Can hermeneutics determine what scripture teaches: materialistic theism vs. idealistic panentheism

Does the Bible explicitly teach an objective material creation separate and independent from a theistic God who stands apart from His creation or does it teach a subjective ideal creation inseparable from the mind of a panentheistic God who indwells creation and is required to hold it together? Can hermeneutics, rationality, and/or tradition help us determine if scripture clearly supports one position or the other? I would appreciate any input to help me figure this one out if it can indeed be settled.


I consider myself a monistic idealistic panentheist. I believe that sin separates us from God only in a relational way and not in a physical or spacial way. I believe that God is omnipresent and is required to be present everywhere to hold reality together, even in hell. There are scriptures to support His omnipresence and His holding creation together. I believe that scripture also supports the idea that if God were to take away His spirit that creation would cease to exist. This indicates to me that all parts of creation require the presence of God to continue to exist. This also indicates to me that the creation cannot be independent or separate from God. This would make God panentheistic or indwelling all creation. This is different from a pantheistic God which is identified with the creation: the creation is God is the creation. Panentheism means that the creation is inseparable from God but God is greater and more than just the creation.


I believe both Jesus and Paul were panentheists. Jesus’ view that he is in the Father, the Father in him, he in us, we in him, and the Father in us is clearly panentheistic. Likewise, Paul’s repetition of we being in Christ and Christ in us demonstrates this principle as well as his clear teaching that we live, move, and have our being in God who makes us His temple. Paul also clearly showed his panentheism by indicating that by Christ all things were created, he is before all things and in him all things are held together. This clearly indicates to me that Paul did not view a material creation that was separate from God.


I believe that God's creation is not a material creation but is His mental projection. God spoke and the creation appeared. The creation is made of the Word of God. This is not necessarily audible words made out of sound waves which would presuppose a prior reality in which sound waves, space, and a materialistic medium would be required to accommodate sound waves. Rather, I believe these words were the thoughts of God. The Greek word for the Word which created the world is Logos which is also their word for logic. I believe creation is a logical construct in the mind of God.


There is also a rational argument for this. If creation cannot be separated and independent from God the creation must be immaterial and not made of a material substance for God is spirit and immaterial. I believe this necessitates an ideal rather than a material creation.


The Bible does appear to be dualistic because it distinguishes between the Spirit and the world/flesh/carnal. However, I believe that upon closer examination it reveals that the world is one of deception and not actuality while the Truth is of a spiritual nature and not carnal. Scripture can be used to examine this dichotomy in three sections. First, scripture indicates that the carnal is foolishness and deceit. Second, it indicates that Truth is mysterious. I believe the mysterious nature of Truth indicates that Truth is not equated with common sense. I believe common sense would tell us that there is an objective material reality independent of the mind. This is what I argue the Bible doesn’t teach. Finally, the Bible identifies Spirit as truth. I believe this clearly makes the case that the Bible teaches an ideal panentheistic reality instead of a material theistic reality where God is separate from His creation.


Here are the verses to consider. Let’s first look at how the Bible characterizes physical reality:


1 Corinthians 3:19


For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.


Colossians 2:8


Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world.


Ephesians 2:2


Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:


Revelation 12:9


And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world.


1 Corinthians 3:


1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. 3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?



For me the Bible speaks of an objective material reality as a realm of foolishness, deception, and an immature mindset. I see the idea of a world separate and independent from God as a parable which speaks more to spiritual truths that are not carnally discerned. In fact, I believe ontological truth is so counter-intuitive that it seems like a mystery to a worldly mind. Consider the following verses:


Mark 4:


11 And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: 12 that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand.


Romans 16:25


Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began.


1 Corinthians 2:


6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: 7 but we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: 8 which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. 16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.


Ephesians 3:9


And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:


Colossians 1:


26 even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: 27 to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:


Colossians 2:


2 that their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; 3 in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.



The scripture seems to be clearly saying that the mystery of ontological truth is panentheism or Christ is in us and we are in Christ. Christ is in the Father and the Father in him. The Father is in us and we are in the Father. Panentheism is the mystery and that mystery of God is where all wisdom and knowledge are hid. The rest is error. Consider the following scriptures which indicate that spiritual reality is truth and material reality is the error:


John 4:24


God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.


John 14:17


Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.


John 15:26


But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:


John 16:13


Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth.


Romans 8:


5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God:


1 John 4:6


We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.


1 John 5:6


And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.



What is the scriptural basis for a material creation separate and independent from a theistic God who stands apart from His creation? I know that many influential people in the Church have held to this traditionally theistic position but does scripture support it and can hermeneutics help to clear this issue up?


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Well, I would love to go on and discuss details of the situation, but I am also about to enter a very busy time of year for me, so perhaps it would be wise to cut it off here. I always enjoy talking to you Alex. Thanks for the excellent conversations!

If it is the old cliché that God sees the beginning to the end, the Alpha and Omega the beginning and the end, God communicates in many ways, through His own revelation in nature to us, by actual verbal communication, through messengers, and various ways, but God surely communicates.  It seems within the pale of all that God does, His immutability never is in question (not that you have said this) He is unchangeable because of His foreknowledge.  He knew us while we were yet sinners, He knew us in the womb, He counts the hairs on our head and sees the sparrow fall in the forest.  So His actions are always predicated on vision and knowledge, so why can't God be jealous for His creation, since we were made in the "image" of God, God may well have such characteristics but they are directed through the lens of godliness and immutability not that of sin as with man.

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”
Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil.

So do we apply these values or human attributes to explain an infinite God (it hasn't enter the mind of man....) or does   God retain these values or attributes within the pale of His infinit glory. Apparently there is something about us that is reflective of God, not that we are God....

When we discussed time previously, it does seem that God holds all things together and so God is a "multitasker"..... 

Lou, thinking on the attributes of God is indeed a wonderful and rewarding exercise. I myself believe the image and likeness of God is our ability to recognize the spark of existence that gives us life. We see this spark in ourselves which comes from God and we are aware of our own existence. God is "I am that I am" or "I exist that I exist." Self-awareness is one of the things that distinguish mankind from the animals.

Well spoken, we and the animal creation are different... Cheers!!!

Charles Spurgeon:

It has been said that ‘the proper study of mankind is man.’ I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God’s elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. . . . No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God. . . . But while the subject humbles the mind, it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe. . . . Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity. . . . It is to that subject that I invite you this morning.

Awesome quote! What a great way to end this thread.

Cheers! All!

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