the weblog of Alan Knox

Practical deists?

Posted by on Aug 12, 2008 in discipleship | 12 comments

I had a good conversation recently with some friends. I suggested that we say that we believe that God is present with us always. But, we often live as practical deists – that is, we live as if God is far away from us.

What do you think? Do we live as practical deists? If so, how does this generally demonstrate itself in our lives?


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  1. 8-12-2008


    This has been a concern of mine for years. We say we believe in God, but it seems what we mean is we believe in a God that does things to someone else, somewhere else.


  2. 8-12-2008

    We say that we believe in God, but we’re sometimes afraid that the circumstances of our life as well as the whole world are spinning wildly out of control.

    When in reality all things are firmly within His control.

  3. 8-12-2008

    How about this one, which will get me stoned. We live as the Bible is the Third person in the Trinity and that the Holy Spirit left it here and now all communication comes through it.

  4. 8-12-2008


    Yes! We do!

    It demonstrates itself in our lives by the way we approach the Godhead. Most would deny what I am about to write, but I maintain that, as a general rule, in practice, we regard each of the members of the Godhead as unrelated, either in fact, theologically or practically, even though claiming Trinitarian belief.

    We allow the immanence of God to be overshadowed by His trancendence, ignoring the fact that both meet on that great day in the manger.

    Immanuel was made a concrete truth who remains with us as Holy Spirit.

    My concern during these volatile times of change amongst God’s people, is that our younger brethren should read, and understand, some sound, historical,evangelical doctrine (which requires effort and thought), along with the mountains of modern writing which agrees with our desires for necessary change. Otherwise we run the risk of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

    The emotionally satisfying, warm and fuzzy Jesus which many appear to follow today is NOT The Lord Jesus Christ of Scripture.

    The Lord Jesus Christ is Immanuel, who IS transcendent God, who IS immanent God, as IS Holy Spirit who dwells within those who are His.

    God IS Father,Son, and Holy Spirit.

  5. 8-12-2008


    Thanks for the comment and the link. I agree that we often expect God to work in the lives of other people (especially those people “over there”), but we don’t expect God to transform our own lives.


    Yes. Understanding and practicing the presence of God (to use Brother Lawrence’s phrase), affects all circumstances of our life.


    I’m not throwing any stones. The Scriptures may be God’s words, but the Spirit is God himself.

    Aussie John,

    During the conversation with my friends, we also discussed transcendance and immanence. We want (expect?) God to be immanent in salvation, but transcendant in our daily lives.


  6. 8-12-2008

    I think that most people do live as practical deists. It seems like there’s a separation between some kind of perceived movement of God (this could be a participation of some kind of liturgy, going to some kind of X-youth/ Passion conference or just a really inspiring quiet time, it also doesn’t actually have to be an actual movement of God to fit here) and mundane life. I just think that many people think that God only exists practically in big emotional waves.

  7. 8-12-2008

    Hey Aussie,

    Let me ask brother. Is Jesus a loving and intimate God? When the disciples asked “show us the Father” what was Jesus’ response? “Have I been with you so long” or another time He says “If you have seen me you have seen the Father” now lets talk about Jesus’ earthly ministry.

    A woman comes and breaks open an alabaster box and annoint Jesus and Jesus says something warm and fuzzy “she has done a beautiful thing to me”

    Next we see Jesus’ friend dies and his sisters are weeping at the loss. Jesus in turns becomes compassionate and weeps. Seems a bit warm and fuzzy

    Next there is a woman who is crying and washing His feet with her tears and drying them with her hair! Jesus embraces this. Seems a bit warm and fuzzy.

    Next they are observing the Lord’s table for the first time and there is a guy there with his head on the breast of Jesus. Seems a bit fuzzy and warm.

    Next we see after His ressurection, a woman clinging to Jesus. Seems a bit warm and fuzzy.

    Next we see Jesus encouraging and loving the little children. A bit warm and fuzzy.

    If we follow Paul’s writing to the Philippian, Thessalonians and to Timothy he uses very warm and fuzzy terminology.

    We serve a compassionate and loving, and intimate God, who sent His Son in order for us to experience this love and closeness not only that He indwells us in order for us to know experientially His nature.

    Finally Paul and Peter both use the rendering of know that promotes an experiencing of God not a God who stands in a distant, regardless of His transcendency. This God condescended into the person of Jesus Christ in order for us to know Him at an intimate and personal way. A way that should be emotionally satisfied. At least this is what I hear when I hear the words of Paul in Philippians 3. He says “I want experience or know intimately” Him.

    Brother Aussie I am glad He is a warm and fuzzy God who desires and even condescends that I may know him both emotionally, personally and revere Him.

  8. 8-12-2008


    “God in mundane life”… that is truly a recognition of the God who is present.


    Aussie John can certainly speak for himself. But, I do not think he was denying the compassion of Christ. Instead, it seems to me, he was saying that we cannot separate from the compassion of Christ (representing the immanence of God) from the sovereignty and magesty of God (representing his transcendence). If I’m wrong, I’m sure he’ll let us know.


  9. 8-12-2008

    Hey Aussie and Alan,

    I read this so my presuppositions probably kicked in my apologies if that is not what you meant Aussie:

    The emotionally satisfying, warm and fuzzy Jesus which many appear to follow today is NOT The Lord Jesus Christ of Scripture.

    I think we live in a day where because of an abuse of something we distort the very compassionate and loving aspect of God in the earthly ministry of Christ

  10. 8-13-2008


    Your response to Lionel is better than I could make, but touches exactly the heart of the point I was making.

    How could I not know our great God as warm & compassionate? He welcomed this sinner into His family!

    I also know that He is a strong disciplinarian. He's kicked my rear end a few times when I've disregarded His instructions.

    And I know that His ways are not my ways, and even though, at times, I'm utterly puzzled by what He's doing, I know that He is the same unchanging God revealed throughout Scripture, and that He does all things well.

    And Lionel,I was surprised, but not offended by your response to what I had written; thank you for your gracious response to Alan's explanation; apology accepted.

    I love your heart, but you remind me of Peter, and myself some thirty years ago. Wasn't the Roman fortunate Christ healed his ear? Trouble is, when I took it upon myself to defend the Lord, I often caused wounds which didn't heal.

    Brother Lionel! May our great God bless you, and prosper you in your desire to serve Him!

  11. 8-13-2008

    You know Aussie John,

    I thought about that immediately when I read Alan’s response. A few more years of maturity and this too shall pass! Thanks for your response Sir my apologies again

  12. 8-13-2008

    Lionel and Aussie John,

    Thank you… what an incredible example of how to treat brothers in Christ with whom you have a disagreement. May we all learn to accept one another and interact with one another with the grace that you two have demonstrated.