Sunday, November 8, 2015

The uniqueness of Christian Theism

Acts 28:28-31 "Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will also listen.”29 [When he had spoken these words, the Jews departed, having a great dispute among themselves.]
30 And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him,31 preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered."

In yesterday's post we began considering various worldviews and focused particular on theism. We noted that "theism" is simply referring to belief in God. After considering some detailed explanations of "theism in general", we concluded by noting how "theism in general" is based upon four key ideas about God: 

1). Creator 
2). Eternal 
3). Providential 
4). Miraculously revealing

When doing evangelism, the Christian presents not just "theism in general", but a specific type of theism - namely Christian theism. Among the world-religions, three (and sometimes a fourth) are included under the umbrella of "theism". In a moment we will look at Christian theism (the focus of today's post) and show how its uniqueness sets it apart as the only worldview that can be consistently presented by the Christian and withstand assault from would-be attacks. It will be proposed in today's post that Christian Theism's uniqueness in comparison to other worldviews is what it sets it apart among its would-be contenders. 

The uniqueness of Christian Theism as the mark of its genuiness and effectiveness as a worldview
Let's briefly consider the three other worldviews that people place under this general designation of "theism". 

1. Judaism. 
2. Islam.
3. Mormonism.

Now the question is, how do these proposed versions of "theism" compare to Christian theism? I would propose that unlike the other three - Christian theism's uniqueness is what sets it apart from the other three. I will show this by considering the four traits of "general theism" above and seeing how Christian theism and the other three perform.

1. God as Creator.
In the discussions we saw yesterday, God as an Eternal, changeless, spaceless, self-sufficient, all powerful, all knowing and necessary Being is the first premise of standard Theism. The "self-sufficiency" of the Eternal God - whereby God was in no need to create the universe and would not had been different if He hadn't - cannot be maintained without considering the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. The Trinititarian doctrine asserts that the Father, Son and Spirit have perpetually related with and within one another. God as One God exists with the Three Persons. A Self-relating God has no need for creation - and has maximal freedom to choose whether or not to create. None of the other worldviews claiming to be theistic contain the doctrine of the Trinity.

Hence Christian Theism, with its unique doctrine of the Trinity - alone and consistently asserts the true and living God of Theism. Within Judaism and Islam, God has no way of relating within Himself. Mormonism does not assert Monotheism (belief in One God) but is more akin to polytheism (belief in multiple Deities), with their version of the "Father" being one deities in a long line of deities. Hence Mormonism would technically not even be considered true Theism by definition. Only Trinitarian Christian Theism can consistently, reasonably and thus uniquely declare the True and living Creator God.

2. God as Eternal
In this definition of eternity is included the idea of God being a Necessary being - meaning that if God did not exist, nothing else would. To put it another way, God is His own explanation for why He exists and thus is also His own standard for what is Good, is timeless and changeless. Islam declares that "Allah" wills what is good or evil, and thus such designations are not a part of His eternal character. Judaism again asserts God as being Eternal, just like Christianity, however the fully self-relating concept of God as existing within Three-interrelating Persons is not included in Judaism's standard definition of God's eternal existence. Mormonism, again, conceives of a string of greater and lesser deities that independently are not eternal. Once more, Christian Theism most fully articulates this point of God's eternality. 

3. Providential
Can God regularly intervene in the affairs of His creation? Islam and Judaism are silent on this score. Mormonism claims a version of this intervention - however with their concept of the Deity as really being a string of "deities", the doctrine of God's intervention and preservation of history to an intended end cannot be logically and consistently maintained. 

In Christian theism, we see the Spirit of God working in the active sustaining of creation and the moving forward of history (Romans 8:21-25). The Son is also included in the preservation and holding together of all things (Colossians 1:16-17). Then the Father exercises His will to bring together whatsoever comes to pass (Ephesians 1:11). The One God of the Bible exists equally and Eternally in all three Persons, with each Person perfectly expressing the fulness of Deity and the glory of the other two Persons. To put it more clearly - God's providential involvement in Christian Theism is Highly Personal and interpersonal. This uniqueness once again sets Christian theism apart.

4. Miraculously revealing
Christian theism has been seen to be unique and  set apart from its competitors due to the unique Trinitarian nature of the One God. In this final point, the miraculous work of God and thus His revelatory activity are uniquely revealed in Christian Theism in ways unheard of in the other versions. For one thing, Judaism and Islam no nothing of an incarnation. Furthermore, both (in different ways) do not focus their belief systems around Jesus. Christianity teaches that Jesus Christ is the full revelation of God in human flesh (John 1:14). The Person of the Son has assumed flesh and truly reveals God because He is God (Colossians 2:9). Mormonism's version of Jesus assumes a body, however since they do not believe in Monotheism, the Mormon Jesus cannot be considered an incarnation of God - but only some sort of lesser deity or spiritual being. 

The second unique trait of Christian theism in regards to God's miraculous revelatory activity is the resurrection of Jesus. Islam denies Jesus ever died on the cross, and has nothing substantive to say when it comes to the resurrection. Judaism conceives of resurrection as something that will occur at the end of history, and thus the idea of any resurrection occuring beforehand is foreign to their worldview. 

Mormonism tends to focus more on alleged appearances of their version of Jesus in the Americas than his resurrection. Also, unlike the Biblical Christ, the Mormon accounts of their version of Jesus appearing in the Americas cannot be corroborated by historical investigation. Moreover, the Book of Mormon is silent on details such as the empty tomb and the discovery of such by the disciples. 

Thirdly, the Bible itself is unique in that it has verified fulfilled prophecy. Neither the Quran nor the book of Mormon has any examples. 

We could go on, but in this post we have explored Christian theism from the standpoint of its uniqueness. When engaging in dialogue with other non-Christian worldviews, we must be sure that when asserting and defending Theism - that we specify Christian Theism.