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Francis's Christmas Message: Hegelian Process Theology & "New Age... Syncretism"

Church Militant reported yesterday that a theologian who wished to remain anonymous said Francis's Christmas message to the Roman Curia was a "returning to progressive 'process theology.'"

Moreover, the Catholic news website's anonymous theologian statement was echoed by theologian Fr. Dwight Longenecker on December 21 on Twitter:

"[I]n response to the pontiff's [Christmas message] remarks, he [Longenecker] simply posted the words 'Process Theology' followed by a link to the Wikipedia entry on the topic."
(Church Militant, "Pope Spouts 'Evolutionary  Theology in Christmas Address," December 24, 2019)

What is process theology?

The Fr. Longenecker link in the Themes section on the Wikipedia entry topic to Process Theology says:

"The universe is characterized by process... God contains the universe but is not identical with it (panentheism, not pantheism or pandeism)... God is changeable."

What is Panentheism and which teachings of Francis are Panentheistic?

On August 9, Crux reported that Francis said his Panentheistic Laudato si is the basis of his Synod on the Amazon and apparently his Christmas message:

"When asked why he convened a synod on the Amazon, Francis said, 'It is the ‘child’ of Laudato si’.'"
[https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2019/08/09/in-new-interview-pope-explains-aim-of-synod-warns-against-nationalism/]

It is important to show that what Francis is promoting in Laudato si is not Pantheism, but Panentheism which is a major component of process theology.

The Washington Post explains that his radical environmental encyclical Laudato si teaches Panentheism:

'''The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face. The ideal is not only to pass from the exterior to the interior to discover the action of God in the soul, but also to discover God in all things. [Quote from Laudato si.]'"

"Mystical nature panentheism in a papal encyclical! And with a nod to liberation theology! And with a footnote to the Sufi mystic Ali al-Khawas, no less."

"Whatever impact “Laudato Si’” has in the political world remains to be seen. But that the pope is here embracing a nature-based mysticism, a highly adumbrated anthropocentrism, and a radical “integral ecology” places the encyclical alongside the best of radical, progressive religious environmentalism — and far outside what even mainline Protestant denominations have affirmed heretofore."
[https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/religion/pope-francis-environmental-encyclical-is-even-more-radical-than-it-appears-commentary/2015/06/19/a51ebd98-16ca-11e5-8457-4b431bf7ed4c_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.17449a83446c]

What is Panentheism and why does it contradict Christianity?

Christian philosopher James N. Anderson spells out what it is and why it contradicts Christianity:

"There are many reasons why I reject panentheism, but in this post I want to mention just one. Panentheism comes from the Greek words for ‘all’, ‘in’, and ‘God’ — literally, “all-in-God-ism”. On this view, God is neither fully distinct from the universe (as in classical theism) nor identical with the universe (as in pantheism). Instead, the universe exists ‘in’ or ‘within’ God. The prepositions ‘in’ and ‘within’ are obviously not meant in a spatial sense (as in “Bob is in the kitchen”). Rather, they’re meant to capture the idea of ontological containment. God pervades and encompasses the universe in such an intimate fashion that there is an overlap or intersection between the being of God and the being of the universe. While God is more than the universe, there is no clear ontological distinction between God and the universe (which includes us, of course)."

"It’s not difficult to see the attractions of a panentheistic view of God. Who wouldn’t like to imagine that they’re within God — that their soul participates in the divine? Who wouldn’t like to think that — to put it somewhat crudely — they’re part of God? Such a view can do wonders for your self-esteem! (On the other hand, if you already have high self-esteem, panentheism nicely validates it.) Likewise, panentheism is convenient for legitimizing your lifestyle choices, whatever they happen to be. If it’s good enough for God, it’s good enough for me — and since it’s good enough for me, it must be good enough for God!'

Theism and Panentheism (not to scale)
"Despite these practical benefits, however, it seems to me that panentheism has a fundamental metaphysical flaw. According to biblical theism, God created the universe out of nothing and is ontologically distinct from it. There is a clean Creator-creation distinction. Moreover, God is not merely good (as though God were being judged by some external standard of goodness) but is goodness itself. God is the Absolute Good, the ultimate standard by which any other good is judged to be good. God is the norm and the universe is the normed (i.e., that which is subject to and judged by the norm). To use the classical categories, God is the Good, the True, and the Beautiful — originally, perfectly, and normatively. The universe is merely good (in part), true (in part), and beautiful (in part)."

"For the panentheist, however, matters must be very different indeed. Since the universe is in God, insofar as there is good in the universe there must be good in God. So far, so good — so to speak. But by the very same token, insofar as there is evil in the universe there must be evil in God. If the universe is a mixture of good and evil (which I take to be an obvious truth) then God must also be a mixture of good and evil, on the supposition that God contains the universe. Whatever pollutes the universe unavoidably pollutes God, on account of the ontological overlap between God and the universe."

"It follows that God cannot be the Absolute Good. If the panentheist takes seriously the reality of evil, he ought to conclude that God is not pure goodness. But then God can’t be the ultimate standard of goodness. So who or what is? The answer must be: nothing. For that standard would have to be independent of God, yet the panentheist maintains that everything is in God (“all-in-God”). In short, the root problem with panentheism is that it conflates the norm and the normed. Consequently, the very distinction between good and evil is obliterated. When there is no Absolute Good, there is no good at all — and therefore no evil."
[https://www.proginosko.com/2012/01/why-i-am-not-a-panentheist/]

The Christian Apologetics Alliance shows how Jesuit Karl Rahner's and apparently Francis's Panentheism is found "in New Age... syncretism"

"In discussing Panentheistic aspects of theologian Karl Rahner’s philosophy,authors Stanley Genz and Roger Olsen state that Rahner’s view implies that”the source of the difference between God and the world lies in God himself, and therefore the difference is not absolute” (20th Century Theology, InterVarsity Press, 1992, p. 249). Any stance which renders God’s interaction with the world a part of his nature or an interaction of necessity falls into the Panetheism category."

"Panentheism is also found commonly in the NEW AGE [my capitalization], forms of Christian-NEW AGE [my capitalization] syncretism (such as the beliefs expressed by Episcopal priest Matthew Fox), New Thought, Theosophy, and Neoplatonism."
[http://christianapologeticsalliance.com/2013/11/22/evaluating-panentheism/]

Another panentheist was the philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel:

"For Hegel, God does not exist apart from creation, perfect and complete. Instead, Hegel holds that God is actualized through the world."
(Springer.com, "Hegelian Panentheism," November 15, 2012)

It appears that what Hegel may have been saying is "God [who] does not exist apart from creation is actualized through the world" by "fully assuming the incarnation."

In other words, we don't need God the Creator of us and the universe to keep us in existence at every moment. Nor do we need His Incarnation to redeem us from our sin. Instead God needs us to be "actualized" and come into "reality" in the "particular, concrete."

It appears that Francis is a Hegelian Panentheist. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio wrote in 2006:

"It would be very difficult to make philosophy in the contemporary world by skipping Hegel... reality is always embodied, particular, concrete. There can be no access to universality without fully assuming the incarnation."
(Tierrasdeamerica.com, "Bergoglio, Hegel and Latin America, Notes of Cardinal Bergoglio's philosophy in the margin [preface] of a book by Amelia Podetti / American lands," January 17, 2014)

Pray an Our Father now for the restoration of the Church as well as the Triumph of the Kingdom of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

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