Pantheism the Thief
Mystical experiences might be occasional, intriguing, warm, comforting and charming experiences but their charm can be misleading.
Importantly, they might lead us away from the wonder of a living relationship with Jesus, of real prayer led by the Holy Spirit and the experience of the true presence of God as described and taught in the Bible – see this previous page.
Secondly, the Christian experience of God is not an occasional one, dependent on some undefined conditions such as location, environment or state of health. It is something a Christian has access to at any time.
Thirdly it might lead us to think that God is something like an essence, a way of human consciousness, a “peak experience”, a “moment of radical amazement” – all of which terms require us to accept that such experiences are available only to the fortunate few who can knowingly nod to each other, “I understand, I’ve been there, too.”
As already noted, such awareness of God is clearly declared and available to all who care to see, as in Romans 1:19,20
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
Being mislead by these mystical experiences leads people to think of God as a radiant, “is-ness” which permeates everything that is. Everything (pan) is God (theos) and we have pantheism.
Pantheism is a lovely warm and comforting belief, especially if you happen to be in the association of the few who have had the non-communicable wonder of a mystical experience but it steals from people who have a right to it the truth, wonder and assurance of the communicable gospel as it is in the Bible.
Pantheism distorts the truth.
The Bible certainly does not teach pantheism.
However anyone may regard the first chapters of the book of Genesis, one thing is simply stated and quite clear. God was before anything else became. God is not part of the heavens and earth, he created everything else. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were before anything else.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
Acts 17:27,28 says
Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’”
This points out that we live in God, move in God, have our being in God but it does not mean that we and everything else are in a universe which is God, that we are in God like fish are in water. When we do not edit the words but read them in context we see the real meaning.
Acts 17:22-31 includes these words and completes the picture
We cannot regard God in a pantheistic way, “all that is is God; God is all that is”. He is far more than the creation he has made. He is not an “unknown God”. He is not the creation; he is the creator. We are to seek him knowing that he is not far away and that he is the source of our life; we are his offspring.
It is a serious mistake, a result of ignorance, to think of God as being like gold, silver or stone or anything else of which the creation is made. Pantheism is such a mistake, a mistake we are called to repent of before the coming day of judgement.
We are indeed God’s offspring. He has adopted us as his children – children who have an inheritance as fellow heirs with Christ himself. His Holy Spirit assures us of this Father-child relationship and of the promise of a glorious eternity ahead. We have a relationship with God. You cannot have a relationship with the Universe but you can have a relationship with the God who created it and that is a privilege of amazing grace and favour.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Colossians 1:14-17 shows us that Jesus Christ existed before anything we call creation or the universe. It was he who created everything: heaven and earth, visible and invisible, even nations, governments and rulers. All this was created by him, through him and for him. God in Christ is not the universe – he exists separately from it and with his power and authority he holds it all together.
The universe does not contain God. It does not contain Christ. It is Christ who contains, holds and sustains the universe. Should he decide to cease to hold it together the universe would cease to exist – but Jesus would remain; he is and was and is to come.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Pantheism is a falsehood which denigrates God. It steals from those who believe it the peace, assurance, relationship and joy God offers a Christian through Christ.