Pantheism is the belief that God and creation are one. God isn’t just present in creation. Everything that exists is God including you and me. When I was 17, I got a job working at a Greenhouse site taking care of plants. I worked there every summer until I moved to Portland to go to seminary. While, I worked there I got to know many people who held to a philosophy called New Age (This philosophy holds many Pantheistic beliefs). Whenever the topic of spirituality came up, one of my coworkers would claim, “There is no separation between us and God, we are God.” While we had a great dialogue about the subject I knew that I could not agree with it. The following three reasons will illustrate why.
- It makes God impersonal
If it is true that the universe is God and God is the universe then that means that God is robbed of any individuality or person. In order for a being to be personal it must have individuality. For example, creation as a whole is impersonal. Why? Because the whole universe is not an individual. On the contrary, my friends are personal because each one of them is an individual.
The Bible depicts God as being an individual that is very personal (James 4:8; Hebrews 12:8). God is so personal in fact that people throughout all cultures call him Abba Father (Romans 8:15). The idea of God being a personal God that wants a personal relationship with humans was a big factor that drew me to the Christian faith in the first place. It still draws me to pray to God today. Therefore a theology that robs God of his person is unacceptable to me not only Biblically but also personally.
- It contradicts what we see in nature and humanity
When we see the life on our planet, we see that every being that exists goes through a cycle of life. Creatures are born, they live for a while, and then they die. This means that a part of God would essentially die every time a creature or plant dies. This hardly sounds like the God of Christianity which is depicted as being immutable (Psalm 90:2).
Moreover, in humanity, we not only see death we also see humans commit unspeakable acts of evil. If humans are God or at least are a part of God why do they do evil acts? Many people who have pantheistic beliefs might respond that it is simply ignorance that leads to bad deeds. If humanity just would realize that they are God then they would treat others better and the world would be a better place. But how could our ignorance so easily override our divinity? Moreover there were plenty of Egyptian rulers and Roman emperors who believed that they were divine but that did not stop them from committing many atrocities including torture and murder. A consistent pantheist would have to either say that evil and good are both involved in the divine or that absolute evil and good do not exist.
- It contradicts scripture
That is probably my top reason why I do not hold to a pantheistic worldview. In fact, the idea that we could be like God was the first lie that Satan ever told, “That you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 2). The Bible tells us in the book of Romans that we are dead in our sins (Romans 5:6). This hardly is teaching we are God.
There are a couple of verses that some pantheists have pointed as evidence that humanity and/or nature is the same as God but they all fall short. The biggest one is John 14:12 which says, ”Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” The claim is that since Jesus said that his followers would go on to do all the things that Jesus did and more that means they are God. This logic fails for two reasons. One, it completely ignores the context of the passage. In John 14, Jesus is giving his disciples some more teachings and warnings before he goes to the cross. He tells his disciples that he will be going away but will prepare a place for them in heaven (vs2-3). He then tells his disciples after being questioned that he is the only way to God (v 6). That directly contradicts the assurance that everyone is God. Two, the promise by Jesus that his disciples would do “greater things than these” was referring to his disciples actions on Earth not who they were. In the book of Acts, the disciples preaching led to 3,000 people coming to know Jesus in one day (Acts 2:41). That was more people then Jesus led while on earth in a year. But that does not mean that they were God. On the contrary, whenever the disciples were worshiped as God or a god they adamantly denied being such (example, Acts 10).
The second verse that is often pointed to as support for a Pantheistic perspective is Psalm 139:7-8 which says, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” This passage is not saying that everything is God but more affirming that God is present everywhere (which is the doctrine of Omni presence). God is present inside a rock, a person, and a mountain for example, but that does not make a rock or a person God any more than me being inside a library makes the library Benjamin.
I can see how believing that nature is divine could lead to an appreciation of the world as well as human beings as a whole. But one does not have to hold a pantheistic worldview to do that. The Bible tells us that “the heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1). The creation is a reflection of God’s handiwork because it comes from God. That alone should give us an awe and respect over creation. Also, because humans are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), every human deserves respect as well. Finally, because we are not God we need someone greater than us but similar to us to intervene for us to save us from our imperfections and sins. That person is Jesus Christ. In my last blog post in this series (Why I am a Christian) I will explain more about that. My next post will tackle the next worldview that I observed not only in my family but also in the general population in the 21st century: postmodernism.