The Issachar Report<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
1 Chronicles <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />12:32
Dennis A. Wright, DMin
In the refrain to his poem, "The Ballad of East and West", Rudyard Kipling wrote, "Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet." Kipling (1865-1936) meant that the culture of the West (Europe and the Americas) would always be very different from that of the East (Asia). The worldview of the East is that of Pantheism, while that of the West has historically been Monotheistic, a result of our Judeo-Christian heritage. These worldviews are very different and are mutually exclusive.
The term "Pantheism" comes from two Greek words, "pan" which means "all", plus "theos" which means "God." Pantheism, therefore, means, "all is God." This is the worldview held by most Hindus, many Buddhists, and other New Age religions. The idea that "all is God" is called "monism" in Hindu philosophy.
According to pantheism, God permeates all things, contains all things, subsumes all things, and is found within all things. Therefore, nothing exists apart from God, and all things are in some way identified with God. In his Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Norman Geisler describes several differing types of belief within pantheism, one of which is absolute pantheism. Absolute pantheism, as taught by the Vedanta school of Hinduism, maintains that there is only one being in the world, God, and that all else that appears to exist actually does not. God is the only reality and everything else is illusion. In Hinduism this illusion of the external world is called maya.
For the western mind, which is accustomed to thinking in concrete ways, such abstract ideas as these are intimidating and generally confusing. Americans got a taste of this in 1977 in the form of permeational pantheism when Star Wars hit the silver screen and millions of us were introduced to The Force! George Lucas portrayed the Force as permeating all things, a concept that comes from Taoism. Tao (pronounced "Dow") can be roughly translated into English as path, or the way. It is basically indefinable; it has to be experienced. The Tao refers to a power that envelops, surrounds and flows through all things, living and non-living. The Tao regulates natural processes and nourishes balance in the universe. It embodies the harmony of opposites. This belief is found in Zen Buddhism.
All pantheists believe that God and the real world are one, but they differ as to how God and the universe are united.
Nature of God: God and reality are ultimately impersonal. This worldview differs strikingly from Monotheism, which separates God from his Creation and teaches that God is both Eternal and Personal.
Nature of the Universe: Those pantheists who grant any kind of reality to the universe agree that it was created ex deo, "out of God," not ex nihilo, "out of nothing," as theism maintains. An absolute pantheist would believe that the universe is not even a manifestation of God; rather, it is merely part of an elaborate illusion.
God in Relation to the Universe: In contrast to Christian theists, who view God as beyond and separate from the universe, pantheists believe that God and the universe are one (monism).
Miracles: Geisler points out that one implication of pantheism is that miracles are impossible. For if all is God, and God is all, nothing exists apart from God that could be interrupted or broken into, which is what the nature of a miracle requires. (Geisler, 580)
Human Beings: Pantheists either believe that the human as a distinct being is absolutely unreal (absolute pantheism) or else that humanity is real but far less real than God.
Salvation: The primary teaching of absolute pantheism is that humans must overcome their ignorance and realize that they are God. This is called Enlightenment. Those who put a distance between God and humanity teach a dualistic view of the person --- a body and a soul. The body holds the person down, keeping him or her from uniting with God. So each person must purge his body so the soul can be released to attain oneness with the Absolute One. For all pantheists, the chief goal or end of humanity is to unite with God. This is Nirvana.
"Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet," thought Kipling. However, had Kipling lived long enough he would have seen the East literally invading the West through the New Age Movement. Pantheism has become so pervasive in the United States that millions of Americans presently hold to some New Age beliefs. George Barna writes, "Make no mistake about it: the appeal of the New Age ideas and practices is continuing to grow. Millions of Christians espouse New Age beliefs without realizing what they are doing. Many leaders in the Church are poorly informed and unaware of this subtle threat to Christian orthodoxy." (The Barna Report, 1992-93)
Just like the "men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do," we need to be men and women who also "understand the times" and know what Christians should do!
Dennis A. Wright, DMin, is Founder and President of Understanding The Times Ministries. An accomplished writer and educator, Wright has spoken in churches and conferences all over America on spiritual counterfeits and Christian Worldview topics. He can be emailed at Dennis@UnderstandingTheTimes.org and his new website can be found at www.UnderstandingTheTimes.org.
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