You can handle the truth about Pantheism. In sharp contrast to Naturalism, which believes the natural order is all there is, Pantheism comes from two Greek words, pan meaning “all” and theos meaning “god.” Pantheism is a worldview that believes only the spiritual dimension exists – all else is an illusion. Spiritual reality, in general, is eternal, impersonal, and unknowable. Pantheism teaches that everything is part of God, or that God is in everything and everyone.
According to Pantheism, man is one with ultimate reality, that reality being God. And as such, he is spiritual, eternal, and impersonal. One consequence of this worldview is one’s belief that he or she, as an individual, is an illusion.
Are you disillusioned yet? Be patient – there’s more.
In the Pantheistic worldview, truth is an experience of unity with “the oneness” of the universe. Truth is beyond all rational description, so rational thought, as it is understood in the West, cannot show us reality.
As followers of Jesus, we believe truth is “that which corresponds with reality.” And therefore, we believe, with hard evidence, that the physical universe is not an illusion (Psalm 19:1-4). Jesus, who claimed to be the truth (John 14:6), was and is God, taking on flesh:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:1, 14
In their minds, because ultimate reality is impersonal, many pantheistic thinkers believe that there is no real distinction between good and evil. Instead, “unenlightened” behavior, that which we as believers would call sin, is to the pantheist that which fails to understand essential unity. The consequence of this worldview is that the biblical concept of sin and righteousness will be foreign to the adherent of a pantheistic worldview. In short, they may call sinful behavior an act of the unenlightened!
Under the Pantheistic umbrella, we would include the religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and New Age.
Hinduism and Buddhism both believe in reincarnation with the basic goal of Nirvana or Ultimate Enlightenment – becoming one with reality. One major difference between them is Hinduism has over 300 million gods, all expressions of the ultimate reality called God, whereas Buddhism has no Creator God. Taoism is a way of life, has no personal God and is best identified by the yin/yang image you’ve probably seen at some time, representing the two opposite forces in the universe. New Age is an extremely broad and varied movement characterized by alternative approaches to traditional Western culture, with an interest in spirituality, mysticism, holism, and environmentalism.
I would encourage you doing a deeper study of each of these religions as you’re compelled, because for our purposes we’re simply introducing Pantheism and its basic expressions. In our witness it’s helpful to understand basic differences between our biblical worldview and a pantheistic worldview, so as to facilitate understanding and dialogue.
What does the bible say about Pantheism? The most foundational truth in this regard is the Bible teaches that God is separate from His creation, and He created it (Gen. 1:1-30), whereas pantheism says that God and creation share the same nature and essence. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” – since God is self-existent and eternal, He existed before creation and is therefore different than the created order. This is perhaps the major argument against Pantheism and as we’ll note, a major problem for the pantheist.
How does Pantheism answer the four foundational questions whereby we can objectively measure a worldview? In simple terms, this way:
- Where did we come from? The pantheist would argue the universe is eternal – so therefore, we and all the created order are also eternal. This flies in direct opposition to Genesis 1:1, as noted above. Additionally, science clearly, accurately, and indisputably notes the universe is finite and had a beginning!
- How does Pantheism provide meaning? In short, it rejects the physical, embraces the spiritual and strives to get on the path of nirvana and enlightenment, seeking to become one with ultimate reality – God. A note: some pantheists believe since, God is in everything and everything is part of God, we as human beings are part of God and in short, we are ‘gods.’
- What moral framework does Pantheism provide? Depending on the various traditions and religious systems, following their prescriptions, rules, codes of conduct, ect. will lead one on the path of enlightenment and ultimate unity with the ultimate reality – God.
- What is our ultimate destiny? Reincarnation is generally the process to the ultimate goal of Nirvana and enlightenment. In stark contrast, Hebrews 9:27 says, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.”
Regarding our witness to the Pantheist, regardless of their particular expression, the origin of the universe is the foundational concept to question and discuss. Because in this regard, a huge problem with pantheism exists – it cannot account for the existence of the universe. The universe is not infinitely old. It had a beginning. Therefore, this would mean that God also had a beginning. But how can something bring itself into existence? This is impossible. In short, this leaves us with the question of where God and the universe came from. Pantheism cannot answer this question, and it easily exposes a massive dilemma for the Pantheist.
An excellent resource to help understand and engage the Pantheistic worldview is Ravi Zacharias’ classic book Jesus Among Other Gods. You can read it or watch youtube video talks Ravi has given in conjunction with the book, including this talk here.
Be encouraged, be equipped, and as you engage the Pantheist, pray God would open doors to discuss the origin issue. For it seems to me this is a great place to begin, pardon the pun! And as you share in love, pray God would open up their heart to perhaps give Ravi, a former Pantheist himself, a hearing.
…the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you. (Acts 17:23)