" (pro nobis), thus recalling the strikingly new modes of divine presence to humanity and the world that the missions of the Son of God and the Holy Spirit brought, according to the Christian faith.[2] As Word/Wisdom/Son of God, Christ is eternally and personally related to the Father in the Spirit. To adapt a central statement from Nicaea I, "there never was a moment when God was not present to/in him" (cf. DzH 126; Col. 1:19; 2 Cor. 5:19)[3] This divine "presence to", which constitutes the triune God's life in communion, is mirrored in Christ's earthly existence — from the trinitarian face of his virginal conception and baptism right through to his "being exalted at the right hand" of God the Father and jointly "pouring out" the Holy Spirit on the world (Acts 2:33). The trinitarian presence takes into account the ultimate reality of Christ's eternal and temporal existence. His addressing God as "Abba" reflects that "being related to" which isd his eternal life-in-communion transposed into time. This is a "knowing" which denotes a mutual existence-in-the-other's presence: "no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son" (Matt. 11:27 par. There is in jesus a mystical consciousness of and reaction to God's immediate and direct presence.[4] The Q-text just quoted ends by saying, "no one knows the father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him". One then has to examine the notion of presence which illuminates not only Christ's intratrinitarian being-in-relationship but also his revealing and saving "work" for human beings. Also to be considered is how serviceable is "presence", once one moves from a christological consideration of Jesus "in himself (in se) to a soteriological consideration of his being "for us" (pro nobis). Soteriology might be described as the multiform ways[5] in which Christ's presence (or God's unique, foundational presence in/to Christ) mediated and mediates itself to human beings and their world, so as to communicate revelation and redemption. On the basis of some spatio-temporal nearness, a vital, personal "presence to" can develop. A bodily presence allows the interpersonal relationship with Christ to emerge and grow as the revealing/saving presence pro nobis.

See also


  1. "Luke 17:21 nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you". Bible.cc. Retrieved 2012-08-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Compare Gerald O'Collins, Christology: A Biblical, Historical, and Systematic Study of Jesus, OUP (2009), pp. 297-333. Cf. also O'Collins, Salvation for All: God's Other Peoples, cit.; id., Jesus: A Portrait, Darton, Longman & Todd (2008), Chs 11-12; id., Incarnation, Continuum (2002), pp. 36-42; J.A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke I-IX, Doubleday (1981), pp. 79-82; Karl Rahner, Foundations of Christian Faith, trans. W.V. Dych, Darton, Longman & Todd (1978), pp. 193-195, 204-206, 279-280, 316-321; Gabriel Marcel, The Mystery of Being, trans. G.S. Fraser & R. Hague, Harvill Press (1950-1); S. Terrien, The Elusive Presence, Harper & Row (1978). On modern Jewish thought, see E. L. Fackenheim, God's Presence in History: Jewish Affirmations and Philosophical Reflections, New York University Press (1970).
  3. Cf. also J. Neuner & J. Dupuis (eds), The Christian Faith, 7th edn, Bangalore: Theological Publications in India (2001), p. 8 - this publication hereinafter referred to under the authors' initials, as ND, followed by spec. page number.
  4. Cf. G. O'Collins, Christology, cit., Ch. 11.
  5. Cf. G. Marcel, op. cit. and his analysis of presence, where he highlights its differing qualities and modes. The relationships involved seem endlessly various: interpersonal presences can always be closer, more intense, more freely chosen, and productive of an even richer communion of life. A seemingly infinite variety of form and intensity characterizes the presences we experience; "presence" is a radically analogous term and reality. We never face a simple alternative, presence or absence. It is always a question of what kind of presence and what kind of absence, or how someone is present or how someone is absent. Every presence, short of the beatific vision of the final encounter with God, is always tinged with absence. Cf. also id., Homo viator, trans. E. Craufurd, Victor Gollanz (1951).


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