Monday 2 July 2018

Christianity aims-at maximum polytheism

The main point of creation is to make gods, as many as possible; living as a loving Heavenly family, and sharing the end-less work of creation.

The lesson of Christ's incarnation is that we Men are gods in our nature (albeit immature and flawed gods), and that God (the Father: prime creator) is a Man. So there is a continuum between mortal Men on the one hand; and creator gods such as the Father (who was the one prime creator) and the Son (Jesus Christ).

The Father is unique as prime creator, including being Father-creator of Men (including Jesus); and Jesus is the creator of this world (but not of the Men in it - as told and implied in the opening of the Fourth Gospel) - so creation is not restricted to the Father; creation has been done by both to Father and Son (at least).

Jesus tells us (clearly, explicitly, repeatedly in the Fourth Gospel) that if we know Jesus, then we know the Father; they are not the same person (else why would Jesus pray to the Father, defer to the Father, distinguish between himself and the father); but they are the same in nature: they are 'one' in love and motivation. And Jesus is a Man in his nature, therefore so is the Father.

Jesus is the Son of God, and tells us that we too can be Sons of God - we can be of the same kind as Jesus, and Jesus is of the same kind as God.

All this is perfectly clear and explicit in scripture; but it is obscured by the false (and wrongly-motivated) mania that Christianity 'must be' a monotheism. Yet it's a terrible and destructive error to try and argue that Christianity is a monotheism; because in a vital sense Christianity is an ultimate form of polytheism - maximum polytheism; (to repeat) that is the main point and purpose of Christianity.

Few, very few, errors have damaged Christianity as much as the attempt to insist that it is a monotheism: this was and is a primary error with often lethal and unavoidable consequences. It blocks understanding of the main purpose of mortal life. It puts an evasion at the heart of Christian theology. It institutionalises incoherence.

We need to be clear: the Father hopes for as many as possible of us Men to become gods and creators, like Jesus. That is what creation is for. There is only one God (capital g), one prime creator (albeit God may actually, factually, be - as I believe - a dyad of primary Father and Mother); but the plan is for there to be many gods (small g), many creators.

That's the main point of it-all.


Unknown said...


You are so much better when you have the courage to actually write what you believe. These are interesting ideas and deserve to be considered on their merits.

These ideas have nothing to do with what for 2000 years has been considered Christianity. In many ways they are the complete opposite. And there is absolutely nothing wrong that.

The facade you were vaguely presenting of being connected or a continuation of the 2000 year old Christianity was confusing and made you seem dishonest.

That 2000 year old religious seems to be dead.

This is a new religion based on the ancient texts.

My question is - why call it Christianity? That just confused matters. Its like if Islam called itself Judaism. There would be no point.

John Rockwell said...

''The lesson of Christ's incarnation is that we Men are gods in our nature (albeit immature and flawed gods), and that God (the Father: prime creator) is a Man''

To Moses God said: "I AM that I AM'' declaring himself self-existent and the ground of all being.

Isaiah 43:10
''“You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.''

No God was before God nor after him.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Unknown - Well, I don't think I have ever been dishonest! rather my understanding has developed; also, each blog post is naturally incomplete and typically makes only a specific point.

What I am saying is actually, mostly my latest attempt at rephrasing and emphatically presenting mainstream Mormon theology, as I have learned it over the past decade-plus.

@JR - Before interpreting the text; you will need to decide how you are going to understand and interpret The Bible. You imply from your argument that you regard all parts of the Bible as of equal validity, and on a verse by verse basis.

But I regard the Fourth Gospel as having primary authority and validity (that is what I am most clear about); followed by the other Gospels and some Epistles, and then the New Testament generally, above the Old... and so on.

And I believe that (as a rule) these texts are meant to be understood in an overall and integrated way (usually presenting quite simple points very clearly and unambiguously - clear to the original readers, anyway), not as a series of free-standing rules/ laws/ statements.

So when the Fourth Gospel overall is contradicted by some other specific parts of other (less authoritative and valid) Books of the Bible, then I disregard that specific other part.

Above this, I believe that the Mormon revelations were valid and necessary; necessary because they clarify ambiguities in The Bible, and because they add to revelation in ways that are necessary for these times (e.g. in relation to the supreme importance of family, the foundational nature of sexuality, and clarification of the reality of pre-mortal existence).

So, these are the assumptions behind my assertions - and these assumptions have been presented all over my blog posts for many years. Those with different assumptions will naturally come to different conclusions.

Chris said...

Hi Bruce,

Interesting post.
How would you go about refuting the understanding of Christianity as a species of classical theism?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Chris - Not sure what you mean. I don't really go in for refuting - this blog is about the way I see things; and this is different from most Christians because of my metaphysical assumptions concerning the ultimate nature of reality (e.g I am a pluralist in the William James sense, I regard linear and sequential time as a universal reality &c.).

Andrew said...


Apotheosis is a very Christian early doctrine that was later rejected due to corruption from syncretizing with Greek philosophy. Bruce is going back to what early Christians believed that later Christians rejected.

@John rockwell,
From my perspective, this is a clear example of eisegesis - reading Greek philosophy into revealed scriptures.

@Bruce :I know you prize the KJV above all other forms of scripture, but I think there is great value in looking at original (as much as possible) language and other possible translations of words.
For example - LORD - Jehovah - I AM - in Hebrew need not be a static "am." It can also be translated "I cause to be" or "I am creating."
The word most frequently translated as "God" in the Old Testament is "Elohim." This is the plural form of "God." So when the God of heaven revealed himself through His Hebrew prophets one of his names is LORD God - or translated another way "I bring into being Gods."

God is one - and we can be one with Him through His grace and transformational power.
Deut. 10:17 For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward

Philipians 2:5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God

You might find this interesting. Truman Madsen was a professor of philosophy at BYU. At a seminar at a college in the eastern US, he explained LDS theology. Near the end, he had this exchange with the participants:
"But now the second set of questions: “Why,” I dared to ask—and it’s a question any child can ask—“did God make us at all?” There’s an answer to that in their catechism. Basically, it is that God did so for his own pleasure and by his inscrutable will. Sometimes it is suggested that he did so that he might have creatures to honor and worship him—which, if we are stark in response, is not the most unselfish motive one could conceive. Sometimes it is said that he did so for our happiness. But because of the creeds it is impossible to say that God needed to do so, for God, in their view, is beyond need. And then the bold question I put was “You hold, don’t you, that God has and had all power, all knowledge, all anticipatory wisdom, and that he knew, therefore, exactly what he was about and could have done otherwise?”

“Yes,” they allowed, “he could.”

“Why then, since God could have created cocreators, did he choose to make us creatures? Why did God choose to make us his everlasting inferiors?”

At that point one of them said, “God’s very nature forbids that he should have peers.”

I replied, “That’s interesting. For us God’s very nature requires that he should have peers. Which God is more worthy of our love?”

Bro. Madsen's full speech:

Chiu ChunLing said...

The theism of Christianity cannot be denied.

I think that it is better to get away from the false dichotomy between "mono" and "poly" theism, and get back to the believe that divinity is composed of certain identifiable but also inherently mysterious and difficult to exactly define traits of deity rather than being an "accident" of beings happening to have great power.

"Polytheism" is associated with the idea of 'gods' that have all different kinds of characters, the only thing which makes them 'gods' is that they are supernaturally powerful. Monotheism averts this by saying that there is only one ultimately powerful being which, by virtue of its absolute superiority of power, simply casts down all other possible 'gods', but not because of any divine attributes of character, merely by what is still an accident (if singular rather than plural) of superior power.

In other words, "monotheism" is merely what happens to polytheism after the (hyper-literal) war of the gods produces a clear winner and the losers are denied godhood by virtue of their inferiority of mere power to cast down others.

But theism is the focus on the character which truly defines Godliness, even in a mortal man being executed as a criminal. What made Christ divine was not that He had the ability to come down from the Cross and smite His enemies (as they mockingly challenged Him to do), but rather the motives and purpose for which He willingly chose to endure Crucifixion and even the separation from God at death, descending into the grave and crying repentance to those in Hell.

That it is by this divine character that Christ was able to exercise power over Death and Sin is not mere theological elaboration, but the crucial difference between Theism, which defines godhood by character attributes, and either polytheism or monotheism, which define godhood merely in terms of combat ability to cast down and destroy competitors (with monotheism being the final outcome of the inevitable battle royale amongst any plurality of gods).

That is to say, monotheism is merely the worship of victory, regardless of means. Thus Islam is more purely monotheistic than Christianity, Allah is greater than any other god and will cast all others down in the end. But Christianity is theistic, being more focused on the essential participatory unity of all who come to God.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - I quite agree that these terms are unhelpful - but the fact is that polytheism is an insult which is thrown at Mormons by mainstream Christians, and thrown at Christians by Jews and Muslims. It is rather like calling someone 'racist' - in the sense that it is designed to put people onto the defensive, trying to make them justify themselves. In reality Christianity is what it is - but it was the monotheists (whether among pagan philosopher or Jewish converts) who created the problem. The philosophical implications of Christ's divinity seems not to have been a problem for the earliest Christians in the New Testament, they were simply concerned about the truth of his claims. It seems, from indirect evidence, that the early Christian church was captured by monotheists, leading to the bitter, shameful and dishonest Christology disputes from which there were no real winners. (Does anybody *really* believe that the Arians *really* were what the victors said they were? Or the Monophysites? Or Pelagians? - the standard descriptions of the 'heretics' from-which the mainstream church was 'saved' by the early church councils reek of political expediency... Not that the heretics were right either! It's all a terrible mess and confusion caused by intellectuals failing to put first what must be first.)

Agellius said...

Am I right then, that for you Christianity and God the Father are not answers to the question, where do all things come from?

Chiu ChunLing said...

I do think that some people really believe heretics are all that their persecutors claim and nothing more.

Not to name names, I think I could name at least one person you'd agree was prone to this.

I myself cannot avoid the consciousness that the real tragedy of heresy is that some mere mental construct should become an obstacle to accepting the mercy and grace of God into one's life. This tragedy would not exist if the heretic were not a full person rather than just an embodiment of the offending concept.

I'm a monotheist in the sense that I do not believe that there more than one set of character attributes which is characteristic of divinity, this set being interconnected such that to have any of these characteristics perfectly it is necessary to have all of them in great degree. While there are characteristics outside of this set, some of which form their own interconnected sets, the fuller expression of those characteristics does nothing to make the entity expressing them worthy of being called a god. All gods would be similar in their character, and the greatest would have the most similarity of character to the greatest God.

But I am most emphatically not a monotheist in the sense of believing that it would be impossible for more than one entity to have these characteristics to the degree of qualifying to be called a god. That would imply that Pride (and here I mean only the ancient spiritual sin, not any contemporary meaning like "manful humility" or "dignified acceptance of sincere praise" or whatever) was one of the characteristics of divinity. That being which is always on the lookout for competitors of similar personal character to crush is not divine at all, let alone worthy to be called God.

I believe that God is jealous, but not envious. Modern usage tries to erase the distinction between those terms as well, but one means the will to defend a lawful claim and the other means malice against a lawful claim. To confuse these is only possible due to the influence of cultural Marxism.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Ag - "Christianity and God the Father are not answers to the question, where do all things come from?"

Correct - there was pre-existent, chaotic 'stuff' - and there were primordial beings, essences, including our-selves. Creation is a matter of shaping, organising, elaborating pre-existent stuff and primordial beings etc. incrementally, over time, still continuing.

But to talk of God as organising, to talk of pre-existence in terms of chaos - is to make God seem like an engineer. In fact he is a father, a parent.

The primacy of love is because God makes meaning and purpose as a divine *family* of children. That we are part of a divine family is literal, not metaphorical: the divine family is God's primary creation.

So there is the 'organised' and purposive world of family, of Heaven - and 'outside' there is the rest of it. Presumably chaotic matter, and including beings/ souls in Hell.

Chris said...

According to the perspective of classical theism, God is not "a" being among beings , but Being Itself or Actus Purus. This is because God, the Supreme Reality, must be, by definition, metaphysically simple or non-composite. How would the claim of "polytheism" sit with that position?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Chris - Yes, I wonder where that 'must be' comes from? - not from Scripture, certainly!

My point is that That is an assumption, into-which Christianity is then being shoehorned.

If we simply take the Gospels at face value (especially the Fourth Gospel); Jesus is divine, his Father is divine, and they are different persons (e.g Jesus prays to his Father, talks about his Father as greater than himself etc)- so, that makes two-at-least gods: Father plus Son makes two.

(The exact status and nature of the Holy Ghost is less clear, much less obvious.)

I see no *sufficient* reason for trying to avoid this obvious implication.

Chiu ChunLing said...

The claim of divinity must be metaphysically simple or non-composite. It's a simple yes or no question, "Are you God?"

But the actual fact of divinity is as far from metaphysically simple as one can get without leaving the entire question of metaphysics behind.

God is God. Ask Him, and He'll so answer. It's as "simple" as that.

But even the method which allows this communication is too metaphysically complex (and inherently composite, since it involves more than one entity) to describe in human modes of thought, let alone language.