Panentheism-a valid way of seeing GOD


#1

I have been reading a book by BORG. The Heart Of Christianity, on the recommendation of a catholic priest.

I introduces the way of seeing/understanding God as PANENTHEISM.

[Saying that God is not “out there” but right here,and “more than right here” all around us. THis view rejects divine intervention but rather sees divine intention and interaction as Gods mode of operating in us. ]

Does this go against Catholic teaching, especially thinking of Dominus Iesus declaration?

M.


#2

M.

Although I have not read the book you speak of, pantheism certainly violates the teachings of the Church.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church discusses the various “-isms” in paragraphp 285:

285 Since the beginning the Christian faith has been challenged by responses to the question of origins that differ from its own. Ancient religions and cultures produced many myths concerning origins. Some philosophers have said that everything is God, that the world is God, or that the development of the world is the development of God (Pantheism). Others have said that the world is a necessary emanation arising from God and returning to him. Still others have affirmed the existence of two eternal principles, Good and Evil, Light and Darkness, locked, in permanent conflict (Dualism, Manichaeism). According to some of these conceptions, the world (at least the physical world) is evil, the product of a fall, and is thus to be rejected or left behind (Gnosticism). Some admit that the world was made by God, but as by a watch-maker who, once he has made a watch, abandons it to itself (Deism). Finally, others reject any transcendent origin for the world, but see it as merely the interplay of matter that has always existed (Materialism). All these attempts bear witness to the permanence and universality of the question of origins. This inquiry is distinctively human.

The CCC goes on to describe the use of “God the Father”:

238 Many religions invoke God as “Father”. The deity is often considered the “father of gods and of men”. In Israel, God is called “Father” inasmuch as he is Creator of the world.59 Even more, God is Father because of the covenant and the gift of the law to Israel, “his first-born son”.60 God is also called the Father of the king of Israel. Most especially he is “the Father of the poor”, of the orphaned and the widowed, who are under his loving protection.61 239 By calling God “Father”, the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that he is at the same time goodness and loving care for all his children. God’s parental tenderness can also be expressed by the image of motherhood,62 which emphasizes God’s immanence, the intimacy between Creator and creature. The language of faith thus draws on the human experience of parents, who are in a way the first representatives of God for man. But this experience also tells us that human parents are fallible and can disfigure the face of fatherhood and motherhood. We ought therefore to recall that God transcends the human distinction between the sexes. He is neither man nor woman: he is God. He also** transcends human fatherhood** and motherhood, although he is their origin and standard:63 no one is father as God is Father.

If God is the creator, He cannot also “be” everything that He created and still be God. God IS, not created by himself. I have enclosed a link to the CCC which does a great job teaching about God and the Trinity. scborromeo.org/ccc/ccc_toc.htm

Peace,

MilesJesu


#3

I knew this would happen.

just to clarify----
Please look very carefully at the word I use-- panENtheism. There is a big difference between that and Pantheism.

m.


#4

[quote=blackfish152]I have been reading a book by BORG. The Heart Of Christianity, on the recommendation of a catholic priest.

I introduces the way of seeing/understanding God as PANENTHEISM.

[Saying that God is not “out there” but right here,and “more than right here” all around us. THis view rejects divine intervention but rather sees divine intention and interaction as Gods mode of operating in us. ]

Does this go against Catholic teaching, especially thinking of Dominus Iesus declaration?

M.
[/quote]

I never heard of such a thing 'til seeing your post and I’ve never read the book you mention.

For what it’s worth:

From what information I could find (via Google) , I would think a test of this belief is whether or not panentheism believes that there is an ontological difference between God and His creation. That is to say, Christians believe that there is a radical difference between God’s nature and existence and the nature and existence of His creation. God is a different kind of being than anything else. God’s existence is radically different from our existence.

One site I visited said that God’s relationship to the world is like the soul’s relationship to the body. This view doesn’t preserve the ontological difference between God and creation as both body and soul are essential to human beings.

(This comparison also fosters an incorrect dualistic view of humans since we’re not two separate kinds of being, body and soul, stuck together as if with super-glue; the nature of a human being is a spiritual soul integrated in a material body. Similarly, God can’t be the soul of the world because He is a different kind of being than the world. To make this comparison is to make a big step towards PANTHEISM; claiming that there is no distinction between God and creation.)

Anyhow, the site that had the body/soul comparison also cited Matthew Fox as a proponent of PANENTHEISM, so it sounds a little fishy to me. Mind you, I’m not exactly well-informed.


#5

Panentheism is the doctrine that “all is in God.” Panentheism is contrary to the Catholic faith because God is “within us” or in every being in the sense that they participate in His existence not in the way the panentheists speak of, which is that God belongs to the world as a soul to a body.God’s substance is different from ours and He is not contingent to any world. See:

ankerberg.com/Articles/theological-dictionary/TD1001W1.htm


#6

A central point in the historic Christian concept of God is what’s known as “the Creator-creature distinction,” which observes that the Creator is not identical to his creation, and vice versa. While pantheism clearly vilolates this principle, panentheism seeks to avoid this error by postulating not that the world is identical to God in his fullness, but that the world is in God (i.e., is a part of God). Still, panentheism should be viewed as a heterodox doctrine, since it indeed violates the Creator-creature distinction by claiming that the world and God are of the same nature. In other words, the world is part of God, but God is more than the world. Yet, God being more than the world does not avoid the panentheistic proposition that “the world is a part of God.” Consider the various ways in which classical Christian theism and panentheism differ in their doctrines of God:

Theism: God is Creator of the world
Panentheism: God is ‘director’ of the world

Theism: The world is essentially different from God
Panentheism: The world is the same as God’s body

Theism: God is in control of the world
Panentheism: God cooperates with the world

Theism: God is independent of the world
Panentheism: God is interdependent with the world

Theism: God is unchanging
**Panentheism: **God is continually changing

Theism: God is absolutely perfect
Panentheism: God is constantly being perfected

Theism: God is infinite and eternal
Panentheism: God is actually finite and temporal

Theism: God is absolutely one
Panentheism: God has two poles (primordial, and consequent)

Protestant apologist, Norman Geisler, makes this point against panentheism:

“[H]ow can we know that everything is changing if there is not some unchanging standard by which to measure change? Because we are moving along with it, we don’t notice that the world is rotating on its axis or revolving around the sun. It feels like we are standing still… We can only be sure that something is moving when we measure it by something that is not moving. So how can we know that everything is changing unless we can look at something that is not changing *? Panentheism has no explanation for this because it holds that even God is constantly changing” (When Skeptics Ask: A Handbook of Christian Evidences, p.51).

Essentially, panentheism denies the transcendent nature of God, the fact that he is ‘other than’ his creation, and this creates theological and philosophical problems all down the line. As Catholic philosophers, Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, conclude:

“Panentheism…is clearly heretical. For it asserts as part of its doctrine that the material universe does not demand a Creator, merely a vivifier, a kind of ‘world-soul’. This is not only unorthodox, it seems positively irrational. For if our analysis of finite being is right, then the world does raise a much deeper and more radical question about itself, namely: Why does it exist at all, rather than not? And if that is a real question, and if God is its answer, then the world and God cannot be codependent. For God is the Creator; the world depends on him for its total being” (Handbook of Christian Apologetics, p. 95).

A couple of books you might find helpful:

Ronald Nash, ed. Process Theology (Baker, 1987).
R. Nash, The Concept of God: An Exploration of Contemporary Difficulties with the Attributes of God (Zondervan, 1983).

God bless,
Donald*


#7

Considering the inroads Panentheism has made in Mainline and Evengelical Protestant circles, I expect that the Catechism would have dealt with this issue. One sentence in the above Catechism citation seems to be a reference to Panentheism:

[quote=MilesJesu]M.

“…or that the development of the world is the development of God (Pantheism).” - CCC

MilesJesu
[/quote]

Tthis phrase is probably targeted to Process Theology/ Panentheism, rather than Pantheism. The concept of “God developing with the world” is more distintive of Panentheistic thought rather than traditional Pantheism, and is certainly the central tenet of Process Theology, which is a popular Christian repackaging of Panentheism. The Catechism’s wording also seems to be making a distinction between God and the world, much like panentheism, which identifies a philosphical distinction between God and creation, while maintaining their true and indisoluble unity (compared to body and soul). If so, then the Catehism has in fact condemned Panentheism.


#8

Blackfish152,

You are correct and thank you for pointing out my error. I was too quick in the response and missed the distinction. I looked up what panentheism is an found this:

“This universal arrangement is not pantheism (all is God), but panentheism, a term devised by Karl C. F. Krause (1781-1832) to describe his thought. It is best known for its use by Charles Hartshorne and recently by Matthew Fox. Panentheism says that all is in God, somewhat as if God were the ocean and we were fish. If one considers what is in God’s body to be part of God, then we can say that God is all there is and then some.”

And:

"Panentheism gives all that one could want: an all-encompassing, growing, perfect God, everywhere present and containing everywhere within himself; and the reality of oneself and others, freely deciding within God, responding to God’s overtures in the process of co-creation. Theism denies that the world (including us) shares in God’s being."

I guess if this is true, I would think the above poster is correct in his/her analysis of the CCC. We are made in God’s image, not of His being. If everything was God’s body, it would diminish the meaning of the Eucharist, and also distort the meaning of Emmanuel.

Peace,

MilesJesu


#9

[quote=blackfish152]I have been reading a book by BORG. The Heart Of Christianity, on the recommendation of a catholic priest.

I introduces the way of seeing/understanding God as PANENTHEISM.

[Saying that God is not “out there” but right here,and “more than right here” all around us. THis view rejects divine intervention but rather sees divine intention and interaction as Gods mode of operating in us. ]

Does this go against Catholic teaching, especially thinking of Dominus Iesus declaration?

M.
[/quote]

God is not “out there” - because God is Spirit, not a localised body. God transcends creation, yet is present to each created thing - Gos is transcendent & immanent.

The problem with speaking of “intervention” is that it implies that God is “outside” the world He has created - that He is active in it sometimes, but not constantly. That implies a form of Deism: that He wound up the world, set it going, then went off and left it, to come back every so often and “interfere” in its working. As though it could exist for one moment, if He did not constantly maintain it :rolleyes: .

There is a form of panentheism which considers all creation to be in some sense “in God” - Dante expresses it, in the Paradiso, canto 33. And the Paradiso has never been condemned. :slight_smile: Dante was no exponent of Process Theology; and he was well aware that God is ontologically distinct from His own handiwork. ##


#10

Paul in the book of acts states,

God is the one in whom “we live and move and have our being”

In todays shorter morning and evening prayer book (a kind of mini daily divine office) It states

God is Love: he who dwells in love, dwells in GOd, and God in him.

These I am sure would be classical panentheistic supporting quotes. But is it possible to say that it is the third person of the trinity who is the all pervading/encompassing spirit, and both father and son are actually “out there”?

m


#11

[quote=blackfish152]Paul in the book of acts states,

God is the one in whom “we live and move and have our being”

In todays shorter morning and evening prayer book (a kind of mini daily divine office) It states

God is Love: he who dwells in love, dwells in GOd, and God in him.

These I am sure would be classical panentheistic supporting quotes. But is it possible to say that it is the third person of the trinity who is the all pervading/encompassing spirit, and both father and son are actually “out there”?

[/quote]

Well, all members of the Trinity participate in the activity of the other members of the Trinity… so we have our being in Father and Son also. At the same time, I would make the point that the omnipresence of God should not be confused with Panentheistic thought. God, as the Eternal Creator Spirit, maintains and sustains the world He has created. His presence, power, and activity pervades all Creation.

Panentheism, on the other hand, does more than affirm the omnipresence of God. It sees God as developing with the Creation (moving towards greater perfection, as if God is not fully developed/matured). It identifies God very closely with His creation, so that it becomes an external, distinct, material expression of His essence, rather than an external, and wholly “other,” expression of His creative power and mind. God is more than “in and through” the world – To panentheists, God is not merely the spritiual essence IN the world (as Catholics believe), He is the soul and spiritual essence OF the world.


#12

Thank you very much this is very helpful! :slight_smile:


#13

In God we live and move and have our being. We can surrender to God ever more deeply and continually move closer to God. We can sin and separate ourselves from God. There is not limit to the depth potential of our surrender to God, for God is limitless. We are finite, but God grace is freely offered. It is for us to surrender, to let God draw us up into boundless love. Our response is always finite, yet we can indeed by surrender into love into God who is love come ever deeper into God. The saints are never competitors. In fact your sanctity helps mine and vise versa. God is all in all. However, this is never automatic, we need to say yes to God and allow God to draw us deeper into Him who is love.
You will do far greater things than these because I go to the Father.


#14

[quote=Gerard D Gross] We can sin and separate ourselves . Father.
[/quote]

I want to hear more of your thoughts on this. The Bible itself tells us NOTHING can seperate us from the love of God. Indeed, it was often in times of great sin, when I felt much despair that I truly sensed the prescence of the divine. It was the love that would not let me go. Indeed, it was in part such an experience that led me to a greater understanding of the largeness and awesomness of the divine.

cheddar


#15

[quote=cheddarsox]I want to hear more of your thoughts on this. The Bible itself tells us NOTHING can seperate us from the love of God. Indeed, it was often in times of great sin, when I felt much despair that I truly sensed the prescence of the divine. It was the love that would not let me go. Indeed, it was in part such an experience that led me to a greater understanding of the largeness and awesomness of the divine.

cheddar
[/quote]

What you are describing sounds to me not like the moment of sin, but the moment of reunion with God following a conscious acknowledgement of that sin. The actual act of sinning is “hostile to that great love of God which calls us to growth in all that is good” (CCC). When we ask for forgiveness for having offended the Lord, we are drawn back to Him. The ache of separation is dramatic when contrasted with the fullness of His love. It’s not that He stopped loving you. It is that you separated yourself temporarily from that love.


#16

[quote=adventistnomore]Panentheism, on the other hand, does more than affirm the omnipresence of God. It sees God as developing with the Creation (moving towards greater perfection, as if God is not fully developed/matured). It identifies God very closely with His creation, so that it becomes an external, distinct, material expression of His essence, rather than an external, and wholly “other,” expression of His creative power and mind. God is more than “in and through” the world – To panentheists, God is not merely the spritiual essence IN the world (as Catholics believe), He is the soul and spiritual essence OF the world.
[/quote]

“There are always people to whom anything which sounds novel smacks of heresy” (Frederick Copleston SJ, ‘A History of Medieval Philosophy’ p. 328)

Or as Copleston noted of Nicholas of Cusa, “neat classification of thinkers as theists or pantheists are difficult, for reasons which become clear to anyone who gives any serious thought to the matter” (p. 323) This should tell you what a great thinker and scholar like Copleston would think of the populist Kreeft.

If you are interested in this line of thinking, within a Christian framework, I would suggest you familiarize yourself with the 12th Century Renaissance. One great but extremely heavy book is by Marie-Dominique Chenu, ‘Nature, Man and Society in the 12th Century’ which deals ad nauseum with the revival of Platonism owing to increased contact with the east. Copleston’s aforementioned book is great, and so is Christopher Dawson’s ‘Evolution of Medieval Thought’

Perhaps the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin would also be interesting; especially ‘the Phenomenon of Man’.

Also of interest would be the philosophy of Hegel.

And to those who think that panentheism is contrary to Catholicism because of the infinitute of the postulated universe; the infinity of the universe proved to be no problem for the Angelic Doctor Thomas Aquinas.

Maybe take this advice from Hugh of St. Victor, “Learn everything: you will see afterwards that nothing is superfluous” (Migne P.L. 176, 800c)

Adam


#17

In God we live and move and have our being. In Col 1 be also read that “In Him all things hold together…And through Him to reconcile to Himself all things. Whether on earth or in heaven, making peace be the blood of His cross.”

In dialoguing with some friends about Panentheism, so far i have discovered that in one case the person’s description of God is completely Orthodox, utterly rejecting clearly the heretical aspects of Panentheism, viz that god is growing and perfecting god’s self, or learning as god goes through time! Thus, it is crucial that we are not only attentive to the meaning of Panentheism as it is used historically, but also as it is used by persons who in this case are even unaware of the unorthodox history of the use of the word.

Meanwhile, on the other hand some may be seduced into the heretical understanding of Panentheism, because they experience in prayer a unity with all that is based in natural (ESP) connection with their surroundings viz the core monistic experience of powerful illusion. As Revelations says The Angel of light --Lucifer–Rev 13 14 “it deceived the inhabitant of the earth with the signs it was allowed to perform in the sight of the first beast…” The forces of the earth presently are licentiousness, leading to abortion, then homosexual marriage etc, followed by assisted suicide and euthanasia… all acceptable to monists! Creating heaven on earth by killing all malformed babies, the elderly etc. This is the logical conclusion of the forces already alive in the world…all connected with heretical Panentheim–the monist experience of the interconnectedness of creation that is not connected in Jesus, but in a powerful illusion.
What do you see in these experiences? I’m going out on a limb to decribe and connect the realities before me. Come Holy Spirit, guide us into the fullness of truth. Make us One in Christ Jesus. Oh Mary Pray for us.
Gerard D Gross


#18

[quote=blackfish152]Paul in the book of acts states,

God is the one in whom “we live and move and have our being”

In todays shorter morning and evening prayer book (a kind of mini daily divine office) It states

God is Love: he who dwells in love, dwells in GOd, and God in him.

These I am sure would be classical panentheistic supporting quotes. But is it possible to say that it is the third person of the trinity who is the all pervading/encompassing spirit, and both father and son are actually “out there”?

m
[/quote]

I thought this referred to the indwelling of each Person by the Other Two


#19

Adam,

Please, in the love of Christ, I must ask that you examine the pride I sensed in your response.

First, I recognize that “Panentheism” can mean many things to many people. I am of an Eastern Catholic persuasion, and am a devotee of St. Gregory Palamas. My theology (influenced by Hesychasm) recognizes a distinction between the essence of God, and the energies of God, which pervade the universe. I believe in the perfect universlity, omnipresence, and activity of the divine energies of God in all creation. However, I am disturbed by attempts to unite the divine essence of God with the create world, as I see in most interpretations of Panentheism.

In one sense, my (Hesychast) understanding may be viewed as “Panentheism” (that God is IN all). Truthfully, I believe that “panentheism,” a term that still lacks a greater circulation, is far too ambigious. Most commonly, it is used within a conceptual context that is not reconcilable with Biblical theism (as in the case of Process Theology, which I would oppose). Being skeptical of Borg from the beginning, I assumed that he probably advocated this more mainstream (and dangerous) interpretation of panentheism. Seeing how I have not read the book myself, I should properly drop my initial objections until I have leared more (and I do).

Nonetheless, I will contribute my considerations of Panentheism:

  1. Biblically, we must be overwhelmed with the infinite and intimate presence of God in the world. His personal activity, relationship, and power within the world is astounding. As an Eastern Christian at heart, I would add, this is especially true within the the sacraments, where the material elements and the divine energies are fully united.

Affirming this (very beautiful) truth is perfectly acceptable and necessary within Christianty. It is one of the truths that most delights me.

  1. Nonetheless, classical (and I would add Biblical) theism distinguishes between the creation and its Creator in their essences. Their relationship is not a strict holistic unity. Such a union exists only within the Incarnation (where the divine essence of God and the material elemens are truly and uniquely related). Thus, a “Panentheism” that affirms a unity or indwelling between the divine essence of God and the entire universe (as a soul within a body) represents a radical departure from the theistic framweork within which the Incarnation can be properly confessed.

Such an idea (especially when it undermines the personal nature of God) has been condemned by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in its appraisal of the philosophy of the “New Age:” vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/interelg/documents/rc_pc_interelg_doc_20030203_new-age_en.html. Likewise, it is condemned by the philosophical tradition of the Church, as St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, using a scholastic definition of "essence,: “God is in all things; not, indeed, as part of their essence, nor as an accident, but as an agent is present to that upon which it works.” (Summa Theologica 1:8:1) The Trinity is an external, though intimately immanent, Agent or Cause. “He is in all things by His essence, inasmuch as He is present to all as the cause of their being.” (Ibid., 1:8:4) This definition protects the omnipresence of God as well as His singular distinction from creation as the universal Deity.

This is orthodox Judeo-Christian theology. Many concepts of “panentheism” undermine that theological framework, and should be considered heterodox. In so doing, the Christian is not rejecting an idea because it is “novel” – panentheism is anything but “novel.” The term used may be novel, but the (many) concepts identified by that term have permeated world philosophy for millenia. Rather, the Christian has understood the essence of Christian theology so as to properly exclude that which would undermine it.


#20

[quote=adventistnomore]Adam,

Please, in the love of Christ, I must ask that you examine the pride I sensed in your response.

[/quote]

What pride? Is the fact that I think Kreeft a shallow philosopher a proud statement? Or the fact that I appreciate Copleston?

Perhaps you should keep such ad hominum comments to yourself.


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