Pantheism is the idea that God is immanent in all things. Modern pantheism rose from the transcendence vs. immanence debate in the 19th century. The closing of the age of Reason appeared to leave religion in a predicament. It seemed that the choices were to opt for the traditional Christian emphasis on human sin and divine salvation, maintained by appeal to the Bible and the church. Or one was forced to follow the modern skeptical rationalism that arose as the final product of the enlightened individual mind. Theologians of the pre-Enlightenment era agreed that one could not just return to pre-Enlightenment dogmatic orthodoxy, they refused to accept post-Enlightenment skeptical rationalism as the only alternative. Thus, they began to search for new ways to understand the Christian faith. Thus they sought to move beyond the Enlightenment while incorporating the advances it had made, which could definitely have been to the detriment of the Christian Faith. More specifically, they attempted to establish a new relationship between transcendence and immanence in the wake of shattering the medieval balance.
Transcendence has to do with God being self-sufficient apart from the world; He is above the universe and comes to the world from beyond. Immanence has to do with God being present to creation; he is active within the universe, involved with the processes of the world and of human history. Before the period of the Enlightenment, transcendence was favored over immanence but this was permanently and radically disrupted with the balancing of transcendence over immanence being reversed. The Enlightenment started to put man at center stage in history instead of God. Enlightenment thinkers tended to determine the importance of God in terms of his value for the story of their own lives. God, then, was shifted from his lofty position in the heavens to which the gothic cathedrals had pointed, to the world of human affairs.
- God is identical to the world
- Metaphysical doctrine that God = world
- God is seen as providing some basis for morality, truth, and beauty
- Yet, God here is not an individual, and is not an agent. Can you pray to it? Sure, but don’t expect an answer.
- Note: good and evil seem to meld one into another, finally reconciled in a higher harmony.
Here’s a negative aspect to pantheism: what event can be ascribed to God?
- No event can be ascribed to God, all are natural causes
- One need never to refer to God’s action
- Though we may not know the natural cause, there always is one
- Nothing is directly the effect of God’s action, it can be regarded as God’s indirect action
- There is no more to God than there is to nature
- Though divine reality equals nature, there is a hidden causality of God
- In everything that occurs, there is a possibility of regarding it as a word of God to me in the first person singular (Subject)
- If Pantheism were not true, would the universe be any different?
- Seems to affirm two things, that the universe is a unity and this unity is divine
- Spinoza, do we admire God or nature? Yes. But few have been moved to worship it.
- So, Pantheists need to be clearer about Pantheism: why should we say the universe is divine, Why we should worship it, hold it in reverence or adopt religious attitudes toward it?
- Gordon Clark: Pantheism is inconsistent, it says God is identical to the universe. God is infinite, yet the universe is finite. If you accept any two of them the third causes a logical inconsistency.