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About Christian Monotheism, Against the Mohammedans

Met. Anthony sketch

Blessed Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev and Galicia

What Specifically is the Superiority of Monotheism over Polytheism?

Answering this kind of question is extremely important for preachers of our Faith to the Mohammedans and Orthodox Christians of other nationalities, because the Mohammedan false-teachers use the generally accepted teaching of the superiority of monotheism in order to mock our teaching about the Most Holy Trinity. They at first present themselves as if they thought we were tritheists, but when we explain to them that we confess one God, but triple in Persons, then they respond thus: “If the Christian teaching about the one God, triple in Persons, is higher than the teaching of many gods, then the teaching of Islam about the one God in one person is even higher than the Christians’ belief, because we now have the full, perfected monotheism, but you do not have it in completeness.”

What shall we answer? This is what I want to explain to the workers of the Christian Mission, and let them be considering how to put forth these considerations in an understandable tongue for the Tatar and other foreigners, both the baptized and the unbaptized.

Monotheism is not better than polytheism for the reason stated above, as if a singularity is better than any other quantity. For example, the Lord said about man before his fall: “It is not good for the man to be alone; let Us make for him a helper.” Likewise God created many angels, not just one. Why then, if it was better for angels and men to be many, and not alone, should it be necessary for there to be a single God and not many gods? Here the Mohammedans blaspheme the evangelical teaching about the triune God, as if it was violating the ancient Jewish genuine monotheism, but even the Jewish monotheism valued itself for a different reason than what the Mohammedans think. It did not find harm in calling even people gods: “Ye are gods, and all of you sons of the Most High” (Ps. 81:6).

Furthermore, Mohammedans speak as though even Christ the Savior never spoke of His own divinity, as if the teaching of the triune God was foreign to him, and was thought up by later Christians: As if the Lord Himself taught the same kind of unqualified monotheism as Mohammed. But in reality Jesus Christ not only taught about the triune Godhead but even about the fact that men will become partakers of divinity. He even repeated the aforementioned words of the 81st Psalm, and told His disciples that they would receive twelve thrones in heaven and judge the twelve tribes of Israel. “But ye are those who have continued with Me in My temptations. And I appoint to you a kingdom, even as My Father appointed to Me.” Parting from His disciples on the night of the betrayal, the Lord prayed so that they, and also those who through them will come to believe in Him, would be united as one with God the Father and Son in the life to come: “that they also may be one in Us” (John 17).

And so, by the word of the Lord, the saints participate in the divine administration of the world and the judgment upon it. The Savior expresses this very idea in His parables about the lost drachma and the strayed sheep, of which upon finding God rejoices in heaven along with all the holy angels.

“So much the worse for Christianity,” the Mohammedans, if you will, would respond. “Earlier we thought that polytheism was introduced by the disciples of Christ, but you are convincing us that it was even found in the Gospels. What kind of difference is there between your angels or holy saints, compared with the Greek and Roman second-rate gods, who after all were dependent upon Jupiter and deferred to him?”

This is the question we are just waiting to hear from them; it best facilitates our further clarification.

“There is a great difference,” we respond to them, “and its essence does not even consist in the fact that our God is the Creator and the almighty Ruler of the angelic and human world, and the pagan gods each have their own origins, and not from Jupiter. No, the contrast between Christian monotheism and pagan polytheism, and equally so the teaching of Mohammedans and Neo-Judaism, is that we have both a triple-Person singular Godhead and other higher beings partaking in our life, i.e., holy angels and divinized humans, all filled with one spirit, one source. Living in God, the holy and good One, they all think one thing, desire one thing, and turn away from one and the same thing. If in the better times of the Church life of Christians, even in the time of their earthly sojourning, “there was one heart and one soul,” as the book of Acts witnesses, then is it even possible to doubt the fulfillment of the Lord’s prayer for the life to come: “that they may be perfected into one, in order that they may be one, even as We are one”? The wickedness of the pagan polytheism consisted in this, that all the earthly human tendencies, passions, and crimes were found in the imagined pagan protectors in heaven, and the chief god, although he ruled over the former, still was subject to the multitude of changes in his soul: at some times he was righteous and merciful, then on the other hand vengeful, dissolute, envious, deceitful, or insidious.

This is why for the pagans, virtues were never able to become an unconditional obligation, an undoubtedly holy one which transcends all worldly goodness. True, for departing from virtue some gods would punish someone, but others would protect the transgressor; doing good, a man pleases one god, but doing evil, he happens to be agreeable to another. Yea, even their chief god allows the evil, selfish desires of his devotee so long as he pleases him with sacrifices and by other external means.

On the other hand, the Christian, although in prayer he calls upon the one God, knowable in three Persons, then turns to the heavenly Father, or to the Son of God, then to the Holy Spirit, then prays for the intercession of the most holy Theotokos, then the angels and the saints; he knows that he can only ask for one and the same thing from all of his heavenly protectors. For one and the same thing gladdens and is encouraged by heaven, one and the same thing makes it angry. “Father, I sinned against heaven and before thee,” as the repentant prodigal cries according to the teaching of Christ’s parable.

It is true, there also exists in the unseen world a departure and enmity of the fallen angels against God and His saints and their warfare against the salvation of mankind, but it would be vain for a sinner to set his hope on the protection of demons in his evil reasonings. Our faith teaches that they are bound by God’s almighty providence, and if God lets evil spirits and evil people corrupt and tempt, then only for the purpose of teaching light-minded Christians to what grave troubles they have fallen into after allowing themselves to neglect their own souls. Every one dies according to his own evil will. But the Lord does not allow demons to render independent protection to a sinner, neither to take him under his own protection, but God Himself directs the circumstances of life for all living creatures, so that without His holy will not even one hair falls from the head of a man, whether he be good or evil. This here is what the superiority of monotheism over polytheism consists in. Where there are many gods, there are many sources of life, both good and evil: if a man wants to be a fornicator, he has as a protector Venera (Venus); if he wants to be a robber, he has as a protector Mars; if he desires, having forgotten virtue, to give himself over solely to profit, his protector is Mercury. Where there is no Christian monotheism, the ruling principle in life cannot be solely virtue (that of which “there is need of one thing”). The Christian teaching about the triune God, about the angels and the saints, does not weaken but strengthens the ruling meaning of virtue, because according to our teaching it will always delight all of heaven, all of the higher beings infused with divine life, and this will never change.

Is this so in the faith of Neo-Judaism or of the Mohammedans? True, it is as if they believe in one God: “God is one,” say the Mohammedans. “And He does not have a wife or child,” they add, hoping by this to shame us. “But what if He is not alone?” we will tell them. What kind of singularity is this, if according to the teaching of Neo-Judaism, the deity is at some hours of the day merciful, but in the others angry; sometimes he sleeps, sometimes he plays with crocodiles, like with a house cat. Sometimes he is in such a mood that, ask whatever you wish, and you will receive all, but sometimes it is better not to approach. But have the Mohammedans kept themselves far away from this kind of superstition? Their deity also submits to fate. It is strengthless to change its decisions and for this reason the unfortunate “right-believers” can only give glory to its imaginary perfection, but cannot ask anything for themselves. All is already decided beforehand, who will be good and who evil, so that all prayers are deemed vain which ask for God’s gracious help for victory in a good beginning in their fight against evil. Even closeness to their deity, a captive of fate, serves not for the virtue and purification of man, but only towards submission and other means of pleasing the deity. Mohammed was a fornicator, beat strangers’ wives, himself openly transgressed, and even changed the law given by him, supposedly from Allah, and all this did not prevent him becoming, in the eyes of the Moslems, greater than all the holy prophets: Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and even the sinless Jesus, Who ascended alive into heaven, as even the Mohammedans believe.

In addition to all this, the polygamist Mohammed was so much more loved by the Divinity than all, that for the pleasure of his prodigal passions Allah changed his ordinances in the Quran regarding the number of wives allowed a prophet, and yes, even in general allowed so-called “cancellations” of his previously given commandments.

What kind of single deity do the new Jews and Mohammedans have? It would be better if they honored many indecent gods but were faithful to one source of holiness and virtue, than to honor a singular deified being that changes its own temperament in its own inner substance. Judge for yourselves: is worshiping that kind of passionate, unstable deity possible for man’s unwavering pursuit of holy virtue? Can they then be people who with steadfast constancy battle the passions in themselves; who would adopt virtue alone as their highest value when their own deity cannot do this, who asks for slavish subservience more than holiness, and furthermore, is significantly different at different times? At a glance, they do not have many gods, like the ancient Greeks and Romans had, but nonetheless they do not have monotheism but a changing god, like the Roman Jupiter, for whom it was impossible to affirm today what he will become tomorrow.

True monotheism is only with the Orthodox Christians; only they preserve this teaching about God, which, even in the earthly life of man, puts forward solely the service of virtue alone, and in the life to come promises the friends of God communion and unity with Divinity, when all the saved, according to the word of Apostle Paul, will rise as one new man, in whom a dwelling place will be co-created by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—the one true God, “that all may be one,” as Christ the Savior has said.


Archbishop Gregory
Dormition Skete
P.O. Box 3177
Buena Vista, CO 81211-3177
USA
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