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What is Panentheism

Panentheism (Greek words: pan=all, en=in and Theos=God) is the view that God is both immanent within the universe and that the universe is part of God or that God is the animating force behind the universe while at the same time paradoxically God is also transcendent and outside and beyond the universe.

Unlike pantheism, panentheism does not mean that the universe is synonymous with God. Instead, it maintains that there is more to God than the material universe. In panentheism, God is immanent but also maintains a transcendent character, and is viewed as both the creator and the original source of universal Morality.

__Panentheism in Christianity__

The Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches have a doctrine called panentheism to describe the relationship between the Uncreated (God, who is omnipotent, eternal, and constant) and His creation that bears surface similarities with the panentheism described above but maintains a critical distinction.

Most specifically, these Churches teach that God is not the "watchmaker God" of the Western European Enlightenment. Likewise, they teach that God is not the "stage magician God" who only shows up when performing miracles. Instead, the teaching of both these Churches is that God is not merely necessary to have created the universe, but that His active presence is necessary in some way for every bit of creation, from smallest to greatest, to continue to exist at all. That is, God's energies maintain all things and all beings, even if those beings have explicitly rejected Him. His love of creation is such that he will not withdraw His presence, which would be the ultimate form of slaughter, not merely imposing death but ending existence, altogether. By this token, the entirety of creation is sanctified, and thus no part of creation can be considered innately evil except as a result, direct or indirect, of the Fall of man or similar active rebellion against God.

This Orthodox panentheism is distinct from the "hardcore" panentheism described above in that it maintains an ontological gulf between the created and the Uncreated. Creation is not "part of" God, and God is still distinct from creation; however, God is "within" all creation, thus the Orthodox parsing of the word is "pan-entheism" (God indwells in all things) and not "panen-theism" (All things are within/part of God but God is more than the sum of all things).

Process Theology and groups like Creation Spirituality also incorporate a panentheistic worldview.

__Panentheism in Judaism__

When Hasidic Orthodox Jews first developed as a movement and as a theology, their theology was essentially panentheistic, even though they themselves never had even heard of this word. Non-Hasidic Orthodox Jews viewed this theology as as heretical. However, after the schism between Hasidic and non-Hasidic Orthodox Jews closed in the mid 1800s, panentheism became an accepted way of thinking in Orthodox Jewish theology. While not the mainstream point of view, panentheism has become more popular in the non-Orthodox Jewish denominations like Conservative Judaism and Reform Judaism through the writings of rabbis like Abraham Joshua Heschel, Arthur Green, Wayne Dosick, and Lawrence Kushner.

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