We have been talking about maps. Maps are wonderful and useful tools, as long as we never mistake the map for the territory. The following is an example of a human map that people fight a lot about!
This is not a tree, is it? And it is not God!
To think that the tree is God is called pantheism—human maps that lead to pain!
Now, this may seem obvious that a picture is not the territory (the tree). It only represents the territory. However, some people believe that the tree is god. They have a cognitive map (see Cognitive Maps) that informs them that the universe is god. God only exists as the elemental structure of the cosmos to them, God blew himself up in the big bang, so the tree, the rivers, and animals are god. These are nice people, good people with a faulty map.
Yes, the cosmos represents attributes of God, and is a map to His magnificence, but it is not God. Pantheism is the dogma that believes the wonder of the material universe is god. Pantheists worship the created thing because they believe that the created thing is the creator.
I believe pantheism and reincarnation are brother and sister. They see the wonder of God, yet they are missing the significance and glory of the Creator. They observe the frailty of man and work hard to be good enough no matter how many lifetimes it takes. Human maps diminish and demean God the Creator—the one and only God, the God of love who gave Himself to set us free.
…because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Romans 1:19-20 New American Standard Bible)
The Greek root word for “evident” is phaino, which means to bring to light, to cause to appear, to make that which was not visible, visible. What a paradox! The known (that which is knowable about God) has been made evident within us! The invisible is clearly seen. Wait, the invisible is clearly seen? What has been clearly seen—God’s eternal power and divine nature.
God has designed our heart to be able to clearly see the attributes of His divine nature that otherwise would be invisible. We understand that He made and created, because the power of creation is self-evident. I believe God wrote a program in our heart that is automatically wired in such a way that His divine attributes are plainly evident to us. So, we know that when we see the glory of a tree or a baby’s face that it gives evidence that there is a Creator and we say, “How great thou art.” You, my God, are the Creator of all things and you have made me to know this in my innermost being (Psalm 139).