We focus here on a recent statement of a panentheistic conception of God from an analytic philosopher. We compare Johnston’s conception of God with tian in Chinese philosophy. Our summaries of both will, no doubt, be rather superficial. But they should suffice to show that there are interesting similarities between the two that call for further examination. Notice that this view may be sufficient for grounding a version of realism about theological discourse.
But that fact, if it is a fact, is not what we are concerned with here. Rather, we are interested in the ways in which this sort of view can aid in the pursuit of a more global perspective in the philosophy of religion. If we go global, we quickly discover that there are conceptions of divine or ultimate reality developed in various cultures that differ in significant ways from the received view we get from orthodox theology in the Abrahamic religions.
For instance, in Chinese philosophy, tian (heaven) is central in Confucianism, Moism, and Taoism. There is no shortage of controversy over whether Confucianism is or is not properly religious. But there is at least one interpretation on which tian in early Confucianism is understood as an ultimate or transcendent reality.
But insofar as tian could be understood as divine in some sense, our conception of it should be quite different from our conception of the God of classical theism.