Moloch…In Whom I Dream Angels…

“[Moses] said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?”  “Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil.  They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’  So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”” – Exodus 32:21-24

“No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” – Luke 16:13

“Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch  whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen!  Moloch whose name is the Mind!  Moloch in whom I sit lonely! Moloch in whom I dream Angels! Crazy in Moloch!” – Allen Ginsberg: “Howl”

We look at this verse in Exodus today and we wonder, how could Aaron and the Israelites have been so stupid?!  Here their leader is on a mountain top talking with the God of the Universe, and in no time at all they have created an imitation god in the form of a golden calf.  We also have to wonder, how stupid did they think Moses to be?  Was he truly to believe that they threw their gold into the fire and miraculously this calf jumped out?  Yes, surely these people were primitive nomads who lacked the sophistication that we hold today…surely.

I’m afraid that when we look at these verses we do not have the luxury of chronological egotism.  I’m afraid that we too have lost our faith in the God of the Universe.  We have not carved a golden calf to worship.  We have formed a tower of gold bars.  But we bow down and worship that tower with every bit as much shameless awe, and arrogant devotion as the Isralites did with their golden calf.  We have created a false god to go before us.  We have created a deaf, dumb, and blind god whose only worth is the worth we ascribe to it.  Now, when faced with an economic crisis, we are crushed when our god turns out to be the lump of cold metal that it always was.

When the people of God become dependent on their own abilities and their own fleeting sense of security, perhaps God chooses then to lead them into the wilderness.  Maybe this wilderness is not a punishment, but a wake up call.  Maybe this wilderness is the only place in which we can truly commune with God Almighty.  Maybe, just maybe, it is in the dark, beneath a blanket of stars, listening to the crackle of a campfire, in a communal relationship with those around us, that we can finally be the children of God, dependent on Him for all that we have.

I’ll leave this topic for now with a song that sums this up better than I can.  Here’s Bob Dylan’s “Gotta’ Serve Somebody”…


About Andrew

The Universe is Round. View all posts by Andrew

15 responses to “Moloch…In Whom I Dream Angels…

  • Andrew

    A good time time to be thinking about our societies illness of consumerism.

    Don’t forget that Friday is “Buy Nothing Day”!!

    See this site… “

    Matthew Fox describes consumerism as todays form of gluttony.

    Thanks for this…Andrew

  • Andrew

    Thanks for the link. I had almost forgotten about Buy Nothing Day. Haven’t seen an Adbusters in a while. Might have to dig one up and get that subscription going…but not this Friday! 😉


  • Janelle

    Thanks for the reminder; sometimes it’s so easy to assume that I don’t have any “other gods” because I don’t have a big golden calf sitting in my living-unfortunately, I have created many other gods that could just as well be that calf.

  • Romanós

    Another great post, a meditation and elucidation of a perennial theme in human history, and as if that weren’t enough, you treat me to one of my favorite songs!

    Just taking a smidgen out of what you said and turning it over a bit in my mental hand, the notion that “is it punishment, or is it a wake up call,” the kind of thing that’s happening to us right now, this economic crisis. Thinking in worded thoughts, I’ve considered this since I started following the Lord, or even from before that, and of course, my worded mind has to say it’s one or the other, because it can’t dig paradox, and so my mind has always chosen to see what God does in these crises as “wake up calls,” rather than punishments. Why is that? Why does my mind want to believe that? After all, the Bible is full of places where it says that God punishes. Am I putting the Word of God down? Am I just trying to make Yahweh a “nice” God? After all, the day we’re talking about, the Old Testament Pentecost, was when Moses ordered those loyal (not faithful, but loyal) to him and Yahweh, to muster and slay those who had worshipped the golden calf, to the number of 3000 souls. And their reward was that they got to be the priests of Yahweh. Well, that sure was nice of God.

    No, I choose to think of things like that as a wake up call, because that’s what they are, even though in another (worded) sense, they are punishments.

    But if we stop for a moment, and just encounter the event, experience it inwardly, say, after reading the story, and just let it sink into our minds wordlessly (human languagelessly, not Wordlessly), we just know what it is. It’s something that words like “punishment” or “wake up call” just cannot entirely grasp. That’s the Word of God for you! That’s yet another meaning of John 1:5 where he says that the light was not “grasped”, the Greek being κατελαβεν (katélaven), and the Light being the Logos, the Word, Jesus. We just know what it is that God is doing in that story, we feel it in our depths somehow, and that’s also how we know He is there to do the same to us, if He has to. That’s not a threat or something to cause fear in us, but thankfulness and wonder, that the Uncreated Life, He Who Is, takes so much interest in us, and cares for us so much, that He is willing to enter our lives like that.

    Have I lost you? I hope not. Just trying to share why the stories we find in the Word of God are present with us as living realities, when we hear them in silence and faith. Silence, not being just unspeaking, but inner silence, as we sing in the cherubimic hymn in the Divine Liturgy, “let us put aside all cares, that we may receive the King of All.”

    Thanks for this great post, my brother. Always good to read your words.

  • ruZL

    “Maybe, just maybe, it is in the dark, beneath a blanket of stars, listening to the crackle of a campfire, in a communal relationship with those around us, that we can finally be the children of God, dependent on Him for all that we have.”

    i really relate to what you say here. there’s something about being out in nature, under the stars, in the wilds, that strips us. one of the things i miss the most by living in the UK is the ability to gather around a night fire with some friends & just talk, sing & sit in silence.

    maybe the current economic crisis will lead us collectively back into the wilderness. some will no doubt still manufacture calves & other false idols. may those of us who seek God find whom we seek.



  • nic paton

    Andrew, I first came across you on emergentvilliage where you referred to “rewilding”.

    When you say “Maybe this wilderness is the only place in which we can truly commune with God Almighty” do you see rewilding as sacremental?

  • Andrew

    Nic, that is really an interesting question. I suppose it depends a little on how you personally define “sacramental.” The general idea, as I understand it, of sacrament would be an outward visible sign of God’s inward invisible work. In that sense, I would say yes, I do believe rewilding/feral living to whatever degree a person feels called, would be sacramental. I want to be very careful with this though. There are sacraments that are specifically called for in the scriptures. When I think of sacrament, I think of something ordained and almost required. I don’t think that rewilding falls in the same category as baptism, for example.

    I don’t think that rewilding in its fullest expression is a requirement for being in communion with God. I do think, however, that to the degree that we are able, we need to try to live our lives as naturally as possible. We should try to live in harmony with God’s creation, and to move in the ebbs and flows of His orderly chaotic creation. There is a reason why God chose a wild-man in a loin cloth eating bugs in the desert to be the one who pointed to His incarnation on earth. I believe that, given my experiences even on the periphery of some of these intentionally feral communities, at least for me, God seems closer away from lights and screens, and cell phones. There is a certain wild freedom that is in the Gospel that frightens a lot of people, especially city dwellers.

    That is not to say God is not in the city and the lights as well. I have experienced God’s presence more than I can describe even in the collection of zeros and ones that make up this blog. But there is a far different, and more intimate presence sitting around a fire, drumming, drinking nettles tea and eating a meal gathered from the surrounding land. I truly believe God’s promise to be present whenever two or three are gathered in His name. He made no requirements on the setting. But, in the American society (I don’t want to speak for other societies I’m not a part of, but I could assume that others are not *that* much different in this respect) I think that we are way yonder too dependent on our “stuff.” To quote Fight Club, the things you own end up owning you. With that in mind, it is very easy for us to make gods of our “stuff.” And it is very easy for us to lose the sound of the “still small voice” when we are surrounded by flashing lights and flickering screens.

    All that said, I sit here with a laptop in my lap, in a house with central heating, in front of a television watching a program on cake making, with Christmas lights flickering, and God is as close to me as He is anywhere. I just have a harder time noticing…

    How’s that for a 500 word answer to a yes or no question? I am way too long-winded. When I get out of seminary my church will never make it to lunch before the Methodists…

    So, what do you think? Is rewilding a sacrament? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on how it plays into the burner culture especially.

  • nic paton

    I expected at LEAST 500 words, to even begin to do this issue justice. I’ll try be brief for now, however.

    I think for a start we might defein a bit. You say “When I think of sacrament, I think of something ordained and almost required.”, and use baptism as an example. I agree with this orthodox view, but take it into a different realm, take it further. And that is, we are called to “sacrelize”, to MAKE sacriment, not merely recieve it. We must honour tradition, but also the new.

    If I sacrelize, I consciously bring the sacred into what I do, whatever it may be. I do not mean to be trite, like saying let us chew on the sacred bubble gum or something, but to say, “let us share in a sacred cup of coffee” or “let us film with the sacred camera”, might work.

    Moreover, our crisis of the sacred is brought on in part by by over-industrialisation and its attendant aliention from nature. So to rewild is to reclaim that of which the likes of St Francis spoke … creation at the core of our like with God.

    Years ago I was highly critical of pantheism, and paganism. But I find in such isms a prophetic redress to our situation. I’m working on a a radical notion of Incarnation where God works predominatly *through* the creation – thats us and the cosmos – to achieve His ends. We need to ge over our anti-pagan bias in the church. It offers us a path forwards, but we obviously need to do a lot of work to reimagine Christ at the heart of Nature.

    I’ll stop there .. more soon.

  • Romanós

    Both Andrew and Nic, you are writing and expressing thoughts which place both of you pretty firmly within the Eastern Orthodox ethos.

    Nic, your vocabulary is slightly personalized, but there is terminology for everything you’re trying to describe in the Orthodox fathers. A pantheistic world view is neither where they are, nor really where you are or where you are headed, but it seems to me that your own struggle to understand many things is bringing you within the ethos of ancient Christianity. A pagan view, which it seems you are using to describe the “God in nature” idea is also neither exclusively “pagan” nor is it alien from the Bible or the Church fathers, or from historic Orthodoxy. Though you may think it “a radical notion of Incarnation” that God works “predominantly *through* the creation – that’s us and the cosmos – to achieve His ends,” only your vocabulary is a little bit imprecise, but this idea has been in Orthodox Christianity since ancient times, written about, taught and practiced for centuries.

    We have a saying, which I always quote when giving church “tours” and we come to the opening in the iconostasis (icon wall), called the Gate Beautiful. To the left of this gate is an icon of Jesus as a child sitting in the lap of His mother, to the right is an icon of Jesus seated on a throne in full regalia with the Book in His lap. I tell the visitors, “These are three icons (or images) of Christ, not just two, or one, On the left is an icon of Christ in His first coming, born of woman (which is why Mary is in the icon—it is not an icon of Mary as some might think), on the right is an icon of Christ in His second coming as Judge of the living and the dead and as immortal King. But the center, that gateway, the Gate Beautiful, is also an icon, though it looks like just an opening in the icon wall, and of course, that it also is. But that “non-icon” is also an icon of Christ: it is the icon of Christ NOW, Christ among us, in our midst, within us. And here comes the saying… ‘Between Christ’s first and second comings, there’s nobody here but us—living icons.’ So, the Orthodox Christians believe that the Bride of Christ is His presence in the world of the present, between His two advents. That doesn’t minimize the fact of His second coming any more than it minimizes the fact of His first. It’s not as if we were saying that WE are the second coming, as some heretics do. No, we’re not saying that at all. Instead, we’re saying many other things, many of which we share with all other Christians. We’re saying that in this world, we are Christ’s hands and feet. We’re saying that whatever we do to the least of His brothers, we are doing to Him. We are saying that Christ is in us, and we in Him, and that the unity we have with Christ defies all speculation and even imagination. We are saying that Christ’s ascent into heaven did not inaugurate a divine absence but instead a hidden presence—hidden, that is, from the world, but not from us! We know that we are His presence in the world because of the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. And when we greet each other in the context of our faith, either during worship or on the street, one of our greetings is “Christ is in our midst!” and the response is, “He is and ever shall be!”

    Andrew, I almost don’t know where to start in joining in the discussion of what you present in your comment regarding “sacrament” and “sacramental.” You too, because your Christian environment has not been inside the Orthodox koinonía (community), aren’t expressing yourself in exactly the same terms as the Church fathers, but what you are saying is very much in agreement with them, and with the Orthodox Church.

    Because we are engulfed in non-Orthodox cultures, the use of Roman Catholic vocabulary has become somewhat common, but that vocabulary also brings with it “hidden baggage,” unspoken notions that are not scriptural or Orthodox, and second generation thinking that uses this vocabulary sometimes gets us in trouble—we begin to slip into the slough of “religion,” which some Greek fathers call a sickness.

    Back to sacrament. We use the Greek scriptural term mystírion (mystery) because it can be more precise and without the hidden baggage. A mystírion is a point of kairós (consecrated time) in which God breaks through into the physical world with not only His presence (which is always there anyway) but His activity. For example, when we baptize, it is not the human being who baptizes but Christ Himself, of whom the human being (visible) is a living icon (of the invisible, but present, Lord). When we celebrate the eucharist, it is not the priest who offers the Body and Blood of Christ to us under the forms of bread and wine, but Christ Himself. The priest is His living icon in that moment of kairós. When we receive the mysteries from the hand of a priest, and kiss his hand, it is not the hand of the priest we kiss, but Christ’s hand, of whom again, the priest is a living icon. Later, when we meet the priest in another context, we do not normally kiss his hand (though many still do, out of respect for his office) but just give him the kiss of peace. Many priests initiate the ceremony so that you won’t try to kiss their hand, because they want you to remember that they are no different than you, except when performing (on your behalf and for the whole community) the divine liturgy.

    Roman Catholics always and Orthodox often teach that there are seven “sacraments” that are found in the Bible. Evangelicals often reduce these to two (baptism and the Lord’s supper) or three (including confession, or sometimes foot washing). Question an Orthodox further, and you’ll likely find them seeming to be straddling the fence. They’ll say, “Well, yes, there’s seven, but actually there’s more than seven…” and then start talking about any encounter with God (theophany) as if it were on the same level, or the same sort of thing as, a divine and holy mystery. Press them again, a little harder, and they’ll retreat back to the seven. This is because in Orthodoxy, the lines are not strictly drawn, and there are more contexts or categories of thought than most other Christians recognize.

    What is in tension here, is the concept of sacrament or mystery as a “magical” intrusion into our lives in a specific time, place and format by Christ-God independently of what we think or believe, and the consciousness of His absolute presence and activity among us through the deliberate exercise of our personal faith.

    The Church early on decided that the only way it could achieve uniformity and permanence in the world was by enshrining the first pole of tension in its corporate consciousness as doctrine: God is present and active in the performance of the sacrament irrespective of the faith or moral standing of the officiant (normally a priest) or the recipient(s), as long as the correct “form” of words (ritual) and actions (ceremonial) is used, and most importantly, it is the intention to do what the Church does when doing it. This highly mechanistic and magical view of sacrament (I’m using the Catholic term here because this pole is more strongly entrenched in Western Christianity) is shared by all Christian churches, including the Orthodox officially. But it is at the other pole of tension, the consciousness of Christ-God’s absolute presence and activity among us through the deliberate exercise of our personal faith, that most evangelicals and many Orthodox live, despite churchly doctrinal formulations. It is also at this other pole of tension that we live when we “break bread together” at a lunch counter or at the family dinner table “in Christ,” acknowledging His presence and activity among us there and then. If I haven’t tired you out, take a look at this post on my blog:

    Sorry for leaving this long comment. I just congratulate you both on the depth of your thinking in the pursuit of God. Perhaps I haven’t completed my thought, and if I’ve left you hanging, forgive me. Just keep right on in the direction you’re going. “And we humbly beseech thee, O heavenly Father, so to assist us with thy grace, that we may continue in that holy fellowship, and do all such good works as thou hast prepared for us to walk in.” (Book of Common Prayer, prayer after receiving holy communion) That’s my prayer for you both. Go with God.

  • Andrew

    First of all, wow…where to begin? Nic and Romanos, your insights and education give so much food for thought. There are some things I have to say, and others that are still ruminating based on all of this. So, let’s just jump in feet first…

    As Romanos so aptly points out there is a lot of baggage with the terms we use here (and really in all of the words of human language). But, it appears, Nic, from what you say here that we are on the same page with what we speak of. I am less apt to use the term sacrament because of it’s baggage, but I am 100% behind you on the way you are using it. And I do agree wholeheartedly that we should be working to “sacralize” every aspect of our lives. I would actually even go as far as to chew that sacred gum. If that gum is something that you enjoy that is not a detriment (no cavities, and you’re not a diabetic), enjoy it with the fullness of knowing that the pleasure you experience is a taste of the glory of God.

    I also agree with you in your estimation that over-industrialization is one cause of our alienation from God. We are so intertwined with things that we can touch that we do not remember that the important things are the things we cannot touch. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best when he said, “Everything we can see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.”

    This brings me to pantheism. My problem with pantheism is not that I think they have the idea of God 100% wrong. It is a problem of scope. To understand that God is omnipresent is, in a sense, pantheism. The pantheist idea is, at the risk of oversimplifying, that God is everything in the universe, and everything in the universe is God. It is the second half of this equation that I have to step away from. God truly is present in every aspect of the universe. But God is infinitely more than the universe.

    My belief is that, as Romans teaches us, what may be known about God has been made plain in nature. In each religion leading up to Christ we took that and added, subtracted, and twisted around. In many ways we got it right, in many more we got it wrong. Finally God decided it was time to put on skin and to show us what He really meant. Christ did not destroy the glimmers of Truth that are present in other faiths, but clarified them, and removed the slavery that was inherent in each of them. Each religious system took Truths about God and boiled them down to self-improvement. Christ came and said, “You can’t improve yourself enough…Let me improve you…” So, when a pantheist says “God is in everything” he is correct (Psalm 139:7-12). When a Taoist says (in a sense) “The God that can be spoken of is not the true and eternal God” she is correct (Ecclesiastes 11:5). When a Buddhist says, “Desire is the cause of suffering” he is correct (Exodus 20:17). These are all things that are taught to us in God’s Word, and which are plain in nature. Where we have agreement with God’s Word, we have Truth. Where we have disagreement, God’s Word gives the Truth. So, it is not wise to throw out ideas because they are “pagan” or “pantheist” or whatever. As long as we have the guidance of the Bible and the Spirit, we will not be lead astray. That being said, it is important to be very clear when speaking of these things. Because of the baggage of all of these terms, it would be easy for a person to hear “all religions are true” instead of “all religions contain *some* truth, but Jesus Christ is The Truth.”

    Romanos, I greatly appreciate your comments (both of them here), your pointing out the baggage of our terms is really helpful. I have used the illustration before, but I think it applies here so well, I will bring it up again. There is a principle in Quantum physics called “Von Newmann’s catastrophe of the Infinite Regress.” This says that any measurement we take is flawed because the machines we use to measure them have flaws. Any machine we put in place to account for this is subject to its own flaws. This goes on through infinity and is only terminated by the observer’s choice. When you take this and consider that our own nervous system and our language are the first filters we use to measure the world around us, it becomes clear that there is something flawed in every perception we make and every description we use. This is why the only true insights that are possible, the only understandings that are real, can only come from God Himself. And our experience of that can never be fully described. To trust our language is like trying to ride a donkey down a photograph of the Grand Canyon!

    Romanos, I will admit, I do not have much knowledge of the Greek Orthodox Church (nor the Roman Catholic Church for that matter). The things you tell me are interesting. I am especially interested in learning more about the Desert Fathers. Do you have any further reading you would recommend?

    Alright, it is late. I am just in from work and still need to wash off the grill soot and sweat. I look forward to hearing what both of you have to continue this conversation. With my mornings spent with my one year old son, and my evenings spent at work with 20 year old kids interested only in partying, it is refreshing to get out and swim in the deep end for a bit. Thank you both for the opportunity.


  • Romanós

    Andrew, your amplification of the thoughts in your paragraph beginning “My belief is that…” is so well-written and presented, and so Orthodox, that it is a classic expression in a nutshell of the teaching of the fathers from ancient times till today on this topic. This is one piece of writing I am definitely going to keep (I actually save all your writings that come my way).

    One thing that you and I seem to have in common is both the knowledge of (probably thru reading) and the acceptance of (through critical reasoning) the good that we find in the non-Christian writings. Not many Christians I know could write what you’ve written, bringing in the essential ideas of pantheism, Taoism, or Buddhism into the light of Christ and showing what is correct and what is lacking, and without a hint of triumphalism. By bringing it all back to Christ, Who is the Word, and to the divinely inspired and revealed scriptures of the Bible, we can be generous with the ancient paths, because we are non-combatant and seeking understanding in honesty. That is, in fact, the method by which I evangelize among the non-Christian religions. I start with what they have, and try to reveal Christ to them, that Word of the Father who is often hidden within their own wisdom tradition. By doing that, then it is not so hard to pull them up gently to the place where faith becomes possible, because they can see that they are only being drawn to Him from Whom all the glimmers of truth were coming, that they had before, and it helps them get over the things they have to leave behind.

    My internet at home is down at the moment, and I’ve come into the office where I work to do some business transactions and answer some emails until I can find out why my internet connexion is down.

    One of the best books about (or rather, of) the Desert Fathers is Helen Waddell’s book, The Desert Fathers. I was about 23 years old when I bought my copy (the one I still read from), and it was before I committed my life to Christ. I was studying the writings of and about the Zen masters. Koans, you know, and the rest of it. I stopped at a small hole in the wall used books store, and The Desert Fathers caught my attention. I bought the book, and once I began to read it, I couldn’t put it down. That was the beginning of the end of my searching. Here were men who were just as profound as the Zen masters, and yet they were with Christ. That’s the book I recommend first off, but I can recommend others as well. I have about six books that I’ve read and studied. There are also internet sites for the Desert Fathers. I even have a link in the side panel of my blog that gets you to them.

    Anyway, great dialog we are having. Go with God, my friend.

  • nic paton

    Thanks you both for your depth. I’m regretably lagging a bit but just wanted you both to know I have tried to keep up.

    I should be tying up some of my loose ends, but I will only offer one thought. That has to do with “Panentheism”. You may or may not know the term, but I’ll say it anyway:

    Panentheism means “God in all things, and all things in God.” It is distinct from pantheism “God is all things and all things are God”, and obviously from a transcendant “Theism” or worse “Deism” view with insists that God’s dealings are by and large wholly other.

    As a pantentheist, I acknowledge that the Creator may be viewed as “other”, but understand that the Creators choice is to incarnate into his creation, so that most of his dealings are from within. Sure, miracles may be defined as an inbreaking of energy against the flow of the laws of nature, and that is fine. But the tenor of the bible is panentheistic, in my view. The dominant theism/deism in christendom is a result of errant dualisms, largely Greek in origin, but also Persian.

    So to rewild mens to embrace nature, and accept the call of God.

  • Romanós

    Panentheism, well yes, I’m familiar with that concept. It exists within Orthodox Christianity as an alternate way of expressing some aspects of Christian thought about the relationship between God and Creation, but always, I have to insist, when we’re discussing the issue from a speculative, not scripture-based, viewpoint. The Greeks, in particular, having the whole legacy of our pre-Christian thought still lurking in the crypt of our minds, often philosophize using the concept of panentheism. Starting from the scriptures, though, panentheism isn’t encountered; it is only an external mental template that can be overlaid on ideas that exist in scripture.

    Orthodox Christianity emphasizes that unbridgeable gap between the uncreated Creator and the Creation, that there is no thing we can compare with God in any real sense; that insistence we share with Judaism. Believing thus, it makes it all the more imperative that in Christ the unbridgeable gap has been bridged, that in Him the uncreated Creator has entered the Creation and in act has somehow incorporated it with the Divine Nature. At this point in the discussion, I must bow out, confessing only (pointing at Jesus) He is God.

    Yet, the Orthodox repeatedly refer to our existence as dependent on God remembering us (as if He could forget). In every liturgy we hear “May the Lord God remember you in His Kingdom…” And in our memorial service, there is a constant theme of the Christian being worthy of eternal memory (meaning that God will remember him or her, and by remembering the soul is assured of a place in Paradise). It’s almost as if we exist only as one of God’s logismoí (thoughts), and in truth, that is what we are, His thoughts. There is a saying something to the effect that when men think they have ideas, but when God thinks the result is our universe. In other words, His reality is so solid that it is inside His thoughts that we exist. All this comes from, however, not Greek philosophy, but ultimately from the words of divine scripture, the Bible. The request of the thief crucified next to Christ, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom” and Christ’s response, “You will be with me in Paradise.” And all the places in Psalms, where we pray to God to remember us, to keep thinking of us, and so on.

    This is as close to panentheism as, I think, we can get, starting from the scriptures. God in nature (He is in His thoughts), nature in God (His thoughts are in Him). But just as you cannot literally say that a man IS his thought, neither can you say that God IS His creation. The kind of existence that a man has is as different from the kind of existence his thoughts have, as God’s being is as different from the creation’s being. That’s at least a little of what we mean when we say the gap between uncreated Creator and Creation is unbridgeable.

    Hence, the mystery of Jesus Christ, the Theanthropos, the “God-Man.” We can daydream and enter our own thoughts, but that is only a weak reflection of what God did when He entered into His own thoughts as Christ.

  • Andrew

    Nic, I will admit that I am only vaguely familiar with panentheism. But, based on your definition, and a very quick reading of a few of the top search results from Google, I see nothing that jumps out at me as particularly anti-Christian (but again, I am very far from educated on the subject). I think the important thing is that in Christian Panentheism that the Christian part be kept the first and foremost. That being said, I like the differentiation between pantheism and panentheism. As Romanos aptly points out, we can not get away with claiming that God *is* everything and everything *is* God. But when asked the question “Is God *in* everything, or is everything *in* God?” I can only quote Rob Bell in saying, “Um…yep.”

    Nic, I also love your point about the errant dualism that plagues us. I will go a step further on where that dualism originated. I think the dualism that plagues us got its start when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. In the beginning Adam and Eve walked with God in the cool of the evening. They had the understanding that God was right there with them, and they were right there with Him. There were two trees in the midst of the Garden. There was the Tree of Life and there was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. As my Dad would say, “this is just Mills-ology”, but I believe that the knowledge of Good and Evil equates to the delusion of duality. It was when they ate of the fruit of that tree that we began to die literally and figuratively. It was at that point that the delusion of a separation between “us down here” and “God up there” came into being (amongst other delusions of separateness). Dustin Hoffman’s character in the movie “I Heart Huckabies” explains pantheism, but in his explanation is some truth. I’ll paraphrase him. He says, “You think you’re there, and I’m here. Which is true…but it’s not the whole truth.” In the same sense we see God “out there” and us “down here” which is true…but it’s not the whole truth. We are invited to join the eternal relationship between Father, Son and Spirit that has been going on for all eternity. That invitation was made evident when Christ died on the cross and the curtain in the temple (you know, the one which separated us from God?) was torn. The curse of duality is broken, we need only to accept the gift of Christ to begin the process of re-acclimating to the relationship.

    Romanos, I have often wondered in my more philosophical times whether I wasn’t just a thought in the mind of some great thinker. Or a dream someone was having. I cannot describe to you the comfort that I feel in learning from you that in a way we are! I will do my best to explain why I’m so excited by what you say here. If we exist as God’s thought, then our continued existence is contingent on His remembering us, as you have pointed out. So, couple this with the knowledge that through our acceptance of Christ our sins are blotted out and God promises to “remember them no more.” God will no longer remember sin!!!! Do you feel the ground shaking beneath your feet?!?!?! So, if God does not remember sin, and we choose to remain in our sin nature, denying Christ’s gift to us on the cross, then God will forget us. We will be in the “outer darkness.” We will die the “second death.” God will not remember sin! But if we accept this gift, then God will remember us, but not our sin. We will be separated in the mind of God from our sin nature. Then we will be perfected because God does not remember our sin nature, but only remembers the righteousness that Christ gives us! Wow.

    Alright, if either of you are interested, here is a link to that clip from “I Heart Huckabies”:
    An interesting thing to point out. In this clip, though he doesn’t say so, Dustin Hoffman is explaining pantheism. And it really illustrates my earlier point. What he is saying is not 100% wrong (well, in a sense anything that isn’t right is actually 100% wrong…but that is a totally different discussion), it is once again a problem of scope, not understanding. He says “everything is the blanket…outside of the blanket is more blanket.” He speaks of not wanting to miss the big picture, but unfortunately he does. He only sees, to take from what Romanos said, the “created” part of the picture and misses the “uncreated.”

    I am really digging this conversation. Thanks again.


  • Romanós

    Andrew, the paragraph you wrote above addressed particularly to me does resonate with sympathetic vibration fo’ sure! I ask you ahead of time to indulge me in my excessive applause later on in this comment.

    Your take off on the idea that we are God’s thought (logismós)and are kept in existence by His remembering us is, of course, at the center of Orthodox ontology. But what I really salute you for with “mega axios!” and “bravo!” (both expressions of Greek enthusiasm) is your take off: It is absolutely worthy of a church father (there I go, getting carried away again).

    “If we exist as God’s thought, then our continued existence is contingent on His remembering us, …So, couple this with the knowledge that through our acceptance of Christ our sins are blotted out and God promises to “remember them no more.” God will no longer remember sin!!!! Do you feel the ground shaking beneath your feet?!?!?!”

    YES, I DO!
    Και εγενοντο αστραπαι και φωναι και βρονται και σεισμος… (Revelation 11:19) especially, the seismós!

    “So, if God does not remember sin, and we choose to remain in our sin nature, denying Christ’s gift to us on the cross, then God will forget us. We will be in the “outer darkness.” We will die the “second death.” God will not remember sin!”


    “But if we accept this gift, then God will remember us, but not our sin. We will be separated in the mind of God from our sin nature. Then we will be perfected because God does not remember our sin nature, but only remembers the righteousness that Christ gives us! Wow.”

    YES, WOW! as in Yod-Hey-WOW-Hey!

    Axios, adelphós mou agapitós Andrea! Mega áxios!
    Written like a church father!

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