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 Three types of Panenth(d)eism?

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Aaron
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PostSubject: Three types of Panenth(d)eism?   Wed Feb 28, 2007 10:56 am

In the book "IN WHOM WE LIVE AND MOVE AND HAVE OUR BEING Panentheistic Reflections on God's Presence in a Scientific World", it is suggested that there are three types of Panenth(d)eism. I was wondering what your thoughts were on these descriptions?

Quote :
Generic Panentheism, Defined

1. God contains the world, yet is also more than the world. Accordingly, the world is (in some sense) "in God."

2. As contained "in God," the world not only derives its existence from God but also returns to God, while preserving the characteristics of being a creature. Accordingly, the relations between God and world are (in some sense) bilateral.

As is evident, the difficulty in both (1) and (2) is to determine the "in some sense." A panentheism in the strong sense holds that there is a necessary interdependence between God and world so that the world contributes to God as much as God contributes to the world. This view is unreservedly expressed by Alfred North Whitehead,

It is as true to say that God is permanent and the World fluent, as that the World is permanent and God is fluent. It is as true to say that God is one and the World many, as that the World is one and God many.... It is as true to say that God transcends the World, as that the World transcends God. It is as true to say that God creates the World, as that the World creates God.

This symmetrical view of the God-world relation was further developed by Charles Hartshorne into the concept of process panentheism or "surrelativism." On this account, God is metaphysically limited by the world, since God cannot exist without a world, though God could coexist with another world than our present cosmos. Furthermore, even though God's actual being is affected by the indelible freedom of natural events, God is surpassing the world by God's eternal envisioning of all potentialities. These tenets of process theism differ not only from a classical substance theism, but also from the relational theism of Christian trinitarianism (panentheism 1) as well as from the romantic expressivism (panentheism 2). The differences may be stated as follows.

Strict (Dipolar) Panentheism, Defined


1. God cannot exist without generating a world, analogous to the way a soul cannot exist without a body; however, God can exist by embodying other worlds than our physical cosmos.

2. It is by a metaphysical necessity that God and world coexist and codetermine one another, so that God influences the world and temporal experiences flow into the actual nature of God; all that exists necessarily participates in divine life.

Qualified (Christian) Panentheism, Defined

1. While the world cannot exist without God, God could exist without a world; accordingly, the soul-body is at the most a useful metaphor for the intimacy of the God-world relation once the world is created out of divine love.

2. It is by divine grace that the world is codetermining God, so that temporale vents may influence God and creatures share the life of God; all that is redeemed participates in divine life.

Defining panentheism as a distinct position, however, faces the problem of demarcation. What differentiates panentheism from classic tradition? Proponents of panentheism often claim it better articulates the immanence of God than classical theism. I believe, however, that this claim is unwarranted, for classical theism, even in the form of substance theism, entails a very strong doctrine of divine immanence. Hear the answer of Thomas Aquinas to the question "whether God exists in everything": "God exists in everything; not indeed as part of their substance or as an accident, but as an agent is present to that in which its action takes place.... Now since it is God's nature to exist, he it must be who properly causes existence in creatures, just as fire itself sets other things on fire.... So God must exist intimately in everything" (ST I 8 a 1). Thus the immanence of God in the creatures is indeed asserted by classical theism, since God is identified as the power to exist in and above all that exists. Without the creator becoming a creature ("part of their substance") and without God being an emergent property of the world (an "accident"), God creates the world as if from within. At this juncture Thomas is able to use both the body-soul metaphor and the container metaphor. In fact, Thomas is able to use panentheistic imagery, but he makes clear their metaphorical status: "That in which bodily things exist contains them, but immaterial thing s contain that in which they exist, as the soul contains the body. So God also contains things by existing in them. However, one does use the bodily metaphor and talk of everything being in God inasmuch as he contains them (ST I 8 a 1 ad secundum)." Thus the real demarcation line between panentheism and classic philosophical theism is neither the immanence of God nor the use of the metaphor of the world's being "in" God.

The real difference, according to Thomas, is that the natures and activities of the creatures do not have a real feedback effect on God. There is, in other words, no return from the world into God. As pure activity (actus purus), God is the eternal realization of all positive predicates. Accordingly there is nothing God can "learn" in relation to the creatures, no "challenges" to be met, no free acts to "wait for." The world is utterly dependent on God for its existence, while the world cannot really affect the being or mind of God (Summa Theologiae 1.28.a.1). In short, Thomas rejects not the first but only the second tenet of generic panentheism, as defined above.

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