Essential Properties of God: Personal, Incorporeal and Omnipresent

I have been enjoying some free audio lectures on philosophy from Oxford University.  And one set of lectures I just started listening to involves the philosophy of religion, and included some lectures on the essential properties of God.  The first three properties are referred to in the title of this post.  I do not literally agree with two of them, but I now understand that I am not as far away from these concepts as I originally thought.

When it comes to a personal God, I do not think there is a Mormon on the planet that would disagree.  We believe that God has a body of flesh and bone for crying out loud.  We believe that God cares, hears us, interacts with us, etc.  I feel that it would be hard to find a group of people that believes God is a person more so than members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Now when it comes to God being incorporeal, most of us would strongly disagree with this in any literal sense.  Again, for Mormons, God simply has a physical body.  Yet, in the lecture itself, the definition of incorporeal became less objectionable to me.  It had to do with God being able to know and control stuff directly other than indirectly.  It also had to do with God not being more present in one area than He is anywhere else.  While I still do not quite buy this in a literal way, I do not have a problem with God functionally being able to know and control stuff directly, and also functionally able to be as present in one location as He is in any other.  And the lecture  ended up concluding that perhaps transcendence may be a better word than incorporeal.  And as a Mormon I certainly am more comfortable with that term.

Similarly, God being literally omnipresent is something that I cannot accept in a literal way.  Yet the lecture eventually discussed this as God not being absent from anywhere.  Again, from a functional standpoint, I have no problem with this, just from a literal one.  And once again, the lecture ended up using another word for this that I am more comfortable with – the word it Immanence.   This would mean that there is no place where God is absent.

I do tend to be a stickler on an embodied God, but this lecture helped me to better understand that from a philosophical standpoint, I perhaps can have an embodied God, that is not literally incorporeal and omnipresent, yet is transcendent and immanent.   Which I think is functionally the same thing, just with a physical body.

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5 Responses to “Essential Properties of God: Personal, Incorporeal and Omnipresent”


  1. 1 larryc May 18, 2012 at 5:54 am

    Nice post. Transcendence is not only a good word substitution for corporeal, but also for omnipresence.

  2. 3 Matt W. May 19, 2012 at 11:59 am

    Good grab, Eric.

  3. 4 Sean May 19, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    Wow! I think I agree with you Eric. Probably for the first time in my life I can understand why others believe that God is incorporeal. I don’t feel this way, but they probably feel that having a body puts a constraint on God’s ability to directly affect all things. Also, I have always loved the word and concept behind the word Transcendence. It is a deep part of my personal philosophy and faith.

  4. 5 Eric Nielson May 20, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Thanks Matt.

    Sean,

    The ‘new’ terms of transcendence and immanence were what made it for me. To have some functional synonyms to replace omnipresence and incorporeal with is valuable to Mormons like me.


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