As you know, I’ve recently returned to the importance of prepositions, of living prepositionally, as these prepositions are used in Scripture to describe the relationship between God and creation.
I thought I’d mention a few key prepositions and how I engage them. I daily rehearse their importance by confessing them in prayer to God: “I am – of you, from you, in you, through you, for you, to you” is a kind of mantra I employ. And I try to take time to say what each involves, usually by expressing gratitude for the reality of God’s presence held out in each preposition.
One could explore more prepositions, I suppose. The important thing to remember is not to reduce God to the spatial limits implied by such language. One cannot get “behind” God, or “under” or “over” God, or move from being “outside” God to “in” God. Language will and must fail us. Prayer is ultimately being at a loss for words.
As Denys Turner points out:
…the way of negation demands prolixity; it demands the maximization of talk about God; it demands that we talk about God in as many ways as possible, even in as many conflicting ways as possible, that we use up the whole stock-in-trade of discourse in our possession, so as thereby to discover ultimately the inadequacy of all of it…
…it is the encounter with the failure of what we must say about God to represent God adequately.
“All in Christ” and “Christ in all.” Not a contradiction, but the single and undivided intimacy of God’s presence. From the perspectives of discrete beings contemplating their individual existence, we can say Christ is “in all things” the principle of their diversity, giving each its own life. And when contemplating the shared origin of all things in God, the undivided source and ground of the being of all things, we can say all things are “in Christ” the principle of their unity.
Christ exceeds us in every possible direction as more inward than our inmost and higher than our utmost. For me, the point in contemplating faith and life in Christ intentionally in prepositional terms is to experience myself exceeded (saturated) by, inseparably related to, the presence and purposes of God. And it has been absolutely important to me to engage these as prayer, that is, to contemplate their reality in the second person.
So, consider a few ways we live prepositionally.
Of you. To say I am “of” God is to say I owe my existence to God’s creative act. His being is the source and ground of my being. His life, my life. My existing at all is a creative expressive act of his own existing.
From you. To say I am “from” God is similar to saying I am “of” him, except that while “of” speaks purely of origin, “from” adds to this the immediacy and constancy of God’s creative act. A deist may agree God is the origin and source of the world’s being the way a clockmaker is responsible for making a clock. But a clockmaker may let go his clock and the clock operate independent of its maker. That we are “from” God dispels this kind of independence. It means we exist continuously from the immediate presence of God and his creative will. We are not only “of” God (in the remote sense of God’s being our origin), we are continuously “from” him.
In you. To say I am “in” God is to say I am inseparable from the intimacy of his presence and creative will, that he is more intimate to me than my inmost and higher than my upmost, that God’s presence is the first reality and truth of every other reality and truth.
Through you. To say I am “through” God speaks of God’s immediate presence as means and provision for my life. One may grant one is of and from God but suppose God is an uninvolved observer, not also intentionally pursuing my highest good in him. That I am “through” God suggests that God is present is also the empowerment of ongoing transformation, meaning-making, and life/service.
For you. To say I am “for” God is to say God is the end for which I exist and act. I live and act for his pleasure and glory.
To you. To say I am “to” God is to say not only that God is the end for which I exist and act but that he is also the object of all my acts. I do what I do “to” Christ who is in all things as their life just as he is in me as my life. How else can Paul instruct us (Col 3) to do all we do “as to Christ, not to others”? Christ is served when we serve others. How else is it true (Mat 25) that in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and caring for the sick we in fact feed, clothe, and care for Christ? To learn to see all our acts this way is the struggle of faith. To intend Christ in all we do is the transformation we call the Christian faith/life.