Are Christians Polytheists?

Listening to a recent objection by Tovia Singer of “Operation Judaism” was a reminder to me of how often faith in Jesus is regarded by both Rabbinical Jews and Muslims as polytheism. While this objection is not uncommon, it misunderstands something very fundamental, which is that at no point does a Christian worship another god or multiple gods - the distinction that a follower of Messiah makes has to do with the way God is One, not with how many gods exist. The issue in the verses Rabbi Tovia cited has nothing to do with the composition of the Godhead but rather the fact that Israel was commanded to give their sole allegiance to one particular deity who is the true God, the Creator of  all things, and He who redeemed them from Egypt.

Let’s look at the specific verses cited by Rabbi Tovia. The first of these verses says, “Therefore know this day, and consider it in your heart, that the Lord Himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other (Deuteronomy 4:39, NKJV).” Now, to understand any verse it’s important to start by examining the verse in its context, yet Rabbi Tovia seems to be ignoring this step. If he had paid attention to the step, he would’ve noted the following verse which precedes Deuteronomy 4:39: “Did any people ever hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and lived (Deuteronomy 4:33, NKJV)?” The question which must be asked here is, “What is this great ‘fire’ being discussed in the verse?”

The manifestation of God’s being is referred to as the Shekinah in at least one major source. In the Jewish Encyclopedia the Shekinah is defined as “the majestic presence or manifestation of God which has descended to ‘dwell" among men,’” while Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible says, “A visible manifestation of the majesty of God, apparently in the form of a radiant light, is often referred to as the Shekinah glory, that is the glory of God which dwells (Shekinah) among his people. Israel was told that when the tabernacle was set up God would come to ‘dwell among the Israelites and be their God (Ex 29:44, 45).’” The mention of God being the only God after a reference to the Shekinah indicates that this verse is not about the form that God takes but rather about allegiance to Him as the supreme deity. The idea of persons within the Godhead is not one of separate deities but rather that God is manifested a certain way within Himself.

Let’s examine another verse that Rabbi Tovia uses. “‘Now see that I, even I, am He, And there is no God besides Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; Nor is there any who can deliver from My hand (Deuteronomy 32:39, NKJV).’” Again, the question must be asked - are we discussing the forms that God can take or are we discussing allegiance? The Hebrew phrase  אֲנִי֙ ה֔וּא וְאֵ֥ין אֱלֹהִ֖ים עִמָּדִ֑1, meaning “I am he and there is no God with me,” is not stating anything about the way God can reveal Himself. We, as followers of Messiah, believe that God came in the person of Jesus Christ, not that Jesus Christ represents another deity distinct from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Rabbi Tovia’s charge that we are receiving love letters from someone else is false. We’re receiving love letters from the same God in the person or form of Jesus Christ.

Rabbi Tovia seems to fail to appreciate the difference between form and allegiance. The verses he cited command allegiance to the one true God but say nothing about the ontological composition of that God. In other words, it says nothing about the nature of God’s oneness and how that nature functions internally. The arguments he used are also used by Muslims and these arguments also fail to appreciate the same difference between allegiance and essence or form. Christians must learn how to defend the Trinity against such detractions made by others. These sorts of arguments are vital for the believer to understand.

 

Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: With Werkgroep Informatica, Vrije Universiteit Morphology; Bible. O.T. Hebrew. Werkgroep Informatica, Vrije Universiteit. (Logos Bible Software, 2006), Dt 32:39.”