Notes from Norman

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by Norman P. Grubb

May-June 1981 Union Life Magazine

Q. Are you a Pantheist?

A. Again the answer depends on how we define pantheism. From the Greek I had in my English schooling, I remember that “pan” is the neuter case in Greek for “everything,” and of course theism relates to “Theo” (God).

In that sense it is ridiculous that any reader of a Union Life article could think that we who so totally center all in the Living Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we know the Father by the Spirit, could conceive of God as a thing, or as “everything!” Surely we give no grounds for any such suspicion. Rather we would actually say that by this definition of pantheism, every human not born again is a pantheist. Before we enter into a living relationship with the Father through the Son, our “god” is some kind of “thing,” whether that “thing” is our own fallen selves, or some earthly god, or possibly even our “religion.” All the unredeemed are pantheists, for some thing is god to them, some form of the “everything.”

But some people get nervous and even call us “pantheists” because we do believe in God as Spirit (John 11:24) as the Invisible One manifested by His visible forms (Rom. 1:20), as He who “fills heaven and earth” (Jer. 23:24), and as finally known by His universe as “All in all” (and thus known now by faith in His eternal changelessness). These are the terms commonly used of Him: omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. He is love, light, power, and thus He must be everywhere. So in those realities we see Him and speak about Him as manifested in all His forms: the “Beyond in the midst,” the transcendent in the Immanent, the Vine expressed through the branches, the Head expressed through the body. The “whole human race lives and moves and has its being in God” (Acts 17:28). The pantheists would see Him as the forms; we see Him in them. We therefore come under the category of being “panentheists,” the all-important little Greek preposition en in that phrase meaning in. He in everything, not He everything.

A simple illustration is our human selves. We as persons are “spirits” contained in our bodies. No one mistakes us for our bodies! But because of our strong emphasis on God being manifested in all His creation, and because we call ourselves “see-throughers” rather than “see-aters,” it is inevitable that some non-understanding people will falsely label us as pantheists. Indeed we are in such union with Him that we are called by Jesus “the light of the world.” But He is that light in our form.