The Radical Implication of Monotheism
Is there one God or many?
If there is one God why are there so many religions?
In the end, are the answers to these questions important?
The Assertion: Some are quick to declare there is really only one God or that all Gods are the same. We hear it argued therefore there is no need to fuss about supposed differences between religions since such differences are superficial and inconsequential. In the end there is one God, therefore all religions are one. You may have seen one expression of this argument in the slogan: "God is to big to be limited to one religion."
Is that so?
First we need to distinguish between God and religion. Let's try to do it simply without oversimplifying this way:
God is the supreme being who brought the universe, including us, into being. God is also the source of our yearning to know God. As Augustine famously observed: "You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you."
Religion is the human yearning for God. Religion may be simple and personal or it may be complex and institutional but it's roots are the human longing to know God.
Elements in Common:
It may also be agreed that there are many religions and that various religious responses to the yearning for God have common elements. These elements include the fact that we are human. We hold to belief in some kind of supreme being or principle. We share the desire to know or relate meaningfully to this God. We hold to writings considered authoritative to adherents of our religion. And we hold to ways of personally expressing a positive response to the God we worship.
The Ultimate Root of Differences:
There are also differences between religions. Some differences may be viewed as superficial. However there are also profound differences rooted in different teachings flowing out of their writings ultimately rooted in different conceptions of God or even in the worship of different beings claiming to be God.
Some will challenge, "how can there be different beings claiming to be God? How can there be more than one God?"
Those who believe in or worship multiple gods may agree that all gods are not in fact equal in status and worth. They may even agree there is a one more worthy or powerful God among them and that this God has a unique claim to be the Supreme God. The difference between polytheists and monotheists then, is that polytheists value the lesser gods still as gods, whereas monotheists view these gods only to be claimants to the supreme being but ultimately unworthy of worship.
The question then is who is the Supreme God? There are rivals:
For instance Greek and Norse gods are depicted as fighting each other, deceiving, lying, killing and stealing to get ahead; much like some people do. These gods in that way seem to be made in our image; simply bigger versions of our sinful selves.
In one religion rats are worshipped. In another demons are served or human sacrifice is required. In a third religion non-adherents are beheaded in the name of their god.
In some places there were no hospitals or doctors before the Gospel arrived because the concept of compassion was foreign to their view of god.
It's difficult to conceive of each of being rooted in the same God. It's more likely the yearning for God in some religions has been attached to different beings. But are there different beings?
While some worldviews like Deism hold only to God and humans, most others (except atheism) acknowledges good and bad spirits, angels and demons as equally real. The Bible acknowledges both but denies them deity. These spiritual beings were created to serve God but some have turned against God seeking themselves to be worshiped as God is worshiped.
Idols themselves are but wood or stone but fallen spiritual beings desiring to be worshipped may take up residence in the idol to receive worship. The moon is but part of God's creation but a fallen spiritual being may lay claim to being the moon-god to seek worship.
As lesser beings compete for worship their character will affect their adherents. AW Tozer observed that humans inevitably become more like what we worship.
The Uniqueness of the Supreme God:
The Bible reveals Jesus as the unique incarnation of the Supreme God. All "lesser gods" are pretenders. Jesus taught the ethic of the Father God he represented in the Sermon on the Mount.
Both the character of the Supreme God and the ethic flowing from God's character are unique among the religions of the world.
Forgiveness isn't offered by any other religion. Forgiveness flows from the cross where Christ atoned for our sins.
Salvation isn't offered by any other religion. Other religions make suggestions as to how one can save oneself. But that's the point. We can't save ourselves. If we could save our self with good will and good effort, we wouldn't need God as Saviour.
The Gospel is that God loves us and loves to have fellowship with us. Why do other religions not say that? Because only God revealed in Christ is that Supreme God.
If there is and can only be one actually Supreme God, regardless of number of others who claim to be gods, we are left with many profound consequences.
First, it becomes our primary interest to know who the one Supreme living God is and as much as possible about Him. Look to Jesus.
Secondly it becomes our central interest to respond to Him in the ways consistent with His nature. Begin here.
Thirdly when faced with a choice, we will choose the word, view, direction, or perspective of God the Father of our Lord Jesus, over that of the word, view, direction or perspective of those who disagree with Him.
Are all gods the same or does monotheism mean there really is only one God and the others claimants aren't God? Or at minimum aren't the same God?
As AW Tozer observed, "What I believe about God is the most important thing about me" and "
But is there more than one God? If not, are all religions worshipping One God?
It's true of course that contradictory religions have common elements: But does that make them the same?