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This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access. Pennsylvania State University Press, Google Scholar. Richard Swinburne, The Coherence of Theism , rev. Clarendon Press, CrossRef Google Scholar. Keith Ward, Concepts of God Oneworld, Cornell University Press, Routledge, Bethel College USA. Personalised recommendations. Cite chapter How to cite?

ENW EndNote. Cooper , 64— The awareness of panentheism as an alternative to theism and pantheism developed out of a complex of approaches. Philosophical idealism and philosophical adaptation of the scientific concept of evolution provided the basic sources of the explicit position of panentheism. Hegel — and Schelling — sought to retain the close relationship between God and the world that Spinoza proposed without identifying God with the world. Their concept of God as developing in and through the world provided the means for accomplishing this. Prior to this time, God had been understood as unchanging and the world as changing while existing in God J.

Cooper , This relationship resulted in vitality and on-going development.

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Hartshorne classified this as a dipolar understanding of God in that God is both necessary and developing , Hegel found Schelling inadequate and sought a greater unity for the diversity. God as well as nature is characterized by dialectical development. In his rejection of pantheism, Hegel understood the infinite as including the finite by absorbing the finite into its own fuller nature.

This retained divine transcendence in the sense of the divine surpassing its parts although not separate from the parts Whittemore , — The divine transcendence provided unity through the development of the Absolute through history.

Lloyd Morgan — introduced development into the ways in which all of physical reality was conceptualized. They then worked out positions that in a variety of ways understood God and the world as growing in relationship to each other. God, for process philosophy, is necessary for any actual world. Without God, the world would be nothing more than an unchanging existence radically different from the actual world of experience. God as both eternal and temporal provides possibilities that call the world to change and develop. God as eternal provides an actual source of those possibilities.

However, if God is only eternal, the possibilities would be unrelated to the actual world as it presently exists. Thus, Whitehead and Hartshorne understand the world to be present in God in order for the possibilities that lead to development to be related to the world Hartshorne , Although the presence of the world in God could be understood as a form of pantheism, process philosophy avoids collapsing the world into God or God into the world by maintaining a distinction between God and the world.

This distinction is manifest in the eternality of God and the temporality of the world. It is also apparent in the freedom of the events in the world.

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The freedom of each event, the absence of divine determination, provides a way for process thought to avoid God being the cause of evil or containing evil as evil. Thus, God saves what can be saved from the world rather than simply including each event in isolation from other events J.

Cooper , , Protestant theologians have contributed to recent developments of panentheism by continuing the German Idealist tradition or the tradition of process philosophy. Although the majority of the contemporary expressions of panentheism involve scientists and protestant theologians or philosophers, articulations of forms of panentheism have also developed among feminists, in the Roman Catholic tradition, in the Orthodox tradition, and in religions other than Christianity.

He explicated his understanding of panentheism more fully in The Trinity and the Kingdom in Panentheism avoids the arbitrary concept of creation held by traditional theism and the loss of creaturely freedom that occurs in Christian pantheism J.

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Moltmann understands panentheism to involve both God in the world and the world in God. The relationship between God and the world is like the relationship among the members of the Trinity in that it involves relationships and communities Molnar , Moltmann uses the concept of perichoresis to describe this relationship of mutual interpenetration.

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By using the concept of perichoresis, Moltmann moves away from a Hegelian understanding of the trinity as a dialectical development in history J. Moltmann does not consider creation necessary for God nor the result of any inner divine compulsion. This creation occurs in a process of interaction between nothingness and creativity, contraction and expansion, in God. Cooper, , Moltmann finds that panentheism as mutual interpenetration preserves unity and difference in a variety of differences in kind such as God and human being, person and nature, and the spiritual and the sensuous Moltmann, , In his process panentheism, David Ray Griffin assumes that scientific understandings of the world are crucial and recognizes the implications of scientific understanding for theology.

However, his concept of panentheism builds on the principles of process philosophy rather than scientific concepts directly. Griffin traces modern atheism to the combination of understanding perception as exclusively based on physical sensations, accepting a naturalistic explanation of reality, and identifying matter as the only reality.

But, the emergence of mind challenges the adequacy of this contemporary worldview , 40— He claims that the traditional supernaturalistic form of theism with its emphasis upon the divine will does not provide an adequate alternative to the atheism of the late modern worldview because God becomes the source of evil.

Process panentheism provides a way to avoid the problems of both materialistic naturalism and classical theism , Griffin proposes panexperientialism that bases sensory perception on a non-sensory mode of perception in order to explain both the mind-body interaction and the God-world interaction. God and the world are different entities but both are actual. God and events in the world interact through non-sensory perception , 44— Process panentheism recognizes two aspects of the divine, an abstract and unchanging essence and a concrete state that involves change.

Through this dipolar concept, God both influences and is influenced by the world , 43— Griffin understands God as essentially the soul of the universe although distinct from the world. Relationality is part of the divine essence, but this does not mean that this specific world is necessary to God. This world came into existence from relative nothingness.


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This relative nothingness was a chaos that lacked any individual that sustained specific characteristics over time. However, even in the chaos prior to the creation of this world, events had some degree of self-determination and causal influence upon subsequent events. These fundamental causal principles along with God exist naturally since these causal principles are inherent in things that exist including the nature of God. An important implication of the two basic causal principles, a degree of self-determination and causal influence, is that God influences but does not determine other events , But this divine action can occur in a variable manner so that some acts are especially revelatory of the divine character and purpose , Much of the contemporary discussion and development of panentheism occurs in the context of the science and religion discussion.


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  • The early modern concept of an unchanging natural order posed a challenge to understandings of divine action in the world. The current discussion draws on the development of scientific information about the natural world that can contribute to religious efforts to explain how God acts in the world. In the contemporary discussion, Arthur Peacocke and Paul Davies have made important contributions as scientists interested in, and knowledgeable about, religion.

    Peacocke developed his understanding of panentheism beginning in and continuing through works in , , and Peacocke starts with the shift in the scientific understanding of the world from a mechanism to the current understandings of the world as a unity composed of complex systems in a hierarchy of different levels. These emergent levels do not become different types of reality but instead compose a unity that can be understood naturally as an emergentist monism. At the same time, the different levels of complexity cannot be reduced to an explanation of one type or level of complexity.

    The creative dynamic of the emergence of complexity in hierarchies is immanent in the world rather than external to the world Peacocke , — Similarly, Paul Davies describes the universe by talking about complexity and higher levels of organization in which participant observers bring about a more precise order An important scientific aspect of this concept of complexity and organization is the notion of entanglement especially conceptual level entanglement Davies , 45— Again, the organization, which makes life possible, is an internal, or natural, order rather than an order imposed from outside of the universe Davies Peacocke draws upon this contemporary scientific understanding of the universe to think about the relationship between God and the natural world.

    He rejects any understanding of God as external to nature whether it is a traditional theistic understanding where God intervenes in the natural world or a deistic understanding where God initiates the natural world but does not continue to be active in the world. For Peacocke, God continuously creates through the processes of the natural order.

    However, God is not identified with the natural processes, which are the action of God as Creator Peacocke , — At the same time, God transcends the universe because God is more than the universe in the sense of God being unlimited by the world.

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    Davies also refers to his understanding of the role of laws in nature as panentheism rather than deism because God chose laws that give a co-creative role to nature , Philip Clayton begins with contemporary scientific understandings of the world and combines them with theological concepts drawn from a variety of sources including process theology. Clayton agrees that the world is in God and God is in the world. Panentheism, according to him, affirms the interdependence of God and the world a, This affirmation became possible as a result of the rejection of substantialistic language in favor of personal language in thinking of God.

    Substantialistic language excludes all other actualities from any one actuality. Rejection of substantialistic language thus allows for the interaction of beings. Clayton, along with Joseph Bracken , , identifies his understanding of panentheism as Trinitarian and kenotic Clayton , It is Trinitarian because the world participates in God in a manner analogous to the way that members of the Trinity participate in each other although the world is not and does not become God.

    The divine kenotic decision results in the actuality of the world that is taken into God. The involvement of the world in an internal relationship with God does not completely constitute the divine being for Clayton. Instead, God is both primordial, or eternal, and responsive to the world. The best way to describe the interdependence between God and the world for Clayton is through the concept of emergence. Emergence may be explanatory, epistemological, or ontological. Emergence recognizes that change is important to the nature of the world and challenges views of God as unchanging Clayton b, A number of feminists advocate panentheism by critiquing traditional understandings of transcendence for continuing dualistic ways of thinking.

    Feminist panentheists conceive of the divine as continuous with the world rather than being ontologically transcendent over the world Frankenberry McFague bases the metaphorical nature of all statements about God upon panenetheism , Frankenberry suggests that pantheism may provide a more direct repudiation of male domination than panentheism provides Although much of the development of panentheism takes place in the context of the Christian tradition, connections between other world religions and panentheism have been identified. These connections range from explicitly panentheistic traditions, to similarities to specific beliefs and practices of a tradition, to beliefs and practices that could be developed into panentheistic positions.

    Hartshorne in his discussion of panentheism included a section on Hinduism Biernacki considers Hinduism to be one of the most panentheistic traditions Biernacki b. The concept of the world as the body of the divine offers a strong similarity to Western panentheism. The Gita identifies the whole world, including all the gods and living creatures, as the Divine body. But the Divine Being has its own body that contains the world while being more than the world.

    While the Upanishads acknowledge the body of the Divine at times, the body of the divine is never identified as the cosmos. Most of the Tantrics hold a pantheistic view in which the practitioner is a manifestation of the divine. For him, differentiation is Shiva concealing his wholeness.