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Panentheism holds that the universe is a part of God and that Nature is thus an aspect of divinity. Unlike pantheism, it does not say that the universe is synonymous with God; it maintains that there is more to God than the material universe. In panentheism God maintains a transcendent character, and is viewed as both the creator and the original source of universal morality.

Panentheism in Christianity

While it very well may be that panentheism described above has only recently been introduced to Christianity via process theology and small groups like Creation Spirituality, both making up a minority of Christians, 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).

Panentheism in Judaism

When Hasidic Orthodox Jews first developed as a movement and a theology, their theology was essentially panentheistic, even though they themselves did not use this word. Non-Hasidic Orthodox Jews viewed this theology 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.

Opposing views

Gnosticism holds the inverse idea of panentheism: it regards matter as evil and ultimately flawed, and thus not a part of God. Gnosticism claims that matter came about through emanations of the supreme being, but this event is held to be more of an accident than of being on purpose.

See also