Just trying to think of God as something that explains nothing at all, as per Russell's Teapot, I think.

God must withdraw in order for creation to exist

claim's Cooper's panentheism. Does this mean that God is real but creates - is responsible for - nothing? If not, does such a panentheism exist? I don't think pantheism would work with this hypothetical role for God. If God is in everything and nothing else besides, then His creative activity explains it all, same as theism.

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    Being is simply first cause. In phenomenology, as in pure reasoning, one goes to the origin of thought and this is being, which can hardly be fathomed without turning into thought. This is as far as reason can go: being is a mystery; inconceivable, 'nothing' even (as in unobservable therefore not obtaining of existence in relation to cognition). Conceived beings depend on something to be, that is 'being' by the logic of the phrase 'to be', but 'being' despite Kant's gedankenlose Anschauung (thoughtless intuition) is an impenetrable mystery like the Tao that cannot be named & other analogies. Jul 26 at 23:51
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    If God does nothing and is reponsible for nothing then discussing wether it exists or not is both indecidable and pointless.
    – armand
    Jul 26 at 23:57
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    I find it a push to call Being nothing just because it's unobservable. Funnily enough this is the same argument I have on this forum with absolute time. Technically it's unobservable so doesn't exist. On the face of it it's the same problem. Jul 27 at 0:01
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    @doot_s Lol nope Jul 28 at 21:09
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    That's a bit weird. Jul 28 at 21:43

2 Answers 2


The notion of panentheism starts with the assumption that a god exists. It then further assumes that this god is in everything and transcends everything. This is a claim that is not demonstrable and falls into the realm of unfalsifiable hypotheses, much like Russell's Teapot. It is, in essence, a non-starter for any serious discussion about reality.

As for the concept of 'divine kenosis,' the idea that a god must 'withdraw' or 'self-empty' for creation to exist, it's another unfounded assertion. It adds unnecessary complexity and mysticism to our understanding of the universe, which can be better explained through natural processes as detailed by science.

The claim that God's 'withdrawal' is a creative act that enables the existence of the universe simply redefines what we mean by 'creation' to fit a particular theological agenda. It's a linguistic game that adds no real explanatory power or evidence to support the existence of a god.

If God is an epiphenomenon, a secondary effect or by-product, then the supposed omnipotence and omniscience of a god is devalued. It raises more questions than it answers about the nature and role of this god.

In essence, these ideas serve to illustrate our human tendency to invent elaborate explanations and entities to answer fundamental questions about our existence, rather than relying on empirical evidence and reason

  • Hear hear to your final paragraph in particular. Jul 31 at 13:20
  • Nevertheless our "our understanding" (of the universe) must be underpinned by an actuality that is, at least so far, unknown in its totality. This 'actuality' is what is withdrawn while we engage in naming, measuring and making a scientific understanding of things. The existence of an unobservable actuality effectively resolves to 'nothing' philosophically and scientifically, but it bears thinking about. Empirical evidence and reason are limited, e.g. Kant's antinomies. Aug 1 at 8:40
  • The notion that there is some 'actuality' beyond our understanding might be tantalizing, but without evidence, it's just speculation. And while speculation can be a starting point for inquiry, it must be followed by rigorous investigation. If it's not, it risks becoming merely a comforting narrative or an intellectual dead end.
    – user66933
    Aug 1 at 8:43
  • Most of Heidegger's oeuvre is about this underpinning, as Being. "it is supremely simple, too simple really for our complex modern consciousness to grasp. Only those ingenuous souls who have stripped away, or never possessed, the superfluities of thought and emotion know what it is to stand in the light of Being." So said J. Glenn Gray in 1952. Perhaps it is what it throws into contrast that makes its effect, resituating phenomenological thinking; grounding experiential reality. Aug 1 at 9:22

As I understand from G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy (1908), the Christian God is separate from nature and the cosmos: a refuge and solace separate from the turmoil of nature. "That transcendence and distinctness of the deity ... was really the only reason why any one wanted to be a Christian." In contrast, a pantheistic God is immanent in nature, perhaps in a cosmopsychic mode.

"While pantheism asserts that "all is God", panentheism claims that God is greater than the universe. Some versions of panentheism suggest that the universe is nothing more than the manifestation of God." Wikipedia

Focusing on the OP's quote, with some more context from the SEP on Panentheism:-

Utilizing resources from the tradition of German Idealism, Jürgen Moltmann developed a form of panentheism in his early work, The Crucified God in [1972] . . . Moltmann moves away from a Hegelian understanding of the trinity as a dialectical development in history (J. Cooper 2006, 251). The relationship between God and the world develops because of God’s nature as love that seeks the other and the free response of the other (Molnar 1990, 677). Moltmann does not consider creation necessary for God nor the result of any inner divine compulsion. Instead creation is the result of God’s essential activity as love rather than the result of God’s self-determination (Molnar 1990, 679). This creation occurs in a process of interaction between nothingness and creativity, contraction and expansion, in God. Because there is no “outside” of God due to God’s infinity, God must withdraw in order for creation to exist. Kenosis, or God’s self-emptying, occurs in creation as well as in the incarnation.

To elaborate on this in a modern context it is necessary to pass through some Kant.

“Thus all the possibility of things (as regards the synthesis of the manifold of their content) is regarded as derivative, and only that which includes all reality in it is regarded as original.” Kant A578/B606

As rendered by Tang Huyen who also relates it to a quote from Heidegger:-

if B comes from A, A must not have what B has

“Being cannot be explained through the beings” (Sein nicht durch Seiendes erklärt werden kann), (Sein nicht durch Seiendes erklärbar ist). B & T, 251, GA 2 275.

So above are four analogues, with the withdrawing panentheistic God now aligned to 'Being'. What can this 'Being' mean?

The Cartesian answer proceeds from pure reason; that which can be ascertained by thought alone. The scientific answer uses practical reason, insofar as it can.

In pure reason (phenomenology) the existence of things requires the involvement of cognition. Things that 'are' are beings, whether living or inanimate, but the experience of living is a higher order of being. In Heidegger's development of Kant, 'thought' is a product of time and (yet another) more primordial 'Being'.

In the scientific view, 'Being' is that whole state of affairs upon which time can operate to produce thought.

In the phenomenological view one cannot step back earlier than thought so the foundation, so to speak, is unobservable. 'Being' withdraws.

Even in the scientific view, "that whole state of affairs" is an open-ended idea containing many mysteries (including the origin of the Big Bang), and to a large extent is a loose hypothesis in thought rather than a conclusion of physics.

So this "X withdraws" is a way of describing the state of nature, as obtains, right up to the point at which cognition takes over and starts naming things for itself, from which point the actual and unknown "state of nature" has withdrawn and is a mystery to cognition. The panentheistic God or 'Being' is a label for 'the mystery'.

Returning to the OP's question: "Does this mean that [the panentheistic] God is real?" Unknown or unobservable things are only real to cognition insofar as they are 'unknown or unobservable'.

It is worth noting that the buddhist aspiration to quell thought brings one closer to simply Being, and is called nirvana. In Taoism it is suggested that by this simplicity "the virtue of all men would begin to display its mysterious excellence". Chuang Tzu, X

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