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Prior to salvation, is God internal or external?

As a yoga instructor I taught my students that God resides within every human being, that all people possess an inward ‘spark of divine nature.’ This is basically the stance taken in Far Eastern and New Age religious groups, that the Creator is internal. In order to find him, devotees are instructed to look within. Meher Baba instructed his disciples, “Do not search for God outside of you. God can only be found within you, for his only abode is the heart.”1 Usually, this belief grows out of pantheism: the proposition that creation, with its substance, forces and laws, is an emanation of God. If Deity indwells everything in nature, it is only logical to believe he already indwells all of us.2

In direct contrast, the Bible teaches that men and women are born into this world separated from God. Helen Schucman, author of A Course in Miracles, counters the biblical view insisting, “A sense of separation from God is the only lack you really need correct. This sense of separation never would have arisen if you had not distorted your perception of truth, and had thus perceived yourself as lacking.”443 However, the Bible does not teach a ‘sense of separation,’ but rather, a ‘state of separation.’ (Isaiah 59:2 warns that, “your iniquities have separated you from your God.”) This ‘separating’ influence is not only our individual iniquities, but the sin status we have all inherited from Adam. The good news is: the Bible also teaches that we can be reunited with God. This happens when Jesus Christ comes to dwell in our hearts by faith. (See Romans 8:911, Ephesians 3:1719.)

An important biblical happening supports this view of man’s status with God. Right before Jesus ascended into heaven, he encouraged his disciples to wait in the upper room until the promise of the Holy Spirit came. The Bible explains that on the Day of Pentecost (a Jewish feast day), “there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind.” This supernatural ‘wind’ filled the entire house where the disciples were sitting. (See Acts 2:121.) Tongues of fire appeared over their heads and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Notice the Bible says they were filled. The Spirit of God came into them from outside of them. The Holy Spirit was not awakened from within their inner being. Seeing this automatically answers the question posed at the beginning of this section.

Yes, without a doubt, God is external prior to a person’s experience of salvation. This separation between God and man is the chief reason for the emotional and mental misery that racks the human race. No wonder Jesus is entitled the Prince of peace, for “peace with God” and “the peace of God” are gifts he deposits in every heart he reconciles to the Father. (Philippians 4:7, Romans 5:1) This really is the cure for our dilemma.

1 Information brochure from Meher Spiritual Center, Myrtle Beach, SC, A Place of Pilgrimage For All Time, p. 5.
2 Actually, this argument would be offered by both pantheists and panentheists.
3 Helen Schucman and William Thetford, A Course in Miracles (Tiburon, California: Foundation for Inner Peace, 1976) “Text,” p. 11.

Copyright © 2003 Mike Shreve

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Written by Mike Shreve