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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/555

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MONOTHEISM


501


MONOTHEISM


Now, the transcendent superiority of this Monotheism taught by Moses offers a strong proof of its Divine origin. At a time wlien the neighbouring nations representing the highest civiHzation of that time — Egypt, Babylonia, Cireece — were giving an impure and idolatrous worship to many deities, we find the insignificant Hebrew people professing a religion in which idolatry, impure rites, and a degrading mythol- ogy had no legitimate place, but where, instead, be- lief in the one true God was associated with a dignified worship and a lofty moral code. Those who reject the claim of Mosaic Monotheism to have been re- vealed have never yet succeeded in giving a satis- factory explanation of this extraordinary phenomenon. It was, however, pre-eminently the religion of the He- brew people, destined in the fullness of time to give place to the higher monotheistic religion revealed by Christ, in which all the nations of the earth should find peace and salvation. The Jewish people was thus God's chosen people, not so much by reason of their own merit, as because they were destined to prepare the way for the absolute and universal religion, Christian- ity. The God of Moses is no mere tribal deity. He is the Creaicr and Lord of the world. He gives over to His chosen people the land of the Chanaanites. He is a jealous God, forbidding not only worship of strange gods, but the use of images, which might lead to abuses in that age of almost universal idolatry. Love of God is made a duty, but reverential fear is the predominant emotion. The religious sanction of the law is centred chief!}' in temjjoral rewards and punishments. Laws of conduct, though determined by justice rather than by charity and mercy, are still eminently humane.

Christian Monotheism. — The sublime Monothe- ism taught by Jesus Christ has no parallel in the his- tory of religions. God is presented to us as the lov- ing, merciful Father, not of one privileged people, but of all mankind. In this filial relation with God — a re- lation of confidence, gratitude, love — Christ centres our obligations both to God and to our fellow-men. He lays hold of the individual .soul and reveals to it its high destiny of Divine sonship. At the same time. He impresses on us the corresponding duty of treating others as God's children, and hence as our brethren, entitled not simply to justice, but to mercy and char- ity. To complete this idea of Christian fellowship, Jesus shows Himself to be the eternal Son of God, sent by His heavenly Father to save us from sin, to raise us to the life of grace and to the dignitj' of children of God through the atoning merits of His life and death. The love of God the Father thus includes the love of His inctarnate .Son. Pensonal devotion to Jesus is the motive of right conduct in (Christian Monotheism. Co-operating in the sanctification of mankind is the Holy Ghost, the .Spirit of truth and life, sent to confirm the faithful in faith, hope, and charity. These three Divine Persons, distinct from <me an- other, equal in all things. Father, .Son, and Holy Ghost, are one in essence, a trinity of persons in the one, undividi'd Godhead (see Trimtv, Thk), Such is the MoMulheisMi taught by Jesus. The guaranty of the truth of His I carh ing is to be found in His supreme moral exrcliciic<', in I lie |)erfpi-ti(in of His ethical leach- ing, in His miracles, cspei'ially His bodily resurrection, and in His wonderful influence on mankind for all time, (Cf. John, xvii, 3; I Cor., viii, 4.) As Chris- tianity in its beginnings was surrounded by the poly- theistic beliefs and practices of the pagan world, a clear and authoritative expression of .Monotheism was nece.ssary. Hen(^e the .symbols of faith, or creeds, open with the words: "I [we] believe in God [Oedf, deum]" or, more explicitly, "I [we| believe in one God (fi/a Oe6y, unum deum] ". (See Denziger-Bannwart, "Enchiridion", 1-40; cf. Apostles' Creed; Athana- 8IAN Creed; Nicene Creed.) Among the early here- sies, some of the most important and most directly op-


posed to Monotheism arose out of the attempt to accoimt for the origin of evil. Good they ascribed to one divine principle, evil to another. (See Gnosti- ci.sm; Manich.eksm; Marcionites.) These dualistic errors gave occasion for a vigorous defence of Mono- theism by such writers as St. Irena>us, Tertullian, St. Augustine, etc. (see Bardenhewer-Shahan, "Patrol- ogy", St. Louis, 1908).

The same doctrine naturally held the foremost place in the teaching of the missionaries who con- verted the races of Northern Europe; in fact, it may be said that the diffusion of Monotheism is one of the great achievements of the Catholic Church. In the various conciliar definitions regarding the Trinity of Persons in God, emphasis is laid on the unity of the Divine nature; see, e. g.. Fourth Coun- cil of Lateran (121.5), in Denzinger-Bannwart, "En- chiridion", 428. The medieval .Scholastics, taking up the traditional belief, brought to its support a long arraj- of arguments based on reason; see, for instance, St. Thomas, "Contra Gentes", I, .xlii; and St. Anselm, "Monol.", iv. During the last three centuries the most conspicuous tendency outside the Catholic Church has been towards such extreme positions as those of Monism (q. v.) and Pantheism (q. v.), in which it is asserted that all things are really one in sub- stance, and that God is identical with the world. The Church, however, has steadfastly maintained, not only that God is essentially distinct from all things else, but also that there is only one God. " If any one deny the one true God, Creator and Lord of all things visible and invisible, let him be anathema" (Cone, Vatican., .Sess. Ill, "De fide", can. i).

Mohammedan Monotheism. — Of Mohammedan Monotheism little need be said. The Allah of the Koran is practically one with the Jehovah of the Old Testament. Its kejTiote is islam, submissive resigna- tion to the will of God, which is expressed in every- thing that happens. Allah is, to use the %vords of the Koran, "The Almighty, the All-knowing, the All-just, the Lord of the worlds, the Author of the heavens and the earth, the Creator of life and death, in whose hand is dominion and irresistible power, the great all-power- ful Lord of the glorious throne, God is the Alighty, , , , the .Swift in reckoning, who knoweth every ant's weight of good and of ill that each man hath done, and who sufferethnot the reward of the faithful to perish. He is the King, the Holy, . . , the Guardian over His serxanis, the Shelterer of the orphan, the Guid(^ of the erring, the Deliverer from every affliction, the Friend of the bereaved, the Con.soler of the afflicted, , , , the generous Lord, the gracious Hearer, the Xear-at-hand, the Compa-ssionate, the M<'rciful, the Forgiving" (cited from "Islam", by Ameer Ali .Syed). The in- fluence of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, on Mohammedan Monotheism is well known and need not be <lwclt on here.

MoNOTHKISM and POLYTHEISTIC RELIGIONS. —

What has thus far been said leads to the conclusion that ("hrislian Monotheism and its antecedent forms. Mosaic .and primitive MondlliciMM, are independent in their origin of the Polyl lieisl ic religions of t lie worid. The various forms of polythi'i.--Mi that now flourish, or that have existed in the past, are the result of man's faulty attempts to interpret nature by the light of un- aided rea.son. Wherever the scientific view of nature has not obtained, the mechanical, secondary causes that account for such striking phenomena as sun, moon, lightning, tempest, have invariably been mis- taken for i)ersonal, living causes. The thunder has suggested the thundcrer; the tempest, a mysterious living being of destructive tendencies; the sun, moon, and stars have been viewed either as living beings, or as inert bodies kept in movement by invisible, intelli- gent agents. This personalizing of the striking phe- nomena of nature wa« common among the highest pagan nations of antiqtjfty. It is the common view