Keith Hunt - The "ISMS" Restitution of All

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The "ISMS"

The ideas of men about ...

For you that like to try and get your mind around the "isms" -
Keith Hunt.


Alex Ciurana, M.T.S.

     It is a vast sea of ideas, ponderings, and theories, that
comprises the science of natural reason known as philosophy.
Within its waters, one can find seemingly every possible view
concerning every possible matter. A few of these views, under the
broad category of God and the world, will herein be discussed.
The most common worldviews have been chosen: naturalism,
pantheism, and theism.

Pillars of Naturalism:

     Sigmund Freud. Karl Marx and Charles Darwin are considered
the pillars of modern western thought They differed in many ways
but had one ming in common - they were reductionists who claimed
that all higher realms of existence could be explained by lower
natural causes. They were the pillars of naturalism.

     Naturalism is a worldview without God. It has no need of
such an element. This is because naturalism maintains that all
that exists does so by purely "naturalistic" means. This would
involve processes that are inherent in the things themselves. For
this reason, macro-evolutionary thought is dominant in
naturalism, as is a cataclysmic beginning of the cosmos. With its
elimination of the supernatural and exaltation of science,
naturalism is a safe haven for the atheist.

     On the opposite end of the spectrum we find pantheism.
While naturalism snickers, "There is no God," pantheism quietly
responds, "All is God, God is all." To the pantheist, there is no
distinction between God and the world. God can be found as
everything - a rose or a cigarette butt, the laugh of a child, or
the snarl of a murderer. Given such examples, it is
understandable why pantheism also incorporates non-dualistic
tenets. That is, separations such as good and evil, right and
wrong, black and white, do not exist in God or ultimate reality
and, therefore, do not exist at all. They are simply products of
ignorance. The pantheistic worldview is the foundation of many
religious sects such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and New Age.

     Pantheism (or pandeism) is the belief that the universe as a
whole is God ("pan" meaning "all" and "theism" meaning "belief in
god or gods"). The two, deism and pantheism, are often confused
with each other for understandable reasons. Both deism and
pantheism are rational attempts to understand our Creator through
observation of the naturaluniverse. They differ in the subtle
distinction between seeing the universe as being divine verses
seeing the universe as a miracle and the primary ndications of
the divine. Sometimes pantheists will use the term "pandeism" to
underscore that they share with the deists the idea that God is
not a personal God who desires to be worshipped.

     "Scientific pantheists" differ from traditional pantheists
in that they reject the idea of a conscious universe but they
still distinguish themselves from atheists in their feeling of
reverence for nature.

     In sharp contrast to both naturalism and pantheism stands

     Theistic evolution acknowledges intelligent design, but the
Designer's involvement extends from virtually none at all in the
Deist position, in which God is limited to initial creation of
the universe only, to the full theistic position. At the full
theistic end of the involvement spectrum, God is responsible for
directing evolution of one species to another in a series of
steps, while the last of these steps was the creation of humanoid
characteristics in selected anthropoid bodies (Adam and Eve).

     Baden Powell took the theistic position and wrote a glowing
review indicating how much greater God was from Darwin's
evolutionary viewpoint than from questionable Jewish records. A
few years ealier the church would have condemned Powell as a
heretic, but in 1869, although it was controversial, his view was

     The belief in a personal God that is both creator and
sustainer of all that exists makes it a distinct worldview.
Distinct from naturalism in that it affirms the existence of God
and the dependence of all that exists upon that God. And distinct
from pantheism in that it affirms God is transcendent from His
creation. Therefore, theism steadfastly declares, "God is!" But
He is not the rose, or the cigarette, or the laugh, or the snarl.
He is, as Karl Barth maintained, "wholly other."

     It is obvious that, for the Christian, theism is the only
worldview that best articulates Christianity. To be sure, there
have been those who have adopted naturalistic nuances to explain
the mystery of origins, but in so doing they have become theistic
evolutionists - a strange mixture of evolutionary theory and
faith. And, to be sure, there have been those who have adopted
pantheistic postulates in a lust for esoteric experiences, but in
so doing they have become armchair mystics exchanging the
authority of Scripture for warm fuzzies.

     As a follower of God's Word, it is clear to this author that
deviations from theism (Christian theism particularly) bring
negative consequences. For the naturalist reaps only hopelessness
from the certainty of death. While the pantheistic Hindu believes
everything is sacred and, therefore, cannot feed his starving
children, though he can afford to pamper one very fat cow. It is
the Christian alone who dwells in the safety of right knowledge.

     For there are many types of knowledge but not all find their
source in God. And it is precisely this wherein the danger lies.

     This brings us to one timeless question: How do we know what
we think we know? Enter the philosophical arena of
"epistemology": the study of the nature of knowledge. It is a
discipline that intrigues the religious and non-religious alike.
Our decisions, convictions, and expectations are largely based on
knowledge. Therefore, the validity and origin of knowledge is an
important pondering not just for the philosopher but for every
thinking person - which, necessarily, would include every person,
although some would not make good models of rational beings.

     Epistemology ( Gk. "episteme" knowledge) is a branch of
philosophy that investigates the origin and nature of human
     In epistemology, Continental philosophers during the first
quarter of the 20th centuary were preoccupied with the problem of
overcoming the apparent gap between the knower and the known.

     Within a short treatment of "How do we know what we think we
know?" two main paradigms surface: a closed system and an open
system. For the most part, one can relagate the naturalist (i.e.,
the anti-supernaturalist) to a closed system of epistemological
origins and the theist (i.e., the supernaturalist) to an open
system of epistemological origins. (The main intention here is
not to exclude the pantheist from the "supernaturalist" category
but, rather, to simply funnel down the issue now to a strictly
theistic treatment). In other words, the naturalist believes that
all knowledge originates from within the universe. No knowledge
exists outside of material reality. However, to the
supernaturalist, knowledge is not limited to the "here and now"
but can also come from outside the material realm, namely, the
divine realm. This is typically termed "revelation" within
religious and, particularly, Christian circles.

     The naturalist's origin of knowledge, boasts of scientific
enlightenment and, a final debunking of religious superstition,
but at what cost? For in order to preclude any and all
super-human deposits of knowledge, the naturalist embraces
evolution as true in regards to not only the development of
species, but also in every other matter, including knowledge.
     Thus, in the final analysis, the naturalist must succumb to
the realization that every postulate, theory, formula, and fact
is merely the refined fumbling of a turbo-charged ape brain. It
is this manner of doubt, so intrinsic to an evolutionary model of
epistemology that eventually gave rise to "nihilism," the
ultimate negation of knowing.

[Nihilism n. 1 a) the denial of the existence of any basis for
knowledge or truth. b) the general rejection of customary beliefs
in morality, religion, etc. 2. the belief that there is no
meaning or purpose in existence.
Webster's New World Diction]

     In contrast, the theist experiences no such epistemological
quagmire. For though he may, have to bear the taunts of being
antiquated and unscientific, the worldview, he holds provides a
straighter line between two epistemological points. These two
points could be described as 1) humans seem to know stuff and 2)
how can this be? Within an open system framework the response is
clear: We know stuff (e.g., universals such as morals and
mathematics) because a Power/Person (God) outside of the system
has either imbued us with the knowledge or revealed to us the
knowledge. In this manner universals have a comprehensive origin.
Furthermore, the reason something is universal -whether
universally moral or universally effectual - is because these
universals has made them self-authenticating, so that their
contradiction is revolted against and perceived as absurd. Thus,
knowledge has its ultimate source not in the shifting sands of
scientific enterprise or in the fragile mind of man, but in 'One'
immune to error. Knowledge, therefore, can be tested and then

     It is the theist that enjoys such benefits and security of
mind. Specifically, it is Christian theism that engenders an
adventurous atmosphere wherein the wonders of nature, great and
small, may be sought out. There can be no scientific method
without a methodical Creator. There can be no theorizing and
philosophizing if only chaos and chance are causal agents; such
modern "wisdom" is the stuff of primitive superstition.

     In the final analysis, the Christian worldview simply
provides more explanatory scope than other views concerning the
issues of ultimate reality and the significance of life. One
should embark on a journey of truth-seeking only if there is a
God who reveals truth. If not, one will not find truth, only more
questions and, in the end, despair.

     These different perceptions of God and the universe might be
understood when arranged in their relationship to one another:

Strong Deism: "The universe proves a Creator."

Deism: "God is the Creator of the universe. We aren't part of God
and neither is the world. God is a separate being unto Itself."

Transcendentalism: "God is the 'Oversoul' or the sum total of
consciousness in the universe. We are all extensions of God."

Pantheism: (or pandeism) "God is the entire universe. All things,
living and otherwise, are part of God."

Scientific Pantheism: "God is the universe but the universe
doesn't have a conscious will of its own."

Agnosticism: "I cannot know." 

Atheism: "What god?"

Strong atheism: "There is no god."

Notice: As you proceed through the list, that God becomes an
increasing part of the universe until, with scientific pantheism,
it becomes a synonym for the universe itself.


Alex Chrome is the Senior Pastor of the Houston English Church of
God (Seventh Day) in Galena Park. Texas.

Suggested Reading (conservative Arguments) 

"The Universe Next Door" by James W. Sire 
"Evangelical Essentials" by David W. Edwards and John Stott 
"Worlds Apart" by Norman Geisler and William D. Watkins 
"The Coming Evangelical Crisis" edited by John H. Armstrong

(Eclectic Works - more analytical than apologetic)

"Constructive Christian Theology in the Worldwide Church" edited
by William Barr
"Christian Critics Religion and the Impasse in Modern American
Social Thought" by Eugene McCarraher 
"Meaning and Modernity: Religion, Polity, and Self" edited by
Richard Madsen, et al


This article was published in the December 2007 ACTS magazine, a
publication of the General Churches of God, Seventh Day,
Meridian, ID, USA.

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