Another view on Panentheism

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Here is a quote from the article "Cosmology and the Way of Jesus", by Alan Bentz-Letts, which appears in the September-October 2007 issue of The Fourth R:

In recent times, the Tillichian understanding of the "ground of being," and the panentheism ("everything is in God") advocated by Marcus Borg and others illustrate this shift from a picture of God as a supernatural, largely transcendent being separate from creation to a force immanent in creation, though not identical with any particular part of the universe (and thus in a sense transcendent as well.)

I understand panentheism to affirm that God is an energy flowing through the entire universe, through every particle and piece of that universe, and particularly through the parts which exhibit awareness and life. Such sacred energy connects everything together, is influenced by changes in any individual unit of creation, yet also transcends each individual. God can be said to be "within" each human being, as the energy of body and soul, and yet "beyond" each individual too, stretching to the limits of the universe. While such an energy might seem impersonal, lacking in the qualities of the biblical God, Tillich's insight can be a help here. For when this energy is felt in the depths of our spirit, it is experienced as a divine presence, deeply and inextricably personal.

While no understanding of God is going to be free of all philosophical problems, I believe this panentheist position meets many of the objections raised by contemporary skeptics. (Marcus Borg likes to confront atheists with the question, what kind of God is it that you don't believe in? Most often the response describes a supernatural God separate from creation.)

5 comments:

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

I think I remember a series of movies about that definition of panentheism. I think George Lucas was the producer!

Mystical Seeker said...

I'm not sure that I would go so far as to characterize "the Force" as a panentheistic deity. :)

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

I would agree, but the definition quoted sounded a bit Lucasian.

Jerome M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jerome M said...

I've just recently encountered the term "panentheism," and sincerely appreciated the clear and succinct definition provided here.