God and not god
Posted on January 21, 2011 | By J. Randal | 9 responses
A motivational site seeks to cultivate creativity through thought questions. One of these goes like this.
If there is a God, or a Universal Energy, and that energy is everywhere in everything, then everything about YOU must be made up of that. If God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, then everything that you are is God and as such those qualities are inherent in you. If everything that you are is GOD, then what you are must be omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. Conduct a thought experiment along these lines. Notice how all your feelings can take on a very different hue when you stop labelling them as you normally do, and instead label them as part of the energy of God. Will you be able to say, “Peace, be still and know that I am God,” and know that to be true? If God is everywhere in everything, then “There is only God”. With that viewpoint, how different does your world become?
The paragraph is a mixture of biblical allusions and pagan religion, with patently false statements, for this reason: If God is everywhere in everything so that there is only God, and if God is omniscient, then every person would automatically know that he is God. Since not everyone knows that he is God, then the premise that God is everything is false.
The affirmations about a person’s entirety being God are nothing more than pantheism, “the DOCTRINE that all things and beings are modes, ATTRIBUTES, or appearances of one single, unified, REALITY or BEING. Hence NATURE and GOD are believed to be identical” (Irving Hexham, Concise Dictionary of Religion). Hexham notes that the term “appears to accurately describe many NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS and the views of most NEW AGE thinkers.”
The critical point here for faith and morals is that, if everything I think and feel is God or, at least, from God, a part of God, then all is acceptable, for there is nothing else. If all is God, nothing is not God. This falsehood therefore offers no motive for change or growth.
What the people behind the motivational site don’t realize is that such thoughts and questions as these do not spur creativity and foster growth, but lead to degradation and the approval of all ungodliness and perversity. In Eve, the desire to be like God bore the fruit of disobedience. The thought of being God does not lead to sanctification. (We speak in spiritual terms, not motivational.) Rather, making oneself into God breaks down into unholiness.
Pantheism denies the transcendence of God. To quote Hexham again, to say that God is transcendent means that he existed “prior to, independent of, and exalted over the UNIVERSE of space and time.” God is outside of creation, including man. He is “wholly Other,” a phrase of Karl Barth’s, which I take to mean that he is completely separate from, independent of, and of a different nature than man. Here, pantheism also has no place for holiness, the main idea of which is separation.
Emil Brunner puts it well, this way: “‘Godhood’ is absolutely and irrevocably different from all other forms of being, as the essence of the Creator differs from the essence of the creature; thus God and the world must be kept absolutely distinct from one another” (The Christian Doctrine of God, 175). Pantheism is the doctrine of extreme immanence, to the loss of transcendence.
As the transcendent God, his knowledge is beyond and above human capacity to discover or understand him, hence, the necessity for revelation. Not by looking within oneself can God be known. This inward focus is the modern direction. God may be known, however, only by looking outside one’s own thoughts and emotions to perceive that he has revealed himself, generally, in creation and, particularly, in Scripture.
Isaiah 55:8-11 provides a good example of this chasm between God and man. Although God wants us to think his thoughts and follow his ways, in man this choice is contingent, that is, man may or may not do so, which demonstrates his difference from God. God cannot NOT think as he does, cannot NOT act consistent with his nature. Man is far different from him, since he can, and does, think and act contrary to the character of God.
God is what man is not, holy. Man can be holy only as the result of a divine gift to be received and cultured. “Be holy, for I am holy,” he commands. Taken either as a state or process, sanctification indicates that man receives God’s holiness. Thus, it is a non-necessary condition of his being. But God is holy, by his very nature and essence; his oneness is not the unity of all that exists, nor his divine permeation in all that is, but his separation or otherness from the rest of creation. The phrase, “There is only one God,” means, then, not that all is God, but that, besides the Lord, nothing else is God.
Pantheism fails in the first chapter of Genesis, when the only God said, “Let there be …,” and “Let us make …,” when God spoke into existence what is not God.
Do we rail against these things unnecessarily? By no means, for this subtle influence comes at God’s people in all shapes and forms, even in the guise of positive, motivational questions to encourage creativity.
Picture, above, of Andromeda Island Universe from the NASA website.