Thursday, June 23, 2011

There is One God

 1 Corinthians 8:5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth--as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"-- 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

5 καὶ γὰρ εἴπερ εἰσὶν λεγόμενοι θεοὶ εἴτε ἐν οὐρανῷ εἴτε ἐπὶ γῆς, ὥσπερ εἰσὶν θεοὶ πολλοὶ καὶ κύριοι πολλοί, ἀλλ᾽ ἡμῖν εἷς θεὸς ὁ πατὴρ ἐξ οὗ τὰ πάντα καὶ ἡμεῖς εἰς αὐτόν, καὶ εἷς κύριος Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς δι᾽ οὗ τὰ πάντα καὶ ἡμεῖς δι᾽ αὐτοῦ.

Paul writes this short interlude in the middle of an argument about food. Food was a big deal to the Jews and consequently this became a big deal to the early Christians. What difference did it make if food was offered to an idol? It mattered for the conscience of the person who knew about this. It didn't matter to the Christian, but to the idolater it would be considered some form of validation.

Paul referred to the objects of this idol worship as λεγόμενοι θεοὶ. Because λεγόμενοι is a passive participle it can be understood as "those who are being called Gods." The ESV flows better, but that would be the unpacking of "so-called." The point is that someone can call Baal, Molech, Allah, or anything else a god, but they are that in name only.

This is incredibly important for us in our society today. Because we don't want to offend anyone we as a society preach a message of supposed tolerance and pluralism. We say that everyone is free to believe whatever he wants, but that we should not impose that belief system on others. A quick glance at the news shows the impossibility of this stance.

This is fine for a Hindu with a pantheon of gods who sees Jesus as just one more. This is fine for the liberal in any faith tradition who does not consider the sacred material to be binding. However, this is unacceptable to a true Muslim, for example. If the Koran is correct and it is true that "there is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet," then everyone should become a Muslim. Why? Because if they are right then the Christian understands the fundamental of reality incorrectly. If we have the Creator wrong then everything else is going to be wrong.

Conversely, a Christian cannot stand for true pluralism. Certainly he can tolerate anyone believing whatever he   wants to believe. But it is incumbent upon the Christian to explain reality to everyone. That reality starts with the God of Scripture. If the Bible is correct then the natural consequence is evangelism about Jesus. It has to be. There is no alternative.

There is a corollary to this as well. If the God of the Bible is the one true God then where does that leave everyone else? They are worshiping demons. They are fundamentally no different than the priests Elijah battled on Mount Carmel. And, if the Bible is true, they will have an eternity of suffering in the presence of demons. There is no middle ground here. On which side do you stand?

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