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Unread 09-18-2006, 10:02 PM   #1
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Omnipresence = Panentheism?

Hey all, I was praying with my 2.75 year old son last night, and he asked me where God was (note: man, he is gorgeous!). I told him that God was everywhere, He is all around us and can hear us all the time, whenever we talk to Him. He was happy with that.

Sounds alright, but it got me thinking - I don't really know much about pantheism and panentheism - just that the latter says that God is in everything (and I'm pretty sure that's not so good) and the former says God *is* everything (which I know is not so good!).

But isn't saying that God is everywhere saying that God *is* in everything? Is it even Biblical to say that God is everywhere? Any help?

-- Nate

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Unread 09-19-2006, 08:52 AM   #2
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Panentheism claims that the world is part of God's being -- all (pan-) in (-en-) God (-theism) -- and therefore has a particular view of God's immanence (i.e., God's relation to or presence in the world) that contradicts the orthodox view of transcendence (i.e., that God is "above" the world). God is "in" the world not in the sense that it is part of Him but in the sense that He is in intimate interaction with it; the world is "in" God not in the sense that it is part of Him but in the sense that it is held by Him.

(I've got process theology, the popular 20th century form of panentheism, in view, but this basic distinction is relevant regardless.)
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Unread 09-19-2006, 08:53 AM   #3
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That was quite a helpful explanation. I first heard the term panentheism a few weeks ago, and it sounded good at first, but now I see that it is not so.
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Unread 09-19-2006, 10:29 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PartTimeLurker View Post
Hey all, I was praying with my 2.75 year old son last night, and he asked me where God was (note: man, he is gorgeous!). I told him that God was everywhere, He is all around us and can hear us all the time, whenever we talk to Him. He was happy with that.

Sounds alright, but it got me thinking - I don't really know much about pantheism and panentheism - just that the latter says that God is in everything (and I'm pretty sure that's not so good) and the former says God *is* everything (which I know is not so good!).

But isn't saying that God is everywhere saying that God *is* in everything? Is it even Biblical to say that God is everywhere? Any help?

-- Nate
Dallas Willard in The Divine Conspiracy has the best explanation of omnipresence I have ever heard. God's relation to the universe is much like our soul's relation to our bodies. We can at anytime exert our influence over any part of our body to make it do something. Right now I am exerting influence over my fingers to type. I am exerting influence on my brain to think. God's relation to the universe is much the same way. He exerted influence over the universe and created light, water, land, etc etc. He exerts influence over our hearts to create life where there was once death.


I read that and it hit me like a ton of bricks, never had I though of God's omnipresence like that and never before had any explanation ever made so much sense.
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Unread 09-19-2006, 10:48 AM   #5
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Dallas Willard and Panentheistic Quasiscience

If that is Willard's definition, then it would apparently pin upon him the official badge of a panentheist (as he holds that the world is "God's body") and lays at his feet the problems inherent to a singular chain of being (which is not Biblical). But then, as far as I am aware, Willard is also an Openness theologian who argues that GOD, although capable of knowing the future, withholds future knowledge from Himself out of a love for the "freedom" of His creatures. It follows from this that GOD can conceivably make mistakes.

Openness theology and Process theology are kissing cousins and, as John has already pointed out, Process thought is intentionally panentheistic, so it would seem that Willard is going all out to be consistent.
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Unread 09-19-2006, 11:17 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Eden of Mind View Post
If that is Willard's definition, then it would apparently pin upon him the official badge of a panentheist (as he holds that the world is "God's body") and lays at his feet the problems inherent to a singular chain of being (which is not Biblical). But then, as far as I am aware, Willard is also an Openness theologian who argues that GOD, although capable of knowing the future, withholds future knowledge from Himself out of a love for the "freedom" of His creatures. It follows from this that GOD can conceivably make mistakes.

Openness theology and Process theology are kissing cousins and, as John has already pointed out, Process thought is intentionally panentheistic, so it would seem that Willard is going all out to be consistent.
Willard is not an open theist.
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Unread 09-19-2006, 11:48 AM   #7
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Perhaps...

Perhaps you are right but I have good reason to believe otherwise.

For instance, here's a quote from a paper written for the Journal of Biblical Studies by John Sanders:

"Presentism is the view that God has exhaustive knowledge of all the past, present and that part of the future that is definite. God has exhaustive foreknowledge but the future is not exhaustively definite. Open theists disagree as to precisely why God does not know with absolute certainty what beings with libertarian freedom will do in the future. Greg Boyd and William Hasker, for instance, argue that such future actions are intrinsically unknowable—even for God—and so divine omniscience is not limited because God knows all that can be known. Dallas Willard, however, argues that God has dispositional omnipotence and omniscience. That is, just as God has all power but does not always use it, so God could know future human actions but decides not to know them. He believes that for God to have personal relationships with us God cannot know what creatures with libertarian freedom will do.1 For Willard, God voluntarily limits or restrains his omniscience because God could know more, whereas for other open theists God’s omniscience is unlimited because God knows all that is knowable. So, proponents of presentism disagree as to why God’s omniscience is the way it is: either because the future actions of free beings are intrinsically unknowable or because God simply chooses not to know them. However, open theists agree that God does not know with certainty what we will do in the future and this is the lightning rod issue in the debate."

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Unread 09-19-2006, 02:34 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Eden of Mind View Post
Perhaps you are right but I have good reason to believe otherwise.

For instance, here's a quote from a paper written for the Journal of Biblical Studies by John Sanders:

"Presentism is the view that God has exhaustive knowledge of all the past, present and that part of the future that is definite. God has exhaustive foreknowledge but the future is not exhaustively definite. Open theists disagree as to precisely why God does not know with absolute certainty what beings with libertarian freedom will do in the future. Greg Boyd and William Hasker, for instance, argue that such future actions are intrinsically unknowable—even for God—and so divine omniscience is not limited because God knows all that can be known. Dallas Willard, however, argues that God has dispositional omnipotence and omniscience. That is, just as God has all power but does not always use it, so God could know future human actions but decides not to know them. He believes that for God to have personal relationships with us God cannot know what creatures with libertarian freedom will do.1 For Willard, God voluntarily limits or restrains his omniscience because God could know more, whereas for other open theists God’s omniscience is unlimited because God knows all that is knowable. So, proponents of presentism disagree as to why God’s omniscience is the way it is: either because the future actions of free beings are intrinsically unknowable or because God simply chooses not to know them. However, open theists agree that God does not know with certainty what we will do in the future and this is the lightning rod issue in the debate."
I have never read anything in Willard's works that would suggest this.
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Unread 09-19-2006, 03:19 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Bryan View Post
Dallas Willard in The Divine Conspiracy has the best explanation of omnipresence I have ever heard. God's relation to the universe is much like our soul's relation to our bodies. We can at anytime exert our influence over any part of our body to make it do something. Right now I am exerting influence over my fingers to type. I am exerting influence on my brain to think. God's relation to the universe is much the same way. He exerted influence over the universe and created light, water, land, etc etc. He exerts influence over our hearts to create life where there was once death.


I read that and it hit me like a ton of bricks, never had I though of God's omnipresence like that and never before had any explanation ever made so much sense.
That seems to unite the creation way too closely to the Creator. It makes me iffily.
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Unread 09-19-2006, 06:54 PM   #10
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...Panentheism claims that the world is part of God's being -- all (pan-) in (-en-) God (-theism)...
Hi John, thanks for the info. So panentheism isn't so much "God is in everything" as it is "everything is in God"?

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Roberson View Post
...and therefore has a particular view of God's immanence (i.e., God's relation to or presence in the world) that contradicts the orthodox view of transcendence (i.e., that God is "above" the world). God is "in" the world not in the sense that it is part of Him but in the sense that He is in intimate interaction with it; the world is "in" God not in the sense that it is part of Him but in the sense that it is held by Him.
Ok, I can see what you mean, though I guess that I really don't get the traditional concept of "omnipresence" then. Maybe I've been speaking to 2 year olds too much, but I'm trying to fit this into a mold that anyone can grasp - where *is* God? Is He everywhere? Omnicience is different to omnipresence - the Bible definitely affirms that God knows everything - that "His eyes roam to and fro over the face of the earth"... but does it actually say that God is everywhere?

Scriptures, anybody? I know of a Psalm where David says how wherever he goes, whether to the highest heavens or the depths of the sea, God is still with him... Anything else?

-- Nathan
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Unread 09-19-2006, 09:52 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by PartTimeLurker View Post
Hi John, thanks for the info. So panentheism isn't so much "God is in everything" as it is "everything is in God"?



Ok, I can see what you mean, though I guess that I really don't get the traditional concept of "omnipresence" then. Maybe I've been speaking to 2 year olds too much, but I'm trying to fit this into a mold that anyone can grasp - where *is* God? Is He everywhere? Omnicience is different to omnipresence - the Bible definitely affirms that God knows everything - that "His eyes roam to and fro over the face of the earth"... but does it actually say that God is everywhere?

Scriptures, anybody? I know of a Psalm where David says how wherever he goes, whether to the highest heavens or the depths of the sea, God is still with him... Anything else?

-- Nathan
God isn't anywhere. God is spirit and thus he has no body so can have no physical location. God's omnipresence I think is better explained in the way I mentioned above. God is completely conscious of every detail of his creation and can exert his influence over any part of his creation at any moment and is not restricted in doing so in any way. No, the universe is not God's body, God is not "in" everything and everything is not God.
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Unread 09-19-2006, 09:56 PM   #12
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Panentheism claims that the world is part of God's being -- all (pan-) in (-en-) God (-theism) -- and therefore has a particular view of God's immanence (i.e., God's relation to or presence in the world) that contradicts the orthodox view of transcendence (i.e., that God is "above" the world). God is "in" the world not in the sense that it is part of Him but in the sense that He is in intimate interaction with it; the world is "in" God not in the sense that it is part of Him but in the sense that it is held by Him.

(I've got process theology, the popular 20th century form of panentheism, in view, but this basic distinction is relevant regardless.)
I know we discussed this quite a while ago, but I'm positive I've never personally run across this definition of panentheism. I was under the impression that panentheism is not everything being in God, nor is it merely God's presence in all things, but his active presence in all things, and that active presence being what allows existance of said things. It also means that God sustains all things by his grace even if this thing refuses to acknowledge his existance, because to remove his presence is to exact the ultimate punishment: non-existance.

It seems the definition you have leans more toward pantheism, not panentheism, as panentheism still maintains the distinction between God and creation, whereas you seem to think it doesn't. Pantheism on the other hand, believes there is no distinction, that creation is a part of God. It is very important to keep the difference between pantheism and panentheism clear, as it seems the terms are being rather muddied up at the moment.

With that being said, the view of omnipresence is largely Greek in origin, which is likely why it's a bit hard to find a clear cut Biblical passage on the subject.
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Unread 09-19-2006, 10:09 PM   #13
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I know we discussed this quite a while ago, but I'm positive I've never personally run across this definition of panentheism. I was under the impression that panentheism is not everything being in God, nor is it merely God's presence in all things, but his active presence in all things, and that active presence being what allows existance of said things.
Like I said, I'm operating on "process theology," which is the most popular 20th century form of panentheism. You're probably just using the word differently -- which is fine, and my arguments aren't aimed at your "panentheism."

Pantheism claims that the world is God. One example of a panentheism that wouldn't be pantheism is, "The world is God's Body, but not God's Soul." (I'm using an example from a feminist theologian, though it is strikingly similar to Bryan's example from Dallas Willard.) The world is "in" God in this example in that it is God's Body -- but it would be wrong to say that the world is God because there is more to God than just the world. That's the distinction between pantheism and panentheism that I'm using.
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Unread 09-20-2006, 05:34 AM   #14
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I know we discussed this quite a while ago, but I'm positive I've never personally run across this definition of panentheism. I was under the impression that panentheism is not everything being in God, nor is it merely God's presence in all things, but his active presence in all things, and that active presence being what allows existance of said things. It also means that God sustains all things by his grace even if this thing refuses to acknowledge his existance, because to remove his presence is to exact the ultimate punishment: non-existance.

Heb 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.


When you give your definition of panenthiesm, is this what you are referring to?

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Unread 09-20-2006, 07:42 AM   #15
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Like I said, I'm operating on "process theology," which is the most popular 20th century form of panentheism. You're probably just using the word differently -- which is fine, and my arguments aren't aimed at your "panentheism."

Pantheism claims that the world is God. One example of a panentheism that wouldn't be pantheism is, "The world is God's Body, but not God's Soul." (I'm using an example from a feminist theologian, though it is strikingly similar to Bryan's example from Dallas Willard.) The world is "in" God in this example in that it is God's Body -- but it would be wrong to say that the world is God because there is more to God than just the world. That's the distinction between pantheism and panentheism that I'm using.
That's an interesting idea. I don't think I believe that form of it, but it's an interesting idea nonetheless.

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Heb 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.


When you give your definition of panenthiesm, is this what you are referring to?

Chris
Mmmm... kinda. But panentheism speaks a bit more towards the immanence of God, because it's not just God's power or word that sustains existence, but his very real presence.
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