There is a fine difference between pantheism – where the world is God, and God is the world – and panentheism – where the world is in God but God is more than the world. Pantheism may not be very credible in Simulation Creationism, as developed by Nir Ziso of The Global Architect Institute. But what about panentheism? Is the world really in God?
Panentheism tries to bring the best features of traditional theism and traditional thoughts about pantheism. It tries to see if a third option could emerge as a fusion of traditional theism and pantheism. Briefly defined, panentheism is the notion that the world exists within the divine, though God is also more than the world. God is above and beyond all reality. He is transcendent: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). What is radical about panentheism is that natural regularities and forces are an expression of the divine. At first, this may fit the model of Simulation Creationism. God is outside of creation; and through a “Supercomputer”, an infinite Simulation is sustained. The “Supercomputer” has to be with God: “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Hebrews 11:3). However, not everything is as it seems at first.
Panentheism suggests that if God equally created a world independent of Him, it means He has world power existing beside Him. For instance, human beings have some kind of freedom and make their own decisions; it was God who gave them this power. By doing this, He decided that He would not use his ability to determine everything. That sounds a bit contradictory, as “He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1:5). There is a radical distinction between God and the world in traditional theism. However, panentheism stresses that transcendence and imminence are two sides of one coin. If we want to find out in what terms the transcendence of God is articulated in the Old Testament, it is God’s holiness; for instance, as “the holy one of Israel” (Isaiah 1:4). So, there is the transcendence of God’s holiness and immediately its imminence through Israel. Imminence means that God is present in the world, and God is larger than the world. At the same time, creation continues to be dependent on God.
The panentheistic problem is that if the world is part of God, and if God decides to remove the creation, He would have to remove Himself. The panentheistic answer is that through creation, God did not extend himself. He did not become larger or more perfect. He shared His abundant goodness with the world in which He was and still is intimately involved. If the world would cease to exist, it only means that God would no longer share from his abundance. In Simulation Creationism, a “Supercomputer” simulates reality. This “Supercomputer” cannot be part of God but is created by God. It stands separate as God’s creation. So, the panentheistic argument cannot be accepted.
Other panentheists are keen to explain reality as God’s body or an aspect of God, although God transcends everything. This separation draws a very important distinction between pantheism and the belief in a personal and conscious being. It makes panentheism closer to classical theism than pantheism. But the imminent aspect of God is what makes panentheism different from theism, together with a predominant reliance on science. As we have seen, creation as part of God is a very challenging concept in Simulation Creationism.
According to Saint Anselm, God is something and no greater can be found. If one can think of a being greater than God as we know Him, then our God is not really God. The Anselmian God is the omniscient, omnipotent, and morally perfect creator. Some panentheists take this Anselmian definition and say that God is the totality of all possible worlds. There might be a universe that includes only mental properties or non-physical beings. The totality of all possible worlds includes all possible bodies of knowledge, power, and all sorts of good things. However, radical panentheism does not call for the causal origin of totality.
In this modal panentheism, God is not identical to a specific universe, a part of the totality of all possible universes. God is identical to all possible universes and not beyond them. This would mean that God is The Simulation, which Simulation Creationism cannot accept. What is important to stress here is that God is beyond everything physical. This panentheistic view is close to traditional theism that considers God as a spiritual being that goes beyond the physical world. Such a view could answer questions like why this specific universe exists (because it is part of the totality of all possible universes) or why there is something rather than nothing (because totality exists necessarily since God is equal to all totality and exists necessarily). In such a way, panentheists explain evil as a possible state of affairs. This is a very tempting idea. It answers “where” God is and may even explain some assumptions of Simulation Creationism. The non-physical realm is software generated; it simulates physicality elsewhere in totality. But, saying that totality is God is too close to pantheism and rejects the real possibility of a personal God.
Panentheism rejects the classical scholastic God as distant, abstract, and static. The presumption is that God is somehow unable to enter into the sufferings and transformations of the creation They got it wrong, as Peter reminds us: “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10). God is in no way noetically displaced from the created realm: He knows us more intimately than we even know ourselves. While supernatural interventions are quite problematic for every modern Christian, there is equally a misunderstanding of the problems that such a supernatural intervention would cause.
The classic mistake is to presume that God is a bigger version of us. In such a way, God is an extraordinarily large personal being and responsible for the rest of us. A more classical perception is that there would be nothing without Him. There is nothing from which God is separated and nothing where God is not present. This position embeds all the apparent benefits of panentheism, especially God’s intimate connection to the world.