Theism

A theistic worldview which believes that an eternal God freely created all of existence (time, space, matter, celestial realms and bodies) out of nothing (ex nihilo), and that He continues to act within the creation in varying degrees

Here is an illustration:

The key idea to understand about theism is that God, in his essence (ontos, ousia) is transcendent and completely separate from his creation. In this illustration, God alone exists above the arch. Above the arch is timeless, spaceless, and without matter. There is no extension into space or succession of moments with God. There is no before or after. He exists in an “eternal now.” He does not have parts. In his essence, you cannot divide (as ontological division requires space). He has no head, hands, or feet.

God created all things out of nothing. If he used preexisting material, it would have to be eternal and above the arch with him. But by definition, God, as the necessary being, does not share eternity with anything but himself and God must be one in order to explain his self-existence (aseity). He is not dependent on anything for his existence as he is the Ground of All Being, the First Cause, the Unmoved Mover.

In theism, it is important to understand that God relates to and interacts with his creation below the arch. There is a real presence, relationship, dynamic, and interaction between God and his creation. Yet in his essence, God remains the same.

We will never see God’s essence, as that is impossible. In order to see God’s essence, we would have to be above the arch. But to be such would mean that we would have to be God. And since there is no time (before and after), we would have to have always been God, which is formally absurd and self-defeating for all of theism.

This is expressed best in Paul’s statement to Timothy:

1Ti 6:16
[God] who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

Deism

A theistic worldview which believes that God created the universe, but has not been involved in it since

Here is the illustration:

The primary thing to recognize about deism is that it is the exact same as theism, minus God’s immanent relationships. The philosophical deist says that God, due to his transcendence to time, space, and matter, cannot interact with man. The practical deist merely believes that God doesn’t interact with his creation out of choice.

Pantheism


Lit. pan “all” theos “god.” A worldview that believes God is identical with the universe

Here is what it looks like:

Notice that God is not above the arch. In this view, God is ultimately an impersonal force. The universe — time, space, and matter — exist out of necessity. It is impossible for them not to exist as they are everlasting in time.

Pantheism is, in reality, an atheistic worldview, as any proper definition of God must include transcendence. If God is not transcendent to time, space, and matter, he is, by definition, not God. Therefore, pantheism is philosophically impossible, since it fails to give an explanation for the existence of all things. The “god” of pantheism can never be properly called “God.”

Polytheism

Lit. poly “many” theos “gods.” A worldview that believes there are many gods.

Here is how it works out:

The problem with this is that we are still dealing with an atheistic worldview. “Gods,” here, would simply be defined as “the most powerful personalities that happen to be caught up in this uncaused existence.” Another way we might put it is that polytheism defines “god” as “that which is worshipped.” It is a philosophically absurd definition of God. God, by definition, must be above the arch. Therefore, polytheists have no true God.

Naturalism

An atheistic worldview which holds that the natural world is all there is, was, or ever will be.

It can be illustrated as such:

Like the previous two, naturalism lacks a transcendent explanation for existence. Therefore, if naturalism were true, there would never be any existence as there would never be a sufficient cause to bring the universe into being. Therefore, naturalism is philosophically absurd.

Of all the worldviews, theism and deism are the only philosophically possible worldviews as they are the only ones that have a non-recessive creation. In other words, creation itself demands a transcendent explanation. If God were in time, he would always require an explanation for his own existence. One would get caught up in the “if God created everything, who created God?” trap ad infinitum. But since God is transcendent to time, he does not experience the before / after scenario that gives rise to such a problem.

However, deism does not explain the evident intervention of God in history, primarily seen through the incarnation of Christ.

______________________________

Check out a free preview video from our Members Area on this topic:


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    15 replies to "Worldviews in a Nutshell"

    • Surely God is both “transcendent” and “immanent”, and yet in the use or giving of “revelation”, i.e. Holy Scripture, He does use the terms and ideas of past, present and future, as we can see somehow in the revelation of the Trinity of God itself, (Rev. 1: 8).

      “Whatever God might have done in the past when the world first came into being, his present relation to is simply that of an artist to his work; in Addison’s famous hymn [Joseph Addison 1672-1719, Anglican] it is as “their grand Original” that “the spacious firmament on high and all the blue ethereal sky” manifest the Deity, as rejoicing in “reasons ear,” they roll “in solemn silence . . . round the dark terrestrial ball;” and the attitude to God which the contemplation of nature is expected to produce in us…” (Rev. E.L. Mascall – Anglican, He Who Is, A Study in Traditional Theism, 1943).

    • Btw, just a point for me, but I would and will never use the term “Evangelical or Evangelicalism” for any aspect of Atheism! I know this was used sort of metaphorically (Evangelist-like), but that which is surely sacred to biblical and theological “Evangelicalism” should be maintained! Let us call the New Atheists as simply in the place of a religious-like zeal!

      Note, for example “evangelizo”, to proclaim glad tidings ; and “evangelion”, the good news and gospel itself! Yes, some of us Anglican Evangelicals are rather “jealous” here! 😉

    • Lothar Sohn

      Hello Michael I fail to see why an infinite sucession of universe coming into being and disappering while creating a baby universe is implausible.

      And there are scientifically much more credible scenarios as to how an universe endless both in space and time could exist.

      Therefore I advice you to give up this argument, this won’t convince any thoroughly thinking Skeptic.

      I have tried to develop a logical argument showing that Reductive Materialism is self-defeating and I would need philosophically-minded people such as yourself to correct, improve or even abondon it, so I’d be thankful if some of your readers could take a look at it.

      http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2013/09/09/on-the-self-consistency-of-reductive-materialism-uber-die-selbstkonsistenz-des-reduktiven-materialismus/

      Lovely greetings from France and Germany.
      Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son
      http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

      • C Michael Patton

        Lothar,

        It is not only implausible, it is more than that. It is formally absurd. That would have to assume that an infinite number of causes and effects going back into the past is possible. This is absurd as if there was the possibility of an infinite number of events going back into the past, we would never get to the present as there would always be an infinite more to go. Actual infinites to not exist.

    • Pete again

      CMP, interesting post.

      Your diagrams illustrate one of the many differences between your western Protestant and our eastern Christianity.

      In your worldview, God is in the “2nd story” looking down. Although he is certainly in charge of everything, he is definitely separated from His creation.

      Eastern Christianity is actually “panentheistic”:

      http://orthodoxwiki.org/Panentheism

      God – in particular, the Holy Spirit – is everywhere present and fills all things.

      The east would agree that “God’s essence is unknowable”. However, we can know God through His “energies”, as we have the ability to become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).

      And I’m sure Fr. Robert can explain the detail of this “Mystical Theology” better than I can! 🙂

    • C Michael Patton

      I did not put panentheism as it is so rare. Orthodoxy is definitely not panentheistic in the way presented here. Panentheism believes in an eternal creation and demies creation ex nihilio. Irenaues would have some issues there :-).

      But I do know what you are saying. It is something very different.

    • Ron DeGoth

      Your definition of Deism is incorrect. Deism, as defined by the World Union of Deists is knowledge of God based on the application of our reason on the designs/laws found throughout Nature*. Unified Deism defines Deism as the conclusion that God likely exists based on reason, experience, and observation of the natural universe**. Deism is often mistaken as belief in a God that does not intervene because that is the predominate belief among Deists, and it is one of the main distinguishing characteristics of Deism when compared to other theistic worldviews, most often Christianity. While many other beliefs are common among Deists (such as rejection of revelation), they do not make up what Deism is.

      *http://deism.com/deism_defined.htm
      **http://www.unifieddeism.com/resources/deism-defined

    • @Pete: I am not sure I would be able to properly express the EO position here in, “panentheism”? It surely has problems to my mind too! That’s one of the reasons I remain Reformed and a Neo-Calvinist! I always try very hard to press my own vision and idea, that I feel is “biblical”, as to mystery, or as St. Paul simply uses the Greek word of “musterion”, which as for Paul expresses God’s “revelation,” or “dispensation”! But indeed this is a large subject! But as Michael has noted, perhaps the theology of an Irenaeus is a great place to look! He is the master of Economy and Recapitulation, i.e. correction and perfection in the doctrine, teaching and revelation of God!

      But of course this does not negate the whole of Orthodox theology for me at all! For we all but “know in part”, as even St. Paul stated! (1 Cor. 13: 9)

    • Btw, for me, the answer here simply must ride in the place of God’s “theodicy”, that place literally of the “justice” of God alone! Defending the goodness and omnipotence of God, in a fallen and broken world, that “man” in Adam has created, but thankfully too, the Last Adam has in Himself “redeemed”! God In Christ always has the Top-Line!

    • Someone wrote to me and called todays “evidential, evangelical, apologetics”, a poor excuse of “scholasticism”. Btw, let me recommend a little Luther here on the subject of “scholasticism”. Luther called it the great “whore”! Agreed, one is never going to redeem a soul with mere logic itself! Though surely there is a true “biblical” logic. But it is found within the presupposition of the authority of the Holy Scripture, itself!

      Indeed arguments are devoid without the authority of “reason”, and reason cannot be found without some authority of logic, but too even logic itself is only found ultimately in the doctrine and revelation of God! Here is the Dynamic of the Word itself, Jesus who is the Christ of God, both the “Logos” and the “Rhema”! (See, 2 Cor. 4: 4 and 6)

    • Derek Greer

      I started composing a comment yesterday afternoon along the lines of Lothar’s objection, but after over an hour wrestling with my wording I just gave up and took my OCD-self home 🙂

      I believe in the God revealed in the scriptures, that He is self-existent, and that all things were created by Him, but I also have reservations about describing the naturalist view as one which isn’t “philosophically possible”. Having never studied Philosophy as a subject unto itself, I’m unsure whether the notion of “philosophical possibility” has some established meaning in philosophical circles (in the vein that the notion of “Rule of Faith” has an established meaning in theological circles), but any definition this phrase might hold isn’t self-evident to me. I would imagine any definition of this phrase would somehow be an attempt to convey a subset of all philosophies whose theories are rooted in reason. That is to say, for a theory to be considered philosophically possible, it would need to be born out of hypotheses derived from our observations of the world, not our imaginations (e.g. Atlas, turtles, Flying Spaghetti Monster, etc.).

      I would say believing that the universe was birthed from nothing defies reason and, as such, I would deem it “philosophically impossible”. I don’t believe, however, that the notion of an eternal universe defies reason in the same way. While I disagree with the naturalist on their conclusions, the notion of an eternal universe, by definition, excludes any need to determine it’s origin. I would agree that creation theories demand a transcendent explanation, but that is because they presuppose an origin. Eternal universe theories exist in a different category than other “origin” theories since they claim no origin. Please note that I’m not arguing that the theory of an origin-less universe might be true, but that it shouldn’t be dismissed as impossible solely on the grounds of it lacking an answer for a transcendent…

    • Derek Greer

      After considering this further, I retract my statement. The reasoning you’ve set forth, that we could not have arrived at this point in time if the universe were eternal, seems inescapable. On this basis, it does seem appropriate to conclude that any theory which requires its adherents to accept that time stretches linearly and infinitely in both directions defines reason and would therefore appropriately be deemed philosophically impossible.

    • It is always important for the Judeo-Christian view to stay biblical when we discuss Creation! Biblical revelation trumps philosophy here, though the philosophical can be used. (Heb. 11: 3) And it is here that we must place our hermeneutical presuppositions. Though for example Augustine’s theology of creation is developed in dialogue with both Manichean and Platonic accounts, but he too looks alone to God’s purpose, plan and finality in Creation.

    • Craig

      Respectfully, I disagree that panentheism is rare. It is the backdrop of much Hindu philosophy (to include Brahmanism), Lurianic (Isaac Luria) Kabbalah, Hasidic Judaism (which seems to come from Lurianic Kabbalah), some (I’d argue much) New Age / New Spirituality views, so-called “esoteric Christianity,” and, as pointed out, EO.

      Here’s a post on panentheism and how it compares with the Trinity:

      http://notunlikelee.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/panentheism-and-the-trinity/

      Also, see here:

      http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/panentheism/

    • Good information here #14. Myself, I am still a traditional Judeo-Christian Theist… HE Who Is! See E.L. Mascall’s classic book here under this title. (If you can find a copy?)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.