One Is The Loneliest Number....Asking About Philosophical Monotheism

Peace of Christ everyone!

Christ aside, how would you philosophically defend monotheism?

Pax,
Charles

Why would Christ undermine monotheism?

I guess for me it simply comes down to theology. There is no other reason as far as I know to choose one over many.

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Peace of Christ Krumm!

I don’t think Christ undermines monotheism; I’m sure we both agree that He is a conformation of it. What I mean to say is: how would you justify monotheistic belief to someone without using Jesus as an example, like from a philosophical or natural standpoint?

Pax,
Charles

I guess I would not. That may not be the answer you want but I don’t think it has any justification outside of the word.

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I don’t know about philosophically, necessarily, but if you posit the existence of God, I don’t see a reason for more than one. The Bible seems to suggest that it is written on our hearts, as well, à la Psalm 19 & Romans 1:

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.

 
Psalm 19:1-2

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
 
Romans 1:20

 
That is corroborated by an account I have alluded to before, and I wish I could cite attribution for it, because I don’t think it was apocryphal…

I remember reading decades ago an account of an aboriginal tribesman in Africa who knew that the animism of his tribe was wrong. So he set out on his own, leaving the tribe, seeking. And he was found of Christ, because in his travels he ‘just happened upon’ some Christian missionaries laboring in or among another tribe or tribes.

 
I wonder if it was in this, by the same author as Peace Child, which I’ve mentioned before: Eternity in Their Hearts.

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I defend monotheism the same way I defend theism and atheism, which is to say there is no proof of any these things. All of them are rational possibilities and if you believe in one rather than the other then the reasons are completely subjective. This way you can acknowledge the rationality of beliefs different from your own.

In other words, I do NOT see anything irrational about polytheism. But neither do I see anything irrational about monotheism. My reasons for being a monotheist are therefore subjective in nature.

As for this one and one and one is three comment… This is only true if what you are counting is the same thing. One person and one different person and one more person different from the other two is three persons. But does one black cat and one white cat and one brown cat make three species? No it does not. Likewise it does not follow that Father, Son, and Holy spirit as three different persons is therefore three different gods. It is also possible as Trinitarians believe, Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one God who is not confined to a singularity of personhood as we are. (And btw in the case of multiple personality disorder, that is a case of fragments of persons not whole persons)

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Peace of Christ, Mitchell!

Thanks for this! As for my title, I was desperate to come up with something clever, and I was thinking about The Beatles and thought “Hey, I’m talking about God, right?” I should probably change it, because I was asking about general monotheism, not Trinitarian monotheism (which I believe in).

Pax,
Charles

You mean Unitarianism and its ilk, like Islam and Judaism. If you’re going to posit a God, it’s simpler; there are less entities. But without Jesus, God incarnate, there is no (rational) reason to posit one. To accept both you have to start proliferating other philosophical entities: making things more complicated with loads of yeah-buts which as categories are each and all less than that of the Trinity. I’ve got no problem with God being complex, but you have to peck the breadcrumbs: He has always incarnated on every one of the infinite inhabited worlds from eternity. What does that make the Second Person who is necessarily coterminous with infinite risen Christs, resurrected God-creation hybrids?

You’ll probably consider this a question dodge, maybe rightly so. But …

Once Christ is aside … what’s the point? Believe in as many or as few gods as you want.

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Based on one is the loneliest number, I’m assuming you a defending it from polytheism. Now its worth noting that you can’t defend unless their is a specific attack so what I’m giving is less a defense of monotheism but an attack on polytheism.
This might be a poor understanding on my part of polytheism but it might give it a try.

As far as I can tell, polytheistic belief are of a finite number of gods with finite power whereas monotheism is one god with infinite power. A finite number of beings with finite power does not add to infinite power.

For a natural perspective, if their is a finite or even infinite number of finite gods ruling over their own domain, then you expect object and materials to behave differently depending on who the ruling god is. If this is true how come does water in rivers which is ruled by the deity of rivers behave in the same than the water in the ocean that is ruled by the deity of the ocean. If they have to follow the over all rules of a single major deity and they have to follow them at such a level that we can’t detect any inconsistencies in the rules of physics, do these minor deities really have any power and their for in what way is this different from monotheism (or even atheism) ?

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One portrayal of polytheism can be found in an anime series entitled “Kamichu,” which begins with an announcement by a high school girl, Urie, to her friends that she had become a god (made a little more believable by how incredibly shy and unassuming this particular girl is). You quickly find out that in the world of this anime is filled with gods of every kind. In fact, at one point it is stated that there are as many gods as there are things in the universe (I take that to mean “types of things” actually). Perhaps this should be called super-polytheism or animism or something.

The powers of these gods seem to be rather limited and certainly does not amount to control even over the things they are the god of. Those other than Urie seem to be invisible to most people and they are more like inhabitants of a world of their own. Perhaps they can be said to contribute to random elements in the behavior and causality of things rather than being the source of their usual rational behavior – an addition to natural law rather than a replacement for natural law.

Anyway, I guess the point is that polytheism like most religious beliefs can be explained in a way that is consistent with the scientific worldview. Though I personally prefer the singular infinite notion of God as you do… though most polytheists also seem to believe in an ultimate singular god over all the others. Since even Christians believe in things like angels we are not really all that different.

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@Combine_Advisor, Charles, there is a real question as to whether the Christian God is One or Many. Jews and Muslims say Many. The Trinity says that God is both One and Three, both One and Many and this is the understanding that you affirm.

The One And the Many is not the One or the Many. Reality is both One (unified) and Many (diverse.) It is One out of Many (e pluribus unum,) both are real, both are
necessary.

God is the Father, Creator. God is the Son, Savior, Logos. God is the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, Love. God is each separately, if they can be separates, and God is also all three together. God is Three and God is One.

Jesus, the Trinity, is the Answer to the One and the Many?. For how this works out in philosophical terms I suggest you read my paper on Academia.edu “Using the One And the Many to Solve the Theory of Everything.”

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The Scriptures affirm God’s absolute unity from the beginning to the very end.

  • “In the beginning God [not gods] created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1).
  • “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deut. 6:4).
  • “You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3).
  • “I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God” (Isa. 44:6).
  • “I am the LORD, and there is no other” (Isa. 45:18).
  • “‘The most important [command],’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one” ’ ” (Mark 12:29).
  • “We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one” (1 Cor. 8:4). “[There is] one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:6).
  • “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).

The text could scarcely be clearer: There is one and only one God, as opposed to more than one. The oneness of the Godhead is one of the most fundamental teachings of Scripture. A denial of this truth is a violation of the first commandment.

God is Pure Actuality with no potentiality whatsoever, and there cannot be two or more Pure Actualities, for potentiality is the principle of differentiation. One thing cannot differ from another (in being) unless it is a different kind of being, and two beings of pure actuality are not different kinds of beings. Therefore, there can only be one Being who is Pure Actuality. Being as such cannot differ from Being as such. Many things can have being, but only one thing can be Being.

The Bible affirms that God is infinite in His Being, and there cannot be two or more infinite beings. If there were, then there would be more than an infinite, which is impossible. There cannot be two Alls or Supremes; hence, there can only be one infinite God. More precisely, to be two there must be a difference, and two simple beings of the very same kind cannot differ in their being.

Scripture asserts that God is absolutely perfect, and there cannot be two beings who are absolutely perfect, for to be two they must differ; otherwise they would be the same. To differ, one would have to possess some perfection that the other lacked. However, the one that lacked some perfection would not be absolutely perfect; therefore, there can be only one Being who is absolutely perfect.

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So God isn’t triune then?

Yes but if the deity has no agency what makes them a being worthy of praise, worship and consultation ?
Ultimately it comes back to my last, admittedly leading question.

@Paul_Allen1, my friend you are confusing the Bible which is Jewish and theological with philosophy which is pagan and Greek. The Bible does not say that God is Absolute. God says, “I AM WHO I AM.” in the Bible.

John10:30 “I and the Father are one.” Jesus

Either 1) Jesus is not One with the Father. or 2. Jesus is not God. or 3. Jesus is not separate from the Father.

The Son and the Father are both fully God, but the Son is not the Father Augustine (paraphrase)

Interesting… I don’t know if this is true… no, I am pretty sure I must disagree with this.

I certainly see God as infinite actuality and it is in our reflection of that as beings of infinite potentiality that I see the image of God in us.

But… I wonder if your statement doesn’t carry things too far. It goes against my standard principle to never say in any way whatsoever that God cannot do or does not have anything. That principle leads me to suggest that God does have potentiality as well of a relational sort and thus is capable of development in a relationship. It certainly seems the case in the Biblical narrative that God does learn things about other people in relationship with them, trying different strategies to reach them or help them.

I would guess that your assertion is the logic of Calvinism and I reject that in embracing open theism as the more Biblical and more compatible with the notions of a God who is loving and capable of relationships. Or to make this more tangible… I take it quite seriously when God says in Genesis 6:6 that He was sorry He made man on the earth, meaning if He known it would have turned out this way with people thinking only evil continually (a hell of total misery on the earth for all), then He would not have done it. But the Calvinist logic cannot take this seriously but must believe that God was not sorry because He had a plan of extermination in the flood and of eventual future redemption already in place… and all was proceeding exactly according to plan.

This is another demonstration of how arguments for theological assertions tend to replace the statements of faith (in this case, monotheism) with the premises of the argument (in this case, God as lacking potentiality).

And that is the best of the arguments you have employed. The premises of the other arguments are even more dubious.

  1. I see no reason why a thing cannot be different one of the same kind of being since we see many examples of this in the world.
  2. I see no reason why there cannot be an infinite number of infinite beings. It is certainly not mathematically correct to say that you cannot have infinity of infinite things or that you cannot add to infinity.
  3. I see no reason why there cannot be two beings who are absolutely perfect, whether they differ or not. Not all differences have an impact on perfection. But even if they have no differences it still does not mean they must be singular.

I believe the question was how to defend Monotheism from a philosophical position. That was the question I answered, not my position I hold.

Are you then saying that Christianity cannot be defended as monotheistic from a philosophical position?

Well, you’ve got atheism, polytheism, pantheism, and monotheism as four extreme alternative positions.

  1. Atheism denies all gods, including monotheism.
  2. Polytheism posits multiple gods, almost invariably divided up into a hierarchy. You can quibble about the definition of “God,” but if “God” is the absolute supreme entity, then the “highest god” of polytheism is actually God, and the rest are…“less than God.” It’s hard to maintain polytheism without it sliding into monotheism.
  3. Pantheism, experientially speaking, is not really tenable, unless you’re willing to dispense with any “good” or “evil.” Everything “just is.” If you define “God” as “good,” then pantheism is closer to atheism.

You kind of end up with atheism (including pantheism?) vs. monotheism (including polytheism—which is kind of monotheism in disguise).

Probably simplistic…but that’s a perspective.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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