Friday, January 9, 2015

God is not a god (part 2)

In Part1 of this article, I argued that God in a monotheistic religion is a fundamentally different type of being than the gods of a polytheistic religion. This means that Christians who are talking to polytheists can use more or less the usual arguments for the existence of God to show that a being with the characteristics monotheists ascribe to God exists. It’s possible that this in itself might be enough to convert someone to monotheism. But if the polytheist says, “OK, your God exists, but so do mine,” I don’t think we need to convince them that their gods don’t exist. We just need to show why they should worship only the monotheistic God.

So why should everyone worship the monotheistic God instead of polytheistic gods? Simply put: He deserves it. If there is a supreme being, perfectly wise, powerful and good, who created everything, this being is supremely worthy of our devotion and worship. Moreover all monotheistic faiths insist that this supreme being has spoken and has forbidden worship of any other being. If God is perfectly good and all-knowing, He must have a good reason for giving this command. Even if we don’t understand His reasons, it seems reasonable to trust and obey Him.

It’s also pragmatically wise to worship the most powerful being out there. Many of the polytheists I’ve met are afraid that the gods will punish them if they refuse to perform the appropriate rituals. But isn’t an all-powerful being capable of protecting you from these lesser forces?

Moreover, Christians believe that our highest good is found in being in right relationship with God. This is the source of all true peace and joy and of energy to love others. If the polytheistic gods are good, wouldn’t they want their followers to receive these blessings, even if that meant giving up their chance to be worshipped? If the gods insist on their own worship at their followers’ expense, they are selfish and thus don’t deserve to be honored.

Some people object that the God of monotheism is selfish for not letting us worship anyone else. But this objection fails to hold up. We’re talking about a supremely wise, good and powerful being who created all things and offers his worshippers true happiness. This being deserves complete devotion from everything He created. There’s nothing wrong with insisting on what rightfully belongs to you, and in this case, worshiping the true God also brings created beings the best life possible.

In fact, given that our best life is found in following the true God, if God loves us He must want us to worship only Him. Worshipping anything other than God is inherently destructive. We were created to worship God, and when we put anything else ahead of him, we end up making poor decisions that hurt us and other people. For God to allow us to worship other gods would be like a human father allowing his child to drink bleach.

Ultimately, the supreme proof that God deserves our love is found in Jesus, and especially in the crucifixion. This is not a needy God who demands our service. This is a God who is willing to serve us, even if it costs Him His life. Coming face to face with love like this should inspire us to love Him back.

In the end, conversion is not a matter of intellectual arguments, though the arguments are useful and important. Conversion is a matter of meeting the good, wise, powerful, eternal God of love and choosing to follow Him.

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