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(An extract from the article, "So, what is God?"
which is available in this section of the website)


Panentheism
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The monotheist religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have a common heritage. (The basis of Christianity has been presented in another section of this website, Christianity explained.) In essence, each of the three monotheist religions maintains that there is only one god. There is also a very strong emphasis, within monotheism, on the ‘transcendent’ nature of God. Within the theology of all three religions, God is understood as all-powerful, all-knowing and beyond our ability to fully understand or experience him.  He then theoretically transcends us, our universe and even our ability to perceive him. His transcendence separates his being from our own within this context. Many Christians actually think of God as a being in Heaven and completely separate from his creations. All monotheist religions believe that God wants to maintain a personal relationship with each of us.

On the other hand the pantheist religions – which include Taoism in its early form, much of Buddhism and some segments of Hinduism – view God as the basis of reality itself , or the ground of being. Indeed everything is understood as having a one-ness with reality, and as such, with God. He is, as far as they are concerned, very much a part of this world. God, the universe, and indeed even ourselves, are one and the same. That is, God is totally “immanent” or all pervading, and not transcendent at all. Because of their view of Gods relationship to the universe, pantheists do not believe that it is possible to have a personal relationship with him. That is because in summary, he is us and we are him!

N
ow, it is not that the issue of immanence is foreign to monotheist religions. Even the Christian Old Testament mentions Gods pervading nature and the relationship of his sustainingpower to the continuance of our world [Jeremiah 23:24, Job 34:14-15 as examples]. The New Testament has some more explicit examples to further highlight this understanding [Acts 17:27-28, Colossians 1:17]. Despite such examples, we rarely hear discussion about Gods immanence in the Church. In its defence, the transcendent nature of God and all that flows from that, including our ability to individually enter into a personal relationship with such a God, reduces the importance of his immanence for the average Christian
.
 
Importantly though, the two opposing views of Gods being, i.e. immanence and transcendence, are actually aligned within the Christian theology of panentheism. Although as stated it is not an issue for the average Christian pulpit, the concept of God as the ‘ground of being’ has received considerable thought from learned twentieth century Christian theologians such as John Macquarrie and Paul Tillich. It is not surprising that the same thoughts have also been expressed within the theology of Judaism and Islam. Theology from the middle ages (within all three monotheist religions) also contains references to the immanence of God, i.e. God as the ground of being. This older theology was heavily influenced by monotheist mystics.

The Christian theology of panentheism offers us a believable yet complex concept – a God who transcends our universe, yet simultaneously ‘enables’ its continued reality through his immanence. 

Although having the same ultimate outcome, there are two versions of Panentheism. One version is pronounced “Panen-theism” meaning, “All things are within God but God is more than the sum of all things.” An alternative version, pronounced “Pan-entheism”, theorises that “God dwells in all things” as well as simultaneously being transcendent and outside the universe.

There are again differing ways of depicting how God creates reality within panentheism. In the first, God is the ‘ground of being’ (the basis of all reality itself), or he creates the universe from himself (Creatio ex Deo). Within the second model, God, while pervading reality, maintains its existence via “Creatio Ex Nihilo” – creating it out of nothing, i.e. ‘willing it’ or thinking it into continued existence.

You can imagine it like this: Gods being is akin to a hugely powerful mind, and within that mind is a thought that is our universe and all that exists within it. As such, God has his self-existence (Mind/ Eternity/ Heaven) and within it we have own separate being (in the space-time continuum that is the universe). Unlike the pantheist model, our existences within the theology of panentheism have separation from Gods being. That is, we may exist within him but we have a genuine individual being of our own.

Every moment of reality is dependent on Gods immanent, all pervading, creative and sustaining power within panentheism. God is also simultaneously outside the confines of space and time of our universe. As opposed to us, and explained earlier, God’s basis itself is within ‘Eternity’.

Bear in mind too that God, although enabling reality to exist, allows nature to follow its own course. He does not directly make everything happen! By and large, reality is governed by the laws of cause and effect that he has designed into it. By design, I dont mean he built it all in literally seven days, as in the imagery  of the Bibles Old Testament book of Genesis. It is more likely he designed his laws into the universe before initiating the big bang, which has subsequently rolled out reality into the perfect state of existence that it is. God clearly has a motive for hiding himself from us too, in a material sense, and that is discussed in the Lead Article, Believing in God” within the section of the same name. So, it is no surprise that his handiwork in our universe is hidden from us. I have tried to present a credible view of the current theories of science, and their relationship to religion, in an article devoted to the subject, “Science and religion” within this section of the website.

Within the theory of panentheism, it is obviously possible for us to enter into a personal relationship with God (as expected within the fundamentalist view of monotheism).

The section of this website, which includes this article, is devoted completely to presenting God as a believable concept. Other alternative views of Gods being, including monotheism and pantheism, are included and reconciled there. The article, So, what is God?” within this section delves into the nature of Gods being itself. 

The website also contains guidance on how to determine for yourself whether God does exist.  An entire section, Believing in God has been provided to address that issue.  It is all about how to identify evidence of Gods presence within our lives and genuinely evaluate it  thereby building up a body of evidence that will stand the test of time, indeed grow with the passing of time.  The stumbling block for most of us, when beginners, is knowing how and where to look for this potential evidence. The final section of the website explains Christianity simply.




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