A definition of Pantheism

To lay the preliminary groundwork we need to establish what is pantheism. By its very etymology the term Pantheism signifies that the universe (everything - pan - that exists) is God, and God is the universe. This is both the popular idea attached to the term and also a formal definition often given of it. The aggregate of individual things is God.

The three principal forms in which Pantheism is propagated and taught is as follows:

1. That which ascribes to the Infinite and Universal Being, the attributes (to a certain extent at least) of both mind and matter, namely, thought and extension.

2. That which ascribes to it only the attributes of matter, what we may call materialistic Pantheism.

3. That which ascribes to it only the attributes of spirit, or idealistic Pantheism.

The main tenets of Pantheism

It may readily be assumed then that Pantheism holds the following: The Infinite God has no existence before or out of the world. The world is, therefore, not only consubstantial, but co-eternal with God. The created order is identified with God; God, matter and whatever else there is are taken together in one lump, mixed together and referred to as one entity. An distinction between Maker and made things cease to exist because they are all one and the same.

Naturally such a stance precluded the idea of creation. At best the biblical doctrine of creation is relegated to something far different: some Pantheists maintain that whatever is is an eternal and necessary process. (Modern Process Theology comes under the same indictment since it depicts God as changing and progressing).

Pantheism, together with some other pagan philosophies, deny that the Infinite and Absolute God has either intelligence, consciousness or will. The Infinite comes into existence in the Finite. The whole life, consciousness, intelligence, and knowledge, at any time, of God, is the life, consciousness, intelligence and knowledge of the latter, that is, of the world. Fichte says, "God alone is, and out of Him is nothing" - an uncompromising and explicit statement of what Pantheism stands for.

In addition Pantheism denies that man has an individual subsistence. He is a flickering moment in the life of God; he comes and goes, but God remains: only God is. Man is a wave on the surface of the sea: the wave comes and goes, the sea remains. He is a leaf which falls, but the tree remains.

In view of all this, man can have no conscious existence after death. It would be inconsistent with Pantheism. The absorption of the soul in God, of the finite into the Infinite, is the highest destiny that Pantheism can acknowledge for man.

As man is only a mode of God's existence, his acts are the acts of God, and as the acts of God are necessary, it follows that there can be nor freedom of the will in man. All our activity is only a temporary manifestation of the activity of God. All our acts are his acts.

As Pantheism makes creation an eternal, necessary, and continuous evolution of the Infinite Being, all liberty of second causes is of necessity excluded.

Furthermore, in making man a mode of God's existence, and in denying all freedom of the will, and in teaching that all activity is a transient manifestation of the activity of God, Pantheism precluded the possibility of sin. Spinoza teaches that "sin...exists for us but not for God. We speak improperly...when we say that we sin against God, or that men offend God." Evil is simply limitation of being. Pantheists deify everything else. If God comes to existence only in the world, and if everything that is, is a manifestation of God, it follows that the soul of man is the highest form of the existence of God.

Strauss says: "Mankind is the Godman; the key of a true Christology is, that the predicates which the Church gives to Christ, as an individual, belong to an idea, a generic whole."

This is only one step further from the deification of evil. So far as evil exists it is as truly a manifestation of God as good. Pantheists do not hesitate to conclude thus. If God be everything, and if there be a Satan, God must be Satan.

Pantheism, therefore, merges everything into God. The universe is the existence-form of God' that is, the universe is his existence. All reason is his reason; all activity his activity. He is, consequently, not a person whom we can worship and in whom we can trust.

Creator and creation

These blasphemous beliefs can be adequately exposed by bringing the light of Scripture to bear upon them.

Our purpose is to show how the personality of God destroys Pantheism. God is a distinct Person: and his creation is a distinct entity. True, God brought it into being, by the exercise of his will and power, and creation can only be maintained in existence by his preserving and governing power, in wisdom and according to his purpose. "In Him we live and move and have our being." "We are also his offspring." "Everything was made by him and without him was not anything made that was made." "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." "By him were all things created, whether things in heaven or things upon the earth."

All these Scriptures manifestly prove that there was a time when this present created order was not. It was non-existent. There was no sun, no moon, no stars, no earth, no animal or human or angelic life. God, who alone inhabits eternity, brought these things to existence. Matter had a beginning. Time-space-matter is God's doing, but there was a time when the universe was not.

Thus the Creator and the creation are separate. Though God is immanent in creation (for nothing can exist without Him) yet God and creation are always kept distinct in Scripture. God is eternal; matter is temporal. God is infinite; the universe is finite. God is the Maker; the universe is his making. A painting is not the artist (as the Pantheism would have it); a painting is the product of the artist.

The crux of the matter is a right understanding of the doctrine of creation. The eternally personal God (for the Three Persons of the Trinity enjoyed communion with each other from eternity) willed to bring creation into existence. He was pleased with his handiwork, pronouncing it very good (morally excellent). Intelligence, being an ingredient in personality, is also revealed in his work: wherever you turn, you see design in creation.

Now creation is matter. Personality as well as consciousness implies a distinction between the Self and Not Self. According to Pantheism, God is not a person who can say I, and who can be addressed as Thou. As he comes into existence, intelligence and consciousness only in the world, He is a person only so far as He comprehends all personalities, and the consciousness of the sum of finite creatures constitutes the consciousness of God.

This is plainly contradictory to Divine Revelation. For before any human being or any other being existed, God is already seen to have intelligence, will, and sensibility - the sum total of personality. He brought his eternal plan into execution: by creation and providence.

Pantheism maintains that God is the substance of which the universe is the phenomenon: but, according to Scripture, God is self-sufficient and ever-blessed in himself, not needing anything outside of himself. "For as the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself" (John 5:26). Again: "Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things" (Acts 17:25). Obviously the creation needs God; God does not need his creation.

The point is beautifully summarized in the Westminster Confession, ch.2:2: "God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of himself; and is alone in and unto himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which he hath made, not deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting his own glory, in , by, unto, and upon them; he is the alone fountain of all being, of whom through whom, and to whom, are all things; and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them, whatsoever himself pleaseth."

In accordance with Scripture, the Confession distinguishes sharply between God and his creation. Creation came from him but is not a part of him. Contrarily, Cousin says: "Take away my faculties, and the consciousness that attests them to me, and I am not for myself. It is the same with God; take away nature, and the soul, and every sign of God disappears."

Supplimentary remarks

The universe is evidently undergoing change and indeed is disintegrating. Now if the universe is God, then God is changing. But Scripture declares that the God of Israel changeth not. God, the Perfect and Absolute God, does not change. "Your years are forever the same." God, the all-righteous and holy, will judge all men at the last day. An all-knowing and all-wise Person can fulfil such a task. But if men are a part of God and their acts are acts of God, is God then going to judge and condemn himself? For certain men will be consigned to the lake of fire. "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

Pantheism denies the survival of the soul after death. But Christ, being a Person, after his resurrection, lives on. Death hath no more dominion over him, and the saints in heaven enjoy personal and immediate communion with him.

In summary

In contemporary theology Pantheism usually takes the form of an attack upon the personality of God, maintaining that God is "supra-personal." Admittedly, God is infinitely beyond any idea or term which men may use of him, but the true and living God, who revealed himself in Jesus Christ (definitely a Person) is not to be identified with his creation. In speaking of Satan, Christ said: "he hath nothing of me." Also He drew a sharp distinction between himself and his hearers: "I am from above, you are from below."

The term "personality" may be inadequate, but it points in the right direction: God is not less than personal.