Q:  I just read Brother David’s splendid article about Shared Spirituality. What intrigued me the most was this quote:

“What characterizes our moment in history is the collapse of Christian theism. Gratefulness mysticism makes us realize that Christianity never was theistic, but panentheistic.”

I understand that we are indeed living in the historical moment of the collapse of Christian theism, but am unclear how gratefulness creates a mental space for panentheism. I ask this as a student of eco-theology, who places panentheism at the centre of my understanding of the cosmos, and my own religious practice – but help me! – what is the link between these two formulations? — Maureen, Toronto

A:  +Dear Maureen, you asked a fine but intricate question. Please bear with a somewhat intricate answer, though i will try to keep it simple. The way i see it, grateful living springs from the depth of our mystical heart. This is a spiritual practice, not speculative theology. Experientially it makes us aware of being immersed in what Christians call the Blessed Trinity.

As Christians put it, we receive everything, even our very being, from the Giver of All Gifts, whom Jesus Christ calls “Father.” The “Son” receives the fullness of the Father’s life as Gift; and so do we, for we and the whole universe are one with him, the Cosmic Christ. Through the “Holy Spirit,” who is divine love flowing ceaselessly within God, our Thanksgiving returns with every breath back to the Father. Thus, grateful living allows us to experience that we are (by pure grace) alive with the very life of the Triune God.

This experience of grateful living shapes the conceptual understanding of our relationship to God: It eliminates theism (which sets God apart) and pantheism (which simply equates God and nature). It points rather to panentheism, which insists on God’s transcendence and yet sees all in God and God in all.

What we see collapsing at this moment in history is not the genuine Christian understanding of God as Triune, but the long-held error that this Triune God is absolutely set apart from the cosmos. Your own panentheistic eco-theology may well be part of a rebuilding from the ruins of that collapse. And this renewal has everything to do with gratefulness. It is through grateful living that we are recovering the original Christian understanding of our life in God, which is panentheistic: intimate communion with God as Giver, Gift, and Thanksgiving.

— Your Brother David

Br. David Steindl-RastTrust
Br. David Steindl-Rast, OSB

Br. David Steindl-Rast, OSB

About the author

Brother David Steindl-Rast — author, scholar, and Benedictine monk — is beloved the world over for his enduring message about gratefulness as the true source of lasting happiness. Known to many as the “grandfather of gratitude,” Br. David has been a source of inspiration and spiritual friendship to countless leaders and luminaries around the world including Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Thomas Merton, and more. He has been one of the most important figures in the modern interfaith dialogue movement, and has taught with thought-leaders such as Eckhart Tolle, Jack Kornfield, and Roshi Joan Halifax. His wisdom has been featured in recent interviews with Oprah Winfrey, Krista Tippett, and Tami Simon and his TED talk has been viewed almost 10,000,000 times. Learn more about Br. David here.