One of my confessions is, that…I am a panentheist. There, I’ve admitted it.
Please don’t confuse this with being a pantheist, which I’m not. Pantheism – in a few words, and that really cannot do justice to the idea, is the theology that states that God is ‘in’ things. I do respect my pantheist friends even if I don’t always agree with them. But, I have benefited immensely from their friendship, teaching and ritual, and enjoy their sincerity, devotion and passion, and so what follows is (just) my confession.
Can you be as honest in what you truly believe? Here’s your opportunity.
So, I am a panentheist, and as a panentheist, I ‘see’ God not in (all) things, but all things in God, especially nature (and other people etc).
I firmly believe that this idea was there at the origins of Christianity, and that in being ‘modern’ or so ‘twenty-first century’ the Church at large has moved away from the ‘Oh-so-Close-God’ idea and the ‘soil and seasons’ beginnings of the early Church, and are the poorer for it.
We’ve moved away from some foundational Truth.
Sadly, I have seen certain Christian websites define the term in the most extreme ways, and then ‘demolish’ the idea. Such ‘straw man’ arguments are bad tactics, and are usually used by those whose argument is ‘thin’. Although they don’t anger me, they do upset me because they lead people astray, they seem to promulgate only one type of theology and it has to be their version of it, or else, and the do a disservice to the broad term ‘Christian’, as some non-Christians may think we’re all like that. And, I’m not.
There is a view held by some that God is far off. I’m not suggesting that some see God as an old man sitting on a cloud high up in the sky, but without putting it too succinctly, many do come unnervingly close to that idea . Maybe the reason they prefer this idea is that it lessens the need for responsibility, and we can see evidence of this: drunkenness, drugs, illegal practices, bad politicians and clergy, xenophobia, selfishness, destroying the earth for minerals, disrespecting others etc. A God that is close, such as the God of the panentheist, is for some, altogether too close, especially if they (erroneously) fear that God. If God is feared, then it’s reasonable to keep some distance between the deity and yourself, isn’t it? But, God isn’t like that. But, if God is distant, then maybe we can get away with it?
There’s an interesting story in the Book, concluding in Exodus 20. The people of Israel have been invited by God, to the foot of the mountain to encounter God. But, when they see fire and thunder on the mountain, they tremble, stay at a distance and fear overcomes them. They plead with Moses to intercede on their behalf, and he does. Moses meets God. The people don’t. They miss out. How sad? Fear got the better of them and they missed an opportunity to encounter God in a new way. Maybe, it’s that fear why some prefer a ‘distant God’ idea, rather than panentheism? And, sadly, like the people of Israel they miss out!
And, here’s another reason I hold to this belief, and it’s referring to God:
For in him we live and move and have our being…
Acts 17:28a, The Book
There, the Book itself couldn’t be clearer. We live ‘in’ God. Now, that is panentheism.
As a panentheist, much like those ancient Celts (and their Druids) who can teach us so much as they dwelt in a time of observing the seasons, living off the land, and seeing the beauty of nature all around them (as can latter-day Celts and Druids), I see no distinction between the secular and sacred, and understand that God is all around us, and indeed we are ‘contained’ in God. There is a unity, simplicity and perfection there.
We ‘swim in God’
Indeed, we ‘swim in God’, and like a fish in water, who cannot see water, so we cannot ‘see’ God directly now, but can see the deity’s outworking around us, and indeed this outworking, nature etc, like that fish’s water, is life-promoting and sustaining, and benevolent – all characteristics of the Invisible God.
As a panentheist, I find that I can better appreciate nature, the wonderment of life around me, respect the beliefs of others for they, too ‘swim in God’, and I can better relate to the so-close-God , who, rather than be feared, is life-giving, positive, forgiving and is ‘The Friend’ that Rumi spoke of.
Now, it’s your turn.
There, I’ve said it, and I feel much better for confessing it. Now, I’m a sociable guy, always wanting to make knew friends and discover more about existing friends, so what do you believe and how has it impacted on your life? If you want to email me, direct, rather than leave a public comment, do feel free to do so. Namaste.
[PS: That’s not me in the ‘confessio’ photograph. I am just as handsome, though LOL]