CHRISTIANITY AND MONOTHEISM
Nuggets by Innocent Maja
There has been a lot of debate on whether Christianity is polytheistic or monotheistic. This has caused a lot of division in the body of Christ and has prevented Jews to embrace Christianity. It has placed a barrier on the effective ministry of the gospel. It would be important to address this issue. Below are my views about this debate. I invite you to challenge my views on this subject and contribute to the on-going debate. This can open our understanding of this issue.
Arguments used by Pseudo-Christian religions to destroy monotheism
Pseudo-Christians use quite a number of scriptures to attempt to propagate the conception that Christianity is not monotheistic but polytheistic. I will just highlight three scriptures from each testament to highlight their arguments and try to address them.
Three examples from the Old Testament that are used by pseudo – Christians to destroy monotheism are;
Genesis 1:26, God says “Let us make man in our image.” In Genesis 3:22, God says “man has become like one of us.”
In Genesis 11:7, God says “Let Us go down and confuse them.”
And in Isaiah 6:8, God says “Who shall go for us.”
In all these Scriptures, God uses plural to refer to God. Pseudo – Christians argue that these scriptures reveal that there is more than one God. They argue on the basis of these three scriptures that Christians worship the plurality of gods.
However, this contention is misplaced because the use of plural by God refers to God communing with Himself and consulting with His own Counsel. This is a common phenomenon in scripture. Persons, especially Kings, would speak in plural while referring to themselves. For instance, in Daniel 2v36 Daniel refers to “us” when he is talking about himself. Again, in Ezra 4v18 and 7v24, the King refers to “us” and “we” when he is talking about himself. These scriptures therefore, do not destroy monotheism but supports it.
In the New Testament, the following scriptures are also used by Pseudo-Christians to try to destroy monotheism;
Matthew 28v19 says "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Pseudo-Christians argue that Father, Son and the Holy Spirit refer to 3 gods thereby destroying monotheism. However, in this passage, Jesus commanded His disciples to baptize "in the name (singular) of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." However, this verse does not teach that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three separate persons because the word name is singular and not plural. Rather, it teaches the titles of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost identify one name and therefore one being. The verse expressly says "in the name," not "in the names."
1 John 5v7 says "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." Pseudo – Christians argue that Father, Word and Holy Spirit are 3 distinct deities. This attempts to destroy monotheism. However, an analysis of this verse shows that this verse of Scripture refutes the view that Father, Son and Holy Spirit refers to 3 deities. It is also interesting to note that this verse does not use the word Son, but Word. If Son were the special name of a separate person in the Godhead, and if this verse were trying to teach separate persons, why did it use Word instead of Son? Son does not refer primarily to deity, but Word does. The Word is not a separate person from the Father any more than a man and his word are separate persons. Rather, the Word is the thought or plan in the mind of God and also the expression of God.
In a similar way, the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit is not a separate person from the Father any more than a man and his spirit are separate persons. Holy Spirit just describes what God is. First John 5:7 says that three bear record in heaven; that is, God has recorded Himself in three modes of activity or has revealed Himself in three ways. He has at least three heavenly roles: Father, Word (not Son), and Holy Ghost. Furthermore, these three roles describe one God: "these three are one."
© 2 Corinthians 13:14 reads, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen." Pseudo – Christians seem to think that this verse reveals that God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are 3 separate persons. This again is wrong. The verse conveys three aspects or attributes of God that we can know and have. First, there is God's grace. God has made His grace available to mankind through His manifestation in flesh, in Jesus Christ. In other words, unmerited favor, divine help, and salvation come to us through the atoning work of Jesus. Then God is love, and love always has been part of His basic nature. He loved us long before He robed Himself in flesh as Christ. And finally, the baptism of the Holy Ghost gives us communion (fellowship) with God and with our fellow believers: "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body" - the body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:13). Through the indwelling Spirit of God, not the presence of the physical body of Jesus Christ, we have a present, continuing relationship with God unlike anything available to the Old Testament saints.
2 Corinthians 13:14 is logical and understandable when we interpret it as three important relationships God has shared with us or as three different works the one Spirit accomplishes. There are diversities of operations but only one God working all in all (I Corinthians 12:4-6).
Is Christianity monotheistic then?
In my view, Christianity is monotheistic. Christians worship one God. This is a theme that runs through both the Old and New Testaments. For example, in Deuteronomy 6:4 the Bible elaborates and emphasizes that there is only one God. It says; "Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD." Many other Old Testament verses of Scripture emphatically affirm strict monotheism. For instance, The Ten Commandments begin with, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 5:7). God emphasized this command by stating that He is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5). In Deuteronomy 32:39, God said there is no other god with him. There is none like the LORD and there is no God beside Him (II Samuel 7:22; I Chronicles 17:20). He alone is God (Psalm 86:10) In short, the Old Testament speaks of God in terms of being one.
Again, Isaiah 43 v 10-11 says "Before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour.” Other Old Testament scriptures are;"I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God" (Isaiah 44:6); "Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any" (Isaiah 44:8); "I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself" (Isaiah 44:24); "There is none beside me. I am the LORD and there is none else" (Isaiah 45:6); "There is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else" (Isaiah 45:21-22); "Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me" (Isaiah 46:9); "I will not give my glory unto another" (Isaiah 48:11; see also Isaiah 42:8); "O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, that dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: thou hast made heaven and earth" (Isaiah 37:16). “There is only one God, who is the Creator and Father of mankind” (Malachi 2:10). In short, the Old Testament speaks of God in terms of being one.
The New Testament also teaches that there is one God. For instance, In Mark 12v 29-30 Jesus emphatically taught Deuteronomy 6:4, calling it the first of all the commandments. This notion is explicitly repeated numerous times in the New Testament. For example Romans 3:30 says "Seeing it is one God which shall justify." I Corinthians 8:4 says "There is none other God but one."(I Corinthians 8:6 says "But to us there is but one God, the Father." Again, Galatians 3:20 says "But God is one.” Ephesians 4:6 says "One God and Father of all." Also I Timothy 2:5 says "For there is one God" James 2v19 says "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” Again, the Bible calls God the Holy One (I John 2:20). There is one throne in heaven and One sits upon it (Revelation 4:2). These scriptures clearly demonstrate that the New Testament teaches about one God. This is a position that Christianity has consistently maintained irrespective of the misinterpretations of other pseudo – Christian religions.
It is also pertinent to note that the mistaken view that Christianity is polytheistic stems from a misunderstanding of the name and titles God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Christian detractors are of the mistaken view that these names and or titles refer to 3 distinct persons. I have already argued above that scripture clearly exhorts Christians to baptize in the ‘name’ not ‘names’ of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. You will even realize from the book of Acts that the apostles baptized new believers in the name of ‘Jesus’. This does not mean that they were being disobedient to the Command in Matthew. Instead, they understood that the Godhead is fully embodied in Jesus Christ. This argument is supported by Colossians 2v9 that says “For in Him (Jesus) dwells all the fullness of the godhead bodily.”
Let me explain this a little further. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost all describe the one God. It therefore follows that the phrase in Matthew 28:19 simply describes the one name of the one God. This interpretation is consistent with the Old Testament. For example, the Old Testament promised that there would come a time when Jehovah would have one name and that this one name would be made known (Zechariah 14:9; Isaiah 52:6). We know that the one name of Matthew 28:19 is Jesus, for Jesus is the name of the Father (John 5:43; Hebrews 1:4), the Son (Matthew 1:21), and the Holy Ghost (John 14:26). As already argued above, the New Testament church understood this to be so, for they baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5; I Corinthians 1:13). Matthew himself endorsed this interpretation by standing with Peter and the other apostles during the sermon in which Peter commanded the people to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:14-38).
Matthew 28:19 does not teach three persons in one God, but rather it gives three titles of one God. These titles sum up different roles of God or modes of His revelation; by its singular reference to "name," it focuses upon the one name of God revealed in the New Testament. That name is Jesus.
1 John 5v7 says "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." This verse of Scripture refutes the view that Father, Son and Holy Spirit refers to 3 deities. It is also interesting to note that this verse does not use the word Son, but Word. If Son were the special name of a separate person in the Godhead, and if this verse were trying to teach separate persons, why did it use Word instead of Son? Son does not refer primarily to deity, but Word does. The Word is not a separate person from the Father any more than a man and his word are separate persons. Rather, the Word is the thought or plan in the mind of God and also the expression of God.
In a similar way, the Holy Spirit is not a separate person from the Father any more than a man and his spirit are separate persons. Holy Spirit just describes what God is. First John 5:7 says that three bear record in heaven; that is, God has recorded Himself in three modes of activity or has revealed Himself in three ways. He has at least three heavenly roles: Father, Word (not Son), and Holy Ghost. Furthermore, these three roles describe one God: "these three are one."
Another argument is that a thorough study of scriptures reveals that God did not use the name and titles God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit to denote polytheism. Instead, he used them to reveal his manifestations, nature, roles, relationships to humanity, modes of activity and aspects of His self – revelation. Put differently, God used the name and titles God the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit as a means of progressive self-revelation. Names manifest God’s character. Such a use of name is consistent with scriptures. For example, in Exodus 6:3 God said, "And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known unto them." Verses 4 through 8 make it very clear that the significance to Israel of the name Jehovah was its association with redemption and salvation. It is important to note that even though Abraham had earlier used the name Jehovah in Genesis 22:14, God did not make known to him the full significance of this name in its redemptive aspect. So, in Exodus 6:3 God promised to reveal Himself to His people in a new way. That is, He began to associate His name with a new understanding of His character and presence.
A study of the Old Testament further reveals that God progressively revealed more about Himself as various needs arose in the lives of man. People the gave God specific names to express God’s self-revelation. When Abraham needed a lamb to sacrifice, God provided and Abraham named the place Jehovah-jireh, the LORD that provides. God revealed himself as a deliverer to Israel1. He also revealed Himself as Jehovah-rapha, the LORD that heals, when Israel needed healing. When Israel needed victory over enemies, God revealed Himself as Jehovah-nissi, the LORD our banner, i.e., victory. The list is endless. What emerges therefore is that these names do not suggest a plurality of gods but the manifestation of an aspect of the character, nature and presence of one God.
You will notice from the Old Testament that desired to know more about God and even expressed their desire by asking to know His name. a number of examples come to mind here. Firstly, Genesis 32 v 29 records that when Jacob wrestled with the man at Peniel (a manifestation of God), he asked, "Tell me, I pray thee, thy name." God did not reveal His name but did bless him. Secondly, in Judges 13 v 18, Samson’s father, Manoah, asked the angel of the LORD what his name was. This was the response he got: "Why asketh thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret?"
It is encouraging to note that when the fullness of time came, God did satisfy the longings of His people and revealed Himself in all His power, majesty and glory through the name Jesus Christ. Jesus is the culmination of all the Old Testament names of God. Colossians 2v9 says “For in Him (Jesus) dwells all the fullness of the godhead bodily.” It is the highest, most exalted name ever revealed to mankind. The name of Jesus is the name of God that He promised to reveal when He said in Isaiah 52 v 6, "Therefore my people shall know my name". the name of Jesus Christ is supreme. It is the only vehicle to salvation. Acts 4 v 12 says: "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." Philippians 2 v 9-10 wraps it up neatly and stipulate that "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth"
God fully reveals himself through the name of Jesus. The Old Testament testifies that Jesus is God. For instance, in Isaiah 9:6 the Bible says "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father The Prince of Peace." The terms child and son refer to the Incarnation or manifestation of "The mighty God" and "The everlasting Father." Again in Isaiah 7v14 which was also quoted in Matthew 1v22-23 Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would be called Immanuel, that is, God with us. Again, Isaiah 40:3 declares that one would cry in the wilderness, "Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God." John the Baptist fulfilled this prophecy when he prepared the way for Jesus (Matthew 3:3); so Jesus is the LORD (Jehovah) and our God. These scriptures in the Old Testament clearly states that the Messiah and Savior to come would be God Himself.
Even the New Testament confirms that Jesus is God. For instance, John 1 v1 says in the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the Word was God.” In verse 1 the Bible declared that the word became flesh or incarnated in the person of Jesus Christ. Acts 20:28 reveals that the church was purchased with God's own blood, namely the blood of Jesus. In Titus 2v13 Paul described Jesus as "the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" Again, in 2 Peter 1v1 Peter described Him as "God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." Finally, the Book of Colossians strongly emphasizes the deity of Christ. In Colossians 2v9, scripture says "For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." According to these verses of Scripture, Jesus is not just a part of God, but all of God is resident in Him. If there were several persons in the Godhead, according to Colossians 2:9 they would all be resident in the bodily form of Jesus. This obviously makes Christianity monotheistic.
From the foregoing, it is clear that Christianity is monotheistic and not polytheistic.
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1 See Exodus 6:3-8