Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Open Theism & Process Theology, Part 1/2

In working through Roger Olson's latest article on Process Theology I have attempted to simplify a rather difficult and confusing subject by adding highlights, bulleted sub-paragraphs and divisions, and Wikipedia's all too glossy definitions to Dr. Olson's very specific (unglossy) terminology. I think this should then better encourage the newly initiate to understand the philosophic and ontological differences in better distinction with one another.

Further, these areas all fall into the realm of ontology which is that branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being and essence, and in this case, God's being and essence. Consequently, though more could be said on each subject the definitions have been limited to the topic of ontology alone (not free will, not soteriology, not futurism, etc).

R.E. Slater
August 14, 2011

*Open Theism & Process Theology, Part 2/2 may be found here -
(for additional discussions see sidebar under "Theism")

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Process Theology
(with special reference to Terence Fretheim)

by Roger Olson
on August 13, 2011

Some time ago a visitor to this blog listed Lutheran Old Testament scholar Terence Fretheim among process theologians. I challenged him on that and he asked me to read Fretheim’s book Creation Untamed: The Bible, God, and Natural Disasters (Baker, 2010); he claimed it would convince me that Fretheim is a process theologian and not just a garden variety open theist. (Fretheim was an open theist before that label existed; his work has inspired many open theists and they have used it to support their belief that the Bible portrays God as not knowing the future exhaustively and infallibly because the future is not yet fully settled.)

I have known Terry Fretheim casually for years. He taught at Luther Theological Seminary when I taught at Bethel College (now Bethel University) and we rubbed elbows occasionally at various events. I thought I knew his theology fairly well, so I suggested that IF the person claiming he is a process theologian would send me the book in question I would read it and respond here. It has taken some time, but I have now read the book and here is my response.

First, we need to agree on what “process theology” means. As with so many theological labels, it has sometimes been stretched far beyond its original meaning. I’m confident my interlocutor here understood its true, historical meaning and was not confusing open theism with process theology. However, I can’t count on everyone knowing the difference.

As many of you know, one of my worst pet peeves (i.e., that I most abhor) is the all-too-common tendency for meaningful theological terms to get stretched out of shape to the point they are virtually meaningless. One example is “panentheism.” For about a century it had a relatively clear and distinct meaning rooted in its use by the philosopher who coined it: Karl Friedrich Christian Krause (1781-1832). Panentheism was not just any alternative to classical theism with its doctrines of divine simplicity, strong immutability, impassibility, etc. No, panentheism was, until recently (!) only views that (i) denied creatio ex nihilo and (ii) regarded God and the world as interdependent realities–NOT by God’s volition but necessarily. The classical statement of panentheism was Hegel’s “Without the world, God is not God.” Another was Whitehead’s “It is as true to say God creates the world as that the world creates God."*

(*this is an instance of Christian dualism like other simplistic dualistic forms: good and evil (God as good, world as evil), yin and yang, light and dark, etc. - res)


 ~ Definitions are limited to the topic of Ontology alone ~
(not free will, not soteriology, not futurism)

Proponents: Karl Friedrich Krause, Hegel

- denies ex nihilo creatio (creation from nothing)
- God and the world are interdependent realities
- God is not all powerful
- God did not create the world, it was created when God came into being
- Without the world there is no God
- God created the world as at the same time the world created God
- God contains the universe but is not identical with it
- the world is a part of God and God is greater than his creation
- a derivative of pantheism:* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pantheism
- found in mystical Eastern Orthodoxy and Western Process Theology

* Pantheism is the view that the Universe (Nature) and God (or divinity) are identical. Pantheists thus do not believe in a personal, anthropomorphic or creator God. The word derives from the Greek (pan) meaning "all" and the Greek (theos) meaning "God". As such, Pantheism denotes the idea that "God" is best seen as a process of relating to the Universe. Although there are divergences within Pantheism, the central ideas found in almost all versions are the Cosmos as an all-encompassing unity and the sacredness of Nature.

In Pantheism, God is identical with the universe, but in Panentheism God lies within and also beyond or outside of the universe (see "Wiki References" further below in this article for more).

(Classic) Theism

- God's existence ever was and ever will be
- His form has no "source" other than himself
  (speaks to God's aseity: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aseity)
- God is incapable of being other than He is (immutable*)
- God is incapable of suffering harm (impassable: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impassable)
- God is a personal being and not an inanimate object
- God created the world (affirming ex nihilo creation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ex_nihilo)
- God is all powerful (omnipotence: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omnipotence)
- God's relationship with the world is voluntary
- Conceives of God as personal, present and active in the governance
   and organization of the world and the universe

*an immutable object is an object whose state cannot be modified after it is created.
 This is in contrast to a mutable object, which can be modified after it is created


In recent years “panentheism” has come to be used of almost ANY alternative to strong classical theism that emphasizes God’s aseity (noun. Metaphysics. Existence originating from and having no source other than itself) and impassibility (verb. incapable of suffering harm). (See for example the volume In Whom We Live and Move and Have Our Being: Panentheistic Reflections on God’s Presence in a Scientific World (Eerdmans, 2004).

Back to process theology

Unfortunately, some opponents of open theism have worked very hard to confuse open theism with process theology and too many people with very little knowledge of either one have bought into that false identification. In order to see and understand the clear, stark differences read Searching for an Adequate God: A Dialogue between Process and Free Will Theists (Eerdmans, 2000). I know some silly people who have assumed that just because process theologians and open theists had a dialogue they must be, at least, close in their views of God. Nothing could be further from the truth! The “dialogue” turns into a debate and, in the end, these two views have almost nothing in common–below the surface. For example, ALL the “free will theists” (open theists) affirm creatio ex nihilo and God’s omnipotence while ALL the process theologians deny them.


 ~ Definitions are limited to the topic of Ontology alone ~
(not free will, not soteriology, not futurism)

Process Theology
(there are many forms of panentheism and process theology is but one type)

Proponents: Alfred North Whitehead, Charles Hartshorne, Paul Sponheim, Daniel Day Williams, Norman Pittenger, David Griffin, Robert Mellert, Joe Bracken, John B. Cobb, David Ray Griffin, Jurgen Moltmann, Paul Fiddes, I. A. Dorner

- denies ex nihilo creatio (creation from nothing)
- God contains the universe but is not identical with it
- the world is a part of God and God is greater than his creation
- denies God's omnipotence
- God and the world are necessarily ontologically interdependent (panentheism)
- God's relation to the world is involuntary
- thus, this interdependence has nothing to do with God's voluntarily self-limitations
- therefore, God is essentially limited and thus not omnipotent
- thus, God cannot act unilaterally coercively to cause events in a supernatural way
- affirms "free will" both God's, man's and creation, as separate "forces" from each other
- God's will is cast in terms of persuasion and influence

Open Theism
(ontologically similar to Classic Theism)

Proponents: Terence Fretheim

- affirms ex nihilo creation
- affirms God's omnipotence
- affirms God's voluntary interdependence  to the created world
- affirms God's self-limitation to the created world
- grants "free will" to man and creation from within God and not separate from God
- differs from classic theism in terms of God's omniscience (which is not the purview of this discussion herein; please refer to other articles on this web blog that discuss "Open Theism")

(see "Wiki References" further below for more definitions on
Process Theology and Open Theism)


So how shall we get a handle on what process theology is? That’s crucial to settling the question whether Fretheim is a process theologian, isn’t it? (I’m tempted to say–just compare Fretheim’s [open] theology with his former colleague Paul Sponheim’s theology! Sponheim is a well known process theologian. Anyone who can’t tell the difference between their ideas of God is not reading them carefully.)

So what do I know about process theology? During my seminary education I took an external course (3 credit semester seminar) on it from a process theologian. (He was not well known and now I’ve forgotten his name; he taught theology at Augustana College and for the Luther Seminary extension there called Shalom.) We read a book of essays by leading process theologians (Process Philosophy and Christian Thought edited by Delwin Brown and others) and a couple books by John Cobb including God AND the World and Christ in a Pluralistic Age. For my research paper for that course I read books by various process theologians including Daniel Day Williams, Norman Pittenger, David Griffin, Robert Mellert, Joe Bracken, et al. Later I found THE brief, definitive volume explaining the basics of process theology in a way anyone can understand (and recommended it to students and anyone interested in process theology hundreds of times): Process Theology: An Introductory Exposition edited by John Cobb and David Griffin (1976). I consider it authoritative even if somewhat simple. Of course, all these theologians interact with Whitehead and Hartshorne–some of whose writings I have read (e.g., The Divine Relativity and Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes).

So what has my years-long study of process theology yielded in terms of its necessary features and contours? In spite of recent misuses of the term (and concept), historically process theology has ALWAYS meant belief that God and the world are necessarily ontologically interdependent (panentheism) and that this interdependence is NOT due to any voluntary self-limitation on God’s part. God is essentially limited [and] not omnipotent and CANNOT act unilaterally coercively to cause events in a supernatural way. (I could add that most process theologians are not classical trinitarians and do not believe in the classical hypostatic union or many other elements of traditional Christian orthodoxy.)

Now, can someone dig up a person who CALLS HIMSELF or HERSELF a “process theologian” or who CLAIMS to hold to “process theology” and disagrees with those elements I have called essential to it? Of course. There are always exceptions–especially when a movement has no headquarters or magisterium which process theology certainly does not. Some people have picked up certain elements of it and combined those with other things and come up with something they consider a hybrid. But I would not consider that true process theology. In fact, I would deny that any theology can be counted as process theology if it believes God’s relationship with the world, however intimate, is voluntary. [Which falls] into that category [of] theologians who believe God and the world are in some way interdependent BECAUSE GOD HAS CHOSEN IT TO BE THAT WAY (but didn’t have to) - see Jurgen Moltmann, Paul Fiddes, I. A. Dorner (19th century mediating theologian), Wolfhart Pannenberg (about whose theology I wrote my dissertation and with whom I studied in Munich) and many, many others.

That’s the category Terence Fretheim CLEARLY falls into and a careful reading of Creation Untamed undeniably reveals it. On page 26 and elsewhere he refers to God’s self-limitation as the reason for God’s interdependence with creation. Sprinkled throughout the book are statements like “God makes God’s self vulnerable” (133) and “God is a power-sharing God–for the sake of genuine relationship.” (32)

I do not see how anyone with correct knowledge of process theology can read Fretheim’s book and come away thinking it is process theology or he is a process theologian. Nowhere does Fretheim imply or suggest (to say nothing of claim) that God is less than omnipotent or that God’s relationship with the world is [directly or inferentially] reciprocal in any necessary ontological way. Every limitation of God’s power is based on God’s free choice for the sake of genuine relatedness.

(By the way, I agree entirely with Fretheim’s theology (open theism) of God and the world in which he affirms the power of intercessory prayer (for example). For him prayer does NOT merely change the person praying; it opens up real possibilities for God to act to change circumstances in the world. Fretheim does not use the terms “supernatural” or “miracle,” but everything he says is consistent with them).

I thank whoever sent me the book; it was an inspiring read. But it is not process theology. It might be open theism, but, as I have argued over and over to anyone who will listen, they are not the same.



Russ says:
  • I asked Moltmann if he is an open theist (first we discussed what that meant) and he affirmed he is. He said “But of course! That is part of the kenosis of God!” (viz., that God does not know the future exhaustively).
  • I don’t know [whether] Fiddes is an open theist.
  • Surprisingly, Dorner might have been. Claude Welch, perhaps the leading Dorner scholar in America, described him that way in Protestant Thought in the 19th Century (volume 1).
  • Pannenberg is most definitely NOT an open theist [(nor is he a process theologian)], but his aphorism “God does not yet exist” makes his theism anything but classical! (I wrote my dissertation on that Pannenbergian sentence!)
  • None of these are process theologians. John Cobb once thought Pannenberg was a process thinker, but Pannenberg cleared that up decisively and their friendship suffered some because of Pannenberg’s distancing himself from process thought.

Russ says:
I took that panentheism is part of process theology, but that process theology goes “beyond” panentheism in its further explanation of God.


Joseph says:
It might be worthwhile to mention that Terence Fretheim does not claim the label “open theist.” I have heard him say in a public forum in response to questions posed to him concerning open theism, “I am not an open theist.” I well understand that his theology falls into the stream of thought that is labeled “open theism” (and I am confident he is also aware of this). Nevertheless, he does not see himself engaging in systematic theology, and as such he does not adopt systematic labels for himself. He does consider himself “Lutheran,” but this is an ecclesial label indicative of the tradition within which he works, not a theological one. I think applying the label “open theist” to Fretheim assumes he operates under certain assumptions about the nature of the unity of Scripture that are actually foreign from his methodological assumptions. In this respect, it is inaccurate to speak of Fretheim as an open theist.

  • That raises a host of questions about how labels should be used. What if someone says “I believe in TULIP but I’m not a Calvinist?” Okay, of course the person has a right to reject any label. But people discussing his theology also have a right to call him a Calvinist because that’s what makes someone a Calvinist. I do try to be fair about my use of labels and from now on I’ll do my best to mention that Terry does not accept the label “open theist.” (The same is true, by the way, of Dallas Willard who, in my judgment, holds a view identical to open theism but does not want to be labeled that.) Some time ago I talked to two leading Arminian theologians–Thomas Oden and I. Howard Marshall. Both rejected the label “Arminian.” But both are Methodists and their soteriologies are most definitely consistent with, if not identical to, Arminius’! What to make of this rejection of labels by some people? My late friend Stan Grenz was an Arminian, but when I told him so he said “I know, but don’t tell anybody.” Hmmmmm. Okay. I didn’t while he was still with us. But I just don’t understand this problem with labels.


Wiki References

Panentheism - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panentheism

Panentheism (from Greek πᾶν (pân) "all"; ἐν (en) "in"; and θεός (theós) "God"; "all-in-God") is a belief system which posits that God personally exists, interpenetrates every part of nature and timelessly extends beyond it. Panentheism is differentiated from pantheism, which holds that God is not a distinct being but is synonymous with the universe.

Simply put, in pantheism, God is the whole; however, in panentheism, the whole is in God. This means that the universe in the first formulation is practically the whole itself. In the second formulation, the universe and God are not ontologically equivalent. In panentheism, God is viewed as the eternal animating force behind the universe. Some versions suggest that the universe is nothing more than the manifest part of God. In some forms of panentheism, the cosmos exists within God, who in turn "pervades" or is "in" the cosmos. While pantheism asserts that God and the universe are coextensive, panentheism claims that God is greater than the universe. In addition, some forms indicate that the universe is contained within God. Much Hindu thought is highly characterized by panentheism and pantheism [ ...as is American Indian legends of the Great Spirit].

Process Theology - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Process_theology

1 - God is not omnipotent in the sense of being coercive. The divine has a power of persuasion rather than coercion. Process theologians interpret the classical doctrine of omnipotence as involving force, and suggest instead a forbearance in divine power. "Persuasion" in the causal sense means that God does not exert unilateral control.

2 - Reality is not made up of material substances that endure through time, but serially-ordered events, which are experiential in nature. These events have both a physical and mental aspect. All experience (male, female, atomic, and botanical) is important and contributes to the ongoing and interrelated process of reality.

3 - The universe is characterized by process and change carried out by the agents of free will. Self-determination characterizes everything in the universe, not just human beings. God cannot totally control any series of events or any individual, but God influences the creaturely exercise of this universal free will by offering possibilities. To say it another way, God has a will in everything, but not everything that occurs is God's will.

4 - God contains the universe but is not identical with it (panentheism, not pantheism or pandeism). Some also call this "theocosmocentrism" to emphasize that God has always been related to some world or another.

5 - Because God interacts with the changing universe, God is changeable (that is to say, God is affected by the actions that take place in the universe) over the course of time. However, the abstract elements of God (goodness, wisdom, etc.) remain eternally solid.

6 - Charles Hartshorne believes that people do not experience subjective (or personal) immortality, but they do have objective immortality because their experiences live on forever in God, who contains all that was. Other process theologians believe that people do have subjective experience after bodily death.

Open Theism - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_theism

Open theism is a recent theological movement that has developed within evangelical and post-evangelical Protestant Christianity as a response to certain ideas that are related to the synthesis of Greek philosophy and Christian theology. Several of these ideas within classical theism (a designation which is not to be taken as inclusive of all of orthodox theism) state that God is immutable, impassible, and timeless. For several versions of classical theism, God fully determines the future; thus, humanity does not have libertarian free will, or, if free, that its freedom must necessarily be compatible with God's determining actions. Open theists argue that these attributes do not belong to the God of the Bible and are at odds with personhood.
Openness is based on God as the Living God. The five most fundamental attributes of God are that God is Living, Personal, Relational, Good, and Loving. These faithfully represent God the way that Scripture presents Him, and starkly contrast with the Greek and Roman philosophical construction of God.[2]
Practically, open theism makes the case for a personal God who is open to influence through the prayers, decisions, and actions of people. Although many specific outcomes of the future are unknowable, God's foreknowledge of the future includes that which is determined as time progresses often in light of free decisions that have been made and what has been sociologically determined. So God knows everything that has been determined as well as what has not yet been determined but remains open. As such, God is able to anticipate the future, yet remains fluid to respond and react to prayer and decisions made either contrary or advantageous to God's plan or presuppositions.

Gregory A. Boyd claims that "open theism" is an inappropriate term since the position posits more about the nature of time and reality than it does about God itself. This is to say that open theists do not believe that God does not know the future, but rather that the future does not exist to be known by anyone [God or otherwise]. For the open theist the future simply has not happened yet, not for anyone, and thus is unknowable in the common sense. Thus, to say that God does not know the future is akin to saying that God does not know about square circles. In this understanding, it could be technically wiser to refer to the view as "open futurism".


Theism - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theism

Theism, in the broadest sense, is the belief that at least one deity exists.[1] In a more specific sense, theism refers to a doctrine concerning the nature of a monotheistic God and God's relationship to the universe.[2][3] Theism, in this specific sense, conceives of God as personal, present and active in the governance and organization of the world and the universe.

The use of the word theism as indicating a particular doctrine of monotheism arose in the wake of the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century to contrast with the then emerging deism that contended that God, though transcendent and supreme, did not intervene in the natural world and could be known rationally but not via revelation.[4]

The term theism derives from the Greek theos meaning "god". The term theism was first used by Ralph Cudworth (1617–88).[5]

Atheism is rejection of theism in the broadest sense of theism; i.e. the rejection of belief that there is even one deity.[6] Rejection of the narrower sense of theism can take forms such as deism, pantheism, and polytheism.

The claim that the existence of any deity is unknown is agnosticism, and can be compatible with theism and with atheism.[7][8][9] The positive assertion of knowledge, either of the existence of gods or the absence of gods, can also be attributed to some theists and some atheists. Put simply theism and atheism deal with belief, and agnosticism deals with (absence of) knowledge; they are not mutually exclusive as they deal with different domains.




Within polytheism there are hard and soft varieties:
Polytheism is also divided according to how the individual deities are regarded:
  • Henotheism: The viewpoint/belief that there may be more than one deity, but worship of only one of them.
  • Kathenotheism: The viewpoint/belief that there is more than one deity, but only one deity is worshipped at a time or ever, and another may be worthy of worship at another time or place. If they are worshipped one at a time, then each is supreme in turn.
  • Monolatrism: The belief that there may be more than one deity, but that only one is worthy of being worshipped. Most of the modern monotheistic religions may have begun as monolatric ones.


Pantheism and panentheism

  • Pantheism: The belief that the physical universe is equivalent to a god or gods, and that there is no division between a Creator and the substance of its creation.[12] Examples include many forms of Saivism.
  • Panentheism: Like Pantheism, the belief that the physical universe is joined to a god or gods. However, it also believes that a god or gods are greater than the material universe. Examples include most forms of Vaishnavism.
Some people find the distinction between these two beliefs as ambiguous and unhelpful, while others see it as a significant point of division.[13]



  • Deism is the belief that at least one deity exists and created the world, but that the creator(s) does/do not alter the original plan for the universe.[14]
Deism typically rejects supernatural events (such as prophecies, miracles, and divine revelations) prominent in organized religion. Instead, Deism holds that religious beliefs must be founded on human reason and observed features of the natural world, and that these sources reveal the existence of a supreme being as creator.[15]
  • Pandeism: The belief that a god preceded the universe and created it, but is now equivalent with it.
  • Panendeism combines deism with panentheism, believing the universe is a part (but not the whole) of deity
  • Polydeism: The belief that multiple gods existed, but do not intervene with the universe.


Autotheism (Apotheosis)

While a specific definition of theism may exclude autotheism, it is included by the most general definition. Autotheism is the viewpoint that, whether divinity is also external or not, it is inherently within 'oneself' and that one has a duty to become perfect (or divine). This can either be in a selfish, wilful, egotistical way or a selfless way following the implications of statements attributed to ethical, philosophical, and religious leaders (such as Jesus,[16][17] Buddha, Mahavira and Socrates[citation needed]).

Autotheism can also refer to the belief that one's self is a deity (often the only one), within the context of subjectivism. This is a fairly extreme version of subjectivism, however.


Value-judgment theisms

  • Eutheism is the viewpoint/belief that a deity(ies) is wholly benevolent; dystheism allows for there being evil in the divine realm.
  • Maltheism is the belief that a deity exists, but that god is wholly malicious and abusive.

  1. ^ "Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary". http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/theism. Retrieved 2011-03-18.
  2. ^ The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Second Edition and The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions (1997).
  3. ^ Encyclopedia Britannica.
  4. ^ John Orr (English Deism: Its Roots and Its Fruits, 1934) explains that before the seventeenth century theism and deism were interchangeable terms but during the course of the seventeenth century they gained separate and mutually exclusive meanings (see deism)
  5. ^ Halsey, William; Robert H. Blackburn, Sir Frank Francis (1969). Louis Shores. ed. Collier's Encyclopedia. 22 (20 ed.). Crowell-Collier Educational Corporation. pp. 266–7.
  6. ^
    • Nielsen, Kai (2010). "Atheism". Encyclopædia Britannica. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/40634/atheism. Retrieved 2011-01-26. "Atheism, in general, the critique and denial of metaphysical beliefs in God or spiritual beings.... Instead of saying that an atheist is someone who believes that it is false or probably false that there is a God, a more adequate characterization of atheism consists in the more complex claim that to be an atheist is to be someone who rejects belief in God for the following reasons (which reason is stressed depends on how God is being conceived)...".
    • Edwards, Paul (2005) [1967]. "Atheism". In Donald M. Borchert. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Vol. 1 (2nd ed.). MacMillan Reference USA (Gale). p. 359. ISBN 0028657802. "On our definition, an 'atheist' is a person who rejects belief in God, regardless of whether or not his reason for the rejection is the claim that 'God exists' expresses a false proposition. People frequently adopt an attitude of rejection toward a position for reasons other than that it is a false proposition. It is common among contemporary philosophers, and indeed it was not uncommon in earlier centuries, to reject positions on the ground that they are meaningless. Sometimes, too, a theory is rejected on such grounds as that it is sterile or redundant or capricious, and there are many other considerations which in certain contexts are generally agreed to constitute good grounds for rejecting an assertion.". (page 175 in 1967 edition)
  7. ^ Carroll, Robert (2009-02-22). "agnosticism". The Skeptic's Dictionary. skepdic.com. http://skepdic.com/agnosticism.html. Retrieved 2011-02-02.
  8. ^ Hepburn, Ronald W. (2005) [1967]. "Agnosticism". In Donald M. Borchert. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Vol. 1 (2nd ed.). MacMillan Reference USA (Gale). p. 92. ISBN 0028657802. "In the most general use of the term, agnosticism is the view that we do not know whether there is a God or not.". (page 56 in 1967 edition)
  9. ^ Rowe, William L. (1998). "Agnosticism". In Edward Craig. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9780415073103. http://books.google.ca/books?id=VQ-GhVWTH84C&pg=PA122&dq=agnosticism+routledge&hl=en&ei=huJITffyII6CsQOZ2eCkCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCgQ6AEwAA. "In the popular sense, an agnostic is someone who neither believes nor disbelieves in God, whereas an atheist disbelieves in God. In the strict sense, however, agnosticism is the view that human reason is incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify either the belief that God exists or the belief that God does not exist. In so far as one holds that our beliefs are rational only if they are sufficiently supported by human reason, the person who accepts the philosophical position of agnosticism will hold that neither the belief that God exists nor the belief that God does not exist is rational.".
  10. ^ “Monotheism”, in Britannica, 15th ed. (1986), 8:266.
  11. ^ AskOxford: polytheism
  12. ^ "Philosophical Dictionary: Pacifism-Particular". http://www.philosophypages.com/dy/p.htm#pant.
  13. ^ "What is Panentheism?". About.Com: Agnosticism/Atheism. http://atheism.about.com/library/FAQs/religion/blrel_theism_panen.htm. Retrieved 2011-03-18.
  14. ^ AskOxford: deism
  15. ^ Webster's New International Dictionary of the English Language (G. & C. Merriam, 1924) defines deism as "belief in the existence of a personal god, with disbelief in Christian teaching, or with a purely rationalistic interpretation of Scripture".
  16. ^ Matthew 5:38 "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect"
  17. ^ Luke 17:21 "The Kingdom of God is within you"