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July 28, 2005

Ch.V. Q.36. Pantheism

PANTHEISM is that system of thought which identifies, or at least confounds, God with the world or totality of being.1

2. Pantheists agree in the following particulars: (a) There is but one substance, universal and eternal, with many modes; (b) God is immanent in the world but not transcendent. Some deny all reality to the world—acosmism; (c) God is impersonal, having neither consciousness nor will; (d) There is no creation, but only an unending and necessary process in eternal substance; (e) Men are not individual substances, but passing moments in the life of Deity, which will disappear with the dissolution of the body, never to return; (f) Human acts are Divine and without freedom; (g) Evil is a form of Divine activity—really good; (h) Man is the highest mode in the life of Deity. The Incarnation, when accepted at all, is said to be a revelation of this.2

3. Pantheism assumes many deceitful shapes, and contaminates the faith of many Christian thinkers and writers who do not suspect the fact.3 The vitality of the system arises from its many-sidedness. It appeals to every type of mind by presenting as Divine those elements of the objective and subjective world to which each individual is attracted. But the religious and moral consequences which Pantheism involves are terrible. (a) By declaring God impersonal it removes the only sufficient basis of worship and dependence upon Divine providence; (b) By merging all things into God it deifies man: (c) By denying the reality of evil and of man's accountability to a personal judge it destroys the only warrant for praising or blaming anybody, and cuts the ground from under common morality.

4. The difficulty is not merely one of practical consequences. It is true that Pantheism, like Theism, cannot be disproved—i.e., by direct evidence. But as a scientific hypothesis it utterly fails to stand the test of experience. The pantheist does not account for the phenomena of mind, personality, and moral judgment. He simply denies that they are what they seem to be, thus stultifying human consciousness in its most elementary exercise.

1 Flint, Anti-Theistic Theories, Lecs. IX., X.; Liddon, Some Elements, pp. 59-66; Martensen, Dogmatics, §§ 39-43; Christlieb, Modern Doubt, pp. 161-190; Fraser, Philos. of Theism, pp. 76-103; Caird, Fundamental Ideas, Vol. I., pp. 85-113; Martineau, Religion, Bk. III., ch. i.; Bruce, Apologetics, Bk. I., ch. iii.

2 Hodge, Syst. Theol., Vol. I., pp. 300-309.

3 Flint, pp. 391, 392.

Posted by Debra Bullock at July 28, 2005 05:09 PM

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