What is the True Nature of God?

 

 

Those of us who found our way into New Age teachings and religions have a different view of God than most Christians and Jews. For many in the New Age movement their belief is that God is everything and everything is God or has the potential to be God. This belief could be what attracted many to the New Age movement to begin with. The Ascended Master Teachings taught that belief, thereby adhering to more of a panentheistic theism. Although we never used this term to describe our New Age beliefs, the ascended masters said they did not have a pantheistic God model. Those who analyze what the New Age is all about say that most New Agers have a pantheistic view of God in that God is everything. So lets look at what these terms actually describe.

Theism is the belief of a god or gods and specifically one God that created the universe and continues to actively participate in the world’s activities and in human history. Thus the theist God is  immanent (i.e. they exist within the universe) and transcendent, (existing above, outside of, or beyond creation; generally a different and higher order of being than are humans and other living entities). This God or gods are often considered to be omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent.

Types of Theism

Monotheism is the belief that there is only one God. Judaism, Christianity, Islam, the Baha'i Faith, and Zoroastrianism all believe in one God.

Polytheism is the belief and worship in many gods. Most of the world's religions are overwhelmingly polytheistic outside of the religions named above. Throughout the course of human history, polytheistic religions of one sort or another have been the dominant majority. The classic Greek, Roman, Indian and Norse religions, for example, were all polytheisms. Hinduism, Gnosticism, Mahayana Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Shintoism in the East are some of the major polytheistic religions today. Although polytheism religions have many gods, usually one god reigns supreme over the other gods, e.g., Zeus in Greek/Roman mythology and Brahman in Hinduism.

Pantheism is the belief that God and the universe are one and the same. There is no dividing line between the two. The word pantheism is comprised of the Greek roots pan (all) and theos (god). God is all and everywhere. Pantheists view God as immanent (i.e. ‘indwelling’ or the quality of ‘within-ness’) but not a personal God at all. Since you are God you cannot therefore have a relationship with God. The early Egyptian and Hindu religions are regarded as pantheistic, and Taoism is also sometimes considered a pantheistic belief system.  The goal of the pantheist is to be swallowed up into the ineffable, all-pervading god-essence of the universe.   

Matter-denying pantheists believe that the physical world around us is an illusion and is viewed so more in the Eastern world.  The word maya in Hinduism and Buddhism is often used to describe the powerful force that creates the cosmic illusion that the phenomenal world is real. While matter-affirming pantheists in the West believe that the physical world of nature and of the human body are essentially good. Generally they have positive attitudes to nature and sex and nature often evokes religious feelings of awe and belonging. While still others who accept that matter is real believe that it is inferior and possibly the creation of evil and darkness. This view is common in the Christian tradition before the Renaissance. Matter-denying pantheisms attach little importance to nature and their physical health, and often view sex as the ultimate distraction from God.

Panentheism is the belief that while the entire universe is a part of God, God also exists beyond the universe, instead of the pantheist belief that everything is God. Thus God is greater than the universe and includes and interpenetrates it with an independent identity from Nature. The word panentheism has the same Greek roots as pantheism, but with the Greek en, "in"  added, thus meaning “all is in God”. Panentheism is a relatively recent term in Christian theology and philosophy of religion and as the concept evolves it can be interpreted in multiple ways. God is usually believed as immanent, and having the potential to change, but His potential, what He can become, does not change. God experiences the world because the world (universe, cosmos) is God’s body. Everything in this world is not only connected to everything else, everything is connected to God. God’s being and the being of the world are inseparable. Panentheism accepts that God can be a personal God, a conscious being that manifested the universe, but not all pantheists contain this belief.

Deism  is actually a form of monotheism. It is the belief in a single creator God (or consciousness) but this God's sole task was to design and implement the Universe. However, unlike monotheism deism rejects the belief that this god is immanent—presently active in the created universe. Instead this God retreated from the universe after its creation and does not intervene in the world or with human life.  Deists also adopt the belief that the single existing God is personal in nature and transcendent from the created universe.

What Does the Bible Teach?
In the Bible, we read about many of God’s attributes. Theologians call these attributes that belong to God alone God’s “incommunicable attributes.” This means that none of us can ever possess these attributes. The following are some of these incommunicable attributes:

  • Transcendence - God transcends space and time in that he is not dependent on them nor affected by them.
  • Omnipotence - God can do anything He desires and is absolutely powerful. (Job 42:1-2)
  • Omnipresence - God can be everywhere at once. (Psalm 139:7-10)
  • Omniscience - God knows everything with perfect complete knowledge.  (Job 28:24; Psalm 147:4-5)
  • Infinite and Immutable - God has no beginning and no end and His nature does not change. (Job 5:9; 9:10)
  • Holiness - God is totally pure and just. (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8)

Communicable Attributes of God are those that we can also possess such as love, wisdom, mercy, justice and knowledge. All of these communicable and incommunicable attributes are referenced in Scripture. For example, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). This says that God is outside of His creation. God is also seen to exist before His creation. "By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible" (Hebrews 11:3). These verses would seem to rule out pantheism unless there was some adaption to its pure form. God also sustains His creation: "For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (Colossians 1:16,17).

The Christian conception is that God bears the all-encompassing traits of transcendence, while still possessing the ability to interact in the world with His creation. Most Christians are theists who believe in the Trinity—a “God in Three Persons,” consisting of God the Father; Jesus, the Son; and the Holy Spirit. The Father in this Trinity seems most congruent with the transcendent God. The Son represents Jesus as God in the earthly flesh, The Holy Spirit supports the idea that there is an immanent God which continues to interact within the world. God therefore remains personal and transcendent with the Holy Spirit being the energy through which God manifests Himself within people and their lives, with the will inspired within them to do His good works.

The dynamism of the God of the Old Testament is that the transcendent and incomprehensible God becomes an immanent partner with the covenant people of Israel. The God of Israel has many titles rather than a name. We address God as Lord, Father, Holy One, Creator, Almighty and more. When Moses asked the voice in the burning bush on what authority, what name shall he tell the sons of Israel, God responds, "ehyeh asher ehyeh". We translate this as "I AM WHO I AM" or "I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE or YHWH (Yahweh). Continuing God said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, `I AM has sent me to you'" (Exodus 3:13).

Did God really reveal His name? There are many interpretations as to what God said here. Yahweh is not God's name, it simply says, "God is". According to one Jewish philosopher, the oneness that characterizes God is an absolute Oneness.  Since God's quality of Being is different from all other being, it is the True Being. God is Being, whereas the world is "existence that is becoming." Continuing from Exodus God said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, `The Lord, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever."

God thereby remains a mystery to us, not giving us His name for we cannot comprehend this Oneness or True Being from our lowly estate. God is All-Powerful with an ineffable essence, who transcends us, yet calls us into His covenant. Then in the New Testament, Matthew 1:23, God is taking on form in the world, "’Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel’, which means, ‘God is with us’." The Word then becomes flesh.

Throughout the Bible we read of the immanence of God through His Word. God is caring and interacting with His creation throughout the Biblical history. After the prophesied messiah came in the form of Jesus Christ, Christianity was born. Jesus is believed to be the embodiment of God who has come to earth to aid humanity. The birth of Christ and His death and sacrifice for the sins of mankind is said to symbolize God's love for His creation. This was no God from afar, indifferent, unconcerned about our predicament. Jesus actually became what we are so that we might become like He is.

In Jeremiah God is saying that He is both transcendent and immanent, “Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away" (Jer. 23:23)? And in this verse God is saying He is transcendent, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). Pantheism denies God’s transcendence. Deism denies God’s immanence. Panentheism denies that God created the world out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo).

Plato in his Book Ten of The Laws, suggests that God is both transcendent and immanent using the analogy of circular motion, combining the notion of change on the periphery with the constancy of a fixed center, in order to illustrate the action of one God. While one aspect of God toils immanently within the world of change (illustrated to the left on the outer circle), another remains constant and unwavering in a state of transcendence (the inner circle). Plato supplements this analogy with the conclusion: "We must not suppose that God, who is supremely wise, and willing and able to superintend the world, looks to major matters [such as creation of the universe] ... but neglects the minor." Thus, Plato's conceptions of God seem to be a prototype to panentheism.

Someone once wrote, "If God's transcendence is His Mystery, than God's immanence is His Love." Through His immanence we can know God as our Father, our friend, loving and caring for each one of us while He still retains the mystery of His transcendence.

Good and Evil
The Old Testament records a prohibition against idols, "You shall have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3). This command was necessary because there were so many pagan gods that the Israelites were drawn to worship. God through Moses, is emphasizing the it is He who has the power to bring His people out of bondage in Egypt. He alone cared enough for them to deliver and protect them.  This God therefore is a personal god. Yet God cannot intervene in the lives of His people unless they separated themselves from evil. God, through His prophets, attempts to lead the recalcitrant people back to Him, who keep entertaining evil and evil things. Thus God is also emphasizing evil is not a part of Him, but is a part of this world. Man has disobeyed God's direction and laws from the beginning, and consequently they cannot return to their original purity with their tendency to disobey God's laws and entertain evil without God's intervention.

The Bible teaches that God alone is Good. "Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, 'Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?' 'Why do you ask me about what is good?' Jesus replied. 'There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments'" (Matthew 19:16-17). "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17). The Creator of the lights in heaven is the source of good gifts in contrast to sin and the resultant evil.

If all is God, as in the pantheistic viewpoint, why is there evil? Pantheism may seem comforting to some, but it has no reasonable or even plausible answer to this question. If the pantheist takes seriously the reality of evil, they must conclude that God cannot then be pure goodness while maintaining that "everything is God". If God is not the ultimate standard of goodness what else can be? It would have to be something independent of God. Again, that is not possible with the pantheist belief that God is everything. When there is no Absolute Good, there is no good at all—and therefore no evil. The very distinction between good and evil is obliterated. Thus evil is explained away as an illusion.  The pantheist stand that evil is an illusion means they see no need to correct evil. If cancer or pollution is in the world why fight either? Only if the world is not God, but is a realm created by God in which creatures are free to rebel, can the obvious reality of evil be explained.

Is God Within?
It’s not difficult to see why the New Agers are attracted to a panentheistic view that God is within them and they are within God or a pantheistic view that they are God. What sincere spiritual personal wouldn’t like to imagine that they are one with God or God is in them? Such a view can surely boost one's sense of self worth. It can also inordinately do so by bolstering one's ego.

In both Pantheism and Panentheism, we are a part of God, whereas in Christianity, God is wholly separate from his creation, while simultaneously present everywhere within it (Psalm 139:7-10; Jeremiah 23:24). This is the omnipresence of God. In the traditional Christian doctrine on omnipresence it teaches that the world is in God and God is in the world. This is the same belief as panentheism, God is in the world without being limited by the world and the world is in God, although God is also transcendent from the world. While God is not limited by His Being in the world, as understood by theologians, panentheists sometimes hold the viewpoint that the existence of the world in God does limit God to some degree, and the universe, and all therein is progressing toward its potential perfection. 

Panentheism holds that God is in the reality of our being, as a part of our essence. Omnipresence holds that God is present to creation in order to sustain their independent essences of 'being'. God is present to the creation but not in His creation. Omnipresence does not imply that God is within everything's essence; only that He is present to everything's essence, sustaining its existence.

What Some Religions Believe About God
The Eastern world view is essentially pantheistic, although this is a gross simplification. Buddhists, Jaina, Sikks and Hindus have a rather complicated cosmology.  They believe that reality exists on many levels or planes, and we are on one of the lower of these planes.  This is the common Eastern cosmology.  Our goal is to get to a higher level of reality where the spiritual is more real and the physical reality is less pervasive.  Ultimately, the goal is to lose self and to be swallowed up into the all-pervading goodness. Ultimately, the goal is not to have a personal relationship with God outside of you, but to discover the God-nature inside you. The following are a few examples.

Buddhism - Numbers over 300 million worldwide (almost all in Asia), throughout its history has been interpreted in both atheistic and pantheistic ways. 

Taoism - was founded by Lao Tzu. There are approximately 20 million Taoists. Taoism retains a strong pantheistic view of the world.  Enlightenment is gained by contemplating self and nature.  Like Buddhism, we come into contact with our cosmic nature through non involvement in the world.  Dispassion rather than compassion is the key to enlightenment. 

Hinduism - There are roughly three-quarters of a billion Hindus in the world, most of whom live in Asia,In its early history Hinduism was crudely polytheistic and still retains polytheistic elements, from about 600 BC the religion developed a more refined pantheistic world view in which the gods were merely high forms of the one divine reality, Brahman. Brahman has many forms, pervades the whole universe, and is symbolized by the sacred syllable Om (or Aum). Most Hindus believe that Brahman is present in every person as the eternal spirit or soul, called the atman.

Christian Science, founded by Mary Baker Eddy has as their core teaching pantheistic beliefs, maintaining the universe is one whole system, whose intelligence, purpose, meaning and order are fully present at every point within it. In her book Science and Health with a Key to the Scripture, Eddy mingles the age-old principles of Gnosticism, pantheism, Hinduism, and dualism with Christian concepts. One pantheistic concept Eddy espoused is, "Evil has no reality. It is neither person, place nor thing but is simply a belief, an illusion of material sense". Christian Scientists deny evil because God is Good. In reality, they admit there is evil because they fight evil in themselves, but rather than giving it any life they simply state is has no reality. While there is an illusion of reality when experiencing evil in this world, they will not affirm its reality by simply stating it is unreal—yet they will deal with evil, thereby refuting Eddy's statement " evil....is simply a belief, an illusion". Mrs. Eddy constantly complained she was attacked by malicious animal magnetism which they define as "An evil disposition against another person, which may even bring sickness and death." Hence, they acknowledge the existence of evil, but claim is it all an illusion. Mrs. Eddy also taught that the Trinity is not three persons, but one, “The theory of three persons in one God (that is, a personal Trinity of Tri-unity) suggests polytheism rather than the one ever-present I am.” She also taught "Jesus is the human man, and Christ is the divine idea". Science and Health teaches that “the Christian believes that Christ is God … Jesus Christ is not God.”

New Age - is a Western form of pantheism, although some New Age groups have a panentheistic viewpoint. The common thread in the rather eclectic beliefs of New Agers is that you are God, we all are God, or God is within us.  The New Age movement is rooted in both Asian religion, gnosticism, occult and philosophy and makes connections with mystical traditions such as the Kabbalah in Judaism, the Sufis in Islam, and to certain Catholic mystics having a more pantheistic thought pattern. New Agers generally seek self-development and self-evolution and developing the god-aspect within themselves, focusing on divine oneness that unifies all things and that can be accessed through religious or spiritual means such as meditation, yoga, channeling, astral projection and aura-reading. While in Christianity man is redeemed through the blood of Christ, the New Ager aims to evolve to some level of perfection and harmony based solely on their own actions. Christ is an office rather than an individual. Jesus was not the only Christ, He was a great "spiritual master" who attained Christ Consciousness. And that Christ consciousness all can attain to.

In conclusion, there are many views of what comprises God, and many are outside of the Bible. For decades there has been a growing number of people in the West who are gravitating to different theisms and away from traditional churches. I became one of those numbers. I felt there was something outside of my church that would better incorporate my beliefs, especially a church that believed in reincarnation. While I was looking for something that better fit me I found the Summit Lighthouse and Church Universal & Triumphant. I took everything they said as a higher truth because these masters' teachings were supposed to be representing a higher spiritual realm.

The Summit/Ascended Master Teachings taught that God is everywhere (omnipresent) and all is God. God is not separate from His creation, but God is greater than His creation (transcendent). God is not the universe, but God is in every cell and atom, but not constrained by His presence in it. God pours His life into Matter and thus Matter only has life from God. God is thereby immanent. God is also Father and Mother. Jesus became the Christ over many embodiments and we each have a Christ Self and I AM Presence. (unbiblical) Jesus is not the "Only Begotten Son of God" the Christ is and Jesus did not atone for our sins, therefore vicarious atonement is a lie. All these views point to a panentheistic philosophy in the Ascended Master Teachings.

Whether you believe God is in the world or created this world but leaves His creation alone, or that God is this world and this world is God, is a personal choice. We know what the Bible points to, an omnipresent God who interacts with the world, loves us, and has attributes we will never have because God is way beyond our understanding of Him. He sent His Son into the world to save us, and lead us back to Him. Hopefully, whatever way we choose to see God it will not stop the progress of our return home to God, greater with "becoming" more of God than what we came into embodiment with.