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February 10, 2012

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I am a little confused by the article. Was JH Kellogg promoting "pantheistic" presentation of God in the universe, or a "panentheistic" view? If I read a Matthew Fox correctly in his Original Blessing he uses panentheistic as a concept of "God-with-us" in the world instead of being separated from us by long distances. It was my view, based on teaching in church school, that Kellogg presented God as being IN everything, which is a whole lot of difference in meaning.

Thank you for your question, Steve. Although it is correct that the term traditionally employed to denote Kellogg's view of God was "pantheism," technically it is more accurate to use the term "panentheism."

The difference is as follows: Pantheism basically says that God is synonymous with the universe (God is nature) whereas panentheism teaches that he exists and interpenetrates nature. Kellogg did not say that God "is" everything or "is" nature; he argued that God is "in" everything or is present everywhere "in" nature.

Arguably this seems to be even closer to Ellen White's statements that God's creative power is manifested "in" nature. Yet what she said is nevertheless something else than God existing or being present everywhere in nature. This also shows why Ellen White said that Kellogg's statements almost look like what she had said but that a close inspection reveals that they are totally different.

Dear Denis

I am not an expert in systematic theology, but I have some questions regarding panentheism. If panentheism is a heresy, how could one interpret those Biblical passages where God is described as omnipresent (e.g. Ps 139:7 etc). To my knowledge, most Christian denominations teach God's omnipresence, and our statement of beliefs seems to do the same: "God is omnipresent (Ps. 139:7-12; Heb. 4:13), transcending all space. Yet He is fully present in every part of space." (Seventh-day Adventists Believe, 20 http://www.sdanet.org/atissue/books/27/27-02.htm)

Now if God is "omnipresent" (present everywhere), that is "fully present in every part of space," how could be avoided the idea of God being present IN nature/universe? And if this is panentheism, we have a problem.
My perception (and I claim no expertise in "Kelloggalogy"!) is that Kellogg, though not explicitly confusing God with nature in a crude manner, however, he imagined that the power and life-giving energy which is present in nature were God's life actually. My perception is that every power and energy that works in nature is caused by God, by creation and sustaining, but it cannot be identified with God's life and power, as Kellogg said. Therefore he could say: "I breath God," or "I eat the life of God existing in vegetables etc." (free quotations), not in a poetic manner, but in a philosophical-theological manner.

An there is another aspect where I have no definite answer. Is God's omnipresence a personal capacity of each person of the Trinity, or God the Father and Christ are omnipresent only through the Holy Spirit? I cannot find a Biblical answer, and I'm not concerned with the true answer, since practically I can pray God, no matter how exactly is He. But what is your opinion as regards this issue?

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Memory, Meaning & Faith is a blog covering Christian history in light of contemporary issues.

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