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How the Spirit of Prophecy Met a Crisis:
Memories and Notes of the "Living Temple" Controversy
by W. A. Spicer


Pantheism Here and in Its Ancient Setting

Here in the Western lands, where general culture and standards have been more or less influenced by Christianity, the new-thought and pantheistic ideas are by many considered interesting evidences of deep thinking. Amid the conditions that have arisen as the fruitage of pantheism, in ancient pagan lands, the ideas do not seem so picturesque.

When it was noised abroad that Seventh-day Adventists had repudiated any possible religious sympathy with the new-thought philosophy, it was of course, written down by the average journalistic story-writer that the broad-minded thinkers in the crisis were those who had refused to be held to old and narrow ways. In the popular New York Magazine, The Delineator, an interviewer of our former medical associate told how his philosophy appeared to a worldly looker-on. The interview ran:

"While Dr. ________ and his household have lived in conformity with the most unworldly religious views, he has faced existence with no narrow outlook. And thus he has outgrown the anthropomorphic conception of God (that is, the conception of Genesis 1, of God in whose image man was made). 'My God,' he says simply today, 'is the personal, but universal intelligence that pervades the heights and the depths and the farthermost reaches of the universe.'

"While this faith was growing wider with the years, some time ago the doctor gathered his children together on a Sabbath in Spring. He pointed out the buds on the trees. 'See,' he said,' they will be leaves tomorrow. Who is it makes the leaves?'

"'Why, God does,' answered the children promptly. "'But where? Does He make them form the outside and stick them on?' "'Oh, no,' said the children. 'He makes them through the sap inside the tree.' "'Oh,' said the doctor. 'Then God must be inside the tree.' "'Why, yes,' agreed the children. "'Then their father laid a hand on Jack's head. 'What makes Jack's hair grow?' "'Why, God, ' said the children. "'But how? Does He stick it on from the outside?' "'Oh, no. He makes it grow from the inside of Jack's head.' "'Then God is within Jack. Is it not so?' "'The children looked in wonderment as they had never looked at Jack before. 'Yes,' they assented, 'God must be within Jack.'

"'And God is within all of us and God is everywhere,' concluded the doctor."—"Delineator, " Dec., 1910.

Poets can make this philosophy look very refined. But the philosophy in its native oriental home does not hesitate to go the whole way of this kindergarten lesson. Jack not only has hair, but he has thoughts, good thoughts and evil thoughts. If God is within sending out the hair, then is He within sending out the good thoughts — and the evil thoughts. And the doctrine of pantheism strikes out the distinction between good and evil. It is all divine. While appearing to exalt all natural life to the divine, it really drags the divine down to the level of the natural.

"There is nothing supernatural about religion," the Delineator interviewer was given to understand. "It is a perfectly natural thing."

There is where the pantheistic philosophy has ever left man—with only natural forces, notwithstanding all the talk of the divine and of Personality and Intelligence and God. Man himself is as much divine as anything. The great saying of the Hindu philosophy was "Tat twam asi, " meaning, "That thou art." You yourself are the mystical Absolute. Man is the same as God. "We speak without hesitation of our body as the temple of God, "wrote Max Miller, yet we shrink from adopting the plain and simple language of the Upanishads that the self of God and man is the same."—"Six Systems of Indian Philosophy," p. 254.

At the 1937 Autumn Council at Battle Creek those who attended a lecture at the sanitarium heard the speaker—our old associate—tell of the personality in the grass, by which the tender blade reared up again after a foot, in stepping across the lawn, had crushed the blade to the earth. So would the Hindu philosophy of nature tell it. In the book, "Advanced Course in Yogi Philosophy," the Yogi Ramacharaka says:


"The Grani Yogi sees Intelligence in everything, from the mineral to man...Each little cell contains intelligence, or mind, which works along unconscious lines, and builds up the plant. Our bodies are built up in the same way. There is Intelligence in everything—and it all emanates from the Absolute."

This was really the doctrine that Seventh-day Adventists were asked to accept as advanced light. In the Delineator interview our former associate was quoted as having outgrown the anthropomorphic conception of God. "My God,' he says simply today, "is the personal but universal intelligence that pervades the heights and the depths and the farthermost reaches of the universe.'"

As a man can work only where he is personally, so this teaching really conceives that God must be limited. If His power is to work in the leaf and tree, then God must be personally in leaf and tree. Thus pantheism would make God like man—notwithstanding this talk about outgrowing the anthropomorphic idea of the old-fashion Bible believer. It misses the blessed truth that fills all Scripture, that our God in the heavens speaks power by His word. He created the heavens and the earth by His word. "He spake, and it was." He upholds all things, "by the word of His power." His Spirit speaks to hearts. His angels are everywhere at work for Him, going to and fro from His throne. In these ways—by the sending forth of His agencies—the Bible teaches that He is working everywhere in the universe, His power manifested in all creation. It is by His power that He is present everywhere. It is not that one "outgrows" this simple Bible conception when he goes into the mazes of pantheism. One simply loses the revealed knowledge of God and slips back into the age-old religion of primitive Animism, that peoples all living things with divine all-pervading Personality. The encyclopedia describes the primitive pantheist as conceiving that all living things are "endowed like himself with will and personality." (Hastings' Ency., art. "Animism")

It was into this maze of mysticism that primitive men fell when they forgot God as the Creator, Whose throne is in heaven. Into this mysticism, which has darkened the outlook and the life for pagan peoples through the ages, we were invited to take a plunge in those days of controversy.

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