Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Deepak Chopra & pantheism

Deepak Chopra upheld spirituality against the attacks of atheist apologists, including Richard Dawkins, but in doing so he opened a different can of worms.[1] In the religious section of the Huffington Report, in an article entitled “War of the Worldviews: Let’s Talk God,” Chopra expressed the usual eastern view of religion, pantheism. The God he counters atheism with is actually located in creation rather than outside of creation. Chopra, after caricaturing the biblical God, presented several thoughts about the identity of his version of divinity:

I think a new and expanded spirituality can deliver a God that is the same as pure intelligence, creativity and consciousness. Such a God is our source without being human -- a source from which all possibilities emerge and flow. Quite a number of credentialed scientists are thinking in the same direction without necessarily being religious. It would explain a lot about the cosmos if we fit into a living, conscious universe.
In other words Chopra’s God is the universe seen as “pure intelligence, creativity and consciousness. Chopra also asks, “If God is the word we apply to highest purpose, why not keep it?” and even suggests that we find this within ourselves. There is another name for this kind of religious viewpoint; it is called “supernatural naturalism.”

The implication is that there is nothing outside of the universe. God, or intelligence or consciousness or whatever you want to call it is the universe which includes humanity. So in a sense there are miracles, spirituality, and supernatural events but they are a function of the universe-they are supernatural but they are also natural in the sense that they are a normal event in the life of the universe. There is nothing that is other, the universe is everything.

C.S. Lewis, in his book Miracles writes about this ancient religious viewpoint. Lewis points out that Christians face pantheism as an opponent:
Platonism and Judaism, and Christianity (which has incorporated both) have proved the only things capable of resisting it. It is the attitude into which the human mind automatically falls when left to itself. No wonder we find it congenial. If “religion” means simply what man says about God, and not what God says about man, then Pantheism almost is religion. And “religion” in that sense has, in the long run, only one formidable opponent—namely Christianity.
Chopra reveals how his beliefs about spirituality are in opposition to Christianity when he writes, “It's in the very nature of spirituality not to conform to everyday reason and logic. The point of spirituality is to transcend the ordinary world and reveal something invisible, unknown and yet part of ourselves.” This is not the spirituality of Christianity which is based on something altogether different.

The Incarnation, God taking on flesh is a historical one time unique event. It does not come from humanity but from God. It is not unreasonable; it is beyond reason yet based in history. It is about Jesus, the one who was uniquely God and human. He could be seen, heard, touched. (1 John 1:1-4) And this coming of the transcendent God, the God who is beyond us, to humanity is deeply personal. “What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

Knowing Jesus Christ gives the Christian an entirely different kind of spirituality than that promoted by Chopra and all other advocates of the various forms of pantheism. In ourselves we find uncertainty, darkness, lostness and evil. Our spirituality consists in being connected to that which is all goodness, holiness, truth and personal. We do not deliver a god through our spirituality, instead God delivers us into the fullness of his love through his Son who lived, died and was resurrected that we might know forgiveness and walk continuously into the purposes of God.

Drawing by Melissa Tregilgas 

[1]The article “War of the Worldviews: Let’s Talk God,” was linked to at CHURCHandWORLD.


Anonymous said...


I'm sure you'll enjoy this debate between Deepak Chopra and Greg Koukl:


Bruce Byrne
Concord, Ca

Viola Larson said...

That was very good Bruce. Thank you for the link. It did leave me with a question I would like to ask Chopra-how is his beliefs different than fundamentalist Hindus. Most types of Hinduism are very porous; they absorb all other religions. As you can see if you listen to the video Hinduism attempts to absorb Christianity. The loss of most Buddhism in India is probably because its views were absorbed into Hinduism. That is one of the reasons C.S. Lewis could say that only Christianity was a formidable opponent.

Anonymous said...

I've never read any of Chopra's books, but from his columns in the Washington Post I've gathered that he has a deep dislike of evangelical Christianity based on two perceptions: first, it's hostile to liberal politics; and second, it (unlike the mainline) doesn't take a Hindu approach to religious syncretism.

David Fischler
Woodbridge, VA

Carl Dyer said...

It's very important to have discernment between Pantheism and Panentheism. C.S. Lewis accepts Panentheism........God Transcending the World, yet moving within it.

"In Him we live, move and have our being", St. Paul.

Carl Dyer

Viola Larson said...

Hi Carl,

Panentheism is like God is to the universe as the head is to the body. In modern or post-modern Panentheism the body has as much to do with God's decisions as God does. That is very basic but C.S. Lewis would not have agreed with that. May I suggest his book Miracles to get a better understanding? Also I would suggest a recent book Panentheism: The Other God of the Philosophers by John W. Cooper.

The verse you quoted does not mean the same as panentheism.