Not long ago, an article was shared by the team at Answers in Genesis on the topic of Deism. I shared this on my twitter timeline and was intrigued by a response I received:
I have to be honest–until this point, I had never heard of Pandeism! And here I was receiving a twitter message from Pandeism itself, seemingly! I have, of course, been exposed both to deistic and Pantheistic belief systems, and have not found the argument for either convincing.
But, in the world we live in, people have ideas and ideas have consequences. Maybe this idea, a combination of two disproven ideas, actually has some weight to it? Perhaps in this sense, two wrongs DO make a right?
Either way, as Christians, we must learn compassion. While there may be some, I do not feel that all who adopt a worldview such as this do so knowingly to escape the notion of the Christian God.
Therefore, we must keep our conversations seasoned with salt, and take an objective look at these ideas. We can do this by internally critiquing a worldview; that is, following it to its logical conclusion, and determining whether this is consistent with our experience.
That is what we aim to do with Pandeism.
What is Pandeism?
Pandeism is best explained as the marrying of two worldviews as discussed earlier: Pantheism and Deism.
In the Pantheistic worldview, the universe (and everything in it) is God. In other words, this is not a theistic worldview in the sense of there being one true Creator God. You are god, I am god; the washing machine is god! As such, this god is not personal, and neither is he anthropomorphic.
In the deistic worldview, god is also not personal. He is seen as some sort of divine, galactic clock-maker who wound up his creation in the beginning and essentially just let it go. In other words, there is no interference with the creation at all–no answered prayer, no divine intervention, no miracles, etc.
In the Pandeistic worldview, we find an impersonal god who indeed created, but in doing so, lost consciousness and became the universe. So the creating of the universe by this god was actually accomplished in the becoming of the universe itself.
Though we will unpack this later, the fundamental flaw in all of these worldviews seems to be a misdefinition of God.
Another fundamental problem, which again we will unpack later, is the absence of morality in these worldviews. In other words, any moral reasoning seems not only unnecessary but simply impossible. As mentioned, Pantheism brings with the idea that all is god–which would mean that Hitler and Stalin were, at one time, god.
Where is the Proof?
In light of what we know of these worldviews, one must logically ask, “where is the proof?” This question is asked of the Christian God all the time, and therefore I think it is fair to level it against any other belief system that claims to be superior.
Though its tenets may have roots stemming back further than I have been able to trace, it appears that the term “Pandeism” was first coined in the present meaning in 1859 by Moritz Lazarus and Heymann Steinthal.
This worldview necessarily maintains that there has never been and will never be any special revelation from God. The natural revelation is all we have, and thus, we must use our own logic and reasoning to conclude what is true about the nature of the universe.
The inherent contradiction here is that without any special revelation, we have no standard against which to measure what is true. Therefore, I think we could make an early conclusion that Pandeism cannot exist in a world consistent with the law of non-contradiction.
Consider this: fundamental to our knowledge is the concept of truth. God has told us in His revelation (the Bible) about His nature–we know He cannot lie, contradict Himself, is all-knowing, etc. So when we see “laws” in nature that are consistent with what He has told us about Himself, we have no reason to doubt the claim.
The Pandeist could argue that when god became the universe, these laws which reflect his nature were established. But, this explanation is only valid if we know something about that god. In other words, it would be borrowing from the Christian definition of God to simply assume that god is a logical, perfect being without any other special revelation.
Those characteristics are often assumed of a “god-like” being, but what fuels those assumptions if not the Christian definition of God? The Pandeistic god, in its attempt to become the universe and not interfere with the affairs of mankind, has actually eliminated itself from the running by not providing any information about its nature.
An Argument from Silence?
It appears then, that one could arrive at the conclusion of the Pandeistic god only by making arbitrary assumptions.
Absent any special revelation, one must argue from the deafening silence of the universe. Christians, don’t peg me for heresy here–one of my favorite lines of Scripture is “the heavens declare the glory of God.” (Psalm 19:1). The point is that it is only because of Psalm 19:1 that we KNOW the heavens declare the glory of God!
Even before the completion of the biblical canon, God specially revealed Himself to His creation. To be more a bit more succinct, it is not necessarily the “Bible” that is the revelation; rather, it is the Word and therefore the “words” of God (John 1).
But starting with the universe, one could arrive at any number of conclusions, and could never be sure that his set of conclusions was the correct interpretation of the evidence. Plus, in a world where there is no morality, no sin, and no consequences, what exactly is the purpose of life itself, let alone knowing or caring if there is a creator? More on that in a bit.
It seems to me that, at first glance, the notion of Pandeism itself is a philosophical argument from silence, and has little to no philosophical, scientific, or empirically verifiable evidence against which to validate its claims.
Impersonality of the Creator
Perhaps one of the biggest difficulties for Pandeism to overcome is the impersonality of the one who created. Fundamental to the Christian God is His personal nature–it answers the “Why are we here?” question that we will address later.
Throughout the centuries, gods upon gods have been proposed to account for this.
India alone has over 330 million different “gods,” many of which are indeed counted as exclusive and responsible for human nature as we know it and experience it.
I am starting with the premise that in order for a worldview to be coherent, it must make sense of our experience.
I suppose that since the Pandeistic god does not do this (or even attempt to), my bias against impersonal creatorship disqualifies this god from the running for me personally.
Nevertheless, we can explore this a bit further to see if my assumptions are valid.
Is Pandeism Congruent to Our Experience?
Knowing what we know about the world and about ourselves, does Pandeism make sense? Does it comport nicely with what we see when we make new discoveries and experience the world around us?
Let’s look at this from a few different angles:
A universal beginning. Pandeism teaches big bang cosmology. And actually, if Big Bang cosmology were true, provides nice justification for it! Pandeists believe that the Big Bang is the result of the translation of Creator to Universe. Considering the energy required by the Big Bang, it would make sense to have come from an all-powerful god. In effect, this is similar to the Cosmological Argument for God made by many apologists who hold the old earth view.
To quote the Insititute for Pandeism Studies (hereafter referred to as “the institute”), “Like deism, Pandeism accepts scientific evidence of things such as the Big Bang and evolution by natural selection as accurate indicators of the mechanism by which the Universe achieved its current form.”
The argument breaks down on this point. In order for Pandeism to be true, it is entirely dependent upon the scientific “evidence” of both Big Bang cosmology AND evolution, both of which have been refuted scientifically, philosophically, and biblically. To quote the Institute, “Pandeism is notable for explicitly accepting, and even revering, concepts such as chemical abiogenesis and evolution by natural selection, including human evolution from a common ancestor shared with modern apes.” Even if we gave a little leeway for Big Bang cosmology since many evangelical Christians accept it, one cannot grant this to evolutionism.
Evolution is entirely unable to account for our experience, and therefore, so is Pandeism.
A finished creation. According to the Bible, God’s has finished creating (Genesis 2:2). This means that there is no new matter or material to be accounted for. Interestingly enough, we see this concept in the sciences as well. What’s here is here–it can be restructured, reshaped, and reformatted, but the ultimate creating is done.
This is not consistent with Pandeism, although they may claim it to be. According to the Institute, the creative act itself was that of god becoming the universe, and from there god just left it to be. But since Pandeism reveres abiogenesis, the teaching that life can come from non-life, there is no reason to believe that this god has not finished creating.
Consistent laws. Though we will hone in on this later, it is instructive to point out that the Pandeistic god cannot account for the uniformity of nature. There would have to be inherent aspects of this god which would make it be consistent from one day to the next.
This god would have to explain why we have laws such as gravity, and it would have to explain why we expect the future to be reasonably similar to the past. The Pandeist would actually use this as positive evidence for his god–essentially arguing, “Since the universe is orderly, the Dues (the “official” name for the deistic/Pandeistic god) must have been orderly.”
But this no different than the materialist saying, “Since the universe is orderly, it must be the nature of matter.” In both cases, it begs the question of “why?” The reason we can consistently attribute the orderliness of nature to the biblical God is that He has told us about His nature in His Word, and His Word is self-attesting and fully consistent with our experience.
Logical accuracy. In the same way that the Pandeistic god must account for the uniformity of nature, it must also account for the laws of logic and for the ability of humanity to interact and understand things logically.
Interestingly enough, advocates for Pandeism INSIST that it is the very use of logic and reason that makes it the superior view. The problem is that there is no reason to believe that the Pandeistic god was logical and rational other to assume that he was before becoming the universe.
This presents a huge problem for the Pandeist, who holds to the view that his god is, in fact, lacking in vital knowledge!
According to the Institute, “And so our Creator was necessarily lacking in vital knowledge, that being the knowledge of facing and overcoming limitation itself. Can a being that is alone in existence experience fear, much less conquer fear through courage? Can it overcome grief, anger, despair, and experience comfort, contentment, triumph? It can do so only through the existence as a Universe which may come to be populated by beings capable of having these feelings, with no portion of the Creator reserved outside the Creation to assuage these beings to any degree. And so, the lack of such knowledge would virtually compel the Creator to undertake the sacrifice necessary to obtain it, to exist for billions of years as our Universe, as all things in it, as all of us within it.”
So the conundrum stands: (1) Human logic and reason are the vehicles through which one will ultimately come to know the Pandeistic god, but (2) since the Pandeistic god is necessarily lacking in vital knowledge, we have no reason to assume that it is responsible for logical reasoning.
Therefore, we are left with the same problem as above–the Pandeist must argue in a circle in order to arrive at his conclusion, all while being unable to make sense of his own argument.
Ethical reasoning. Here we find one last area where Pandeism seems to fall short of our experience. We know that we humans operate under a system of ethical law, and the biblical God tells us exactly what that is (Romans 2:15). The Pandeist holds quite a unique view.
According to the Institute, “The moral basis of Pandeism is somewhat ambiguous, depending on the view of the purpose of the Deus. One possibility is that, since the Deus created our Universe with no conception of right and wrong, we may exist to teach the Deus these things, and should develop and abide by concepts of right and wrong for the purpose of providing the Deus with our understanding of them. Another possibility arises for those who believe that we will continue to share in the experience of the Deus when our Universe returns to being the Deus. If we share in the experience of the Deus, and the Deus shares in our experience, then each person ultimately shares in every others’ experience. If that is so, then whatever harm we do to one another may be experienced by all in the return to the Deus, and we should strive to minimize the suffering that we inflict on others now, in order to preserve ourselves from sharing in that suffering later.”
But this does not provide a satisfactory explanation of our experience. On this view, morality is merely something that The Dues wishes to understand and/or experience. Again, these are simply the hypotheses. But if there were an all-powerful creator, should one not assume that he already understand the reason for our moral impulses?
One could argue that morality is core and central to the human condition–how could the god responsible for our creation not know and understand this?
This brings us to the next overarching problem:
The Human Condition Unexplained
Quite obviously, we live in a fallen and broken world. Societies rise up one against another, and we often make choices that fundamentally contradict the choices we WISH we had made.
There is a name for this human condition, and it is called sin.
It is necessary at this point to requote a statement made by the Insitute: “And so our Creator was necessarily lacking in vital knowledge, that being the knowledge of facing and overcoming limitation itself. Can a being that is alone in existence experience fear, much less conquer fear through courage? Can it overcome grief, anger, despair, and experience comfort, contentment, triumph? It can do so only through the existence as a Universe which may come to be populated by beings capable of having these feelings, with no portion of the Creator reserved outside the Creation to assuage these beings to any degree. And so, the lack of such knowledge would virtually compel the Creator to undertake the sacrifice necessary to obtain it, to exist for billions of years as our Universe, as all things in it, as all of us within it.”
There are human feelings and emotions described here that, according to the Institute, the creator desired to experience–so much so that he sacrificed himself in order to obtain it.
There are many problems with this view:
- This still offers no explanation for moral issues. Why be good or bad, and how should they be defined? How did they even develop?
- How would the creator know anything about these feelings and experiences at all, let alone not be able to experience them?
- The “sacrifice” seems like a self-sacrifice–it is merely the quest for knowledge.
- There is no love in the Pandeists’ universe. Love is based on our choices to unconditionally accept others and sacrifice for them–the Pandeist has no basis for this emotion.
The Bible explains that as humans, we are made in the image of God. This makes sense out of our being rational, intelligent, moral, and emotional beings.
The Bible explains that when humanity sinned against Him, we left utter perfection, and the world (including humanity) began a downward spiral of brokenness, which is our experience today. We love one another because we were initially built to do so and later commanded to do so, and we sin against one another because one man and one woman thought they knew better than God.
A natural reading of the Bible by a heart and mind ready to receive its truth will explain the human condition perfectly. Pandeism just cannot account for our human experience and condition.
Borrowing from the Christian God?
When we examine the claims of the kind of god that Pandeists worship, we run into a serious problem: we discover attributes, but no basis for them. Let me be more specific. The Pandeist would have us to believe that their god is rational. However, there seems to be no rational proof for this claim!
The god of Pandeism suffers from the same problem every other invented god does: it borrows from the REAL God in order to even exist.
Here’s what I mean:
Speculation vs. Revelation
We addressed this briefly earlier on, but one of the biggest issues here is that there is no special revelation in play. By special revelation I mean there is no Bible, Quran, Book of Mormon, etc. that Pandeism appeals to. The problem is that there is no way to gain an accurate understanding of what the Pandeistic god is like, apart from what someone has dreamed up in their imagination.
Now, that does not mean that just any special revelation is true. After all, the Bible was written by humans right–wasn’t it just the writer’s imaginations? That is where the work comes in of testing the truth claims of a worldview, which is a different issue. Good reason and spiritual understanding and discernment lead a person to believe that the Bible is true since it is.
But Pandeism has an altogether different problem: there is NO claim to a special revelation from their god. Therefore, we can’t know anything about him! We can test the Bible, the Quran, and the Book of Mormon–we can’t test silence! The Pandeist would say that we can test nature and nature IS the special revelation of The Dues, but when we test nature using actual science, we actually arrive at the claims made by the Bible!
This is a huge problem for Pandeism. It depends on naturalism for its existence, and naturalism is not a viable model for the universe. Therefore, on that basis alone, we could conclude that Pandeism is false.
Pandeism and Life’s Four Big Questions
Here is where the rubber meets the road. For a worldview to be coherent, it must provide a viable explanation to the “big 4” questions of life–origin, meaning, morality, and destiny–to sum it up in the prose of Ravi Zacharias.
Let’s see how Pandeism fares:
- Origin. Pandeism does provide a story of origins. However, there is no way to authenticate the truth of this claim. The reason being that The Dues did not make this claim. If there were a “bible” from The Dues that offered an explanation of origins with claims that could be either falsified or verified, we could make a judgment about origins. Unfortunately, there is not, so we cannot.
- Meaning. As we have discussed, there is no personal relationship to be had with The Dues. The only explanation offered is that The Dues wanted to take part in experiencing the emotions that humans feel, which it was unable to do. But, how could it have even known about those emotions in the first place? No explanation is given for the human condition. Therefore, there simply is no reasonable meaning to life in the Pandeistic universe.
- Morality. Again, The Dues is amoral. It claims no morality of any sort, and if anything, some Pandeists claim it created in order to learn about morality from humans. But there is not a satisfactory explanation. Pandeism cannot explain why humanity is sinful, wicked, and broken. It also cannot explain why there should be “good” in the world. Pandeism is bankrupt from a moral perspective.
- Destiny. Pandeism seems to be somewhat silent on this matter. I only found one reference in Pandeistic literature to “destiny,” and it claimed that the universe would someday return back into The Dues, where it would then learn about all that it experienced during its time as the universe. But, this offers no explanation for the true destiny of mankind, other than simply returning to the dust.
The beauty of free will is that you and I are welcome to believe any explanation that we find satisfactory. Personally, I just do not find that Pandeism meets the criteria necessary to answer the biggest questions held by all of humanity.
In summary, I am forced to conclude due to a lack of evidence that Pandeism cannot be considered as a viable explanation for the universe.
My strongest objections to it could be summarized as follows:
- Pandeism’s strong and necessary tie to naturalism is an immediate disqualifier.
- Its failure to offer satisfactory explanations for the meaning of life and morality we know in our hearts makes it unworthy of consideration.
- Even if some of its claims could be proven likely, they do not offer alternative explanations for the facts proven to be true that we find in the Bible.
- Finally, any “evidence” for the Pandeistic universe must be speculated, since there is no special revelation.
Hopefully, this has been a helpful and insightful look at this alternative worldview. Though I have been careful to maintain integrity, I am not perfect. So if you are a Pandeist and I have misrepresented the views you hold in any way, I invite you to reach out to me personally. I will make sure to correct any errors and adjust my rebuttal accordingly.
Ultimately, I am calling on all Pandeists to repent before the one true God and open their minds to consider that the God of the Bible is the best and only explanation for the world we see around us. I would be happy to share more with you personally about Him.
Questions? Feel free to comment below and start the discussion, or click the blue button on the right (desktop only) to ask a question with a voicemail. We will do our best to answer in an upcoming post. Thanks!