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Friday, April 30, 2010

4/30/10 Leaving the Father out- The Problem of Panentheism (Mt. 6:16,45,48)

 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. ( Matthew 6:16,45,48)

Panentheism is a belief that is being espoused by some who attend church, as if it were a Christian option.  Panenentheism is the idea that God is in all and above all- but God is not separate from creation.  It is a Hindu concept of God also adopted by some of the transcendentalists (like Emerson and Thoreau). 
It is similar to the eastern orthodox view that God permeates all things, and the Holy Spirit sustains all things (a view I also hold).
But there are two key differences. 
1) It does not talk of God as separate from creation- there is no real separation.  Therefore the goal of faith is union with God through enlightenment- no sacrifice for sins has to be made.  If you go deep enough, saying that anything or any action is wrong or evil is a problem for panentheists because it is all a part of God.
2) It does not talk of God as Father in a true sense.  One of Jesus' key teachings was to speak of God as different and holy- yet also loving and personal.  He taught his disciples to call God "Abba Father."  He taught it in the Lord's Prayer where he said to pray like this- "Our Father. who art in heaven."  For a panentheist God is not only not separate, but God is in a sense father of everyone and not father of anyone.  Jesus talked to the pharisees telling them they were of "their father the devil" not God (John 8:41ff).  Many today have problems with calling God "father" anyway because they have had bad fathers or they don't like speaking of God with male adjectives.  But this is the God Jesus revealed.  Jesus never called God mother (though he did say he would gather his children "like a mother hen"- but certainly wasn't saying he was a chicken- it was a simile). 
The Christian God is a holy God, but also a loving, intimate God.

Prayer: Thank you Lord, that we can call you "Father", knowing you care, provide, and also guide and show us the way to life.  Help me to trust in you this day.

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