Panentheism: "God is in the world!"
If we picture Atheism as an empty physical universe without any god, and Pantheism as a universe that is itself God, then Panentheism is a universe in which God would be inside of it all. The actual word "panentheism" is made up of three Greek words that mean "all", "in", and "god" respectively.
Panentheism is the view that God is in all, and that God is developing and changing along with the world. It is also called "process theology", or "bipolar theism", "organicism" since it views the universe as a gigantic organism, or even "neoclassical theism" since its idea of God is very different than the classical Christian concept. Typically, the average person that believes in the "God" of panentheism would probably call him "mother nature", possibly "the cosmos", or maybe even the "world spirit."
The god of panentheism is extremely different from the concept of God that we see from the Scriptures. If we were to make a comparison of the two, it would look something like this:
God of Panentheism: The One God of Biblical Christianity:
God is working with the universe. God is sovereignly ruling over the universe.
God is dependent on the universe. God is completely independent of the universe.
God is constantly changing. God is unchanging in his essence.
God is growing more perfect. God is absolutely and infinitely perfect.
God is finite. God is infinite.
It's obvious to see that panentheists believe that God is very limited and finite. To them God is constantly changing, dependent on the universe, instead of being the Creator, think of him as only the director of world affairs who is trying to achieve a greater degree of perfection in his own essence. Most panentheists think of God's connection to the universe in the same way that a mind is related to human body. Just as the mind or soul is contained within the physical body, and also changes with it interacts to it, so God is actually "in the world/universe" and constantly changes with it, towards greater perfection. This view of God was to a large degree endorsed by the ancient Greek philosophers Heraclitus and Plato, and in more recent times, by the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead.
Immediately, as you put Panentheism, to the "boomerang test", it fails miserably. First of all, the concept of God that is taught in panentheism, is a self-contradictory being. To the panentheists God is actually "self-caused", which is impossible in logically incoherent. For something to be "self-caused" it would have to first exist, before it actually existed, in order to bring itself into existence. Obviously this type of thinking is very illogical, self-defeating, and impossible to reality.
Secondly, in panentheism and "process theology", God and the world are mutually dependent on each other, which is also self-defeating and impossible. Without God there would be no universe, but without the universe there would be no God. It seems to be a "chicken and egg" problem of cosmic proportions! Both of them would have to be infinite and eternal in the past, but the well-informed panentheist knows that neither one actually is. One has to ask themselves if a God is worth worshiping, that is dependent upon the universe. Personally, it seems that a God who is dependent upon anything, couldn't truly be God in the first place!
Thirdly, to the panentheist or follower of "process theology", God is constantly changing with the universe. This is totally opposed to the classical idea of God, which believes him to be absolutely unchanging and immutable in his nature. But also it goes against simple logic, since for change to be possible there needs to be an unchanging basis or standard to measure that change. But in the case of the God of panentheism, this rule or standard would be more ultimate than God himself! If God needs to be the greatest and "most ultimate" being in the universe, this simply is not possible in panentheism.
Fourthly and finally, the God of panentheism is not perfect and seems to be finite, just like the rest of the physical universe. Again, you have to ask yourself, how is it logically possible to call something "God" that is finite, limited, and striving towards perfection, just as his creatures are? Wouldn't this be a very good Biblical definition of "idolatry"? Worshiping a finite, limited, and imperfect creature in the place of the infinite, perfect, and unlimited Creator God seems obviously a lot like logical absurdity and spiritual idolatry.
As with atheism and pantheism, panentheism doesn't seem to have a spiritual or logical "leg to stand on" either! Panentheism is full of intellectual contradictions, logical defeaters, and a bizarre concept of "God" that reduces him to little more that a super-creature.
In our next article, after already having examined Atheism, Pantheism, and Panentheism, we will continue to examine the remaining 4 concepts of God...hope you will join us! You can watch our 3 part video lesson on worlviews here.
- Pastor J.