Monday, July 4, 2011

(6) Panentheism

There's a book I recently read about "Panentheism" and just
the Content section, itself, provides the long history of this
concept. It's a concept that goes back to the roots of Western
Civilization, beginning with the early Greek philosophers. It flows
on into Christian Neoplatonism, eventually into the Renaissance
Period and Romanticism. And waiting their turn to address
modern Panentheism, there's the great German philosophers
Schelling and Hegel.

Closer to our own time there's Teilhard de Chardin's Christocentric
Panentheism, followed by Alfred North Whitehead and other
leaders of Process Theology. The theologian Paul Tillich also took
up the banner of Panentheism. And, more specifically, in our own
day this concept is playing into what is deemed Ecological Theology
and Theological Cosmology. This persistent historical flow of the
concept can leave one nearly breathless. So the question begs to
be answered--*what* is Panentheism?

Dictionaries provide detail in the early Greek language, in that
Panentheism is described as "pan" , which means "all," as "en"
which means "in", to "theos," which means "God." Basically
Panentheism means "all in God."

It is a belief system that posits that God interpenetrates every part
of Nature, but yet extends beyond such. To differentiate between
Pantheism and Panentheism--Pantheism declares that "God is the
Whole," whereas Panentheism declares that "the whole is in God."
For some even more religiously disposed, the panentheistic
concept allows the idea of a Creator Spirit that dwells within the
"heart of the natural world," holding all creatures, drawing them
forward towards an unimaginable future, even through the throes of
their finitude and death. Further, there's the thought of a Creator
Spirit empowering the cosmic process from within, allowing the
universe a wonderful freedom continuously to self-organize itself,
eventually to transcend itself.

However, Panentheism is most related to Process Theology--initially
a 20th century movement generated by the great scientist and
philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead, who stressed that God has
two natures: primordial and consequent. God contains All within
every given moment, somehow allowing freedom to will, freedom to
be within this continuous flux. Beyond even this the thinking is that
God is not a stagnant being. Rather within this continuous flux God
also continues to evolve. So it would seem with this, there's not only
God with us, but there's a definite inner-relationship between God,
Creation, and creatures. In other words, we humans not only exist
in a living, moving, universe, we somehow are also connected with
and serve as co-evolvers with the Creator Spirit.