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QUESTION: What is monotheism?


The word monotheism comes from two Greek words - monos meaning "one" and theos meaning "God" - the belief in only one God. But to understand Monotheism, let's look at it in relation to the other positions people take about God. Atheism states that there is no God. Monotheism holds that God exists and that there is only one true God (although false gods may be acknowledged). Finally, Polytheism asserts that more than one true god exists (usually a multitude of gods as in the Greek and Roman pantheons). Everyone who takes a position on God's existence falls logically into one of these three categories. (Note: The only other logical position is to say that one does not know or cannot know if God exists. This is the agnostic position.) Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are the three major monotheistic religions in the world today.

Thus, Monotheism holds that only one God exists. But what is this one God like? To answer that question, we must answer a series of additional questions. For example, is God part of the created universe or does He live in a higher plane - is He transcendent? Pantheism holds that everything we see is part of God. In other words, God and the physical universe are one, of the same substance, or one contains the other. On the other hand, astrophysicist, Stephen Hawkins, in his book A Brief History of Time1 concluded that God must transcend His creation since He is the cause of all creation. Since a cause must transcend its effect, God must be transcendent also.

But is this one transcendent God a Person or a Force? If God is a force, like gravity or inertia, then He would display none of the characteristics of a person - intelligence, will, emotions, or love. In fact, if God were a Force, using the personal pronoun "He" to refer to God would be silly. But many scientists today - from microbiology to astronomy - are concluding that there was intelligence and purpose behind the creation of the universe. Whoever or whatever created the universe planned the work, took great care to set minute checks and balances in place, and went to incredible lengths so that life (you and I) could exist here on planet earth. Finally, God communicates with His creation. In short, God exhibits all the non-physical characteristics of a person.

Finally, does this one, transcendent, personal God care about His creation? The Deist view is that God created the universe, set the physical laws in motion, wound it up like an old-fashioned clock, set it in its place, and has been either watching it or ignoring it ever since. On a practical level, this view of God is little different from the atheistic view. In contrast, Christianity teaches that God cares about His creation, cares about you and me, desires a relationship with us, and is intimately interested in our lives.

The Bible teaches that God exists (Genesis 1:1 and Hebrews 11:6); that He is unique (Deuteronomy 6:4); the He is transcendent (Isaiah 57:15); that He is a person (Exodus 3:7; Hebrews 6:17); and that He is lovingly involved with His creation (John 3:16). Furthermore, the Bible teaches that we can have a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus (John 1:12).

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