I was recently asked to give some comments from a Christian perspective to a PhD student who was interested in how the Immanence of God was perceived by Christians. After looking up exactly what she meant by that (it is not really the way I'd describe experiencing the presence of God, but think there could be a lot the grander language it uses) I sent her the below which I thought might of interest to readers here as well.
I think firstly that there is no single way of considering the Immanence of God within the Bible or Christianity as a whole. The Bible records the development of pre-Jewish, Jewish and then Christian thought on God but this also extends beyond the Bible with the writings of subsequent theologians down to the centuries with various interpretations and ideas coming to the fore.
For example the early Jews and those in the Babylonian exile period emphasised the ultimate supremacy of God against the gods of the other people around them, with this then developing on to the strong monotheism of the time of Jesus. As a scientist another prominent example for me is the mechanistic interpretation of God's actions in the world (including the acts of initial creation) that became popular in some circles during the rise of the Industrial Revolution in the West and which has given rise to the popular-level 'conflict' between evolution and so called creationism which really boils down to different viewpoints on how God interacts with His creation rather than any actual scientific evidence.
It can be seen that many of these viewpoints of God's creativity can then be placed within social, cultural and political situations of the time in which they were constructed. Although this doesn't negate them in any way (although other factors might) I think it helps us to balance them out a bit more, holding them in cohesion and seeing how one view point is not necessarily the only one with validity or supremacy.
That said there are strong themes on God's immanence running throughout the Bible and Christianity that may help focus some thoughts for you.
Firstly there are the obvious examples of God in some way manifesting His presence physically that are scattered throughout the Bible although prominent in the Old Testament. Often this is used as a dramatic and deliberate sign for a group of people (the pillar of fire and smoke leading the Israelites in Exodus 13:20-22 for example) or more personal if still dramatic (Moses and the burning bush of Exodus 3:1-3 or the conversion of Saul (Acts 9:1-17)). Often they are personal and very ordinary at a surface level (Abraham's visitors in Genesis 18), or subtle (Elijah encountering God in 1 Kings 19:11-13), direct (God talks with Gideon, Judges 6:11-26) but in all these encounters God's presence is real and intrudes itself on the world. Sometimes He is not seen or experienced directly but works through others who ritually display a mark of God's presence as a reminder of Him in their lives (the story of Samson and his long hair in Judges).
In many ways this embodiment of the presence of God is taking to it's ultimate level in the incarnation of God the Son, Jesus Christ. However this shouldn't be seen simply as another intrusion of God on His creation but rather God becominga part of His creation (John 1:6-9, 1:14 and 1:32-34). As my pastor is fond of saying "God put on human skin and moved into the neighbourhood."
For Christians it is fundamental that Jesus be both fully human and fully God for his sacrifice on the cross and subsequent resurrection to have the spiritual meaning that we have them to have. Over the centuries there has been a lot of ink written about how much he was of one, how much of the other, or if either at all, but the New Testament makes it clear that Jesus believed himself to be both (God by the forgiveness of human sin - a practice reserved to the one who has been sinned against i.e. God (Luke 5:19-21, Mark 2:9-11) - and also by his reliance on God the Father's power rather than any he might possesses himself (another topic for debate!!) to perform healings and miracles as signs for the people as to who he was and whom had sent him (Matthew 13:54-55, John 14:10-11, Philippians 2:6-8)). Even after his resurrection although he was clearly different to before in some way (his close friends don't initially recognise him (Luke 24:13-35, John 20:10-18) there is still an aspect of real humanity about him (Luke 24:36-49, John 21:12-14) that he can choose to reveal or indeed is still a necessary part of him. This is why Jesus is often called (I/E)mmanuel - God with us.
The presence and immanence of God is not exclusively viewed so directly/physically though. Their are other less direct ways that I'll highlight couple of to give you a flavour.
You've already rightly pointed out Luke 17:21 as being a pointer that the immanence of God can be seen in different ways. The Kingdom of God is not yet as Christ has yet to return to establish his final reign, but it is also now and today as Christ has been and now dwells in the hearts of all believers. If we see evidence of the Kingdom we see evidence of Christ.
What is the Kingdom? In many ways it is not a physical kingdom of peace, righteousness and justice bought about suddenly and miraculously (which is what many 1st century Jews were anticipating and why what Jesus did was rejected by many of them), but rather it is a physical kingdom made up of people attempting to live with the mind and heart of Jesus and a change of self, culture and structures around us here today that then express the values, attributes and consequences of the presence of Jesus.
A read through of the Gospels shows that these are things like love of God, people, charity, mercy, compassion, patience, tolerance, a giving up of self for the good of others etc (The Sermon on the Mount - Matthew 5 for example and John 3:16 most famously perhaps) with the consequences listed in Luke 7:21-23. Interestingly, historically, it has not been how these objectives are achieved (whether by miracles, medicine, care for one another), but rather it is more important that they are accomplished at all by a renewed sense of spirit and self that more and more reflects the character of Jesus.
Where ever the poor are fed, the needy provided for, where there is real community there we believe Christ to be shown and present (Matthew 18:20, contrasted with Deuteronomy 19:15 emphasising the Jewish cultural importance of a grouping of people to be necessary for good witness). In this way the church (is meant to) manifest the presence of Jesus physically in the world. We are called upon to be the hands, eyes, mouth and feet of Jesus in our world today. We don't always get it right, but we're meant to try and live lives that model Christ for others so that they can see who he is as well as delivering positive benefit to the world and our fellow beings.
Another indirect encounter with God comes from the Christian viewpoint on the world and the Universe around us. For the Christian the the whole of reality is dependent on the constant and concious will of God (Colossians 1:16-17, Hebrews 11:3, John 1:3, Job 38:1-10). Since humanity is a part of that creation we are a part of the ever present purposes of God's will, but even further humanity is said to be created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:25-27) and charged with authority over creation, not to dominate but to nurture, steward and co-create. In this way humanity is called to participate in the plans and purposes of God, again bringing his presence and intentions into the world.
Another way is through the presence of the Holy Spirit living in the lives of believers. The Holy Spirit is believed by (nearly all) Christians today to be as much a part of God as the Father or Jesus, so his presence is the presence of God. Promised directly to his disciples by Jesus at his Ascension (Acts 1:4-5), but active and known throughout the history of the Bible (Luke 1:35, Luke 3:16, Daniel 5:11, etc) the Holy Spirit helps Christians to live their lives more and more like that of Jesus and also enables Christians to act in both normal and sometimes abnormal ways and to help build the Kingdom of God here on Earth (1 Corinthians 12:1 - 14:25).
Balanced with the Spirit is also the Bible, the Word of God. Christians believe that God has communicated with humanity through it, explaining his intentions and will for creation and salvation in a recorded manner - although written in many different ways and styles. There is of course discussion on how direct/indirect this communication is and understandings derived from it should be partnered by history, science and other ways of understanding to attempt to understand its original purpose or meaning.
James 2:14-26 illustrates well the balance that needs to be taken between the Spirit and the Word (and indeed all these other ways of knowing and experiencing God's presence for the Christian). Faith (the Word) without Deeds (motivated by the Spirit) and vice versa are both to be scorned. The Spirit (as understood by people experiencing it) on its own can too often bring disorder and misdirection as there is no restraint on how people think they are experiencing Him and the Word without Spirit brings legalism, rigidity and a slavery to Law in our lives that Christ came to set us free from.
I think the overriding aspect of all of these however is that they all contain some aspect of God's presence that shows that it is immediate and active and related to our own purpose/relationship to that presence.
The abstracts for the upcoming Christians in Science conference here in Edinburgh are now available online here. All being well there should be recordings of the talks themselves available soon after the conference.
They make interesting reading, even if you're not coming to the conference. They give a nice snap shot into the thinking of current scientists and theologians active in the relationship between science and Christianity and how they practically relate to and see the world around them in the context of living out the Christian gospel message and mission.
Looking at it I think I prefer some Conservative with a dash of Liberal. Amusingly Labour's left hand seems to think they will 'maintain' their support for science while there right hand brings in sweeping cuts. Still it makes it easier to decide who not to vote for at least.
The Institute of Physics has produced a glossy summary on the techniques and technologies being used to hunt for solar systems around other stars. Nice and clear explanations along with some tentative thoughts on where the next generation of telescope technology may take us in terms of our understanding of the universe and our place within it.
I am a physicist currently working in biomedical research.
Firstly though and (hopefully) before all else I am a follower of Christ (commonly called a Christian).
I like fudge, roasts, good company, spiders and something else.
Warring, transforming robots are quite good fun too.