Consequences of Strict Monotheism
By Jonathan Sjerdal
Who is God?" is an academic question. It's fitting for scholars to ponder, but does it have any bearing on the behavior of the average person? Believers in strict monotheism can meet with various churches and have fellowship with many good people who believe that God is two or three. Unless someone makes an issue of it and attacks based on that issue (demonstrating a lack of love), believers who differ on the issue can co-exist without strife. Outside of the academic understanding that God is One, what difference does it make?
Does knowing that there is One God make a difference? Does it change your behavior?
Does it really matter?!
For years I struggled with that most important of questions: "So What?" For any doctrine to qualify as a MAJOR doctrine, it must pass the "So What?" test. I believed in One God. The man next to me in church believed in a family of Two Gods. The lady two seats over who had recently switched from another church believed in a Trinitarian family of Three Gods. That's a wide variation in theology, but it didn't change these beliefs and behaviors that we had in common:
- There is a Creator
- We are His children
- The Creator gave us His Torah and made a covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
- We have sinned and fallen short of the glory
- We need to seek first the Kingdom of God
- Yahoshua the Messiah was sacrificed for usThere will be a resU1Tection of the dead
- We live our lives in preparation for the Kingdom
Whether you believe in One God, a family of two or more Gods, or a three-personed God, we hold these important doctrines in common. Why then, does your understanding of the nature of God really matter?
There are seven areas where adherence to strict monotheism has consequences on your life, on your understanding, and on your behavior.
Our concept of who is God will color our understanding of the law. In particular, it will bear directly on the concept of changing the law. If you hold to the understanding that Yahoshua the Messiah was the God of the Old Testament, then when he was transformed into a man, he (as God) had the authority to change the law. After all, he gave it, so he can change it! Several examples of this exist in the practices of Bible believers.
The most notable practice that this concept bears on is the Sabbath. Yahoshua said that he was "Lord of the sabbath." IF he was the God that created the world and instituted the sabbath day, he had the authority to change it. In fact, his resurrection on the first day of the week caused a change in the law so that Sunday is now the proper day to keep the sabbath.
This line of reasoning falls apart completely upon understanding that there is one God, and that Yahoshua the Messiah was not the Creator God. He had no authority to change the law. Only God his Father had that authority. The law of the sabbath was given by the Lawgiver, and never rescinded or changed.
In similar fashion, we see that Authority is used by many to effect a change the clean and Unclean Meat laws given to Israel in the Old Testament. In Mark 7:19 we read the oft quoted "Thus he declared all meats clean." Could a man change the meat laws that were given that Israel might be holy before their Creator God? Certainly not! Only by assigning deity to Yahoshua so that he had the Authority to change the law can you reach this conclusion.
In another bout of law-changing, it is commonly believed by those who claim that Yahoshua was the Creator God that he changed the night in which Passover should be kept to be the night before the Passover service that had always been kept. Since he was (or had been) God, he had the authority to do that. When we understand that this was not the case, and that he did not possess the authority to change the timing for Passover, then the Great Passover Argument that has raged for centuries finds quick resolution.
We see that by one's understanding of who is God, one's practices and behaviors are affected. A consequence of strict monotheism is that we understand that God is One, not two or three. Yahoshua the Messiah did not pre-exist his human birth; he was not the Creator. As a result of this understanding, we are free of the delusion that Yahoshua the Messiah had the authority to change the law of God.
Understanding the Authority issue frees us to keep the law of God. We need to obey the first commandment. It is disobedience to this commandment that brought so much trouble to Israel. When you elevate anything, or any ONE to the status of replacing the Creator, you are breaking the first commandment: Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Those who make the Messiah into the God of the Old Testament are supplanting the Creator God with another god and violating the first commandment. This is not an accusation, but rather an observation. Most of us are guilty of having done it too.
II. Clarity: Avoiding Confusion
When our model of who God is grows from "God is One" to "God is two (or three)," confusion results. We have all heard the confused prayer that starts out praying to our Father in heaven, and then switches to address the Son, alternating between gods in mid-prayer, switching haphazardly between the two several times in the same prayer. There are even people who have adopted the unscriptural practice of praying to the person of the Holy Spirit because He is perceived to be left out and lonely.
Confusion is not limited to prayer. In our congregational singing in church, when we reach the words: "Lord" and "God"—of whom are we singing? Is it the Father, or the Son? Consider the words to songs such as "Rock of Ages." Who is the subject of this song? Are we praising our Heavenly Father the Creator of all, or, more frequently, are we praising "Jesus" who has supplanted his Father as Creator?
Understanding that God is One also frees us from the burden of "fuzzy math" that plagues those who are trying desperately to evade the charge of polytheism. For example: If a pre-existent individual is augmented with another half of his genetic material from Mary, is he not 1 +1/2 = 11/2 man? The gyrations that ensue from this line of reasoning can make you dizzy! (For more detail on the mathematics of the ontology of God, see Faction's Fractions—by Jonathan Sjerdal.)
Understanding that there is only One God also allows us to stop doing violence to language. The word "immortal" means not subject to death. The word mortal is the exact opposite, meaning subject to death. We use language to communicate. If language means anything, then "immortal" cannot equal its opposite: "mortal" In particular, God, who is immortal, cannot also be mortal. God CANNOT die. (For more detail on the limits our Creator God places on himself: see Limiting God by Jonathan Sjerdal.)
There are basic rules and definitions that avoid anarchy and make communication possible. If we become comfortable with gross abuse of language like claiming that immortal God died, what other abuses will we accept? Where will it lead us? The consequence of strict monotheism is that we avoid losing meaning in language. We don't have to exist with linguistic contradictions in describing the most important topic of all. Three does not equal One, nor does two equal One. If One doesn't mean One, then what does?
Hear, 0 Israel, YHWH our God is ONE YHWH.
III. Relationship with God and man
Throughout the Old Testament, the Creator God is referred to as "the LORD" in our English translation. This phrase is the translators' substitution of a generic title in the place of YHWH, the name of our God. The consequence of understanding that there is One God is that we immediately realize that every occurrence of YHWH in the Old Testament refers to our Heavenly Father. This is crucially important in understanding prophecy, as we will see in the next section on identity.
Once we understand who "the LORD" is, we can clarify matters by calling Him by His specific name. There are many lords. The Messiah was called Lord. Men are called lords. But there is only one Yahowah God, the Creator, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. By calling our Heavenly Father by his name, we reap no benefit of some magical talisman. But we do clarify our relationship with our Heavenly Father. (For more detail on the name, see The Name of Our God—by Jonathan Sjerdal.)
Understanding that the God of the Old Testament was not the one who became Yahoshua the Messiah further clarifies our relationship. The man Yahoshua who lived, died, was resurrected, and sits at the right hand of God is truly our intercessor. He was a man, who experienced what we experience—without the benefit of being God first! He KNOWS. We have a true advocate with our Heavenly Father.
We also understand that the Trinitarian construction of God in three persons is false. The holy spirit is NOT a person. Understanding that there is only one God and that the Trinity is a false doctrine allows us to purge this teaching. For example, the God in three persons teaching has permeated nearly everyone's theology regarding the word "Comforter." The English translation "comforter" is from the Greek parakletos: An intercessor, consoler:-advocate, comforter. It merits no capital C, and indeed does not refer to the person of the holy spirit, but rather to the resurrected Yahoshua working with his disciples through the power of his spirit. To claim otherwise is to assign personhood to the holy spirit, in accordance with orthodox Trinitarian doctrine. Consider the description of who our advocate/comforter is:
1 John 2: 1 "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate (Greek: parakletos) with the Father, Yahoshua Christ the righteous."
The final consequence of monotheism on Relationship is how it affects our relationship with one another and how we demonstrate compassion. Most of US did not start with our current understanding, but have learned and grown. This helps us to have compassion for those who have another view, which means, if you consider it, having compassion on your former self!
Knowing the cast of characters in the Bible allows us to understand the events in the Bible. If you mistake one individual for another, your understanding of the story will be flawed. Consider the following prophetic passage from Zechariah 14:
Zec. 14:3 "Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle."
Zec. 14:4 "And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
As in the entire Old Testament, the title "the LORD" is substituted by the translators in place of YHWH, the name of God. And who is this being? None other than our Creator Yahowah, our Heavenly Father. Read these verses again. Who will come down and stand upon the Mount of Olives? Nearly all of us have been taught that it is the Lord, who is the son of God. But that's not what Zechariah says. It says "the WRD," or more specifically, YHWH, the name of our Creator God, our Father. This is a classic case of properly understanding Identity changing our whole interpretation of prophetic scripture.
There are yet many more examples of scriptural truths that are waiting to be unlocked by the key of Identity. Scripture records that our Heavenly Father Yahowah made a Marriage Covenant with Israel. Yahowah married Israel. We know that the covenant of marriage can only be ended by the death of one of the parties. Who died to end the marriage covenant?
God is immortal: "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen." (I Timothy 1: 17) Unless we embrace the contradiction that says immortal = mortal, then this means that God cannot die. Even God's name, YHWH, means "self-existent, eternal." Such an one cannot die.
If the marriage covenant is terminated by death, then one partner must die. Since God cannot die, then the other party (Israel) must have died to terminate the marriage covenant. We find that this is exactly what happened:
"Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead. she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, YE ALSO ARE BECOME DEAD TO THE LAW by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God" (Romans 7:1-3).
The man Yahoshua the Messiah died. He was the kinsman redeemer to Israel. As a result of his sacrificial death, the 12 tribes of Israel (my brethren) died to the law. This was the completion of the old covenant. Therefore the wife (Israel) died. The marriage to YHWH ended. resurrected Israel will be married (the new covenant) to another: Yahoshua who is raised from the dead. (For more detail on the covenant issue, see Marriage Covenants with Israel—by Jonathan Sjerdal.)
The Trinity is THE test for Christianity. If you don’t believe in the Trinity, then you aren’t a Christian. This shouldn't worry us too much. The believers were only called "Christians" three times in the New Testament, and each time it appears to have been pejorative. It doesn't say that they were Christians, but rather that they were called Christians by others.
Those who believe in polytheism will persecute you if you hold to your biblical view of strict monotheism. The polytheistic Trinitarians will persecute you. The polytheistic Binitarians will persecute you too, for the Binity is just a variation on the Trinity. The Binity is in fact just the poor man's Trinity. It is the Trinity without the person of the Holy Spirit.
Such persecution may take many forms. A frequent accusation made of those who adhere to strict biblical monotheism is that they have a "doctrine of demons." It is curious that such a charge would be made toward people who are accusing no one, but rather honestly searching the scriptures for the truth of the matter.
As strict monotheists, we WILL be persecuted for our belief in One God—maybe even unto death. If there is any truth that is worth dying for, it is that ancient command uttered by Moses: Hear, 0 Israel: YHWH our God is one YHWH.
Ken Westby is even now being persecuted for taking a stand as a strict monotheist. His organization ACD lost much of his support this past year, and many people separated from him over this issue. But he stands firm because it is a matter of principle. May God bless him for his stance.
Adherence to strict monotheism will cause people to divide from you. Either (l) you will be asked to leave the church, or (2) the church will leave you. Last year, Mark Rattee, a pastor from British Columbia, attended the One God Seminar in Seattle. Mark came to the Seminar as a believer in two Gods. Presenter Duane Giles made the point that ultimately reached him. Mark commented later:
"Nevertheless, one thing was said to me that made all of my constructions fail. The question was "at what point and how did one God become the father of the other God?" If you think about this question long enough you begin to realize that its answer leads to only one construction."
After the seminar, Mark returned home to study the issue deeply. Some of his congregation were not willing even to study the issue at all. Half the congregation left because they were so upset that this issue was even being studied. Was this issue worth Mark losing half his congregation over? No, and Yes. No, those people should not have left over this issue. There is opportunity to study the issue, and even to co-exist without agreeing on the issue. It's not worth dividing over, but rather continuing to work together in love as we all grow in grace and knowledge. But do you avoid bringing up the issue because some might get offended and leave? NO. We can't compromise on truth just for people to be happy. Where would that leave us? In time, we would be meeting for church on a S1.U1day morning. . ."It is revolutionary to finally keep the first commandment!" —Mark Rattee
One of the most marvelous consequences of strict monotheism is hope. REAL hope. Since Yahoshua the Messiah was not pre-existent God, we know an essential truth of scripture: A man who was created has transcended death to become immortal. We can too. This is the BASIS of our hope. It has been done! We too can be resurrected to life immortal, just as our elder brother Yahoshua was. Understanding that he was a man and not pre-existent God is by no means a demotion. On the contrary, understanding what our elder brother did to pave the way for us makes him worthy of even more respect.
Furthermore, we can know of a certainty that our Heavenly Father is an eternal sovereign, not a God who died. We can trust that He is, has always been, and will always be. He is not, nor can be, subject to death. This understanding glorifies our Heavenly Father.
VII. The Kingdom
Our relationship with our Creator is hugely affected by our concept of who He is, who we think we are, and who we think we will become. The Bible says that we will become sons of God in the Kingdom, not Gods. If the Godhead is represented as a God family (a construction not found in the Bible), then it becomes easy to conclude that we will each become a God in the God family so that we will be "God as God is God"—a truly arrogant statement that is an affront to our Creator. There is but One God, and we his offspring will never be God. The Creator God is an individual, not an expanding polytheistic Godhead that will one day include millions of Gods.
Our understanding of the Kingdom of God is based on our understanding of the King, the One God who is over all. As he has resurrected his firstborn son Yahoshua to life everlasting, so he will do with the rest of his children. Yahoshua was not, and did not become God. Neither will we. There is only One God. Always has been. Always will be. We are not going to become God! We look forward to becoming resurrected sons of God in His Kingdom and receiving the gift of everlasting life.
Understanding the ONE God of the Bible brings the scriptures to life. From the first premise of creation, to final Kingdom matters, we understand that there is one single eternal designer who has done everything according to His original plan. Halleluyah!
Copyright © 2003 Jonathan Sjerdal. All rights reserved.
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