445: PANENTHEISM

“A warm welcome to Zingcreed, a blog that asks naive questions as it probes the boundaries between theism, atheism and (in this Post) PANENTHEISM.
This follows closely on the heels of the 2 previous posts “Is God a mirage?” and “101 alternatives to saying the word God“. It might help to read them first, but this post still makes sense on its own if you choose not to.
I hope you get something out of this!
In solidarity,
Peter Turner, M.A., M.Sc.”

The traditional God of supernatural theism is, sadly, not yet dead. For followers of what progressive Christian teacher Marcus Borg called ‘the earlier paradigm’ he is alive and well up in heaven, and he intervenes in our lives all the time. For the less easily convinced thinkers among us Borg has the ‘alternative paradigm’ which tries not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Atheists, like me , do just that: we chuck out all forms of supernatural beings, be they gods, demons or angels into the dustbin of history with no remorse.

The third option for believers who cannot face any more theist twaddle is panentheism. It’s theism without the supernatural. (It’s the baby without the bathwater.) It’s the camp to which Borg belongs and I shall try to explain it using his writings as a source:

  • He claims it is just as biblical as supernatural theism, if not more so, for it emphasises both the transcendence and presence/’immanence’ of God. Supernatural theism emphasises just the former;
  • Even though the word itself is only 200 years old, it is not a modern invention: panentheism is an ancient and traditional concept of God;
  • Its central claim is that God is ‘the More’, the encompassing spirit, in whom everything that is, is;
  • Pan is greek for everything,
    en means in,
    theos means God,
    so everything – the universe – is in God.
  • In Acts, Paul says God is the one in whom “we live and move and have our being.” i.e. God is not “out there” but “right here”, all around us.
  • There is a new model of God-world relationship: rather than speaking of divine intervention, panentheism speaks of divine intention and divine interaction. (If you accept a model of intervention you have the problem of explaining why God sometimes chooses not to intervene, e.g. at times of natural disasters.)
  • By giving up a belief in a personlike being “out there” you are not giving up a belief in God at all, just a belief in one concept of God, the supernatural concept. You can stay a theist. A panentheist.

(Many decades ago, before becoming a lapsed Anglican, the writer of Zingcreed was some sort of mutant ninja teenage panentheist.)

Source:
Borg, M. “The heart of Christianity” HarperCollins (2003)

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