“Nothing is small, God is even smaller. Nothing is so large, God is even larger. He is an unspeakable being, above and outside everything we can name and think. Who knows what that is, what is called ‘God’? It is over body, over spirit, over everything we can say, hear and think.”
And from this he makes the great statement that God is nearer to all creatures than they are to themselves. “God has found the way that His own Divine essence can be completely in all creatures, and in everyone especially, deeper, more internally, more present, than the creature is to itself and at the same time nowhere and cannot be comprehended by anyone, so that He embraces all things and is within them. God is at the same time in every piece of sand totally, and nevertheless in all, above all, and out of all creatures.”
Now here you have formulas in which the old conflict between the theistic and the pantheistic tendency in the doctrine of God is solved, in formulas which show the greatness of God, the inescapability of His presence, and at the same time, His absolute transcendence. And I would say, very dogmatically: Every doctrine of God which leaves out one of these two elements doesn’t speak really of God but of something which is less than God.
This is also expressed in his doctrine of omnipotence: “I call the omnipotence of God not that power by which He does not do many things He could do, but the actual power by which He potently does everything in everything.” I. e. He does not sit beside the world and look at it from outside but what He actually does is something quite different: He is acting in all of them, in every moment – that is what “omnipotence” means. The absurdity of a God who calculates whether He should do what He could do, is removed by the powerful idea of God as creation.
Luther then speaks of the creatures as the “masks” of God, i. e., God is hidden behind them. “All creatures are God’s masks and veils in order to make them work and help Him to create many things.” Therefore all natural orders and institutions are filled with Divine presence, and so is the historical process. He deals with all our problems of the interpretation of history. The great men in history, the Hannibals, the Alexanders, and Napoleons – and Hitlers he would add, or, when he speaks of the Goths, the Vandals, the Turks – or the Nazis, or Communists, he would add today – they are driven by God to attack and to destroy; and in this sense He speaks to us through them. They are God’s word to us, even to the Church. Especially the heroic persons break through the ordinary rules of life. They are armed by God.
God calls them and forces them, but gives them their hour, or as I would say, their kairos [Greek for the “right time”, “proper time” — Ellopos note], Outside of this kairos they cannot do anything. Without the right hour, nobody can do anything. And in the right hour no one can resist those who act in the right hour. But although God acts in everything in history, history is at the same time the struggle between God and Satan and their different realms. And the reason why Luther could make these two statements is that God creatively works even in the demonic forces. They could not have being, if they were not dependent on Him as the Ground of Being, as the creative Power of Being in them, in every moment. He makes it possible that Satan is the seducer, and makes it possible at the same time that Satan is conquered.