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Panentheism is the belief that God is present in everything, but is also transcendent of everything. Unlike pantheism, panentheism makes an ontological distinction between the divine and the universe. This belief often sees God as an eternal spark of all things, the Prime Mover, etc. Another possible interpretation of panentheism suggests that God, when creating the universe, turned into the universe itself. This makes panentheism a slightly less metaphorical version of pantheism, and a more specific version of deism (compare pandeism). Of course, there is no way of proving or disproving this matter, as the only possible evidence to support the idea is existence itself.

In religion[edit]

Most orthodox monotheistic religions, with notable exceptions like Sikhism, reject panentheism, but there are some religions that are based around panentheism. In these, God is usually not a creator in the traditional sense, for all things are part of God (god), the manifest, physical parts of god. It's often found in some Native American[Which?] religions and ancient pagan religions. Baruch Spinoza is sometimes considered a panentheist.[Who?]

Panentheism makes limited appearances in some sects of Christianity and other Abrahamic religions. Christian Science bears some similarity to the idea, as it asserts that reality is an illusion created by God. Ideas found in Kabbalah are sometimes read as panentheistic, like Eyn Sof. The concept of Tawhid in Islam has sometimes been interpreted as panentheistic.[Who?]

God and science[edit]

A strain of 20th century theological thought turned to panentheism to try and reconcile the conflict between a world governed by fixed scientific laws (including both the laws of physics and higher-level principles such as evolution) and the notion of a God who in some way intervenes or has any role to play in the universe. Some of the figures who have used panentheism in this way are Arthur Peacocke, Paul Davies, and Philip Clayton. All focused in different ways on the idea of emergence, of complex properties emerging out of natural laws. For Peacocke, the order that appears out of simple laws (such as the creation of the Earth and intelligent human beings) is the action of God working through creation. Davies focused on how in the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory the human mind in some way creates order in the universe (by making the wave function collapse).[note 1] For Davies, this panentheism is distinct from deism (the idea that God created systems and then took his hands off the wheel) because God specifically set up the rules of the universe so the laws would unfold in a way that involved co-creation of the universe by the human mind.[1] There is a commonality with the Anthropic principle (which Davies is also a proponent of) in the supposition that God created a set of natural laws finely tuned for production of the wonder that is human beings, and God shows himself/herself/itself through these laws rather than via miracles. Yet this doesn't answer the alternative, that everything might just be coincidence.

Solving one particular problem[edit]

In many of the cosmological arguments, there is no mention of what God used to make the universe. This is often referred to by the Latin phrase creatio ex materia, creation from existing materials. While creation is often thought as being entirely creatio ex nihilo, or creation from nothing, the central problem is that most analogies, supporting arguments, and even the very definition of "cause" itself — all used to support creation — rely exclusively on creatio ex materia examples.[2] The analogy that a painting implies a painter, for example, makes no reference to the fact that it also implies paints, pigments, brushes, solvents, and a canvas, or whatever tools you wish to visualise as associated with a painting. Panentheism and the interpretation that God turned itself into the universe goes some way to providing an answer to this. "God", in this definition, forms all of or part of the raw materials for the universe, satisfying some degree of an ex materia condition.

See also[edit]

  • Pantheism — the statement that all things are god. There is no god outside of the Creation (universe), and therefore there is nothing to worship but one's self and all of the universe at the same time.


  1. This is a misinterpretation of what the equations actually say. The consciousness-causes-collapse interpretation was historically advocated by serious scientists, such as John von Neumann,Wikipedia but is now a minority view even within the Copenhagen interpretation.


  1. Culp, John, "Panentheism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2020 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
  2. Theoretical Bullshit (31 July 2011). "Scott Clifton discusses the idea at great length". YouTube. Retrieved 23 February 2014.