A Hair’s Breadth From Pantheism: Meister Eckhart’s God-Centered Spirituality -- By: Winfried Corduan

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 37:2 (Jun 1994)
Article: A Hair’s Breadth From Pantheism: Meister Eckhart’s God-Centered Spirituality
Author: Winfried Corduan

A Hair’s Breadth From Pantheism:
Meister Eckhart’s God-Centered Spirituality1

Winfried Corduan*

* Winfried Corduan is professor of philosophy and religion at Taylor University, Upland, IN 46989–1001.

If God is omnipotent and omniscient, can a person truly be free? If human beings are free, would this fact not limit God’s omnipotence and omniscience? Recently a lot of effort has been expended in attempting to sort out this apparent difficulty. If God is in control of all events and knows exactly what is going to happen in the future, is it still possible to affirm human actions as significantly free—namely, as not in some way determined by God?

In many cases the response has been to assert that, since we know already that we are free, God’s power or foreknowledge must be limited in some way. Leading this charge has been process thought as exemplified by Charles Hartshorne, who asks: “Can we worship a God so devoid of generosity as to deny us a share, however humble, in determining the details of the world, as minor participants in the creative process that is reality?”2

Even some otherwise quite conservative writers are questioning the idea of an infinite God in order to accommodate human freedom. Bruce Reichenbach has advocated that “God limits himself in the creation of individuals who are free.”3 Clark H. Pinnock,4 Donald H. Wacome5 and Frederick Sontag6 all ask us to restrict our understanding of God’s omniscience with regard to foreknowledge of free human actions.

Any number of responses to this movement is possible. For instance, one can embrace it, criticize it, or renew efforts to maintain both the classical picture of God and human freedom. All of these are efforts worthy of much further discussion, but in this paper I propose to do none of them. Instead I intend to present a radical alternative in conceptualization and

spirituality. What if, for one horrifying moment, we were to let go of the treasured notion of a fundamental human autonomy and let God be in control without any encumbrance at all? In other words, what if we were to go in the opposite direction of the dilemma and question the significance of human power for the sake of maintaining an omnipotent and omniscient God?

Our guide for a glimpse at this alternative will be Meister Eckhart (c.= 1260–1329?), sometime teacher at th...

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