Are Christians Secret Pantheists?
Q. I was asked by a New Ager, when in the midst of nature, in a forest, by the sea, or on a mountain peak, I ever felt a sense of the sacred, like the feeling of being in a cathedral? Or when I looked up at the night sky and was filled with awe and wonder? When I said *yes* he said I was really a Pantheist and not a Christian. Is that true?
A. I think your friend is incredibly presumptuous! The fact that we are overwhelmed by the universe and the beauty of nature does not make us New Age pantheists -- this is strange logic indeed.
Pantheists (New Agers) believe that the Creation is God, and that since they are a part of Creation, that they too are God, or gods. Christianity teaches that God is both external to the Creation as well as being intimately a part of it because His Spirit pervades all time and space. When we encounter God in nature or in the night sky we are making contact with God in the same way that someone looking at a beautiful painting makes contact with the artist, though even more so.
Nature, it is often said, is the Christian's Second Bible. It has taught me much as a biologist and biochemist for in it I see faint reflections of the majesty of the Most High God. But I have never felt the urge to worship nature, myself, or the universe, or anything else like that. God the Creator is not the creation, but its former and animator. In the same way the real "me" is not the sum of my spirit and body. Though in a sense "I" am everywhere in my body when I meditate on "me" I am aware of "I" being essentially located up in my head and, sometimes, in my heart. When I die, my body will disintegrate, but I will not in any sense become less than "I" or "me" -- part of my personality will not disappear -- I will not be half myself or any other fraction. This I know because when I am asleep I am disconnected to a large extent from my body yet I am still essentially "me". I am also one of those persons who has had an "out of body experience" or "astral projection" and, despite the fact that I could see my body, was aware that I was still fully "me" -- and, in fact, amazingly, even more "me".
I mention this because I think this is a good illustration of some of the fallacious premises of pantheism. I love nature and I praise God whenever I make contact with it in a special way. I know I am not looking at God but at a reflection of His creative activity just as you, the reader, are not looking at me as you read this article but at an expression of myself.
This page was created on 16 October 1997
Last updated on 26 February 1998
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