Is faith in God a crutch episode - pantheism implications

Hello, first this was one of my favorite Ask Away episodes and I’m a huge fan. With the grace of the Holy Spirit, I’ve had the opportunity to dialogue with some Hindu friends and used some knowledge I gained from this episode.

However, I stumped myself (although they haven’t noticed) when thinking more deeply about when Jo talks about the pantheistic worldview implications for love and relationship towards the end of the episode.

Through other RZIM resources, I’ve learned about love and relationship within the Trinity before the beginning of time. But why doesn’t the same concept apply to pantheism, since God is “one and the same” within the persons of the Trinity? How does the Trinity experience that love and relationship, but not the world in pantheism?

Any insight is much appreciated!

Thanks,
Raj

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Hi Raj @Rajesh, good to see you back on Connect:) I love hearing that you are having such rich discussions with your Hindu friends—all grace to you as you continue in that important witness!

I am looking forward to what our community is going to contribute here, but wanted to suggest a couple directions that might help you get traction on this question.

  • Remember that in many iterations of pantheism the “pan-” does not indicate many but all. All is god / deity / The Ultimate. So at the fundamental level, pantheism is a monism (a theory of all existence being fundamentally one/a unity). Monisms collapse diversity into a unity. How might keeping this in view re-inform the possibility of love here?

  • If all things are fundamentally a unity (and that is god / deity/ The Ultimate) then can that kind of deity be characterized by anything without being equally characterized by its opposite? Can we say it exists in loving relationship without implicitly asserting that it also equally exists in all other kinds of relationship? This is why various monisms typically describe ultimate being (god, the deity, et al) as “beyond good and evil.” What implications might this have for the question of love existing in the Ultimate Being from before all eternity?

Hoping these lines of thought help you get at some of the underpinning ideas involved as you prayerfully move toward recovering your stride on this question…and toward ever more confidently testifying to the love which has burned in the heart of the Triune God for you and me (and your Hindu friends) since before all ages.

I’ve made a few introductory suggestions based broadly on the logic framing this question, but I am wondering if there are other contributions from our community… especially relating to the specifically Hindu context in which Raj is witnessing? @Lakshmismehta, do you want to offer some thoughts or perhaps tag in others that have insights into this area?

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Thank you so much for responding Liz. This is helpful. I am so grateful to have this Connect community to help us continue to love the Lord with all of our mind. I appreciate the reminder about monism and how it relates to Hindu philosophy.

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Hi @Rajesh,

It’s been a while since our last exchange on Connect. Great to hear that you are still keeping up with continuing the conversations with your Hindu friends! @Lizibeth gave a thoughtful and concise response and that would be a great place to start the conversation with those who hold on to the pantheistic Advaita view of God, where Absolute reality is considered as One and all differences seen in creation are seen as an illusion (maya). If God is one in person, then God would need to depend on His creation for love. But, with self-realization described as absorption of self into the absolute reality, logically speaking love would again cease to be a possibility with the fulfillment of the spiritual quest! Also, when creation itself is an illusion and just a by product of karma, then the distinction between good and evil is also an illusion. How do we even begin to define love without defining objective goodness? So I think Liz raised some great points for someone who believes ultimately everyone must be absorbed into one reality.

However, a hindu may object by saying that love is possible between the many expressions of the one God just as its possible within the three persons of Trinity. A polytheist may describe the origins of their gods as emanations of the one God who appear on earth at different times, places and circumstances as needed to deal with sin in the world. Its difficult to prove these gods worked toward one will from the stories we know. Even if they work together, what I find difficult to process is that these gods control the maya that people experience, indirectly contributing to evil. The explanation for both judgement and injustice is maya. There is the concept of conjugal love as a way of expressing devotion between humans and god and also between the male and female versions of gods. I dont know enough about this aspect of conjugal love and how it relates with humanity. Perhaps someone else can comment on that. The point I would like to reiterate is if these gods are emanations, they didn’t eternally exist in one will.

This stands in contrast to the Trinitarian concept of God where the three persons 1) are one in essence or nature 2) they mutually indwell each other 3) they have three different wills that work in harmony for the expression of one will at all times. ( ex. Creation, Jesus’s conception/ baptism/resurrection, man’s salvation). I find it beautiful that God invites us to this love through abiding in His will.

I hope that gives more to think about to approach your friends. Great question! Thanks! (Saw your response after my post, sorry about some repetition on monism in it).

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Thank you for responding, Lakshmi!

It’s a blessing to be able to read your informative posts, given your knowledge of Hinduism.

I now see that while the process of “self-realization” might allow for love in a Trinitarian sense, in the end, it doesn’t really matter, because love would logically cease to exist with ultimate “fulfillment” within the pantheistic worldview, as you’ve mentioned.

Also, your comment about the blurred distinction between good and evil if creation itself is an illusion was helpful. A Hindu friend mentioned the term “vedic opposition” as the purpose for these “god emanations”, but I haven’t further asked about what he means by it.

Just as you find it difficult to process that these Hindu gods must indirectly contribute to evil, I wrestle with the ultimate origin of evil in Christianity. I understand the devil tempted humans, but who tempted the devil?? So I tend to avoid the topic of the source of evil.

Lastly, I wanted to share some great news: my wife (who was raised in a Hindu family) and I have decided to get baptized together later this month :slight_smile: Praise Jesus!

Sincerely,
Rajesh

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@Rajesh Thank you for sharing this with us and the Connect community, Raj. I am thrilled that you and your wife are enacting your devotion to Christ—in body and soul—and following him in baptism. How beautiful. Praising the Lord with you for this significant moment in your faith, in the life of your family, and in your Christian community! Thank you so much for encouraging us with your testimony, Raj.