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Christian Apologetic Index
David G. Nesbitt - Kelowna, British Columbia
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Defining Theism

Anyone who begins to critically examine their worldview has to investigate the various theisms around the world, if they wish to maintain intellectual credibility. To do anything less is to settle into a close-minded bigotry (which really is a redundant expression). However, I recognize that an intellectual pursuit such as this is not for everyone -- most people, I've noticed, are content to think they've cornered the market on truth and don't need to look any further. Critically examining one's worldview is not just for the religious individual either: atheists that are content to intellectually probe no further than their atheism are every bit as guilty of close-minded bigotry as anyone else.

So as I began to critically examine my beliefs, one of the first things I did was acknowledge that other theisms exist and are practiced and resolved to investigate at least the most prominent ones. For example, I explored the other prominent monotheisms Judaism and Islam. Then I explored pantheism through Earth Goddess worship as well as Wicca. The I explored henotheism through The Baha'i Faith and Jehovah's Witnesses. You get the idea.

This section is strictly an exploration of definitions. It is not a critical examination of all the various theisms. I have listed fourteen (14) theisms; if I have missed a recognized theism, please contact and inform me of this.

monotheism: The persuasive and widespread systematic belief in a single, personal God as the sole sovereign creator of the universe. God is viewed as an external, transcendent, absolute reality (as the creator of the universe, he transcends his creation in the same manner a painter transcends his painting). In contrast with deism, God is viewed as active with and involved in creation.

bitheism/ditheism: The belief in and worship of two Gods.

tritheism: The belief that the members of the Trinity are separate Gods; see also polytheism.

atheism: A term to describe the state of being without belief in God(s). It is not in itself a belief system or worldview but rather a negative position regarding any theism. This is the definition of atheism in its least objectional statement. Atheism broadens from here into such muddy waters as weak or strong atheism, definitions that even atheists cannot agree on.

pantheism: This is the idea that this material universe is indistinguishable from God -- that all is God. The universe, and all it contains, are the real manifestation of God, an idea developed by the ancient Greek school of philosophy known as Stoicism who asserted that the entire cosmos is a condensation of God, in whom we live and move and have our being. Also known as cosmotheism or hylotheism.

panentheism: A term devised by Karl C. F. Krause to describe his thought that everything shares God's being, but distinguishes itself from pantheism in that it does not maintain that God and the world are identical. Whereas it shares pantheist sentiment that God includes the cosmos, it sets itself apart by insisting that God transcends the cosmos; by way of analogy, God has the same relationship to the universe as the body has to the soul.

polytheism: The belief in and worship of many Gods. Both henotheism and kathenotheism are polytheistic.

henotheism: The worship of one particular God without denying the existence of other Gods. Two modern examples of this practice would be the Baha'i Faith and Jehovah's Witnesses: Baha'i Faith is a pluralistic religion that accepts other gods as valid, and Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Jehovah is the supreme God while Jesus is a lesser god (since there are two gods operating here but Jehovah is the only true God Almighty, it does not qualify as bitheism).

kathenotheism: A term devised by 19th century German philologist Friedrich Max Müller to describe what is essentially a form of "rotating henotheism," wherein there is one supreme deity at the head of a recognized pantheon of other deities, but each deity is supreme at different times.

anthropotheism: belief that Gods are only deified men (Mormonism).

egotheism: identification of oneself with God


Copyright © 2003 by David G. Nesbitt. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. Inquiries should be addressed to Christian Apologetic Index, 1424 Bertram Street, Kelowna, British Columbia, V1Y-2G2, 250-979-7643