Basically, deism sees God as separated from His creation. Pantheism sees God as identical to creation.
Here’s a quote on deism is from Wikipedia:
“Deism holds that God does not intervene with the functioning of the natural world in any way, allowing it to run according to the laws of nature. For Deists, human beings can only know God via reason and the observation of nature, but not by revelation or supernatural manifestations (such as miracles) – phenomena which Deists regard with caution if not skepticism.”
While not completely deist, this is pretty close to how a lot of Christians live today. Many generally don’t believe in the supernatural intervention of God, and they look at miracles, signs and wonders with skepticism. We’ve inherited this quasi-deistic skepticism from our deeply embedded cultural paradigm that interprets reality through a naturalistic and rational lens. “Seeing is believing” is considered “normal” to us, but even quantum physics has already shown this view to be sub-normal at best.
Of course, Eastern religions may have the opposite problem, seeing gods in the rocks and trees and animals, but my subject here is about the fallacy of our separation from God, so I will focus on our deistic tendencies.
We reveal our deistic bent by only thinking of heaven as a place we go to when we die, God is “up there” and we’re “down here.” Hell, of course, is “down below.” Being “seated in heavenly places in Christ” is no more than a legal positional statement that has no practical reality.
In this compartmentalized world, it’s popular to tell sinners that they’re totally separated from God. We tell them that their sin has created a great gulf between them and God, quoting verses like Isaiah 59:2, as if nothing changed with Jesus, and even though God is not counting their sins against them anymore (2 Cor.5:19).
We also say that sinners cannot do anything good in God’s eyes. This, in my view, is taking Romans 3:12 out of context.
Paul did say we all fall short of God’s glory in regard to saving ourselves, but he did not mean that we cannot do any good at all, or that we can’t show love, or kindness and compassion. We don’t have to look far to see the absurdity of this view.
Saying these kinds of things to people is actually quite insulting, liking saying to a mom that she has no ability to show divinely-inspired love for her child unless she “gives her heart to Jesus.” Really???
Since everything good comes from the Father of lights (James 1:17), that means that every good thing that all people do–ironically, even those good things that people who hate God do–comes from Him. God shows no partiality. He loves unconditionally.
How, then, are people not separated and how are they separated from God?
First, God has already reconciled the whole world to Himself in Christ. There is no qualifier here and it’s not dependent on us. Notice the tenses here. This was accomplished long before you and I were born (bold-type added):
“For if, while we were God’s enemies,
we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son,
how much more, having been reconciled,
shall we be saved through his life!” (Rom.5:10 NIV)
“that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ,
not counting people’s sins against them…” (2 Cor.5:19a NIV)
To reconcile means “to resolve, to reestablish a close relationship.” What Paul is essentially saying is that God removed any separation from man on His side. WE are the only ones refusing to be reconciled. This is why Paul says this (bold-type added):
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors,
as though God were making his appeal through us.
We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor.5:20 NIV)
The point is, God is not separated from sinners. In fact, He’s pleading with us to stop separating ourselves from Him.
Furthermore, all people have been put “in Christ.” It’s impossible not to be in Christ because there can be nothing outside of Christ (bold-type added; all are NKJV):
“For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things,
to whom be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom.11:36)
“that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times
He might gather together in one all things in Christ,
both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.” (Eph.1:10)
“And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.” (Col.1:17)
“and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself,
by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven,
having made peace through the blood of His cross.” (Col.1:20)
Here’s a question. What do you think “all things” means? What is not included?
You see, if we weren’t deists at heart, the answer would be very simple. But our mind rebels against it. You’re probably even thinking I must be a Universalist! I am not. I am simply showing you what the Scripture actually says.
Notice what Paul said about his own conversion (bold-type and caps added):
“But when it pleased God…to reveal His Son IN me…” (Gal.1:15, 16)
So where was Christ when Paul, the “worst of sinners,” was terrorizing the Church? Was He on the other side of some infinite gulf, totally separated from Paul because of his sin? No, Christ was IN Paul! God revealed to Paul Who was already in him. (Read it again if you don’t believe me).
In fact, this is how Paul preached the gospel to pagan nations, appealing to what they already knew in their hearts but were ignorant to who He was (bold-type and caps added).
“And He has made from one blood every nation of men…
…so that they should seek the Lord,
in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him,
though He is not far from each one of us;
for IN HIM we live and move and have our being,
as also some of your own poets have said,
‘For we are also His offspring.’ (Acts 17:26-28)
Paul, quoting their pagan poets about being “in Him,” is saying that all they had to do is change their mind (meaning of “repent” -vs.30-31) about worshiping idols and see that God has brought them to Himself in Christ. This is the ministry of reconciliation.
To be clear, I’m not saying that all people are in communion with God, but that they are included in Him. His righteousness, peace and joy (Rom.14:17) is offered to all as a free gift, if they will but accept it. The only reconciliation needed is on our side, not on God’s.
I am saying that our deistic notions about Christ have made Him way too small, hiding Him away from humanity in our powerless religious box instead of letting His overwhelming presence and brilliance invade every area of life and culture. I am saying we should jettison this small-minded evangelical myth of separation. It gives the wrong message, it’s insulting, and it’s just not true.