Christianity is unique compared to all other religions of the world. There isn’t any other religion that declares that God took on human form in order to reconcile the world to Himself through Jesus’ substitutionary dead or sacrifice; that is to say, Christianity is what God has done for Man[kind]. This belief is fundamentally rejected by Jews and Muslims based primarily on the claims made by Jesus that he was, in fact, God. They can accept Him as a prophet or messenger but not as the one true Deity. Therefore, Christianity is accused of being polytheistic. As it turns out, the entire foundation of Christian belief is rejected by two of the world’s major religions.
The most fundamental objection to Christianity by both Jews and Muslims is the notion of the Trinity. The Trinity, according to Christian belief, is the concept of God consisting of three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit collectively referred to as the Godhead. Hence, Christianity is rejected by both Jews and Muslims as being a polytheistic belief system, that is, a belief in multiple gods.
Nevertheless, it is somewhat ironic that Christianity began as a Jewish belief system; as Jesus Himself said: “’I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’” (Matt. 15:24 NASB) Yet the Jews rejected and continue to reject Him as their Messiah as was prophesied: “I permitted Myself to be sought by those who did not ask for Me; I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek Me. I said, ‘Here am I, here am I,’ To a nation which did not call on My name.” (Isa. 65:1)
This post will look at these objections and offer explanations from Scripture as well as some alternative and hopefully novel and interesting ways of looking at the concept of God. Future entries in the series will also examine some of the major differences between Christianity and some of the other major polytheistic religions from Greek Mythology to Buddhism. The intent here is not to be exhaustive, but there are some fundamental differences that are common to all other world religions.
Jews believe that there is only one true God. Both Christians and Jews know Him by many names including Yahweh or Jehovah, and the Muslims as Allah. Judaism and Islam are both recognized as being monotheistic religions, that is, their followers believe in only one true God. In the same way, Christians also believe that Christianity is a monotheistic religion in spite of their acceptance of God in three persons. So, are the accusations that Christianity is polytheistic valid? Does the Bible give us any indication that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three separate gods all acting according to their own individual will and desires? In addition to those arguments found in the Scriptures, this post proposes that Christianity is, in fact, monotheistic using concepts borrowed from object-oriented programming.
In Exodus 3:14 when Moses asks God for His name, God answers with the self-referential phrase YHVH, better known as “I AM WHO I AM.” On the surface, God’s answer seems dismissive or matter-of-fact. His answer really says nothing about who He is, yet at the same time it says everything; I am God, what more do I need to say? From God’s point of view, He is and that’s all Moses needed to know. And by this one attribute alone, the God of Israel sets Himself apart from all the other so-called gods—as we shall see in detail later in this series.
However, before attempting to defend Christianity as a monotheistic belief system, a unique and proper name for the God of Israel; the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—who is also the God of Christianity needs to be settled upon. I prefer the name Yehovah, a transliteration of the name YHVH from the Tanakh or Jewish scriptures. YHVH, which is known as the Tetragrammaton meaning “the four letters,” is not pronounced by observant Jews; instead, they substitute Adonai when reading the Torah or the name Hashem, “the Name,” at other times.1
I refuse to yield to the temptation of substituting any of the proper names of God with “G-d” which is another common practice among observant Jews. In my way of thinking, substitutions are more offensive than unintentionally but reverentially mispronouncing any of His names as revealed in Scripture. In the same way, I find the substitution “Xmas” for “Christmas,” irreverent and offensive.
In this series, because I’ll be discussing many gods, I’ve decided to use either a qualifier with the name God when referring to the Hebrew / Christian Deity or simply GOD (all uppercase) as necessary to avoid ambiguity. For example, I may use: Yehovah God, God of Israel, Godhead, or GOD. Of course, the name Allah will be used when referring to God as revealed in the Quran.
My first argument, in a series of arguments, will be to compare Yehovah’s attributes with the attributes of some of the major polytheistic gods from around the world. If Christianity were to be seriously classified as polytheistic, then God as represented in the Christian Trinity would, out of necessity, be expected to possess the same or similar attributes as the gods of commonly recognized polytheistic world religions. I propose to show that Yehovah God is unique among the many gods of popular polytheistic world religions that I’ll be discussing in this series “GOD & the Gods.”
Also In this series, I’ll attempt to answer some objections that Jews and Muslims have leveled against the Christian Trinity. I’ll also argue that the objections are really leveled against Jesus and not the notion of the Trinity specifically.
Before this series attempts to examine and compare the attributes of GOD with the attributes of the gods of polytheistic religions, the attributes of Yehovah God must first be identified. The first attribute considered is His origin or genesis, if you will. The Scriptures say that He is eternal, without beginning and without end. Finite man cannot fathom the concept of an infinite being—the mind just collapses in on itself. Without a doubt, this is the hardest concept for humankind to comprehend but nevertheless, this is exactly what the Scriptures teach as illustrated in the following verses:
The eternal God is a dwelling place… (Deut. 33:27)
Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, From everlasting even to everlasting… (1 Chron. 16:36)
…Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. (Ps. 90:2)
Your throne is established from of old; You are from everlasting. (Ps. 93:2)
From everlasting I was established, From the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth. (Prov. 8:23)
As illustrated in the Scripture verses listed above, it can be seen that God is infinite as inferred by the word “everlasting” which is a translation of the word olam (Hebrew NASB Number: 5769). The word olam has also been translated into other English words such as: “eternal,” “continual,” and “perpetual.” Psalm 90:2 clearly says that God is not only eternal but that He is eternally God—a subtle point which will be examined later in this series “GOD & the Gods.” In addition, God not only existed before all Creation as stated in Psalm 90:2, Proverbs 8:23, and Isaiah 40:28, but He is the author of all Creation.
In Exodus 3:14 when Moses asks God for His name, God answers with the self-referential phrase “I AM WHO I AM.” On the surface, God’s answer seems dismissive or matter-of-fact. His answer really says nothing about who He is, yet at the same time it says everything; I am God, what more do I need to say? From God’s point of view, He is and that’s all Moses needed to know. By this one attribute alone, the God of Israel sets Himself apart from all the other so-called gods—as we shall see in detail later in this series.
The second attribute considered is God’s power or authority. Yehovah God is sovereign over all creation. He exercises His authority over nations, kings, nature, life and death, and the angelic world which includes demons. His position of power and authority is unchallenged and absolute in both the spirit world and in the natural physical world. Consider the following verses:
While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, And cold and heat, And summer and winter, And day and night Shall not cease. (Gen. 8:22)
For this time I will send all My plagues on you and your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is no one like Me in all the earth. For if by now I had put forth My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, you would then have been cut off from the earth. But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth. (Exod. 9:14-16)
Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. (Deut. 10:14)
The LORD commanded the angel, and he put his sword back in its sheath. (1 Chron. 21:27)
Then Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD before the new court, and he said, ’O LORD, the God of our fathers, are You not God in the heavens? And are You not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand so that no one can stand against You.’ (2 Chron. 20:5-6)
And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (Rev. 20:10)
In Genesis 1:28, God commands Adam and Eve to multiply, subdue the earth and rule over all living things. Man was given the authority to use the earth and its resources in order for Man to survive and prosper. Then in Genesis 2:15, God balances authority with responsibility when He commands Adam to be a good steward of the garden where he was placed. I am convinced the earth’s resources will last as long as they are intended to last. Contrary to popular opinion, Man wasn’t created for the earth, but the earth was created for Man, even though Man was created later.
Later on, in Genesis 8:21, God, speaking to Himself after bringing the flood upon the earth, promised that He would never again destroy every living thing as He had done with the flood. The interesting statement is in the next verse where God promises that as long as the earth exists, hot and cold, summer and winter, and day and night will not cease. God establishes and preserves the natural order of things, not politicians or so-called environmental activists. If there are, in fact, any variations in the earth’s temperature, God is allowing it to happen. God knows how to keep the earth in balance—after all, He created it.
I believe the third and final attribute that separates God from all the other gods is the one attribute that causes most other religions to stumble and that is the notion of one God existing in multiple persons. (Notice I didn’t say Trinity, but that’s a topic for another time.)
So, how can the concept of One God in three persons be reconciled? Is the Trinity polytheistic? The answer being proposed is to consider God as an instantiation of a One GOD superclass or base class. The Trinity consists of objects instantiated from three subclasses such as Father, Son, Comforter. The three persons that are identified as composing the Trinity are: YHVH, Jesus, and The Spirit respectively. If the Trinity is in fact a composition of all three instantiations of the three subclasses, then you could say that One GOD has a Father; One GOD has a Son; and One GOD has a Comforter. All three persons would have to exist in order for God to exist as One GOD.
I think there is a biblical basis for this theory since God established the notion of classes or kind in creation.
God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good. (Gen. 1:25)
Unlike creation, God was self-instantiated.
As it stands, I’ll leave this theory of God, as derived from object-oriented programming, here for now. I plan to elaborate on this in a future post.
I’ll close this writing with one final thought. Isn’t the belief in an all-powerful, all-knowing, eternally existent Deity just as hard to believe as the concept of one God composed of three entities? Just the idea of a being without a beginning or end is enough to make your head explode. Probably the best analogy for this can be found in the Star Trek episode “The Changeling” where the character Captain Kirk confounds the probe Nomad with his accusation that it is imperfect.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Greek-Hebrew dictionary references are from The New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.
“The Hebrew Name for God – YHVH,” John J. Parsons, accessed October 08, 2017, http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Names_of_G-d/YHVH/yhvh.html. ↩