Taylor: A handful of theologies

Differentiate between 'theisms' to find your comfort zone

Jim TaylorIn another column, I challenged academic theologians to explain the differences between theism, pantheism and panentheism in terms that a teenager could understand.

No one took the challenge. But a reader asked, “Why don’t you do it?”

OK, I’ll try.

Let’s start with theism. No, let’s start before theism. With nature religions. Which had hundreds of gods—river gods, tree gods, fertility gods, earthquake gods… They all had to be appeased with sacrifices, to avoid floods and fires, to seek a bountiful harvest, etc.

Theism, or monotheism, gathered all those gods into one supreme deity. Classical theism defines a God “out there” somewhere, utterly separate from this world. This all-powerful, all-knowing God controls every detail of the universe, from a distance. Of course, as Creator, God reserves the right to amend His plan as necessary—whether landslides, volcanoes, or who wins the Super Bowl.

Initially, humans believed this God punished us with disease and disaster. So like His predecessors, He had to be appeased with sacrifices. Later, we believed we could earn God’s favour by worshipping Him.

All subsequent theologies deny one or more elements of classical theism. That makes them all a-theistic. Not necessarily denying God, but denying a particular portrayal of God.

So pantheism says God is not out there, but right here. God is nature. Or nature is God. People who insist that they find God in their gardens, on a golf course, or in a fishing stream, are essentially pantheists.

But pantheism still separates us from God. Nature acts on us, for good or ill; nature does not act through us.

Panentheism abolishes that separation. God is found in nature, yes. But God is more than nature. God is in everything—in the laws of mathematics, physics and chemistry; in psychology and economics; in birds and bees and flowers. And in us. We act as God’s agents. When we harm nature, we harm God. When we harm each other, we harm God.

Note that implication—God can be harmed! God is no longer invincible, untouchable. God created all this for a purpose; we humans can choose to assist or impede God’s purposes.

Process theology pushes that awareness further. It asserts that God can change. We come from God, we are part of God and when we die, we are absorbed back into God. In that sense, God is the cumulative experience of all living things. If you count the planet, or the universe, as a living thing, then God includes their evolving wisdom as well.

From which it follows that God can learn. God learns as God incorporates into the Godly presence, whatever that is, what each living creature—from the lowliest amoeba to Carl Sagan—learned during its lifetime.

In this progression. God moves from out there, to right here. From being separate, to being in and among us, to being actually affected by us. From something that does things TO us, to something that does things FOR us, to something we participate IN.

Don’t ask which version is right. Rather, ask at which portrayal you feel most comfortable with. That’s where you are now.

Where will you be 10 years from now? God only knows.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rockets’ Nolan Foote traded to New Jersey Devils

The Devils acquired Foote and a 2020 first-round pick from the Lightning in exchange for Blake Coleman

Smalltown DJs to bring sounds of Shambhala and Bass Coast to Sapphire Nightclub

The Electronic Dance Music duo is known for their bass-heavy beats

The Coldest Night of Year walk returns to Kelowna Feb. 22

The event raises money for charities serving hungry, homeless and hurting people in the community

Rockets lose 3-2 to Rebels in close game

The Rockets are back in action on Monday when they host the Calgary Hitmen at Prospera Place

VIDEO: Minister reports ‘modest progress’ after blockade talks with First Nation

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say Coastal GasLink does not have authority to go through their lands

Henrique scores 2 as Ducks soar past Canucks 5-1

Vancouver tumbles out of top spot in Pacific Division

Trudeau cancels Caribbean trip amid pipeline protests across Canada

Protests against Coastal GasLink have disrupted rail service

B.C. VIEWS: Inaction on pipeline protests not a viable response

Columnist Frank Bucholtz on how the Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute got so bad

PHOTOS: Top 10 memories of the 2010 Olympics

Black Press Media’s Jenna Hauck, shares some of her most memorable images of 2010 Winter Games

#FoxForFiver: Support grows in B.C. to put Terry Fox on new $5 bill

Terry Fox’ Marathon of Hope raised money for cancer research

Registration opens soon for BC 55+ Games in Richmond

2020 55+ Games have been officially scheduled for Sept. 15 to 19

Trudeau confers with cabinet ministers as rail blockades continue

The Trudeau government has been criticized for not doing more to end the blockades

Canadian nurses’ unions warn national standards for coronavirus protection too low

President says safety protocols nationwide are inadequate compared to those in Ontario and other countries

Most Read