[This post is a work in progress as part of the CAA Catechism.]
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Summary in 400 words or less:
Panentheism is distinct from Pantheism, which is the view that God is all and all is God. Panentheism is the belief that all is contained in God and God is contained in all, and also transcends creation.
“In this view, events and changes in the universe affect and change God, and he is therefore a temporal being. As the universe grows, God learns as he increases in knowledge and being. Panentheism has been associated with processtheology and aspects of open theism, including theologians such as PaulTillich, Wolfhart Pannenberg, Jurgen Moltmann, Robert Jesnson, and possiblyKarl Rahner (http://www.theopedia.com/Panentheism).
In discussing Panentheistic aspects of theologian Karl Rahner’s philosophy,authors Stanley Genz and Roger Olsen state that Rahner’s view implies that”the source of the difference between God and the world lies in God himself, and therefore the difference is not absolute” (20th Century Theology, InterVarsity Press, 1992, p. 249). Any stance which renders God’s interaction with the world a part of his nature or an interaction of necessity falls into the Panetheism category.
Panentheism is also found commonly in the New Age, forms of Christian-New Age syncretism (such as the beliefs expressed by Episcopal priest Matthew Fox), New Thought, Theosophy, and Neoplatonism.
At its basic level, Panentheism is expressed by seeing God in nature or aspects of creation.This differs from seeing nature as the work of a Creator God. God the Creator interacts with his creation as a distinct Being but exists apart from his creation and existed prior to it. God does not interact with creation out of necessity; and no part of God’s nature interpenetrates, mixes with, manifests as, or pervades the creation.
Colossians 1:17 and Ephesians. 4:10 are often used to support Panentheism. However, context and comparison with other passages deny this. The former is about Christ sustaining the universe through his power, and the latter speaks of Christ fulfilling or completing the work He started.
Biblical Theism understands God to be both transcendent — beyond the created world — and present in the world (immanent). God is omnipresent (present everywhere)because He cannot be contained in any one locality:
(Is. 66:1; see also 1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chron.2:6; Ps. 139:7-10; Jer. 23: 23-24; Acts 17:24).
God cannot be restricted to a locality or impeded from any place (Prov. 15:3; Ps.139:7-10; Is. 57:15; Jer. 23:24). But God is always distinct from His creation.
Scripture for YouVersion:
Gen. 1:1; 1 Kings 8:27; Ps. 90:2 Is. 6:3; Neh. 9:6; James 1:17; 1 Tim. 6:16; Rev. 4:8
Three questions (one fill-in-the-blank, one multiple choice, one discussion question):
- Panentheism is not the same as _____________, which is the view that God is creation. Panentheism is the view that God is ______________ in creation.
- Biblical theism differs from Panentheism in that biblical theism asserts that: a) God is partly in creation; b) God is distant from creation; c) God is distinct from creation; d) creation is in God.
- Discuss differences between Panentheism and biblical theism, and how Col. 1:17 and Eph. 4:10 do not support Panentheism.
References for further reading:
Panentheism–The Other God of the Philosophers: From Plato to the Present by John W. Cooper
Collaborators: Marcia Montenegro
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