If mankind is totally separate from God then how is He omnipresent?
The separation is in the area of relationship. The picture used by the Bible is death—dead in trespasses and sin (Eph. 2:1-5). When a person dies he or she does not cease to exist. They continue to exist in the spiritual realm; however, the living cannot have a relationship with them because that is expressed through the body. The living and the dead are still present (one in the spiritual realm and one in the physical realm) but it is impossible for them to relate to each other because the body of one of them is no longer functioning. The same is true with God. Sin causes us to be “dead to God.” He is still present but we cannot relate to each other because of sin. The Bible teaches that we have to be “born again.” We have to experience a spiritual rebirth in order to have a personal relationship with God. That spiritual rebirth comes when we place our trust in Yeshua (Jesus). It does not come through reincarnation.
God certainly values pure character. If a person is “saved” by faith alone, where does pure character come in?
Yes, God does want pure character. However, and this is crucial to understand, pure character comes after the personal relationship with God is established through faith (being born-again). Pure character does not come before that transaction. Once that transaction is genuinely accomplished through faith—each individual admitting their sin and submitting to Yeshua as their Savior and Lord—then God in the presence of His Holy Spirit indwells the person. The person is now cleansed of his previous sin-filth and is a fit vessel for God. The person becomes a “temple of God” (1 Cor. 3:16). Then God goes to work developing the character, purifying the character, from the inside out (Heb. 6:1, 13:5; Eph. 4:11-13; Matt. 5:48; Rom. 5:4 etc. etc). Pure character is one of the major themes of the Bible (Psalm 24; 51:6-7; Prov. 21:8; etc.). Maturing character is a life-long, growth process for the Believer that starts at the moment of salvation, not before.
Can’t you establish a personal relationship with God without converting to Christianity?
What I am talking about is a personal relationship with God that is established through trusting what Jesus did for you. I am not talking about “converting to a religion.” What I am talking about here is embracing the Biblical revelation. I am talking about establishing a personal relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob based on trusting the work of the Jewish Messiah. Many people in this world wear the label “Christian” but are not genuine believers in Jesus. We have to be careful with our terms here, because I am talking about the genuine article. There are plenty of counterfeits around.
There is a “religious” side to embracing the Jewish Messiah. The Bible commands us to assemble together for worship and mutual edification, in a properly constituted local assembly. Most people would call that “going to church.”
God requires us to grow intellectually. The more we understand Him, the closer relationship we have with Him. Isn’t that true?
You are correct. The mind must change as it receives new revelation. The key is the word “revelation.” Revelation is information from God that man cannot know on his own. Scientific investigation in the physical world is one thing. Man investigates, probes, experiments, validates, and practically implements information all in the physical realm. However, humanity is cut off from interaction with God. The Bible says this about those who do not believe in Jesus:
- Ephesians 2:12
- Colossians 1:21
- Ephesians 4:17-18
- 1 Corinthians 1:21
- 1 Thessalonians 4:5
Remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. (NASB)
You were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds (NASB)
Walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart. (NASB)
For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God.(NASB)
The Gentiles who do not know God. (NASB)
This evaluation of humanities need is not complementary: separate, excluded, strangers, no hope, without God, alienated, hostile, futility, darkened, excluded, ignorant, hard of heart, and spiritually dead. We cannot and do not know God unless He reveals Himself to us. Let me bring in here a short article that says it well:
In Biblical usage the term revelation refers to God’s disclosure to man of previously unknown truth about His person, works, and plans (Ex. 6:3; Am. 3:7; Jn. 16:12–13; Ga. 1:11–12; cf. Jn. 15:15). Divine revelation is of two types: general and special. General revelation refers to divine truth evident in nature and in the constitution of man and thus is sometimes called natural revelation. General revelation is knowable by human reason apart from the Bible and discloses God’s attributes, power, and moral nature (Ac. 14:17; Rom. 1:20; 2:15). General revelation is sufficient to leave man “without excuse” (Rom. 1:20) for his failure to respond appropriately to God (Rom. 1:21), but it is inadequate apart from the gospel message to give man a personal, saving knowledge of God (Rom. 10:13–17; 1 Cor. 1:21; cf. Jn. 5:39; Ac. 4:12; 2 Ti. 3:15). Special revelation is the disclosure of God’s being and works through divine acts and words, particularly as recorded in Scripture (Je. 1:9; Mi. 6:5; Jn. 6:63). Biblical revelation includes all that may be known through general revelation plus a much more extensive and clearer body of divine truth. (NASB Topical Index)
Now let me add an article explaining why revelation is absolutely necessary:
The Necessity of Revelation
The Bible assumes throughout that God must first disclose Himself before men can know Him. The Aristotelian idea of an inactive God whom man can discover by following out an argument is quite unbiblical. A revelatory initiative is needed, first, because God is transcendent. He is so far from man in His mode of being that man cannot see Him (Jn. 1:18; 1 Tim. 6:16; cf. Ex. 33:20), nor find Him out by searching (cf. Jb. 11:7; 23:3-9), nor read His thoughts by shrewd guesswork (Is. 55:8f.). Even if man had not sinned, therefore, he could not have known God without revelation. In fact, we read of God speaking to unfallen Adam in Eden (Gn. 2:16). Now, however, there is a second reason why man’s knowledge of God must depend on God’s revelatory initiative. Man is sinful. His powers of perception in the realm of divine things have been so dulled by Satan (2 Cor. 4:4) and sin (cf. 1 Cor. 2:14), and his mind is so prepossessed by his own fancied ‘wisdom’, which runs contrary to the true knowledge of God (Rom. 1:21ff.; 1 Cor.1:21), that it is beyond his natural powers to apprehend God, however presented to him. In fact, according to Paul, God presents Himself constantly to every man through His works of creation and providence (Rom. 1:19ff.; Ac. 14:17; cf. Ps. 19:1ff.), and the spontaneous operations of natural conscience (Rom. 2:12-15; cf. 1:32); yet He is not recognized or known. The pressure of this continual self-disclosure on God’s part produces idolatry, as the fallen mind in its perversity seeks to quench the light by turning it into darkness (Rom. 1:23ff.; cf. Jn. 1:5), but it does not lead to knowledge of God, or to godliness of life. God’s ‘general revelation’ (as it is usually called) of His eternity, power and glory (Rom. 1:20; cf. Ps. 19:1), his kindness to men (Acts 14:17), His moral law (Rom. 2:12ff.), His demand for worship and obedience (Rom. 1:21) and His wrath against sin (Rom. 1:18, 32), thus serve only to render men ‘without excuse’ for their ‘ungodliness and wickedness’ (Rom. 1:18-20).
This shows that fallen man’s need of revelation goes beyond Adam’s in two respects. First, he needs a revelation of God as a redeemer and restorer, one who shows mercy to sinners. God’s revelation through creation and conscience speaks of law and judgment (Rom. 2:14f.; 1:32), but not of forgiveness. Second, supposing that God grants such a revelation (the Bible is one long proclamation that He does), fallen man still needs spiritual enlightenment before he can grasp it; otherwise he will pervert it, as he has perverted natural revelation. The Jews had a revelation of mercy in the OT, which pointed them to Christ, but on most of their hearts there was a veil which kept them from understanding it (2 Cor. 3:14ff.), and so they fell victim to a legalistic misconception of it (Rom. 9:31-10:4). Even Paul, who calls attention to these facts, had himself known the Christian gospel before his conversion—and tried to stamp it out; not till ‘it pleased God . . . to reveal His Son in me’—in, by inward enlightenment—did Paul recognize it as the word of God. The need of divine enlightening to reveal to individuals the reality, authority and meaning of revelation objectively given, and to conform their lives to it, is occasionally indicated in the OT (Ps. 119:12, 27, etc.; Je. 31:33f.); in the NT it is stressed most by Paul and in the recorded teaching of Christ (Mt. 11:25; 13:11-17; Jn. 3:3ff.; 6:44f., 63ff.; 8:43-47; 10:26ff.; cf. 12:37ff.). (The New Bible Dictionary)
Progressive revelation deals with God revealing Himself and His will to humanity one-step-at-a-time. The data changes. I believe you stated, “The material remains the same, the mind changes.” The Biblical position is different. According to the Bible the material changes (progressive revelation) and the mind changes (maturity). God does not change; however, our knowledge of Him changes as He reveals, sovereignly, what He wants us to know about Him. We cannot know Him on our own. In His love, He makes it possible. Then, once we know, we are responsible to reorder our lives so we are consistent with what we know about the sovereign King of the Universe. God is in charge, not humanity.
There is one sober twist to all of this. Not only does God interact with man but also the enemy of God does the same. Because of our sinful nature, we are prone to follow Satan’s influences rather than God’s influences.
- Ephesians 2:1
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). (NASB)
All this information on revelation leads me to one conclusion. The source of knowledge about God lies in the Bible and in Jesus and nowhere else.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.” (NASB)
I am sorry; I do not believe the source of revelation about God is the Koran, the Bhagavad-Gita, etc. The other writings do not teach a message consistent with the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. The evaluation by the Bible, of any other source than itself, is futility.