Whether Spinoza should be technically considered a pantheist or atheist, pastor Mark Driscoll here does sum up how the resultant view is different than the idea of a personal God standing outside of and judging his creation:
In reviewing some Buddhist texts and listening to Buddhist podcasts for an upcoming podcast episode (ep 27), I've been thinking more about the relation between religion and philosophy. I find it instructive (though, as you might expect, infuriating) to watch guys like this responding to philosophical ideas.
He doesn't say "...and having a pantheistic view makes it necessary for ethics, if it exists at all, to be grounded in the world and not outside of it, which will never sufficiently satisfy our moral intuitions," which seems like an argument that could be meaningfully elaborated. Instead, he says that with no God outside of creation, there is no difference between right and wrong (he mentions "two sides of the same coin" but doesn't make any attempt to investigate what that might mean to, say, the Buddhist, who would acknowledge that these are ultimately one but that for practical purposes they must be recognized), no justice for rape and murder, no consolation, and you may as well commit suicide. This is not exactly an exemplary use of the principle of charity.
I have long thought that while individual religious thinkers have come up with interesting, sophisticated world-views worthy of consideration, as soon as these philosophies turn into social movements, all subtlety is lost, thinking disappears, and the thing turns to shit. This is certainly true of attempts to make a cult out of Nietzsche (Ayn Rand and Hitler being two notorious examples; ever see the Hitchock film "Rope?"), and look what Marx became turned into actual political doctrine. I would even classify the use of Kant as a bludgeon of religious tolerance here ("He's talking about religion, which is beyond science and human rationality, so he can say whatever bullshit he wants without us being able to object."), though Kant doesn't usually get the credit in this case.
But obviously the big one here is religion, which goes through so many permutations and mutilations in being organized and interpreted and disseminated that schisms and reformations are all but inevitable. Whereas the Buddhist philosopher we're looking into (Nagarjuna) seems to recognize some actual philosophical problems and respond to them, I see no such subtlety in flipping through the "Lotus Sutra" from near the same time and in the same tradition, and it's the latter that became a scriptural text to many Buddhists.
What I'm still figuring out in revisiting my little theory here is the middle men, the priests and teachers and practitioners who make a good faith effort to learn things and seem to spend a good deal of time thinking, and certainly talking. While I can easily understand why non-philosophical laypeople are going to have sloppy, unjustified beliefs (because everything they think they needed to know they learned in kindergarten), what of people who have given their lives to thinking and teaching? What excuses does Mark Driscoll here have for being such a poor philosopher?
...Or am I missing the distinction here between philosophizing and preaching, where the latter is allowed to appeal to the audience's emotions and call upon them only to reference doctrines already previously imparted so that they can reject new ideas such as pantheism as being repugnant to these preconceptions? I'll be charitable and say that Driscoll is not so much intellectually dishonest or purposefully dense as trying to stay on message for what he perceives to be the good of his flock. (Flock 'n roll, baby!)
All religious videos should, I think, be required to have a goofy talking snake in them to provide comic relief. I think this one is available, though he might abstain on moral grounds from taking the gig.