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Christian Pantheism?

Discussion in 'Struggles by Non-Christians' started by leftrightleftrightleft, Jul 14, 2009.

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  1. leftrightleftrightleft

    leftrightleftrightleft Inclined to Christianity

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    I just joined this forum about five minutes ago, so I'm sure some of the stuff I'm about to bring up in this post will have been posted already in previous threads, but read on if you wish.

    I was raised Catholic, in my teens I became a pantheist (although I never knew that until recently), suddenly I'm now questioning my pantheistic thinking because it simply doesn't answer some pivotal questions about existence and morality.

    However, I have some problems with Christianity, and keep in mind that I'm taking this from a pantheistic background:

    1) Afterlife: I have the view of God as a Father-like figure. He loves his children deeply, BUT he still must punish them if they don't follow him, love him and obey him. but no loving parent would kick their child out of the house after only one mistake. this is the way i view life, and i find myself believing in some form of reincarnation because it seems to make sense. God wouldn't just give you one chance to find the "right path" (whether that's Jesus or Islam or Buddhism) and then commit you to eternal damnation. I think of God the Father as being one who would give you a second chance to live life again under a different scenario in a different time period in hopes of you finding the "true path". I think any parent would always take their kid in, even if their kid did something awful and egregious. Does Hell exist? Perhaps, although I think the way most people conceptualize it is missing the mark.

    2) Evangelism and Fundamentalism: I find many fundamentalist or traditionalist Christians to be downright obnoxious and ignorant. They are so obsessed with Jesus that they seem to have, ironically, lost sight of reality. Notice I say "obsessed" not "in love with." There is a difference. Hardcore evangelicals seem illogical and discard clear, scientific truths and discard arguments that conflict with their beliefs without listening or making an attempt to understand different perspectives. "Loving" Jesus, to me, means loving people, loving the Earth, loving God and spreading love; not spreading hate or fear. They hold some beliefs that seem to conflict with Jesus' message of love and acceptance. So I wonder, are these "Christians" missing the mark, or does the label "Christian" guarantee you a place in heaven with Jesus? I find it hard to believe that my loving, wouldn't-hurt-a-fly mom (a non-Christian) is not going to heaven while some fanatical, fear-mongering evangelical will. Wouldn't Jesus or God see the spiritual lovingness of one person versus the other, regardless of labels or acknowledgement of Jesus as Our Saviour?

    3) Fear: Why must we be afraid of God's wrath? What IS God's wrath? Why does an all-loving God HAVE wrath? Is fear an essential part of the Christian faith? It seems that "repentence" and "forgiveness" are words that appear more often than "love" and "goodness." Christians are taught to believe they are evil and unworthy and must fear eternal damnation. But is that a central tenant of the Christian faith? Can I call myself a Christian without it being tainted by fearful thinking?

    4) Satan: Isn't Satan just a personification of "temptation"? Isn't Satan within us all and anything we do that is "sinful" or "ungodly" is "Satan"? Or is Satan actual an external force - a spirit - working in the world around us?

    Sometimes I have these moments where I feel in very close connection with God and Jesus. I'm wondering if I'm a Christian. Should I just "know"? Should it be a question of whether I'm a believer or not or should it be obvious?

    I could go on for hours with questions, but I'll leave it at those four and ask you: looking at my four questions, is anything I've said in there so heretical and blasphemous that the label "Christian" cannot possibly apply to me?

    Isn't Jesus everywhere? Isn't God everywhere and working in everyone's lives? If so, then what does the label "Christian" mean? Can you be a Christian without acknowledging Jesus as Our Saviour? Can you find Jesus in this world and love Him but just label Him differently?
  2. ittarter

    ittarter Non-Metaphysical Christian Critic

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    Welcome, friend. I hope you find the answers you are looking for.

    How do you define yourself as a Pantheist? How didn't you "know" until you were older? Has this Pantheism interacted constructively with the Catholicism of your youth?

    What are your pivotal questions about existence and morality?

    1) I don't think Christians are very united on their conceptions of the afterlife. The idea itself is mostly post-biblical -- the emphasis in the NT being resurrection and recreation of the universe after an apocalyptic event -- and personally, I don't find the mainstream "heaven and hell" a particularly convincing or appealing concept. In sum, I don't think a certain belief about the afterlife makes (or breaks) a Christian.

    2) If you read the gospels, I think you'll find that your ideas here are in full accord Jesus' teachings. He distinguished Pharisaical "legalistic" practices with a true morality that, as you say, is focused on loving others. A slight exclusivistic and esoteric tendency notwithstanding, this teaching persists throughout the Pauline and miscellaneous letters as well.

    3) I think that the concept of atonement is pretty central to Christianity, and it's something that I'm still struggling with. The idea of punishment for wrongdoing isn't something I'm totally sold on, as far as a divine method of universe-governance goes. However, if I think back to a recent discussion with some friends about raising kids, fear isn't necessarily bad. Maybe it is a necessary part of the ordering of chaos, or the shying away from "anomy," to use a word coined by Peter Berger.

    4) Don't get too caught up in the metaphysics of the spiritual realm. By definition, angels and demons are non-empirically testable ideas, which means to imagine them as "spirits" floating around might be exactly what we SHOULDN'T be doing. The important question is what the belief or non-belief in "Satan" DOES to your behavior, not whether he has a thus-far undiscovered atomic number.

    A rose by any other name would smell just as sweetly. Just be yourself, and find people who can accept you and talk to you as you are.

    Sometimes words like "Christian" and "believer" can be extremely limiting. Maybe if you were to apply them to yourself it would be misleading. Be patient, and ruminate on their meanings.

    I wouldn't worry about narrow definitions of Christianity. No matter what you believe, there will always be someone who will call you a heretic, a demon-worshipper, or whatever else is terrible and blasphemous to them. If you can honestly say you are a follower of Jesus' teachings, I think you are justified in calling yourself a Christian.

    And it sounds as if you are one :)
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2009
  3. salida

    salida Veteran

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    Pantheism isn't a christian concept at all. It is with Hinduism. Thus, christianity and hinduism are totally different in their basic concepts.

    1) The afterlife of being punished. God doesn't send people to hell - they choose so by default by ignoring the onen spiritual medicine that can save them. You may want to visit, Are you a good person? The Good Test Can you keep all the 10 Commandments 100% of the time, all the time? Only Jesus could. Its a matter of accepting that Christ died to save us. If a doctor has just one cure to save you, would you reject it? Why is this different when it comes to ones spiritual life? Also, would you let someone in your house if they rejected you a thousand times over?

    2) Obsessed with Jesus? Jesus has called christians to walk as He walked. How can one be a follower of Jesus but then get distracted and not walk the narrow way? Science doesn't contradict this at all - I'm a scientist. I believe in evolution, but darwinism is a farce. Some macroevolution is true and all microevolution. What do you mean by obsessed?

    3) Gods wrath? God is loving like a father is to his child. If your father tells you not to put your hand on a hot stove are you going to ignore him? God is loving and one needs to consider His divine laws. God is a righteous judge and when the wicked continually turn their face from him and are rebellious like a criminal they get judged.

    4) Satan is a real person. No I don't have satan within me, but I have the Holy Spirit in me from God. My flesh doesn't want to practice sin because of the Holy Spirit. An unredeemed person does. If a person is demon possessed, they have demons in them.
  4. Sketcher

    Sketcher Born Imperishable

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    If that's true, Jesus came and died for nothing. Why take the punishment for mankind if mankind will eventually reach Heaven through reincarnation anyway.

    And how about honoring his sacrifice rather than marginalizing the need for it.

    Such as?

    Works don't get people into Heaven. They cannot balance out the sins we commit in our lives. This is why we need God's amnesty plan, and that plan is only through Jesus. He made it so those who believe get in, and those who do not believe do not.

    There is a good kind of fear which we should have for God. This would be akin to a fear of fire or a fear of sharks or poisonous snakes. Not a phobia, but enough fear of what they can do to you to prevent you from messing around with them. How much more should we fear a holy God. A God who is completely pure, all-powerful, and all-knowing. It makes the grace so much sweeter.

    Satan is a rebellious, fallen angel who became completely dishonest and malicious. He cannot personally tempt all of us at once, and all of the demons who follow him probably couldn't either, there are too many people. But they are real pros at manipulating our fallen nature and doing things to one person which ripples out to other people. And more personally, they can sow one or a few lies into your life which ripple though it and enslave you to many more lies and temptations. You only need a pebble to start an avalanche.

    You're not, because you're rejecting some of our core truths.

    No. God is not present in all religions.
  5. freeport

    freeport Guest

    Who told you you are "pantheist"? That is absurd.

    Paul pointed out 'we move and live and breathe in God'. But, that does not mean that God is a stone, for instance. It is made from God's imagination, yes, but you do not insult God if you kick a stone...

    God controls everything. Sin is so bad because people sin before God.

    He is everywhere.

    Do you believe that a stone is holy or a bad person? It is like a book. There are villains. There is scenery. There are heroes. Then, God puts Himself in the book to make the characters have life, even as He has life.

    Through your points...

    1> Afterlife. You are correct, you have this all wrong. I don't know where you got your information, so hard to erase your pre-conceived notions. You should read the Bible and not rely on so-called experts who wish to tell you what it "really" says.

    Pretty obvious stuff, though, but some are trained against this. Sad, but true.

    2> Fundamentalists. Whatever. 80% of America is Christian. I am so sick of people being so shallow of heart that wish to damn Christianity and Jesus because of what some bad people have said or done to them.

    Your relationship is between you and God. Does it matter if 20 million people - or your parents - have told you lies about the Bible? Makes it all the more worthwhile to find the truth then, huh.

    I am not even saying all "fundamentalists" are bad. Not at all. But, there are a lot of Pharisee like cults out there people lump into one big category and call "fundamentalist" and "Christian".

    So, the two work together for one evil.

    3> Fear. I don't have fear, do you. There is no wrath for those saved by God. There is wrath on those without the Holy Spirit. That is to bring them to God.

    Look at Jonah. He was sent to Nineveh to save the town. He did not wish to go, even though God gave him a message of utter condemnation.

    Because He knew God would use that message to get them to repent.

    It is not a lie -- it is just. If people repent, they may be saved from the disaster God plans for them.

    Nineveh repented, the sinful city was saved, and Jonah was angry.

    God shook his head at him, that he could not understand.

    4. Satan. People tend to blow up Satan, as it is said in the Book of Jude condemning such fools. He is the Destroying Angel. That is it. He was the prince of the world which is fading fast: a world of evil and destruction.

    When you come across some children of Satan - children of destruction, not salvation - you can often identify them because they are constantly adding rule after rule to condemn and falsely accuse everyone else. And they love to speak about the powers of destruction.

    They never talk about salvation, except to boast of their own.

    Yes, there are angels, and all sorts of things you don't know about. So? What do you expect? Satan eventually is incarnated as a man, as it says in Scripture. And people go, 'this is the destroyer of nations, he is but a man!'

    It is totally overblown and ignorant -- of the flesh when people go on and on about such nonsense.

    Christians preach a message of salvation.
  6. Van

    Van Contributor

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    Hi Leftrightleftrightleft, it seems you are moving forward.

    I think several good points have been made in the above posts, and perhaps a few not so good, but lets move forward.

    Your objection that "God would not just give you one chance, then condemn you to eternal damnation." I take it your one chance refers to one physical life, one bite at the apple so to speak, and you have concluded that God would give you many lives. This is because God is a loving father and would not abandon his kids if they made one mistake or missed the boat during their one life. What drives this view, or necessitates this view if you will, is the view that hell is unjust. But if the real "hell" simply provides perfect justice, then a loving God could condemn his creation to "perfect justice." Thus there is not real conflict of a loving God tossing everyone whose name is not written in the Lamb's book of life into the lake of fire, provided the punishment they receive is just and not unjust. So you are hitting pretty close to the mark when you observe that our concept of hell may miss the mark.

    Next you ask, "does the label "Christian" guarantee you a place in heaven with Jesus?"
    I am sorry but the answer is no, we can call ourselves "Christians" and other men can label us "Christian" but it is God alone who decides who goes to heaven. The Bible says God credits our faith in Christ as righteousness if we believe "from the heart." So a phony, or a half hearted "Christian" may not be credited by God. Jesus speaks of these "self professed" believers in Matthew Chapter 7 and ends up saying to them, "Depart from me."

    Next, would not God provide multiple ways to heaven. Sorry, but no again. Jesus says no one comes to the Father except through Me. But again, those that miss the boat face perfect justice, they just miss out on mercy.

    Next you ask a very good and important question, why would an "all-loving" God have wrath? Obviously He would not. So either God does not have wrath or He is not "all-loving." Plenty of verses speak of God's wrath. Romans 2:5, for example tells us we are storing up wrath. But is there a verse that says God is "all-loving" meaning God is always kind and merciful to everyone at all times. Nope, no such verse exists. Instead we read, Romans 8:28, that God causes all things to work together for good for those who love God. No such treatment is said to exist for those who do not love God.

    Last clarification, the Bible speaks of Satan in two ways, (1) as a supernatural being and the translators capitalize the word "Satan" when they think he is in view, and (2) the bible speaks in a general sense of the forces that oppose God as "satanic."
    Remember the old saying "could not see the forest for the trees?" Do not get sidetracked with various views of angels, demons or Satan. Seek Jesus.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2009
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