Christianity & Pantheism

C.S. Lewis at his deskI recently re-read C.S. Lewis′ book Miracles (you can read my full book review by clicking here). As you may have noticed, after reading and reviewing books on this blog, I also like to share some quotes that caught my attention. Doing this with Lewis is difficult, because in order to get the context of a particular quote, I think I would have to cite almost a full page or more. So over the next few weeks I plan to share some quotes from Miracles that require not as much context, or I will provide a bit of background to set the stage.

In this passage Lewis refers to Flatlanders. This is a reference to a fascinating book called Flatland by Edwin Abbott, in which a 3-dimensional Sphere visits the 2-dimensional world called Flatland and speaks with Square. It was a favorite book of not only Lewis but Albert Einstein as well.

“The popular ‘religion’ excludes miracles because it excludes the ‘living God’ of Christianity and believes instead in a kind of God who obviously would not do miracles, or indeed anything else. … If ‘religion’ means simply what man says about God, and not what God does about man, then Pantheism almost is religion. … The old atomic theory is in physics what Pantheism is in religion—the normal, instinctive guess of the human mind, not utterly wrong, but needing correction. Christian theology and quantum physics are both, by comparison with the first guess, hard, complex, dry and repellent. … The Pantheist and Christian agree that we are all dependent on God and intimately related to Him. But the Christian defines this relation in terms of Maker and made, whereas the Pantheist (at least of the popular kind) says, we are ‘parts’ of Him, or are contained in Him. … Pantheist and Christian also agree that God is super-personal. The Christian means by this that God has a positive structure which we could never have guessed in advance, any more than a knowledge of squares would have enabled us to guess at a cube. He contains ‘persons’ (three of them) while remaining one God, as a cube contains six squares while remaining one solid body. We cannot comprehend such a structure any more than the Flatlanders could comprehend a cube. But we can at least comprehend our incomprehension, and see that if there is something beyond personality it ought to be incomprehensible in that sort of way. The Pantheist, on the other hand, though he may say super-personal really conceives God in terms of what is sub-personal—as though the Flatlanders thought a cube existed in fewer dimensions then a square.”

For other quotes from this book, see Miracles Or “Cheating”? and Miracle And Nature.

Responding To The Voice

FlatlandIn 1880, Edwin A. Abbott wrote Flatland, a book that would later become a favorite of Albert Einstein. Abbott was a college-trained mathematician and a theologian; in fact he was actually better known for his theological writings than for Flatland. Later on Einstein would say that “things should be made as simple as possible, not simpler.” In other words, don’t dumb-down the concept, but state it on a level where more people can grasp it. That’s why, I believe, Einstein loved Flatland.

Flatland is told through the eyes of Square, a two-dimensional shape that lives in Flatland. Square has length and width, but no height. So the inhabitants of Flatland can move back-and-forth, and side-to-side, but not up-and-down. To get an idea of this, put your eye right on the level of a tabletop, and look at an item on the table. Imagine you can only see what is touching the tabletop (but nothing that rises any higher or lower than that), and you will get an idea of Square’s two-dimensional world.

One day Sphere visits Flatland. Sphere is three-dimensional, so he can move up-and-down. This means that Square can only see the part of Sphere that happens to be in his line of sight at that immediate moment. So he sees just a “slice” or “layer” of Sphere as Sphere moves through Flatland. Sometimes Sphere is nothing more than a disembodied voice when he is hovering above Flatland.

This gives us a little bit of an idea of how we perceive God. He exists in dimensions that we cannot fully comprehend, so we only see “slices” of Him as He passes though our line of sight. Sometimes He is just a disembodied Voice—or as the Bible calls Him, the Word of God.

But the Word of God compressed Himself into our dimension (John 1:14). All of the fullness—all of the other-dimension-ness—of His omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience came to our “level” in the Person of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:6-7). The Word was the complete and total fullness of God (John 1:1-3; Colossians 2:9). But unlike Square who couldn’t fully know Sphere, God is fully knowable in The Word… in Jesus Christ!

The question is: What are you going to do with The Word? The Word of God (the Bible) allows us to fully know The Word of God (Jesus). But we need to be willing to let the Holy Spirit strip away our puny, smaller-dimensioned, finite thinking of God.

Alvin TofflerAlvin Toffler wrote, “The illiterate of the future are not those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

I would modify this to say, “Those illiterate of The Word (Jesus) are not those who cannot read The Word (the Bible), but those who won’t let the Holy Spirit help them learn, unlearn, and relearn who God is.” 

There is so much more to learn about The Word (Jesus), so let the Holy Spirit guide you in your reading of The Word (the Bible). I pray as Paul did that you will begin to experience more of the multi-dimensional-ness of God as revealed in The Word—

I pray that out of God’s glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19)

Next Sunday I’ll be continuing my series called Who Is Jesus? I hope you can join me!

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