The other day I ran into an article titled The Myth of the Fall in which the author, Steven Colborne, argues for a position known as Panentheism. Panentheism is like Pantheism in that it does teach “all is God” however it goes beyond that and says that there is a part of God which is transcendant. There are multiple problems with this theological position including:
- Its appeal to a naturalistic explanation of God. This is found only in Nature Religions.
- It renders God powerless. Since everything is part of God then God logically can’t do away with evil because he can’t cease to exist or change. One of the strengths of Monotheism is its stated belief in an omnipotent, transcendant, immutable, and Holy God that can eliminate evil at some point in the future. This belief in Cosmic Justice is compromised by Panentheism. Anything which compromises God’s justice and impunes his character is to be avoided.
- Finally this position requires a non-literal reading of scripture. Christians and Jews have long held to a literal reading of scripture with allogories being indicated when present and have directly to do with the subject at hand not some “deeper mystical meaning”. Panentheism requires us to assume that everything is an allegory. This is a dangerous precedent which destroys biblical inerrancy and infallibility. This must not be tolerated.
Below is my response to this article. Colborne uses no scriptures to prove his position making this easy.
Debunking the Article
A major idea in the Christian tradition is that human beings live in a ‘fallen’ state. The idea is that, through original sin (which took place in the Garden of Eden), humanity fell from it’s original state of union with God, experienced by Adam and Eve before they made the decision to eat the ‘forbidden fruit’ from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, a decision which corrupted their nature and brought sin into the world.
Correct. He is definitionally correct here. This is important for any true discourse. This is what every Christian believes. It is the basis for all of our salvational beliefs. This doctrine is based on scriptures like Gen. 3 and Rom. 3:9-20. It is sound doctrine grounded in objective biblical truths. There is no debating these unless you reject Contextual Literalism in favor of an Allegorical reading of scripture.
Christians believe that we all inherit sin nature, or separation from God, due to the actions of that first created man, Adam, when he ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Many believe that the serpent in the story, who tempts Eve to take the forbidden fruit, is The Devil or Lucifer – an angel which itself has fallen from God.
This isn’t just a belief. This is stated scriptural fact. So firstly the Bible calls the Devil the Serpent multiple times including: Rev. 12:9, 20:2, Gen. 3:15, etc. Furthermore Romans specifically said that “sin entered the World by one man” i.e. Adam(Rom. 5:12). Simply put by eating the Apple Adam fell from grace and gained a fallen nature. Satan, while possessing a Serpent, tempted Eve who then tempted Adam who sinned. This is indisputable fact.
There is no doubt that this story has mythical qualities, even if many Christians do believe it to be literally true. For our purposes, we are concerned with the relationship between God and man, and whether or not there has been a fall away from God, as the story suggests.
There was as I already pointed out above.
It is difficult for me to understand how anything can exist in a state of separation from God. What is it that creates, sustains, moves, and animates the world, if not God? Would a tree really know how to grow itself, without God being the active agent that grows the tree? I cannot understand how this would be so.
Just because you can’t understand something doesn’t make it false. Truth isn’t dependant on your understanding of it(thank God). It is based on immutable fact. It is true whether you understand it to be true or not. As to how they could function as a separate entity from God it is simple: he created the process by which they function. Yes he preserves this process however that doesn’t mean that the tree is part of God.
And to take another, human, example, how is it that a human being could possibly know how to beat their heart, flow their blood, grow their hair and nails, digest food, or any of the other processes that we experience as part of our aliveness, without God being the doer of these actions?
Humans don’t know how to beat their hearts or flow their blood, etc. Some things are the result of an automatic process. That process was created by God. It will function because God made it so.
It seems to me that the idea of a fall is illogical, because God is clearly in control of everything that happens.
Just because God has sovereignty doesn’t mean that he controls everything that happens. If he does he’s a liar and a fraud. For example God commands us not to murder. Yet people still murder. If God “controls all things” then he is causing people to murder. If this is the case then he isn’t a righteous holy God after all. Instead he is morally copable of every sin committed. Such a God is not worthy of worship. Not only that but scripture states that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23) which is the literal definition of a fall.
Christians come up against the contradictions inherent in their belief in free will time and time again. I have heard Christians say that God is responsible for them finding a great church, or giving them a baby, or a new job. But those same Christians maintain that it is their human free will that chooses to sin; to walk away from church, to abuse their baby, or to lie about their job. It is surely obvious that Christians are disastrously unclear about what is God’s action in the world, and what is free human action. I have never known a Christian to be able to speak coherently about the things that God is doing, as opposed to the things that humans are doing.
It seems that you are the one with the fallacy. Just because God doesn’t control everything doesn’t mean that he can’t influence things. God can influence the reproductive process to give you a baby, he can subconsciously influence a person to give you a job, and he can send his servants in your path to guide you to a good church. This doesn’t require controlling everything.
The problem with the Christian vision is that free will is ascribed to human beings, when in reality, we cannot possibly be free. If God is omnipotent, as most theology supposes, then God must be responsible for all action and not some action. Everything that happens must be the result of God acting in the world.
Having all power doesn’t mean that you are responsible for all things. The two do not logically follow. A King has all power in his realm. This doesn’t mean that he is responsible for all actions taken by individuals within his realm. The king isn’t responsible for murder and rape for example. The problem here is that you assume that A proves B. But it doesn’t. Sometimes A and B are totally unrelated. Some people believe, for example, that A: Satan wants to kill me and I smashed my finger in the door so B: It must have been Satan trying to kill me. But A doesn’t prove B. Smashing your finger in the door could’ve been a simple case of the wind catching the car door. Similarly just because A: God has all power and someone was murdered doesn’t mean that B:God caused that murder. This is illogical. A doesn’t prove B.
There never was a fall away from God, and there never will be.
I’ve already quoted scriptures proving otherwise. I don’t feel that need to go back into this. There was a fall, the Bible is clear that there was a fall, and A doesn’t prove B.
A much more sensible approach to theology is to realise that God is necessarily everywhere and in everything. Once we admit this truth, we can then start to form a worldview and a theology that is logical, because it relates to reality, rather than to a myth that cannot make sense of the way the world really is.
But it isn’t based in reality. Your worldview is just as superstitious as the man who thinks that his finger was smashed by Satan. A doesn’t prove B. There is nothing logical about your world view.
Panentheism is illogical because:
- It requires a nonliteral reading of scripture.
- The Bible literally teaches a fall occurred.
- A doesn’t prove B.