This is a quote from Dallas Willard's book, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God. I thought it might be interesting for both Christians and non-Christians alike.
"The Old Testament experience of God is one of the direct presence of God's person, knowledge, and power to those who trust and serve him. Nothing--no human being or institution, no time, no space, no spiritual being, no event--stands between God and those who trust him. The "heavens" are always there with you no matter what, and the "first heaven," in biblical terms, is precisely the atmosphere or air that surrounds your body ... it is precisely from the space immediately around us that God watches and God acts.
"When Paul on Mars Hill told his Greek inquisitors that in God we "live and move and exist," he was expressing in the most literal way possible the fact learned from the experience of God's covenant people, the Jews. He was not speaking metaphorically or abstractly.
"The same is true when Jesus chided Nicodemus, who took himself to be a "teacher of Israel," for not understanding the birth "from above"--the receiving of a superhuman kind of life from the God who is literally with us in surrounding space. To be born "from above," in New Testament language, means to be interactively joined with a dynamic, unseen system of divine reality in the midst of which all of humanity moves about--whether it knows it or not. And that, of course, is "The Kingdom Among Us."
"Perhaps we all are far too much like Nicodemus. In a church service we may heartily sing the grand old hymn, "O Worship the King ... Whose robe is the light, whose canopy space" :
"Thy bountiful care, what tongue can recite?
"It breathes in the air; it shines in the light;
"It streams from the hills; it descends to the plain;
"And gently distills in the dew and the rain.
"But do we actually believe this? I mean, are we ready automatically to act as if we stand here and now and always in the presence of the great being described by Adam Clarke, who fills and overflows all space, including the atmosphere around our body?
"At no place, I think, does our contemporary mind-set more strongly conflict with the life and good news of Jesus than over the understanding of space. If we are to make sense of Jesus' teaching and practice of the kingdom of the heavens, we must understand what spirit and the spiritual are and how they are in space.
"Confusing God with his historical manifestations in space may have caused some to think that God is a Wizard-of-Oz or Sistine-Chapel kind of being sitting at a location very remote from us. The universe is then presented as, chiefly, a vast empty space with a humanoid God and a few angels rattling around in it, while several billion human beings crawl through the tiny cosmic interval of human history on an oversized clod of dirt circling an insignificant star.
"Of such a "god" we can only say, "Good riddance!" It seems that when many people try to pray they do have such an image of God in their minds. They therefore find praying psychologically impossible or extremely difficult. No wonder.
"But the response to this mistake has led many to say that God is not in space at all, not that "old man in the sky," but instead is "in" the human heart. And that sounds nice, but it really does not help. In fact, it just makes matters worse. "In my heart" easily becomes "in my imagination." And, in any case, the question of God's relation to space and the physical world remains unresolved. If he is not in space at all, he is not in human life, which is lived in space. Those vast oceans of "empty space" just sit there glowering at the human "heart" realm where God has, supposedly, taken refuge from science and the real world.
"This ill-advised attempt to make God near by confining him to human hearts robs the idea of his direct involvement in human life of any sense. Ironically it has much the same effect as putting God in outer space or beyond. It gives us a pretty metaphor but leaves us vainly grasping for the reality. We simply cannot solve the problem of spirit's relation to space by taking spirit out of space, either beyond space or "in" the heart. We must gain a deeper understanding of what "spirit" is.
"The spirit and the space most familiar to each one of us are contained in our own personality. The necessary path of understanding lies in reflecting on our own makeup.
"I am a spiritual being who currently has a physical body. I occupy my body and its environs by my consciousness of it and by my capacity to will and act with and through it. I occupy my body and its proximate space, but I am not localizable in it or around it. You cannot find me or any of my thoughts, feelings, or character traits in any part of my body. Even I cannot. If you wish to find me, the last thing you should do is open my body and take a look--or even examine it closely with a microscope or other physical instruments.
"For many years in Moscow there was a scientific institute where the brains of great Communists--leaders, scientists, and artists--were preserved and slices taken to be analyzed under the microscope. Technicians hoped to find the secret of great Communist personalities right there in their great Communist brains. Of course, they found nothing of personal greatness there. They were looking in the wrong place and in the wrong way. To be sure, the brain is a relatively more important and interesting piece of flesh, but nothing of intellect, creativity, or character is to be found in it.
"That very unity of experience that constitutes a human self cannot be located at any point in or around this body through which we live, not even in the brain. Yet I am present as agent or causal influence with and about my body and its features and movements. In turn, what my body undergoes and provides influence my life as a personal being. And through my body, principally through my face and gestures, or "body language," but also verbally, I can make myself present to others.
"The human face, and especially the eyes, are not just additional physical objects in space. We say that the eyes are the windows of the soul, and there is much truth to it. They and the face and hands are areas in space where the spiritual reality of the person becomes present to others. There the inmost being of the individual pours forth, though of course the person is no more literally identical with his or her face or eyes than with lungs or toenails or brain.
"Interestingly, "growing up" is largely a matter of learning to hide our spirit behind our face, eyes, and language so that we can evade and manage others to achieve what we want and avoid what we fear. By contrast, the child's face is a constant epiphany because it doesn't yet know how to do this. It cannot manage its face. This is also true of adults in moments of great feeling--which is one reason why feeling is both greatly treasured and greatly feared.
"Those who have attained considerable spiritual stature are frequently noted for their "childlikeness." What this really means is that they do not use their face and body to hide their spiritual reality. In their body they are genuinely present to those around them. That is a great spiritual attainment or gift.
"Now, roughly speaking, God relates to space as we do to our body. He occupies and overflows it but cannot be localized in it. Every point in it is accessible to his consciousness and will, and his manifest presence can be focused in any location as he sees fit. In the incarnation he focused his reality in a special way in the body of Jesus. This was so that we might be "enlightened by the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6).