Questions & Answers – Part 5

Q: What does the biblical phrase “The Lord our God is one Lord” (Deut. 6:4) mean?

A: Ignatius wrote, “There is then one God and Father, and not two or three; one who is; and there is no other beside Him, the only true God. ‘Hath not one God created us? Have we not all one Father? And there is also one Son, God the Word ‘The only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father.’ And again ‘One Lord Jesus Christ’ And there is also one Paraclete. ‘For there is one Spirit since we have been called in one hope of our calling.” And again ‘We have drunk of one Spirit’…And it is manifest that all these gifts possessed by believers worketh one and the same Spirit. There are not then either three Fathers or three Sons or three Paracletes but one Father, one Son, and one Paraclete. Wherefore also the Lord, when He sent forth the apostles to make disciples of all nations, commanded them to baptize in the ‘name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost’ (Matt. 28:19), not unto one person having three names, nor unto three persons who became incarnate, but into three possessed of equal honor”

Q: Why do Christians insist that there is only one God? What’s wrong with the idea of more than one?

A: The idea of God includes the idea of absolute fullness and perfection, lacking anything. As Aquinas insisted, “God comprehends in himself the whole perfection of being. If many gods existed, they would necessarily differ from one another. Something would belong to one and not the other.” If one were missing something unique and God-like that another possessed, he would not be perfect; and lacking completeness, he would hence not be God. “Hence the ancient philosophers, constrained as it were by truth itself, when they asserted an infinite principle, asserted likewise that there was only one such principle.”

Q: How do you explain Deut. 10:17: “For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords” in the light of a monotheistic viewpoint?

A: William Pettingill writes, “Satan is called the god of this age (2Cor.4:4). The gods of the heathen world are said to be demons in 1Cor.10:20. In addition to this there are doubtless many imaginary gods. But Jehovah is Sovereign over them all, and in the absolute sense there is no God but He.”

Q: How do you explain 1Cor. 8:5-6? What does ‘gods man and lords many” mean?

A: The context of the passage answers that question. “We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods…to us there is but one God, the Father of whom are all things and we in Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge…” (1 Cor. 8:4-7).

Q: But this verse insists that there is no other God but one. Since this obviously refers to the Father, doesn’t it mean that Jesus cannot be God?”

A: No. No more than the phrase “one Lord Jesus Christ” says that the Father cannot also be Lord. The teaching of the unity of the Godhead and the deity of each member is to strong in the rest of Scripture to interpret it any other way.

Q; Doesn’t the Bible say we are gods? (Ps. 82:6)? Didn’t Jesus call people “gods” in reference to that same verse (John 10:34)?

A: The word “gods” is not exclusively of the one true God and the devil or false gods (2Cor 4:4; Acts 7:43), but is occasionally used generically as a special title of those given honor by God: the prophets, judges, and kings of Israel. For instance, in Ex. 22:9 when a man is charged with trespass, his judges are called ha-elohim or “gods” because they represent God and act in His stead. (See also Ex. 18:15-19; 21:6; Rom.13:1-6.) Thus Ex.22: 28 declares, “Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people.” This is because leaders are according to Fletcher, “appointed to be types of [Christ,] the Head of the prophets and Judge of all the earth…the Sum and Substance of all types and figures…King of kings, the Lord of lords.”

However in other cases, God himself brings judgment on those leaders he calls “gods.” This is especially true of the passage Jesus quotes.” He judgeth among the gods…. I have said ye are gods and all of you are children of the most high; but ye are gods and all of you are children of the most high; but ye shall dies like men and fall like princes: (Ps. 82:1,6-7).

Q: Didn’t God make us little gods when He made us in His own image- spiritual beings like himself?

A: We are like God only in the sense that we were created to mirror His purity, truth, and love. But remember that He is the only unmade one, and it is what He is in his essential uncreated being that makes Him both distinct and different from all the rest of His beloved creation-including man. That spirit God gives us belongs originally to Him, not us. The spirit of which we are created is finite, not uncreated being.

Q: Could God do something bad?

A: No. because His conduct is eternally determined by His character, and that character is eternally referenced to His value, something that is unchanging and unchangeable.

Q: But doesn’t the Bible say that God can hate and love at the same time?

A: The attributes of God are never in conflict with each other. It is as possible for God to love the sinner and hate his sin as it is possible for us to hate what we are doing wrong precisely because we care about ourselves.

Q: The Bible says that God is the Judge of the whole earth (Gen.18:25), which means He must uphold all true law, and yet as Father or Redeemer He is willing to let off a sinner, How can He be both merciful and just?

A: He can be both because mercy and justice are part of the same ultimate law of love that requires the highest good for God and His creation. Sometimes that law demands justice (love for the whole); sometimes, when certain conditions such as atonement and repentant faith are met, it may allow mercy (love for the part in terms of satisfaction of the whole).

Q: Isn’t what God does the same as what He is? For God to exist is the same as to be kind, wise, or anything else, isn’t it? (Obviously this is only true about God. It is certainly not true about anyone else.)

A: The statement God does = God is, is not the exact equivalent of God is = God does. God does not have to create in order to be Creator. But he does have to be Creator in order to create. What He does is just an indication of what He is; but what He is, is not necessarily what He does. His existence precedes His actions.

Q: If you separate God’s essence from His attributes won’t you eventually wind up with an impersonal abstraction?

A: True. If we separate even a man’s body from his personality we wind up with a dead man. But we are not talking about separation here; we are discussing distinction. To say that the triune God is one God in three distinct (not separate) persons is not only helpful but also crucial to a biblical understanding of His nature. In a parallel way, we distinguish between the existence of His essential nature and His eternally consequent moral character for a coherent understanding of His ways and His works.

Q: Isn’t there a danger of exalting one attribute over another, saying that God is essentially this or that?

A: True. But to emphasize one attribute without comparing it to another is not dangerous. The Bible does this all the time. Scripture reveals much about God’s holiness but little about His happiness. Yet we know from revelation that God is both holy and happy. The process of thought requires the establishment of categories of some kind. To distinguish is not to divide. To categorize is not to separate.

Q: But we cannot say, “God is loving,” when we really mean, “God is love.” We cannot say that God is love only when He does loving things.

A: True. But neither can we say, “Love is God.” Morality and essence are distinct and must be kept so. People can be kind but not be God; Jesus said, ” If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father…” (Luke11: 13). Moral attributes exist without the prerequisite of possessing divine being. Human beings, angels, and demons are moral but not divine.

Being and substance are not moral. This, while applied only to the created realm, was one of the errors of the neo-Platonist. The Manicheans thought substance was evil; Augustine, who perhaps never fully got over the idea, carried some of the implications of that thought into his Christian writing. It is no divine revelation to move from saying “substance is evil” to saying “substance can be good,” even if you tack on the idea that only created material substance is intrinsically evil and uncreated spiritual substance is intrinsically good.

Q: Nevertheless, I believe there is no difference between virtue and essence.

A: If virtue and essence are identical on any level, then any one truly virtuous is also truly God. But while careful to express all true virtue in terms that relate ultimately to God., the Bible does not say that all virtue is God. While one does not have to always be doing good things in order to be good, no one can be recognized as good, kind, or just without some expression of that virtue. God’s character is known by His actions.

Q: If so, how could God have always been good without creation to express that virtue? Toward whom did He act virtuously before creating angels and man?

A: Toward Himself! The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit loved one another. Creation was an extended gift of love, God’s purpose for other finite personalities is to share the love and virtue that has always existed.

Q: I met a person who calls himself a Unitarian. What does that mean?

A: It used to mean “either the Christian or Catholic Unitarians, who maintained the truth of divine unity against all sorts of polytheist including Arians, while at the same time asserting this unity necessarily includes the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit; or the Jewish or Socinian Unitarians who not only confine the Father to a barren, lonesome unity but as far as their influence reaches, tear Him from His beloved Son and even despoil Him of His paternity…we are tempted to call them Disuniters. Dividers of God, and manglers of the divine nature.”

Recently however it has become a creedless movement “stressing the many forms of divine revelation and the inherent goodness of man” so rejecting the biblical doctrines like trinity, the deity of Christ, the fallenness of man, the atonement, and eternal damnation. It seeks instead to show that a “genuinely religious community can be created without doctrinal conformity,” requiring only “openness to divine inspiration.”

Q: What about Universalism? Is it the same thing?

A: Although Unitarian and Universalist churches merged to form the Unitarian-Universalist association, universalism began in 1779 as a mix of a number of traditions, including Gnosticism and mysticism. Some American ministers adopted it in reaction to extreme predestinarian Calvinism which stressed both a selective atonement and an inherited moral depravity and damnation. The key platforms of Universalism are the ultimate salvation and perfectibility of all men (that Hell and judgment, if real are not eternal), the “varied character of divine revelation, and the humanness of Christ.” By 1942 it accepted “all humane men, Christian or not.”

Q: What is the Unity School Of Christianity?

A: A non-Christian religious institution begun in 1887 by Charles and Myrtle Fillmore from a synthesis of Christian Science and New Thought. It teaches salvation for all through a series of reincarnations and resurrections of the body, eternal life by purifying the body and overcoming sin, want, and illness through “right thinking” (i.e., “realizing that sin, sickness, old age and death are not real”). God is not considered personal, just a “Spiritual Principle, the total of all good,” and Jesus is merely the perfect expression of this in all of us, the “true spiritual higher-self of every individual.”

Q: What about the Unification Church?

A: Unification is an Eastern religious movement founded by the Korean Sun Myung Moon. It incorporates Taoist ideas into its own concept of God and creation. Man is incarnate God just like Christ, Who was prematurely murdered, before He could accomplish His unsuccessful mission of providing God the Father a physical divine family. He, like Elijah who became John the Baptist, was to be reincarnated as a man in Korea, married a woman, and together they would become the true parents of all mankind. Accepting this couple as divine parents is the second coming of Christ and will lead to perfection and salvation of all mankind.

Q: A Bahai man I met said that we all ultimately believe in the same God, we just call Him by different names. He said that all religions ultimately teach the same thing, that we don’t all have to go through Jesus and that we are all going to the same final destination. What does the Bible say?

A: “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are ways of death” (Prov. 14:12). “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

Q: If Christians all claim to love the same God and have “unity” then why are there so many different churches?

A: Unity is not uniformity. True union, like the triune Godhead, is unity in diversity- essential oneness while preserving true difference and distinction. E. Stanley Jones said: “Christians are united in the deepest thing in life, namely in life itself. – they share the same life in Christ. They are united in the center, in life, divided at the margin, in polity and ritual.

“But in this their unity with Christ is real, real Christians are to be found in all different denominations, and this inner unity in Christ is manifested in very diverse forms.

We have then, three facts underlying the situation-Unity, Equality, and Diversity. Any scheme of union which does not take cognizance of these three things and build on them will probably fail- and ought to fail.”

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