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I was sitting expectantly in the doctor's office, waiting for the results of some tests. I had convinced myself that there was nothing wrong. At worst, it was a hernia; at best, a pulled muscle. The doctor finally entered, and he gave me the news: "I am sorry to tell you, we have found a large mass by your right kidney, and it looks cancerous."
My stomach sank, my world spun, and I cried out to Jesus. Some further tests determined that I had a rare and deadly cancer for which there is no known treatment.
As a husband, a father of two young children, and a theologian, the news confronted me with the fact that life would change drastically. What would it be like for my kids to grow up without their dad? How would my wife handle all of this? Why would God allow this to happen to me, and where was God in the midst of this turmoil? As Christians, we all feel the gravity of life bearing down, and we all meet with trying circumstances that force such questions upon us.
Questions about God's presence—and apparent absence—hearken back to what Christians have traditionally called God's transcendence and immanence. Or, to use more biblical language, his apparent "veiled-ness" and "unveiled-ness."
Theologian G. R. Lewis writes of God's transcendence and immanence this way:
As transcendent, God is uniquely other than everything in creation. God's distinctness from the being of the world has been implied in . . . discussions of God's attributes metaphysically, intellectually, ethically, emotionally, and existentially. God is "hidden" relationally because [he is] so great in all these other ways. God's being is eternal, the world's temporal. God's knowledge is total, human knowledge incomplete.
Lewis explains God's "otherness" through a series of comparisons between the finite (human history and humans in general) and the infinite (God's eternal nature and interior ...