John Bugay at the Beggars All blog has followed up his assertion that Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, "is functionally a pantheist", with no less than THREE subsequent threads (FIRST; SECOND; THIRD) wherein he attempts to bolster his claim, and in doing so, moves beyond his initial charge, boldly stating that, "Ratzinger is pretty much a full-blown pantheist".
I originally thought that John's initial charge was merely an off-handed remark, that he didn't actually believe that Ratzinger/Benedict XVI was REALLY a pantheist; however, his subsequent threads and combox posts, clearly demonstrate that I was wrong—John Bugay ACTUALLY believes that Ratzinger/Benedict XVI IS A PANTHEIST!!!
Amazing, I really mean AMAZING. Though I by no means consider myself a scholar of Ratzinger/Benedict XVI's thought/theology, I have read a substantial amount of his published works in English, including eleven of his books that I own, and a number of his books and essays that are available online; I am left stunned that John actually believes that Ratzinger/Benedict XVI is a pantheist—the evidence CLEARLY repudiates such a view. The rest of this thread will be devoted to the evidence itself, and shall come under three categories: first, what pantheism actually is; second, Ratzinger's thought on theology proper; and third, the anthropology and soteriology of historical Catholic theology, which Ratzinger/Benedict XVI embraces. I believe once the evidence has been read, one will conclude with me that John has clearly misunderstood all three.
Pantheism comes from two Greek words, pan (all) and theism (God) meaning "all is God" or "God is all." It is the belief that all things contain divinity and that God is the sum of all things. Pantheism is the view that God is everything and everyone - and consequently that everyone and everything is God.
Pantheism is the presupposition behind many cults and false religions, for example Hinduism and Buddhism to an extent, the various unity and unification cults, mother nature worshippers, etc. (THEOPEDIA)
Pantheism (πᾶν, all; θεός, god), the view according to which God and the world are one...
CATHOLIC DOCTRINE.—The Church has repeatedly condemned the errors of pantheism. Among the propositions censured in the Syllabus of Piur IX is that which declares: "There is no supreme, all-wise and all-provident Divine Being distinct from the universe; God is one with nature and therefore subject to change; He becomes God in man and the world; all things are God and have His substance; God is identical with the world, spirit with matter, necessity with freedom, truth with falsity, good with evil, justice with injustice" ... (The Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 11, pp. 447, 448)
All pantheisms are actually forms of monism, not pluralism. They hold that reality is ultimately one, not many. More precisely, the many exist in the one rather than the one in the many. In other words, pantheists believe that God encompasses all there is...
There are several distinctive elements involved in pantheism. Each may be seen in contrast to theism.
The nature of God. God is non-personal. Personality, consciousness, knowledge, and so forth, are lower levels of manifestation. The highest level is beyond personality. It consists of absolute simplicity.
The nature of creation. Creation is not ex nihilo, as in theism; it is ex Deo (out of God). There is only one "substance" in the universe and everything is an emanation of it.
Relation of God and the world. In contrast to theism which holds that God is beyond the universe and separate from it, the pantheist believes that God and the universe are one. God is the All and the All is God. some pantheists speak of the world as an illusion. In this sense the world is not God; it is nothing. But whatever reality exists in the universe is the reality of God.
Evil is not real. In the stricter forms of pantheism, evil is a mere illusion, an error of mortal mind. Evil seems to be real, but it is not. It is due to the deception of our senses; it is a result of thinking partially rather than wholistically about reality. The Whole is actually good; it only seems evil if one is looking at a part separate from the Whole. (Norman L. Geisler and Paul d. Feinberg, Introduction To Philosophy, pp. 277-280.)
[As we shall shortly see, Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, in his own words, clearly denies the "several distinctive elements involved in pantheism" delineated above.]
Ratzinger/Benedict XVI -
I believe in God, the Almighty, the Father, the Creator. This statement, with which Christians have been confessing their faith in God for almost two thousand years, is the product of a still older history. Behind it stands Israel's daily confession of faith, the Christian form of which represents: "Hear, O Israel, Yahweh, thy God, is an only God". (Introduction To Christianity, trans. J. R. Foster, Ignatius Press, 1990 ed., p. 73.)
El [God] is regarded not only as the sustainer of personality, as father, creator of creatures, the wise, the king; he is seen also and above all things as the highest God of all, as the greatest power of all, as he who stands above all else. (Ibid., p. 83.)
...Christian belief in God means that things are the being-thought of a creative consciousness, of a creative freedom, and that the creative consciousness that bears up all things has released what has been thought into the freedom of its own, independent existence. It goes beyond any mere idealism. While the latter, as we have just established, explains everything real as the content of a single consciousness, in the Christian view what supports it all is a creative freedom of its own being, so that on the one hand it is the being-thought of a consciousness and yet on the other true self-being.
This also clarifies the root of the conception of creation: the model from which creation must be understood is not the craftsman, but the creative mind, creative thinking. At the same time it becomes evident that the idea of freedom is the characteristic mark of the Christian belief in God as opposed to any kind of monism. At the beginning of all being it puts not just some kind of consciousness but a creative freedom which creates further freedoms. To this extent one could very well describe Christianity as a philosophy of freedom. For Christianity, the explanation of reality as a whole is not an all-embracing consciousness or one single materiality; on the contrary, at the summit stands a freedom that thinks and, thinking, creates freedoms, thus freedom is the structural form of all being. (Ibid., p. 110)
2. THE PERSONAL GOD
If the Christian belief in God is first of all an option in favour of the primacy of the logos, faith in the pre-existing, world-supporting reality of the creative meaning, it is at the same time, as belief in the personal nature of that meaning, the belief that the original thought, whose being-thought is represented by the world, is not an anonymous, neutral consciousness but freedom, creative love, a person. Accordingly, if the Christian option for the logos, means an option for a personal, creative meaning, then it is at the same time an option for the primacy of the particular as against the universal. (Ibid., p. 111)
...the wording of the dogma [i.e. the Trinity] was to all intents and purposes settled. It expresses the perception that God as substance, as "being", is absolutely one. (Ibid., p. 131)
Catholic anthropology and soteriology -
"And the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given to them; that they may be one, just as We are one" ( John 17:22 - NASB)
...so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Romans 12:5 - NASB)
For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. (2 Peter 1:4 - NASB)
God, says St. Peter "has given us most great and precious promises that by these you may be made partarkers of the Divine nature" (2 Pet. i. 4). Startling as the words are, the teaching which we have already considered will have prepared us for them. They signify that the sonship conferred on us through Jesus Christ raises us so far above our creaturely condition, that by it we partake in the life which is proper to the Three Divine Persons in virtue of Their nature. The passage does not stand altogether alone. When our Lord prays to His Father on behalf of the apostles and all who through their word should believe in Him, “that they all many be one, as Thou, Father in Me and I in Thee, that they may be made perfect in one” (John xvii. 22, 23), His words can hardly signify less than this. If our union with God is comparable to that which unites the Father and the Son, it can only be a union bases on a share in the Divine life...The fathers of the Church from the earliest times with one consent take the apostle’s words in their literal sense. There is no question of any figurative interpretation. They do not hesitate to speak of the “deification” of man. By grace, they tell us, men become gods. (G.H. Joyce, S.J., The Catholic Doctrine of Grace, London: 1920, pp. 34, 35
If man is to be reunited to God as his Father, God Himself must raise him up again to His side...God must again draw man up to His bosom as His child, regenerate him to new divine life, and again clothe him with the garment of His children, the splendor of His own nature and glory...this transformation of the will is essentially bound up with the inner elevation of our entire being by the grace of divine sonship and participation in the divine nature...The children of God participate as such in the divine holiness of their Father, in His very nature. (Matthis J. Scheeben, The Mysteries of Christianity, B. Herder Book Co.: St. Loius, pp. 615, 616, 617, 619, German first ed. 1865; English ed. 1946, translated from the 1941 German ed.)
…we must bear in mind that grace is really and formally a participation in the divine nature precisely in so far as it is divine, a participation in the Deity, in that which makes God God, in His intimate Life…Grace is a mysterious participation in this essence, which surpasses all natural knowledge…Grace makes us participate really and formally in this Deity, in this eminent and intimate life of God, because grace is in us the radical principle of essentially divine operating that will ultimately consist in seeing God immediately, as He sees Himself, and in loving Him as He loves Himself. Grace is the seed of glory. In order to know its essence intimately, we must first have seen the divine essence of which grace is the participation. (Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., Christian Perfection and Contemplation, St. Louis and London: B. Herder Book Co., 1937 – reprinted by Tan Books and Publishers, 2003, pp. 55, 56.)
The Church prays in the Offertory of the Holy Mass : “Grant that by the mystery of this water and wine, we may be made partakers of His divinity, who vouchsafed to become partaker of our humanity.” Similarly in the Preface of the Feast of Christ’s Ascension into Heaven : “He was assumed into Heaven in order that we might be partakers in His divinity.” Cf. D 1021.
According to 2 Peter 1, 4 the Christian is elevated to participation in the Divine nature...Again, the scriptural texts which represent justification as generation or birth from God (John 1, 12 et seq. ; 3, 5 ; 1 John 3, 1. 9 ; Tit. 3. 5 ; James 1, 18 ; 1 Peter 1, 23), indirectly teach the participation of man in the Divine nature, as generation consists in the communication of the nature of the generator to the generated.
From the scriptural texts cited, and from others (Ps. 81, 1. 6 ; John 10, 34 et seq.), the Fathers derived the teaching of the deification of man by grace (θείωσις, deificatio). It is a firm conviction of the Fathers that God became man so that man might become God, that is, defied. (Dr. Lugwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p. 256 - German ed. 1952; English 1955.)
This is the central truth of all Christian soteriology that finds an organic unity with the revealed reality of the God-Man. God became man that man could truly participate in the life of God—so that, indeed, in a certain sense, he could become God. The Fathers of the Church had a clear consciousness of this fact. It is sufficient to recall St. Irenaeus who, in his exhortations to imitate Christ, the only sure teacher, declared: “Through the immense love he bore, he became what we are, thereby affording us the opportunity of becoming what he is.” (John Paul II, Jesus, Son and Savior, 1996, p. 215 - General audience address September 2, 1987.)
As an “I”, man is indeed an end, but the whole tendency of his being and of his own existence shows him also to be a creation belonging to a “super–I” that does not blot him out but encompasses him; only such an association can bring out the form of the future man, in which humanity will achieve complete fulfillment of itself. (Introduction To Christianity, trans. J. R. Foster, Ignatius Press, 1990 ed., p. 179)
Faith sees in Jesus the man in whom – on the biological plane – the next evolutionary leap, as it were, has been accomplished; the man in whom the breakthrough out of the limited scope of humanity, out of its monadic enclosure, has occurred; the man in whom personalization and socialization no longer exclude each other but support each other; the man in whom perfect unity – “The body of Christ”, says St. Paul, and even more pointedly “You are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3.28) – and perfect individuality are one; the man in whom humanity comes into contact with its future and in the highest extent itself becomes its future, because through him it makes contact with God himself, shares in him and thus realizes its most intrinsic possibility. From here onwards faith in Christ will see the beginning of a movement in which dismembered humanity is gathered together more and more into the being of one single Adam, one single body – the man to come. It will see in him the movement to that future of man in which he is completely “socialized”, incorporated in one single being, but in such a way that the separate individual is not extinguished but brought completely to himself. (Ibid., p. 179)
[NOTE: All bold emphasis in the quotations is mine.]
Ratzinger/Benedict XVI clearly denies the "several distinctive elements involved in pantheism", affirming instead the personal nature of God, the "absolute" oneness of God in His being, and the Creator/creature distinction. Further, Ratzinger/Benedict XVI's anthropology and soteriology lies within the bounds of the Catholic tradition, and Scripture itself. The charge that Ratzinger/Benedict XVI is a pantheist is without merit.
Grace and peace,