Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Urbi et Orbi (EP) album coverImage via Wikipedia
My view of G-d has changed immensely since the Sunday School days when I was taught G-d was a big, old (angry) man in the sky.  Recently, someone asked me to define what I mean when I say "G-d".  Wow.  That is a very difficult task. He challenged me about saying I believe in G-d when I can't define G-d.  Well, I do and I can't.

The closest I can  come to describing the nature of G-d is a view called Panentheism.  Panentheism is kind of a cross between the old image of G-d as purely transcendant- out there, separate from G-d's creation and pantheism which basically says that G-d is the universe (and nothing more).  Panthentheism recognizes that G-d is both immanent and transcendent.  Eastern religions have been criticized for "depersonifying" G-d and when Westerners begin saying things like G-d is "transpersonal" (I first heard Marcus Borg use this term), some think we mean G-d is less than personal.

This article comes very close to describing the way I view G-d.  I hope you find it useful.
This article does the best job of describing Panentheism (and my view of G-d) that I have seen. Much better than I could have myself.  I especially like the analogy where compared impersonal to personal and personal to transpersonal and used the example of how a rock is impersonal and we are so much more alive (personal) than a rock. Likewise, the transpersonal G-d is that much more alive and expressive than we are.


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Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

It's odd to me when Christians resist this idea of God. I can't imagine any thing grander than what is expressed in the Tetragrammaton, "I Am". It goes hand in hand with panentheism or Tillich's Ground of being.

"The idea that the truth of God can be bound in any human system, by any human creed, by any human book is almost beyond imagination for me." -- John Shelby Spong

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

Oh, and I love that picture! I've scoured the web and there don't seem to be any prints of it anywhere!

Brian said...


Many Christians resist the idea of anything new (interesting since Jesus came and completely blew up the Old Testament view of G-d) and they resist anything from outside of Christianity as they have been taught it. It wasn't until very recently that I discovered there were Christian mystics going back to the early days and a contemplative practice in Christianity.

I agree that this view of G-d is far more grand than the old man on the throne. But, it's also harder to grasp. When I first hear of Tillich's Ground of Being or read Borg talk about a transpersonal G-d, I struggled with understanding how anything could be beyond being personal. It's like trying to imagine a fourth dimension. So, people misinterpret transpersonal as being impersonal.

okiedragon said...

I straddled that old man on the throne some years back and throttled him to death. I didn't realize it until more recently that I had done that but he torqued me off. He didn't have room for me being a woman and he didn't seem to care that not everyone wanted to have their heads up his butt.

Today when I watch PBS and hear them speak of physics and dark matter and quarks and all that unknown, I say to my husband - that's God. That vibration between the atoms - that thing that exists in all and holds the entire universe in place - that expands and gives life and breaths with us.

David once said that ants know more about human beings than we know about God. I know in our gardening we become upset with small groups of ants that build nests in our greenhouse flats and we go whomping those outside trying to rid our world of these small tiny creatures and they probably feel they have discovered the wrath of an angry Godlike being that is destroying their lives. You and I are like that angry man on the throne but God isn't like us - God has to be so much more - so much better - so less like us yet, resides inside our very cells. And with that said, God is probably existent outside of our time and our linear thinking too. What I know for fact is nothing - what I believe is so much better than the old man on the throne.

Brian said...

Thanks, Okiedragon. Beautifully said. I couldn't agree with you more.

Don said...

Thanks for this post Brian. I, too, am a panentheist. My first exposure was you, then came Marcus Borg's excellent description. Since then, panentheism has made numerous appearances in my study, my journey. I love the way it descrbes our Source. I also like how Borg, thorough Tillich, describes Source as the "ground of all being".

kc bob said...

I liked the article Brian.. thx for the link. Much of the issues that humans face involve trying to "bring God down to our level" and making him understandable. Article like this help us to understand the utter futility in doing that effort.

Jesse Ahmann said...

I'm curious, what is a good prayer for a panenthiest?

Brian said...


That is an excellent question. I don't pray much anymore, at least not in the traditional sense of asking G-d for stuff. Prayer is something that I really struggle with. What are we supposed to pray? Does G-d change His mind based on my prayer? Will G-d heal a person because I pray or let them die because I don't pray?

Prayer for me is more of an attitude of gratitude and a continual thing than it is sitting down or kneeling down and making petitions.

kc bob said...

I like to pray the Lord's prayer.. not in a rote fashion though.. just including the elements of it - praising the Father.. inviting His kingdom and will into my life.. asking for forgiveness.. thanking him for His blessings in my life.. you get the idea. I think that you can do it all day long in some fashion.