Monday, Jan 7, 2019. How many Gods are there? It is an interesting question. If you go to the temples in the centre of Tokyo, Japan, you find many people praying to the Gods which are celebrated there. If you drive through many countries in the east and the south, you find temples and places of worship. It is about God, and about those spirits and powers which can influence our life. Is it all that different in other parts of the world?
Monotheistic Belief …
The Jews believed in one God only, the creator of the heaven and the earth. The Old Testament talks about this issue a lot. It claims that there is one God only, and all other powers are created powers - they are not God! This has been continued by Christianity, of course, since Christian faith is exactly about this God, who has been with the people of Israel since Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Islam claims to know this God better - it claims that the Christian books are distorted versions of the Quran (Koran). But it also claims to believe in this one God, it just has another idea of who this God really is.
In the biblical book 1st Kings, chapter 18, we read about the conflict between different ideas about who God is, about different Gods indeed. Is there one true God, who does exist, and who is able to act? What is reality. Before we continue our discussion, look into the text, where the prophet Elijah asks the people as follows.
21 And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. (1 Kings 18, 21ff)
If you continue to read, you will hear about the nearly phantastic events around Elijah, where the Jewish God showed his power and might by clear signs. Here, the bible clearly claims to know the truth about God, and to demonstrate his character and power by the events which are reported and passed down over generations.
Modern free Societies …
In today's free societies we have adapted the idea that each and every person should make his or her own choices about faith and God. You need to choose, God wants free people to love him and to choose him.
We need to note that this idea of freedom of choice is universal, but it is not adopted by all states and countries. There are communist countries where you do NOT have the freedom of faith. And all muslim states do not share the idea of freedom of faith. In our Old Testament book, Elijah is calling the people to a choice. But there is a strong consequence of the wrong choice: the consequence is death! Does this sound old-fashioned? It is still reality in too many places on this planet.
But where does the liberal idea of free societies come from? It is rooted in the New Testament! There, we hear that Jesus dies for his enemies. We hear that he wants everyone to live. Even if people still cannot understand God, all Christians and with them all people are called to love, to do good to each and every human on the planet. First with the early church, and then later newly in flames with the reformation the idea of individual choice of faith grew and grew, though the conflicts and wars of that time did not immediately lead to free choice of religion (“cuius regio eius religio” - people had to adopt the religion of their king).
But with the enlightenment, the idea of individual choice had come to full reality. Get people out of their self-imposed dependence. It is clear that this mission statement did not get only “likes” by the establishment.
The story about the number of Gods is not yet over. Today, modern atheistic believe and many natural science oriented philosophies claim that the number is neither one nor many, but it is just zero. They claim that the ultimate basis of our universe is natural law itself, which led to the world as it is today.
But there is much more to say also about the Christian perspective on the question. Let us continue this question at another session - and clarify in what way God is linked to life and death as taught by Jesus himself … (Roland Potthast) ... further texts