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Answering The Atheist
September 10, 2006 / Volume 6, Issue 37

Does God dwell in darkness or light? Some verses (1 Kings 8:12; 2 Chronicles 6:1; Psalm 18:11; 97:2) say that God dwells in darkness, but elsewhere (1 Timothy 6:15-16), He is said to dwell in light. Is there a contradiction?

Let us begin by noticing 1 Timothy 6:15-16. It reads:

"...which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen."
This text indicates to us that God dwells "in unapproachable light" which cannot be seen by men. Elsewhere in Scripture, we find agreement, that no one can see God (Exodus 33:20; John 1:18). And yet, there are times in Scripture when God has shown Himself and His glory before men. On these occasions, God did not reveal Himself in His "unapproachable light" (which no man can see and live), but in a variety of forms. To Abraham, He appeared as a man (Genesis 18-19). To Moses, He appeared as a burning bush (Exodus 3). To Israel, He appeared as a pillar of fire and cloud (Exodus 16:10; 24:16; 40:34).

The occurrence recorded in both the 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles texts deals with the temple completed by Solomon. In 2 Chronicles 5:13-14, we read, "..the house of the LORD was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God." As God had shown himself in the tabernacle centuries before (Exodus 40:34), so He showed Himself in the temple in Solomon's day. Solomon's declaration doesn't mean that God no longer dwelt in His "unapproachable light", but that God had revealed Himself before the people at the temple.

With regard to Psalm 18:11 and 97:2, it should be acknowledged that poetic literature uses metaphors and symbolism to convey thoughts. In both texts, the LORD is characterized as being surrounded by clouds and darkness. This would seem to be analogical language used to convey the mystery of God's power to His enemies. Those who oppose the LORD and His people have no comprehension of the LORD or His way; as though He were covered by a cloud of darkness to them. The relationship of the righteous with God is described in terms of light (18:28; 97:11), not darkness.

There is no contradiction here.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible