Panentheism and the Body Metaphor

In Part One of The Problem with Biblical Literalism, I briefly spoke about the idea of Panentheism, or all-in-god. Not to be confused with Pantheism, or all-is-god, Panentheism is the theory that God exists within His creation, and His creation exists within Him. However, creation is not God. He exists outside of creation as well.

In other words, Panentheism claims God is immanent and transcendent.

Christianity also claims God is both immanent and transcendent. In practice, however, most Christians understand God only as transcendent – He created us and is separate from us. Immanence, or God’s presence among us, is all but abandoned, or briefly mentioned in passing when discussing the Holy Spirit.

Theism2

I have read a few Christian articles that denounce Panentheism as another tactic to distract us from Christ. I do not see it this way at all. In fact, the theory helps me better understand the nature of God.

A common metaphor Panentheists use is that of the mind-body relationship. I have expanded on this idea to incorporate Christianity.

The human body is necessary to live and experience, but our souls exist beyond its death.

God, the Great Soul, created the universe out of Himself as His Body – to experience and exist in tandem with His creation. His essence is within all things. While it enhances His existence, He is not transcribed by it – He does not require “the body” to be God. However, as long as “the body” exists, God is within it, just as our awareness is within our bodies until we die.

Sentient beings are like red blood cells, countless but necessary for the body to “live.” Satan and sin are cancers. Free will gives the red blood cells a choice to flow for the benefit of the whole body or be infected by the cancer (turning away and denouncing God).

Christ is the cure, the immune system of mighty white blood cells. Each infected cell (all of them since original sin) now can choose to be healed, or stay infected. The healed cells may become re-infected but always have the option to be healed again. The cells that stay infected wither, and once dead, they are eliminated from the system, never to be a part of the body again.

That is what Hell is – a complete severance from God. It is a choice, and the result isn’t a fiery inferno, but nonexistence. Since atheists already believe death is a metamorphosis into nonexistence, they get exactly what they expect.

Angels exist, too – they were created right before the body as the neurotransmitters, necessary for the mind to communicate and control the body. As I have mentioned before, they are the pathways, not the targets, and so cannot receive God’s love as we do. The brain sends these “messengers” to tell the “body” what to do. In a sense, they are Christ’s support, dictating to the immune system and other “bodily functions.” While the mind/spirit/soul (the “trinity” of the brain) is aware of the body, it cannot itself travel to the kidney or liver or heart. The Father controls the body, angels execute the control, and Christ comes to us personally with the Holy Spirit to continuously heal.

I’ll admit, this is not by any means a perfect metaphor, but I believe it is an appropriate one, as we were created in His image – not only do we have a trinity of mind/soul/spirit, but our bodies function the same way physically that His does metaphorically. “In His image” does not literally mean that He has some kind of physical form that mirrors ours.

The following article acknowledges how Panentheism could be compatible with Christianity, except that it “denies creation ex nihilo” –

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2012/08/whats-wrong-with-panentheism/

Of course, I disagree. In fact, I believe Panentheism because it affirms creation ex nihilo – if God created out of nothing, then it comes to bear he created from only Himself, and therefore, the universe is His physical form – His body. How is this denying Genesis?

This theory brings God closer to us, and it is more effortless to have a relationship knowing we are part of His body. Olson does make interesting points about redefining what redemption and salvation mean in this context – how it might mean God is dependent on it, rather than it being a gift for us. This is why I agree with Martin Luther’s “weak” Panentheism – God is, indeed, within all of creation, but He is not transcribed by it. He doesn’t need it in order to be God.

We don’t need our bodies, necessarily, but they are a blessing in that they allow us to experience and learn. As I mentioned in Part One of The Problem with Biblical Literalism, perhaps the all-knowing God wants to experience His existence through ignorant eyes, to see what His body/children see and create more from those experiences.

The following article explains Panentheism but refers to it as an “age-old heresy” and gets some facts wrong (I blame her source), such as “God is bi-polar,” “God is finite,” “Creation is ex materia,” and “God is changing.” These are tenets from pantheism, which dictates as the universe changes, God changes with it. This is not necessarily true of Panentheism.

http://www.rebecca-writes.com/rebeccawrites/2008/3/28/theological-term-of-the-week.html

Weak (Palamite) Panentheism replaces the idea of God’s essence with “divine energies” that permeate the world and allow God’s presence among us, without the possible interpretation that He is dependent on creation. It is more compatible with the Christian idea of God than what I have described here, and does not mesh as well with my metaphor, but it is enlightening for Christians and those investigating Christianity who are uncomfortable with how the faith tends to reflect deism and stoicism, which focus on God’s transcendence and disregard His immanence.

Watch this video for more information on how weak (Palamite) Panentheism is compatible with Christianity:

God bless with mother earth’s bliss.

The Problem with Biblical Literalism, Part One

Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”

Genesis 1:28, NLT

“…except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”

Genesis 2:17, NLT

There are some Biblical literalists that read, “you are sure to die” to mean that there was no physical death before Original Sin. If this were true, why would God command us to “be fruitful and multiply”? Surely, he would know that this commission would eventually create an unsustainable population, which all the earth’s resources could not support.

Let’s examine why we procreate, scientifically. The purpose is to perpetuate our DNA. It is an instinctual desire to prevent our genetic code from going extinct. In a sense, it is the result of an instinct to be immortal.

If we were immortal originally, why would we need to procreate? “To build a society/civilization/community,” you might say. Of immortal people? There are not enough resources to support seven billion times seven billion plus people. Death has to come into play; logic dictates this.

There is no way we could have been immortal. God would have made the earth as expansive as Heaven if this were true.

Death here is a metaphor.

To take the Bible literally is to discount the creator of language. We use metaphors every day. Why? Because they exist to help us explain things. Why? Because God created them for our benefit.

He already uses language, a creation for our benefit, to communicate the Word to us. Metaphors are an extension of language. It discredits and demeans God to assume He does not use, or is not clever enough to use, or thinks His language-speaking children won’t understand, figures of speech.

Death here refers to spiritual death. The choice to sin separates us from God. It is a choice to abandon God, to denounce the reason we exist and have the ability to make that choice. It is a choice of hell – of the death of the spirit.

And the death of the spirit leads to a physical death that is sooner. The longer we live, the more bad choices we have the option of making. The more bad choices we make, the farther we are from God. This is why God (metaphorically) sent angels to guard the Tree of Life, so Adam and Eve would not eat of it and live forever in their sin. More evidence that they were mortal to start with – to be immortal they would have had to eat of the Tree of Life.

Christ came to give us the choice of life, of union with God, again after rejecting (severing our bond with) Him. To save us from a permanent spiritual death.

For further discussion:

https://answersingenesis.org/death-before-sin/genesis-2-17-you-shall-surely-die/

http://christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/1589/what-is-the-specific-meaning-of-die-in-genesis-2

So, why did God create us, if we were always meant to physically die in the end? Why do we exist to “be fruitful and multiply”?

That’s akin to asking, “What’s the meaning of life?”

I would be mightily arrogant to assume I had the answer.

However, there is a way to think of this if you are willing to expand your beliefs beyond what is revealed in the Word.

First, the Bible does tell us that God created ex nihilo, or, out of nothing. It only stands to reason that he used His power, Himself, alone, to create the universe. Therefore, it is logical to think of the universe as an extension of Him, that His essence permeates everything. All is in God, God is in all. This is not God Is All – that’s pantheism, and it assumes God requires the universe to exist. He obviously existed before all of this. The one paradox no one has been able to decipher in this life is that God has always existed and will always exist – no beginning and no end.

All in God and God in All is Panentheism, a pagan notion, but one that is in tandem with Christianity and the other Abrahamic religions. God creates the universe out of nothing, therefore out of Himself. Why do this? To experience Himself from the eyes of ignorance. To discover wisdom anew, to experience awe and wonder with us, beside us, within us. To experience ignorance becoming knowledge from all different perspectives. To know what it is to suffer from the Adversary infecting our world.

To understand one’s people and one’s enemy from their perspective is to better defend and defeat. Not that God needs to do this, as the omniscient Creator, but He wants to, because He is Love. Love needs a target. It cannot exist alone. That is why we exist. While angels exist as well, they cannot receive love; that is not their purpose (see my later entry Panentheism and The Body Metaphor).

It could be simplified into, “God is lonely and bored,” but that puts Him in a box. There is no way to really know the meaning of life, but knowing that wonder and awe are a large part of experience, and one of the reasons we were made, is beautiful and comforting.

God bless with mother earth’s bliss.