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Basic Worldview:
104 Why Christianity?

Propositional Religions 1 -
Deism, Pantheism, and Naturalism

Propositional Religions 1 - Deism, Pantheism, and Naturalism
Propositional Religions 2 - Intro, Hinduism, Buddhism
Propositional Religions 3 - Jainism, Taoism
Propositional Religions 4 - Shintoism, Confucianism
Propositional Religions 5 - Sikhism
Propositional Religions 6 - Babism and Baha'ism, Zoroastrianism
Propositional Religions 7 - Neopaganism, Mysticism (Syncretism)
Propositional Religions 8 - Mysticism
Propositional Religions 9 - Mysticism, Gnosticism, Neoplatonism

| Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3

Deism, Pantheism, and Naturalism

Deism, Pantheism, and Naturalism are ideologies, which we have grouped together because of two very basic similarities that they share with Agnosticism. First we will define these three ideologies. Then we will discuss these similarities that have led to their inclusion in this category.

"Deism - At times in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the word Deism was used theologically in contradistinction to theism, the belief in an immanent God who actively intervenes in the affairs of men. In this sense Deism was represented as the view of those who reduced the role of God to a mere act of creation in accordance with rational laws discoverable by man and held that, after the original act, God virtually withdrew and refrained from interfering in the processes of nature and the ways of man." - Britannica.com

"Deism - The belief, based solely on reason, in a God who created the universe and then abandoned it, assuming no control over life, exerting no influence on natural phenomena, and giving no supernatural revelation." - The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.

"Deism - The belief that God has created the universe but remains apart from it and permits his creation to administer itself through natural laws. Deism thus rejects the supernatural aspects of religion, such as belief in revelation in the Bible, and stresses the importance of ethical conduct. In the eighteenth century, numerous important thinkers held deist beliefs." - The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.

"Deism - (1682): a movement or system of thought advocating natural religion, emphasizing morality, and in the 18th century denying the interference of the Creator with the laws of the universe." - Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition

As can be seen in the definitions above, Deism is a religious worldview with two fundamental beliefs at its core. First, Deism holds that the universe was created by God. Second, Deism holds that the God who created the universe ceased to interact with the universe after the creation event. Consequently, while Deism admits the existence of God, Deism also rejects the possibility of miracles and divine revelation or communication to mankind.

The next ideology that we have included in this section is Pantheism.

"Pantheism - (1732) 1: a doctrine that equates God with the forces and laws of the universe." - Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition

"Pantheism - name used to denote any system of belief or speculation that includes the teaching "God is all, and all is God." Pantheism, in other words, identifies the universe with God or God with the universe...There is nothing separate or distinct from God, for God is the universe...Noteworthy among the religious forms is Hinduism, in which the only reality, the supreme unity, is Brahman." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Pantheism - the doctrine that the universe conceived of as a whole is God and, conversely, that there is no God but the combined substance, forces, and laws that are manifested in the existing universe. The cognate doctrine of panentheism asserts that God includes the universe as a part though not the whole of his being." - Britannica.com

It is interesting to note that Hinduism is listed as a form of Pantheism. We will cover Hinduism in a later section of this study. For now the important concept to note is that Pantheism holds that God and the universe are one and the same. This is distinctly different from Deism, which holds that God is separate from and ceased to interact with the universe that he created. We will cover the similarity between these two momentarily.

Lastly, we have also included Naturalism in this category.

"Naturalism - (ca. 1641) 2: a theory denying that an event or object has a supernatural significance: specif: the doctrine that scientific laws are adequate to account for all phenomena." - Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition

"Naturalism - in philosophy, a position that attempts to explain all phenomena and account for all values by means of strictly natural (as opposed to supernatural) categories. The particular meaning of naturalism varies with what is opposed to it...Some, like Comte and Nietzsche, were professed atheists, while others accepted a god in pantheistic terms...later thinkers of all schools have placed emphasis on unifying the scientific viewpoint with an all-encompassing reality. This amalgamation of science and an overall explanation of the universe in naturalistic terms is the source of much of contemporary philosophic thought." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Naturalism - in philosophy, a theory that relates scientific method to philosophy by affirming that all beings and events in the universe (whatever their inherent character may be) are natural. Although naturalism denies the existence of truly supernatural realities, it makes allowance for the supernatural, provided that knowledge of it can be had indirectly—that is, that natural objects be influenced by the so-called supernatural entities in a detectable way...Naturalists simply assert that nature is reality, the whole of it. There is nothing beyond, nothing "other than," no "other world" of being." - Britannica.com

In our previous series of articles entitled, "Atheism vs. Theism," we have disproved Atheism and so we will not spend any time addressing Atheistic versions of Naturalism here.

What we are primarily concerned with in this article is the extent to which Naturalism can act as a theistic worldview, particularly through Pantheism as noted in the excerpt above. Since Naturalism fundamentally denies all supernatural events and instead asserts, "that scientific laws are adequate to account for all phenomena," we can see why Pantheism by its very nature tends to reject miracles as well. Since Pantheism holds "that there is no God but the combined substance, forces, and laws that are manifested in the existing universe," we can see why Pantheism quite inherently denies the occurrence of the miraculous due to the fact that miracles, by definition, tend to require the suspension, alteration, or reversal of the "forces and laws that are manifested" normally in the natural world. Thus, for Pantheism and Naturalism, miracles are self-contradicting because they are claimed to be the supernatural work of God while at the same time violating the natural laws that are inseparably equated with God himself.

This idea is articulated most famously by Philosopher David Hume who expresses the following Naturalistic proof against miracles.

"A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined." - A Brief Guide to Beliefs, by Linda Edwards (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, copyright 2001, p. 61.)

"Miracle - David Hume, a British empiricist and a skeptic, in the chapter "On Miracles" in his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding argued that, given the general experience of the uniformity of nature, miracles were highly improbable and that the evidence in their favour was far from convincing." - Britannica.com

And here we arrive at our first similarity between Deism and Pantheism. Because both of these ideologies believe that all the events in the natural universe occur through the natural laws of the universe, both Deism and Pantheism deny the occurrence of supernatural or miraculous events. This in turn, leads us to the second similarity between Deism and Pantheism, which is also a similarity that they share with Agnosticism as we have discussed already above.

Like Agnosticism, Deism and Pantheism are conclusions derived as a result of an assessment of the evidence.

How does one know that God "abandoned" the universe after creation, allowing "his creation to administer itself through natural laws" without any supernatural intervention on God's part, as Deism teaches? According to Deism, no one could arrive at such an idea through divine revelation, since Deism denies all divine revelation. So, either this is just an unwarranted assumption or Deism must be a conclusion reached AFTER an assessment of the evidence.

And if Deism is a conclusion reached AFTER an assessment of the evidence, then like Agnosticism, Deism cannot be used as a basis for judging the evidence during the assessment process. To use Deism to discount evidence during the assessment process is a clear case of circular reasoning since that would involve using a conclusion of an assessment as a premise in the assessment that leads to this very conclusion.

Pantheistic Naturalism is similar. How does one know that "all phenomena" are "accounted for" by "scientific laws" and, therefore, that there are no supernatural events such as miracles? This, too, would have to be a conclusion that is reached AFTER examining the evidence, including reported miracles. To dismiss all reports of miracles based upon the conclusion that there is no such thing as a miracle is circular reasoning because it requires that a conclusion concerning the reality of miracles functions as a criterion for assessing the truth about miracles.

Or we could ask, how does one know that God is the same as the universe including the forces and laws of the universe, as Pantheism teaches? Given that within Pantheism, God is in all of us since we are all part of nature, one might argue that this knowledge comes to us simply by virtue of our being part of nature and, therefore, being part of God. But if this is the case, then why isn't this "knowledge" apparent to all of us? Why is there disagreement? But more to the point, such a suggestion constitutes an appeal to inward or subjective knowledge rather than to outward or objective, rational proof. And so, for those of us who want to decide what is true based upon a rational analysis of objective evidence, Pantheism would have to be rejected the minute that it becomes impossible to verify it by objective evidence or analysis.

Additionally, it is also interesting to note that the validity of Deism and Pantheism is completely detached from any historical figures or events. While we may be able to historically verify important figures in each of these two worldviews, those figures and the events of their lives do not provide evidence that their views are correct. For example, one of the excerpts above noted that Comte and Nietzsche were (atheistic) Naturalists. But, the fact that we can historically verify the existence of these men and the events of their lives in no way indicates that their observations about the universe are correct. This is because there is no connection between the historicity of the lives of these figures and their claims about the universe. So, despite the historicity of leading Deists or Pantheists, there is no historical evidence that can support or demonstrate the accuracy of their beliefs.

Furthermore, because Deism and Pantheism deny supernatural events, what evidence can they offer in support of the accuracy of their claims? Deism and Pantheism can, by their very nature, only point to naturally explainable phenomenon as evidence for their claims. So, the only way for Deism or Pantheism to be proven true is if an assessment of the evidence reveals that there are no legitimate miracles. But since Deism and Pantheism are necessarily conclusions that result from an assessment of the evidence, we must absolutely refrain from using Deism and Pantheism as a reason to discard miraculous claims while making an assessment of the evidence. Instead, we will have to let the evidence speak for itself, without the interference of Deism or Pantheism to discredit it.

The result of this short section is identical to the conclusion of our discussion of Agnosticism earlier on in this study. If all of the suggested evidence is found to be unsatisfactory based upon its own merits, then a Deistic or Pantheistic conclusion may be justified. But if evidence is found that is satisfactory, then we will be not be able to reach a Deistic or Pantheistic/Naturalistic conclusion. Instead, we will have to believe and conclude what the most reasonable interpretation of the evidence requires, even if the most reasonable interpretation of the evidence requires the belief in the existence of a supernaturally interactive God that is distinct from the natural universe.

(NOTE: Agnosticism and naturalism are often coupled with or accompanied by humanism. Though humanism may have a very religious function for its followers, Humanists are typically defined by a lack of concern for supernatural spiritual concepts such as the existence of God and other issues, which theology deals with that go beyond the natural world and natural experience. For this reasons, Humanism, like Agnostic Theism, Pantheistic Naturalism, and Diesm, is substantiated or invalidated only by performing an evaluation of the available evidence.)

Subjective Faith

One final issue before we proceed with our examination of the available religious views is the issue of faith. Some might argue that the issues of God and religion are a matter of "faith" rather than fact or rational analysis. In this case, faith is meant as a subjective or personal motive for accepting the reliability of a particular religious view regardless of external information or evidence. It is used in contrast to the standard that we have been applying, which requires a reasonable assessment of objective evidence in order to determine the reliability of a religious view. Persons who use faith in this manner and suggest that religion is a matter of faith may even think or imply that this definition of "faith" is expressed in Christianity and the New Testament. But this is wholly incorrect.

This is not how the Bible uses the term "faith." The Bible records that though Abraham believed God's Word before the proof came, God did prove Himself to Abraham by giving him a son in his old age just as He had promised. Abraham was not expected to accept some idea of God without proof or evidence. The Old Testament presents that Abraham had many evidences to substantiate what God had told him.

Moses was not only given miraculous evidences by God during their discourse at the burning bush, but Moses offered miraculous signs to both the Egyptians and the Israelites to demonstrate that his message was from God. Similarly, in the New Testament Jesus Christ is reported to have performed a great number of miracles, not to mention the resurrection, all of which are presented as proof of the accuracy of his teaching. Likewise, the early Christians were able to offer evidence to the Jews and the Gentiles that their teaching was from God by means of previous scriptures and ongoing miracles.

At this point, we are not using these reported miracles as proof for Judaism and Christianity. Such topics will be tackled later on in our study once we delve into our analysis of religious claims and the evidence for them. Right now, what is relevant is simply that "faith" for the early Jews and Christians was based upon demonstrable facts. Faith, in the New Testament was a matter of trust, particularly of trusting God's promises. Faith, in the New Testament, was not a blind faith nor was faith defined as the concept of believing without evidence. And we will discuss this more later, including the extent to which early Christians appealed to the verifiable nature of the proofs that they were offering.

So, while it may be suitable to some to suggest that religious faith means accepting something as true without reasonable and objective evidence, neither the New Testament nor the authors of this site take that "groundless" approach to determining what is true. Instead, we advocate that truth should be determined according to the most reasonable interpretation of the available evidence. We will now begin that reasonable examination of the evidences by taking a look at the available belief systems (religions).

Analysis of Relgions

Propositional and Evidentiary Religions

Now that we have dealt with Agnosticism, Deism, Pantheism, and Naturalism and established that the conclusions of these views cannot and should not be used to assess or object to any possible evidence, we can move on to our examination of various religious views.

We will divide our examination of various religions into two categories. The first category we will call Propositional religions. The second category we will call Evidentiary religions. Each group is named for the means by which potential followers are asked or expected to accept the validity of the truth claims of a particular belief system.

For purposes of clarity it is easier to define the second group first and then define the first group by contrasting it to the second. The second group, which we named Evidentiary religion, includes belief systems, which offer objective evidence to support their claims. They ask their potential followers to accept the validity of their truth claims based upon an appeal to objectively verifiable evidence that they offer as proof of the accuracy of those claims.

An example of an Evidentiary religion would be Christianity's appeal to the resurrection of Jesus as proof that his teachings are accurate and should be accepted. It should be noted, that while the evidence offered by these types of religion often takes the form of appeals to the miraculous, this is not always the case as will be seen momentarily with Islam, which is also an Evidentiary religion.

By contrast Propositional religions are those belief systems, which ask their potential followers to accept the validity of their truth claims without offering objectively verifiable evidence to validate those claims. Thus, they remain mere propositions. This is not to say that Propositional religions do not attempt to offer any evidence for the validity of their claims, just that the evidence that they offer is not objectively or historically verifiable. Rather, religions of this type depend upon personal or subjective experience as the means of validating truth claims.

(Note: Agnosticism, Deism, Pantheism, and Naturalism can be considered Propositional Religions.)

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