Name this Heresy

Can somebody help me name this heresy (if it is formal or historical heresy) or let me know where the thinking has gone wrong in general (I also may be wrong as well).

I have a friend who has said these things or similar things:

  1. “My husband and I have a deep and profound love for one another. That is God.”
  2. Newborn babies are so wonderful and fill your heart with joy. That is God."
  3. That sunset has such beauty. That is God."

I wish I could explain further, but this is my best recollection of their quotes. I hope this is good enough for somebody to help. I will try to clarify if I can as the thread progresses.

This belief is called “pantheism” – in other words, “everything is God.”

It is incorrect as it disregards the essential difference between God (the Creator) and everything that He created.

This is a side issue, but building upon your comment: there’s pantheism (everything = God / everything composes an all-encompassing, immanent God) and there’s panentheism (the universe is ‘in’ God). The difference between the two is basically that pantheism equates the created universe and everything in it with God, while panentheism only asserts that God interpenetrates every part of the universe, while still maintaining a distinction between the two.

To the OP: I can’t speak for your friend, but something made me wonder. Just what did your friend mean by ‘that’?

Take for example: “Newborn babies are so wonderful and fill your heart with joy. That is God.”" Does ‘that’ refer to the ‘joy’ of newborn babies?

It would certainly be pantheism (and heretical) if your friend was equating herself and her husband or newborn babies or the sunset with God, but supposing that she was referring to ‘joy’ or ‘love’ or ‘beauty’ (in other words, ‘God is joy/love/beauty’, more specifically, ‘the joy/the love/the beauty you experience when …’), then it’s not really pantheism (I think). Maybe your friend did put it in an unclear, misleading/confuse way, but IMHO it’s not yet well within the territory of ‘heresy’. Borderline, maybe, but it hasn’t crossed the line just yet.

True dat. If the OP’s friend is saying that what she sees in the created world is really just a mode of God’s manifestation of Himself, then it’s strictly panentheism. Nevertheless, it still fails to make the distinction between the Creator and His creation…

The difference between the two is basically that pantheism equates the created universe and everything in it with God, while panentheism only asserts that God interpenetrates every part of the universe, while still maintaining a distinction between the two.

Hmm… a distinction? Panentheism would still assert that the two are inseparable, generally, wouldn’t it? That is, that one cannot separate the created from the mode of the Creator which is manifested in it? (In other words, we’d be seen not as ‘image and likeness’, but actually as all having God ‘in’ us as part of our nature; so would rocks and trees and lizards.)

Maybe your friend did put it in an unclear, misleading/confuse way, but IMHO it’s not yet well within the territory of ‘heresy’. Borderline, maybe, but it hasn’t crossed the line just yet.

Well… “God is joy”, “God is love”, “God is beauty” is one thing; “God is the joy of seeing a newborn”, “God is the love of a husband and wife”, “God is the beauty of a sunset” is quite another – strictly speaking, these could be said to fall on the wrong side of Aquinas’ distinction between analogy on one hand and univocal expression on the other. Contemporary culture likes to make these sorts of ‘cute’ assertions, it seems, without realizing that it reduces God to a mode of being found in His creation…

I think it depends upon the version. Panentheism is more about God being in a way the animating ‘soul’ of the universe (I’m particularly reminded of that stock Hindu formulaism which asserts that the divine is to be found pervading the universe down to the last atom: “Enveloped by the Lord (Isha) must be this All—each thing that moves on earth”) or its emanator while pantheism is more about God being the universe, period. Now in some forms of panentheism, it’s true that the universe is looked upon as if it’s the ‘visible’ part of God (kind of like what the physical body is to the soul). But there are forms of panentheism which don’t easily equate the two: the universe is ‘within’ God or ‘emanates’ from God, who at the same time transcends and extends beyond it. In other words, it postulates divine imminence and divine transcendence. In some expressions of this latter version, the universe is in a way, both dependent and independent: contained within the infinite reality of God and is sustained by the divine power of being while at the same time retaining its own existence as a subsistent finite reality.

Well… “God is joy”, “God is love”, “God is beauty” is one thing; “God is the joy of seeing a newborn”, “God is the love of a husband and wife”, “God is the beauty of a sunset” is quite another – strictly speaking, these could be said to fall on the wrong side of Aquinas’ distinction between analogy on one hand and univocal expression on the other. Contemporary culture likes to make these sorts of ‘cute’ assertions, it seems, without realizing that it reduces God to a mode of being found in His creation…

Exactly. You’ve described it perfectly. It’s a ‘cute’ statement, but a faulty and problematic one. It’s on the same class as ‘dead people earn their wings and become angels’.

Matthew 25:40
And the king answering, shall say to them: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.

Is Matthew 25:40 also incorrect as it disregards the essential difference between Creator and Created?

Only if you think it implies that Jesus is saying that God the Father and we are the children of the same mother. Which, of course, it doesn’t; ‘brother’ is used here in a way that doesn’t mean ‘physical sibling’. :wink:

Why should any of this be considered “heretical”?
Sounds like your friend is saying that “God” is responsible for all those fabulous things you list.
If God created everything, then what your friend says adds up and makes sense.

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If the OP’s friend meant – as you suggest – “God is responsible for this awesome thing”, then you’re right: it makes perfect sense.

If, on the other hand, they really mean what they’ve said – that God ‘is’ human marital love, and that God ‘is’ the emotion of joy wrt a baby, and that God ‘is’ beauty in a sunset… well, then, that crosses the line into a theology that’s somewhat deficient in its understanding of God. God is the creator of all these things, and therefore, is responsible for the fact that we get to enjoy them – but, God isn’t these things themselves.

It would be as if I told someone, “DaddyGirl’s post made someone happy. That happiness is DaddyGirl. DaddyGirl’s words on my screen are profound – those blips of electricity are DaddyGirl.” You’d look at me like I was crazy, if I really thought that you were ‘happiness’ and ‘characters on a screen’… and yet, people really do say that kind of stuff about God.

It’s a subtle point that we’re making here, but it’s important: we shouldn’t excessively anthropomorphize God and convince ourselves that He’s just like us, or one of us, or even, something in creation. That mischaracterizes God and His nature… :shrug:

Well, natch–this is obviously true!

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Well yes…if that is what the OP’s friend means, then it would not agree with *your *definition of “God”. But it does agree with their own and hundreds of thousands of other people’s definition of God.
And since we cannot know for certain whose definition may be correct–if anyone’s–we can’t really say that someone is deficient and mischaracterizing.

Maybe compared to* their own *belief, you can say it.
But not definitively.

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I understand what you’re saying, DaddyGirl: from the perspective of the world, in which no one has the temerity to make claims of absolute truth, it’s foolish to say “this is what God is” unless one says “this is what God is to me”. Yet, we – as Catholics and Christians – believe God to have given His revelation of Himself in the Bible and through Jesus’ words, and continues to do so through the apostolic teaching found in the Church.

So, we would say that we do know for certain whose definition is correct, and yes, we do say it definitively. I appreciate that you don’t believe that this is true, but it’s what the Catholic Church teaches.

You’re correct in pointing out that we don’t know the religious affiliation of the OP’s friends – maybe, in their faith community, pantheism and/or panentheism is orthodox doctrine. For us as Catholics, though, we know the truth – God is God, and the assertion that God is His creation is a mischaracterization of who God is. :wink:

I’m not impying that God and the children have the same mother. Jesus is saying whatever we do to our neighbor, we do it to him. He’s not differentiating between himself (God) and our neighbor (the Created). According to Jesus, we will even be judged on how we treat him (who is our neighbor, no differentiation).

Yes, I understand that is what you believe and that is what the Catholic church teaches its followers.
And of course, you seem to understand as well that each religion believes and teaches the same thing–that they have the correct definition and they know the truth.

So while I might not go so far as to say it’s “foolish” for one to believe as fact that they are the winners in The Truth lottery, I’d definitely think it would be incorrect and unwise to believe this, as many would.

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I would assert that this is not a question of ‘differentiation’ between God and man, but rather, (following Catholic teaching) that it is a statement about the nature of sin: all sin is an offense against God. Therefore, whatever sin of omission we commit against a person, we’ve really committed against God. The implication, then, isn’t that this is a lack of distinction between Creator and created, but rather, a lack of distinction in the nature of sin – it all offends God.

Actually, not all religions teach this – and to tell the truth, it puzzles me: if one holds to a certain set of doctrines, it would seem to behoove him to hold to the truth of his doctrines over against other contradictory doctrines. :shrug:

So while I might not go so far as to say it’s “foolish” for one to believe as fact that they are the winners in The Truth lottery, I’d definitely think it would be incorrect and unwise to believe this, as many would.

Unless you assert that all are deluded, then someone has to be right, no? That being the case, ‘incorrect’ and ‘unwise’ are conditioned on the source of the teachings, not on the existence of a plurality of (often mutually exclusive) opinions… :shrug:

I’d think if that’s what was meant by that passage in Matthew 25:40 it would’ve said that. Jesus has taught numerous times about the nature of sin and its distinctions and this doesn’t seem like one of those times. What Jesus is saying in Matthew 25:40 is that the person who we do good towards, and bad, we’re doing it to Jesus himself.

Pope Francis further drives this point:

catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1302107.htm

Pope Francis warned against “gentrification of the heart” as a consequence of comfortable living, and called on the faithful to “touch the flesh of Christ” by caring for the needy.

LOL! What strikes me about your claim is that, despite your objections, a teaching on sin and its effects is exactly what He’s talking about here! Jesus is explicitly teaching us about the Last Judgment (see the catechism, #1038). In that moment, we will definitively know the effects of sin, and know the truth of the teaching of Jesus: all sin is an offense against God and all virtue is a sharing in the life of God.

What Jesus is saying in Matthew 25:40 is that the person who we do good towards, and bad, we’re doing it to Jesus himself.

Yes – in the context of eternal reward and eternal punishment. Not literally, as if “you yourself are Jesus”, which is the question of this thread. Rather, the point there is “what you do affects Jesus”… :wink:

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