Panentheism and Pantheism

I had someone ask me recently if I was a pantheist. I assume it was because of something that I wrote which had not been read carefully. The model of the divine that I find most resonates with me is panentheism. Obviously there are a number of different ways that panentheism can be understood and configured, from the view of God as relating to the cosmos as the soul does to the body in traditional Cartesian dualism, to God as relating as soul to the body in the way current science leads us to understand things, and thus what might be called radically emergent theism.

I looked quickly online for some sort of graphic that would illustrate some of the differences. I found this one, which I don’t think as clear or as helpful as it could have been, but it might serve as a good conversation starter, if nothing else!

  • Philip Wesley Davisson

    I really like the concepts of panentheism, but it definitely needs renaming.

  • contantlysearching

    I think of myself as a panentheist. I describe it as God being the “ground of being” as Paul Tillich did.

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

    Hello James.

    I don’t believe one can be a Christian while being an atheist or a pantheist, at least as I’ve defined the term, based on historical considerations:

    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/the-definition-of-christianity-die-definition-des-christentums-unten/

    However I am genuinely intrigued by the idea of panentheism as defended by Phillip Clayton and others.

    It seems to allow God having many features of a person while solving many problems related to the divine nature.

    Of course, one would have to let go of some of the self-contradictory Biblical assertions in order to adopt this position.

    Lovely greetings from continental Europe.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son
    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

  • http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/ed_babinski/babinski-bio.html EdwardTBabinski

    The line between all theisms remains blurry. According to Christianity God is both transcendent and immiment, i.e., everything arose directly and solely out of God’s will, power, wisdom, and God remains everywhere, so nothing exists apart from God.

    Panentheism says much the same thing, that all things are like tiny flamelets emerging from a single fire — the fire is God, and we are the flamelets.

    Same with Pantheism to some degree.

    So the lines remain blurry no matter what “name” you call yourself.

    There are also FOUR TYPES OF “GOD” that people envision in terms of God’s personality and activity vis a vis “the world.” http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2010/10/new-book-americas-four-gods-what-we-say.html

    Which of the four types of “God” do you envision?

    • Ales Ernecl

      Personhood, not personality…

  • Nick Gotts

    For any of these views (and for atheism), the question arises: under what circumstances would you conclude that you were wrong?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      A while back I recommended a thought experiment to explore that very question!

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2009/06/from-the-archive-wwittmylyf.html

      • Nick Gotts

        I see no-one responded back then! I won’t push this, but I’m quite willing to discuss what would make me (rationally) question atheism if such a discussion gets going.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          There was, I think, a lot of discussion back then, but it was before the blog moved to Patheos and not all comments and discussion threads migrated successfully, alas.

  • Michele Cox

    I’ve been known to explain panentheism with venn diagrams — classical theism would have, say, a blue circle for God over _here,_ and a red circle for the world over _there,_ while pantheism would have one purple circle; panentheism would have a blue circle with a purple circle inside it. “God in all the world – with leftovers!” :) –which is to say, panentheism offers an understanding in which the Godhead is both immanent and transcendent, both immediately present with us in our lives (all the ‘us,’ not just human beings) *and* other than and beyond us to call us into a transformed/transformative future.


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