Foreign relations

Michael Horton from his book, Introducing Covenant Theology:

People don’t know how to relate God to the world he has made. Some banish God from his own domain, as in deism, in which adherents acknowledge God’s existence but deny his personal involvement in the world. God is thus often perceived as an impersonal force or abstract principle. Others simply identify God with the world, as if the difference between God and humans were merely quantitative (God as greater, larger, more impressive, intelligent, and powerful) rather than qualitative (different from that which he has made). Ironically, in either case, God is rendered irrelevant: either by being too distant from us or by being absorbed into us—our will, our intellect, our emotions, our experience. The point of idolatry is to maintain our own autonomy (i.e., sovereignty) over God, either by banishment or absorption. In the one case, we ignore the reality of God; in the other, we use God as a projection for our own felt needs and make him serve our own ends. As we will see, the biblical understanding of God’s relationship to the world as covenantal is both a bridge that deism ignores and a bar to any confusion of the Creator with his creation.1

And fifteen pages later:

In pagan religions and philosophies, human beings were often seen, at least in their spiritual or intellectual aspect, as a spark of the divine essence. Quite often a particular race was identified with the divinity, and the king was seen as an incarnation of a divine figure. The case was, of course, quite different for Israel. The sovereign God, creator and lord of all, was utterly distinct from his creation. No part of God’s nature or knowledge coincided with the creature at any point. That is to say, God is transcendent. Therefore, any relationship that one might have with this God would have to be something other than a natural relationship—that is, the relationship could not be explained in terms of, say, a common spiritual essence shared by the Creator and a creature. According to the Bible, that relationship—a covenant—is established by God in his freedom. We are not related to God by virtue of a common aspect of our being, but by virtue of a pact that he himself makes with us to be our God.

In distinction from pagan mythology, the denial of any natural connection between the Creator and creature establishes the biblical emphasis on God’s transcendence (his incomprehensible majesty). However, the fact that God has chosen to enter into a personal relationship with us by means of covenant underscores his immanence (or nearness). It is not surprising then that God adapted the international treaty as the template for his relationship to creatures. That relationship really is a matter of “foreign relations”. The creature, even the one made in his image, is never divine or semidivine, but is always other than God. Although there may be similarities between the creature and the Creator, there are always greater differences. In other words, God not only differs quantitatively (i.e., possessing greater degrees of being, wisdom, omnipotence, etc.) but qualitatively. . . . “Covenant” is exactly the right concept for such “foreign relations.”2


  1. Michael Horton. Introducing Covenant Theology (p. 15). Kindle Edition. 
  2. Michael Horton. Introducing Covenant Theology (pp. 29–30). Kindle Edition. 
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