. . .and ask, is this distinctive set of ideas the same as, or different
from, that espoused by the 'Word of Faith' movement? If these teachers
do not acknowledge their debt to Joseph, they are plagiarists! In the case
of Finis Dake also, many of these controversial and unusual ideas already
are printed with Joseph's foot-steps, including the concept of God's spiritual
body in human form:
- "Yea, even all men were created in the beginning after mine own image.
Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man
have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee
to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh."
- (Book of Mormon, Ether 3:16)
Later editions of the Dake Study Bible have suppressed a lot of
this alarming doctrine. However, a recent movement called 'Open
Theism' has returned to these fever swamps: "Pinnock sees the
possible influence of philosophy on the customary denial of God's
embodiment: 'I do not feel obliged to assume that God is a purely
spiritual being when his self-revelation does not suggest it. It is
true that from a Platonic standpoint, the idea is absurd, but this
is not a biblical standpoint.'" (quoted in Millard J. Erickson, What
Does God Know and When Does He Know It?, p. 69).
The Biblical standpoint: “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
(John 4:24). This is not really the focus of open theism however.
The open theists deny that God is unchanging, as traditional
theology teaches, and as first century Judaism taught: "For we must
conceive that God is free from distinctive qualities, and
imperishable, and unchangeable; and he who does not conceive thus of
him is filling his own soul with false and atheistical opinions."
(Philo Judaeus, Allegorical Interpretation, Book I, Chapter XV).
Those of a different bent, like Finis Dake and the open theists,
claim that these ideas arose from Greek philosophy and not the
Bible. This is a very difficult case to make, however, which
necessitates discarding large quantities of unambiguous scripture.
The Jehovah's Witnesses assert that their "many gods" represent
the understanding of the early church, whereas the belief there is only
one god existing is a modern innovation. Is this factual?:
Clement of Rome
"But in order that disorder might not arise in Israel, he did it anyway, so that the name of the true and
only God might be glorified, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen."
(Clement, Letter to the Corinthians, Section 43, p. 52, The Apostolic Fathers,
Lightfoot, Harmer, and Holmes).
"'There will be no other God, O Trypho, nor was there from eternity any other
existing' (I thus addressed him), 'but He who made and disposed all this universe. Nor do we think that there is one God for us, another
for you, but that He alone is God who led your fathers out from Egypt with a strong hand and a high arm. Nor have we trusted in any
other (for there is no other), but in Him in whom you also have trusted, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob.'"
(Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 11).
"And if any slothfulness or old hereditary superstition prevents you from reading the prophecies of the holy men through which you can be instructed regarding the one only God, which is the first article of the true religion, yet believe him who,
though at first he taught you polytheism, yet afterwards preferred to sing
a useful and necessary recantation — I mean Orpheus, who said what I quoted
a little before; and believe the others who wrote the same things concerning
one God. For it was the work of Divine Providence on your behalf, that
they, though unwillingly, bore testimony that what the prophets said regarding
one God was true, in order that, the doctrine of a plurality of gods being
rejected by all, occasion might be afforded you of knowing the truth."
(Justin's Horatory Address to the Greeks, Chapter 36, Justin Martyr).
"Let us come now, O King, to the history of the Jews also, and see what opinion they have as to God. The Jews then say
that God is one, the Creator of all, and omnipotent; and that it is not right that any
other should be worshipped except this God alone. And herein they appear
to approach the truth more than all the nations, especially in that they
worship God and not His works." (Aristides, Apology, XIV.)
"Now we also confess that God exists, but that He is one, the creator, and maker, and fashioner of this universe; and we know that all things are arranged by His providence, but by Him alone."
(Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus, Book 3, Chapter 9).
“And having this prescience, and knowing that through the serpent error
would introduce a number of gods which had no existence, — for there being but one God, even then error was striving to disseminate a multitude of gods, saying,
'Ye shall be as gods;...'” (Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus, Book 2,
“But God at least, the Father and Creator of the universe did not abandon mankind, but gave a law, and sent holy prophets to declare and teach the race of men, that each one of us might awake and understand that there is one God.”
(Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus, Book 2, Chapter 34).
"As regards, then, the doctrine that there was from the beginning one God, the Maker of this universe, consider it in
this wise, that you may be acquainted with the argumentative grounds also of our faith. If there were from the beginning two or more gods,
they were either in one and the same place, or each of them separately in his own. In one and the same place they could not be. For, if they
are gods, they are not alike; but because they are uncreated they are unlike: — for created things are like their patterns; but the uncreated
are unlike, being neither produced from any one, nor formed after the pattern of any one. Hand and eye and foot are parts of one body, making
up together one man: is God in this sense one? And indeed Socrates was compounded and divided into parts, just because he was created and
perishable; but God is uncreated, and, impassible, and indivisible — does not, therefore, consist of parts...If, then, he neither does anything
nor exercises providential care, and if there is not another place in which he is, then this Being of whom we speak is the one God
from the beginning, and the sole Maker of the world."
(Athenagoras, A Plea for the Christians, Chapter 8).
"On this account also they were persecuted, being inspired by His grace to fully convince the unbelieving that there
is one God, who has manifested Himself by Jesus Christ His Son, who is His eternal
Word, not proceeding forth from silence, and who in all things pleased
Him that sent Him." (Ignatius, Letter to the Magnesians, 8).
"It is proper, then, that I should begin with the first and most important head, that is, God the Creator, who made
the heaven and the earth, and all things that are therein. . ., and to demonstrate that there is nothing either above Him or after Him;
nor that, influenced by any one, but of His own free will, He created all things, since He is the only God, the only Lord, the only
Creator, the only Father, alone containing all things, and Himself commanding all things into existence."
(Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 2, Chapter 1.1).
"How much safer and more accurate a course is it, then, to confess at once that which is true: that this God,
the Creator, who formed the world, is the only God, and that there is no other God besides Him..."
(Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 2, Chapter 16.3)
"Since, therefore, the entire Scriptures, the prophets, and the Gospels, can be clearly, unambiguously, and
harmoniously understood by all, although all do not believe them; and since they proclaim that one only God, to the exclusion
of all others, formed all things by His word, whether visible or invisible, heavenly or earthly, in the water or under the earth,
as I have shown from the very words of Scripture; and since the very system
of creation to which we belong testifies, by what falls under our notice,
that one Being made and governs it, — those persons will seem truly foolish
who blind their eyes to such a clear demonstration, and will not behold
the light of the announcement [made to them]; but they put fetters upon
themselves, and every one of them imagines, by means of their obscure interpretations
of the parables, that he has found out a God of his own." (Irenaeus,
Against Heresies, Book 2, Chapter 27.2).
"Or, again, if (which is indeed the only true supposition, as I have shown by numerous arguments of the very
clearest nature) He (the Creator) made all things freely, and by His own power, and arranged and finished them, and His will is the
substance of all things, then He is discovered to be the one only God who created all things, who alone is Omnipotent, and who is the
only Father founding and forming all things, visible and invisible, such as may be perceived by our senses and such as cannot,
heavenly and earthly, “by the word of His power;” and He has fitted and arranged all things by His wisdom, while He contains all things,
but He Himself can be contained by no one: He is the Former, He the Builder, He the Discoverer, He the Creator, He the Lord of all;
and there is no one besides Him, or above Him, neither has He any mother, as they falsely ascribe to Him;
nor is there a second God, as Marcion has imagined; nor is there a Pleroma
of thirty Aeons, which has been shown a vain supposition; nor is there
any such being as Bythus or Proarche; nor are there a series of heavens;
nor is there a virginal light, nor an unnameable Aeon, nor, in fact, any
one of those things which are madly dreamt of by these, and by all the
heretics. But there is one only God, the Creator — He who is above every Principality, and Power, and Dominion, and Virtue:
He is Father, He is God, He the Founder, He the Maker, He the Creator,
who made those things by Himself, that is, through His Word and His Wisdom
— heaven and earth, and the seas, and all things that are in them: He is
just; He is good; He it is who formed man, who planted paradise, who made
the world, who gave rise to the flood, who saved Noah; He is the God of
Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of the living:
He it is whom the law proclaims, whom the prophets preach, whom Christ
reveals, whom the apostles make known to us, and in whom the Church believes."
(Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 2, Chapter 30.9).
"Wherefore, as I have already stated, no other is named as God, or is called Lord, except Him who is God
and Lord of all, who also said to Moses, “I AM THAT I AM. [...] When, however, the Scripture terms them [gods] which are no gods,
it does not, as I have already remarked, declare them as gods in every sense, but with a certain addition and signification, by which
they are shown to be no gods at all." (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapter 6.2-3).
"The Holy Spirit evidently thus declares by David to those hearing him, that there shall be those who despise Him who formed us, and who is God alone. Wherefore he also uttered the foregoing words, meaning to say: See that ye do not err; besides or above Him there is no other God, to whom ye should rather stretch out [your hands], thus rendering us pious and grateful towards Him who made, established, and [still] nourishes us."
(Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapter 10.3)
“He says: 'Swear not at all; neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne;
nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; neither by Jerusalem, for it
is the city of the great King.' For these words are evidently spoken with
reference to the Creator, as also Esaias says: 'Heaven is my throne, the
earth is my footstool.' And besides this Being there is no other God; otherwise He would not be termed by the Lord either 'God' or 'the great
King;' for a Being who can be so described admits neither of any other
being compared with nor set above Him.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book
4, Chapter 2.5).
“But as we follow for our teacher the one and only true God, and possess His words as the rule of truth, we do all speak alike with
regard to the same things, knowing but one God, the Creator of this universe,
who sent the prophets, who led forth the people from the land of Egypt,
who in these last times manifested His own Son, that He might put the unbelievers
to confusion, and search out the fruit of righteousness.”
Heresies, Book 4, Chapter 35.4).
“For these were two hands, because there were two peoples scattered to the ends of the earth; but there was one head in the middle, as there is but one God, who is above all, and through all, and in us all.”
Heresies, Book 5, Chapter 17.3).
"The principal, and indeed the whole, contention lies in the point of number: whether two Gods may be admitted, by poetic
license (if they must be), or pictorial fancy, or by the third process, as we must now add, of heretical pravity. But the Christian verity
has distinctly declared this principle, 'God is not, if He is not one;'...That Being, then, which is the great Supreme, must needs be unique,
by having no equal, and so not ceasing to be the great Supreme. Therefore
He will not otherwise exist than by the condition whereby He has His being;
that is, by His absolute uniqueness. Since, then, God is the great Supreme,
our Christian verity has rightly declared, 'God is not, if He is not one.'
Not as if we doubted His being God, by saying, He is not, if He is not
one; but because we define Him, in whose being we thoroughly believe, to
be that without which He is not God; that is to say, the great Supreme.
But then the great Supreme must needs be unique...Whatever other god, then,
you may introduce, you will at least be unable to maintain his divinity
under any other guise, than by ascribing to him too the property of Godhead
— both eternity and supremacy over all. How, therefore, can two great Supremes
co-exist, when this is the attribute of the Supreme Being, to have no equal,
— an attribute which belongs to One alone, and can by no means exist in
two?" (Tertullian, The Five Books against Marcion, Book I, Chapter 3).
"If to Marcion’s god there be ascribed the blessing of the poor, he must also have imputed to him the malediction
of the rich; and thus will he become the Creator’s equal, both good and judicial; nor will there be left any room for that distinction
whereby two gods are made; and when this distinction is removed, there will remain the verity which pronounces the Creator to be the
one only God." (Tertullian, The Five Books against Marcion, Book 4, Chapter 15).
“But who is this good God? There is, He says, 'none but one.' It is not as if He had shown us that one of two gods was
the supremely good; but He expressly asserts that there is one only good God, who is the only good, because He is the only God.”
(Tertullian, The Five Books Against Marcion, Book 4, Chapter 36).
Clement of Alexandria
"God, that is, the only true God, is perceived not by the senses but by the mind."
(Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Greeks, Chapter IV, p. 117 Loeb edition).
"How great is the power of God! His mere will is creation; for God alone created, since He alone is
truly God." (Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Greeks, Chapter IV, p. 143 Loeb edition).
"One only, one in very truth is God, who made high heaven and the spreading earth, the ocean's gleaming wave,
the mighty winds." (The poet Sophocles, quoted as "the truth"
by Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Greeks, Chapter VII, p. 165 Loeb edition).
“For we both know, and read, and believe, and maintain that God is one, who made the heaven as well as the earth, since we neither know any other, nor shall we at any time know such, seeing that there is none. 'I,' says He, 'am God, and there is none beside me, righteous and a Savior.'”
(Novatian, Treatise on the Trinity, Chapter 30).
I don't quote these authors because I imagine them likely to be better
informed on this score than God, who said, "...beside me there is
no God." (Isaiah 44:6). If He is not in a position to know, then who
is? Rather I quote them because the Watchtower is ever quoting them, even
though they do not agree with the Watchtower.
Once we get to the third century we encounter the Neo-Platonist author
Origen, who does speak about 'many gods' in language similar to that used
by the Watchtower. This brilliant man was, unfortunately,
more open to pagan and Platonic thinking than he might have been:
- “There are some gods of whom God is God, as we hear in prophecy, 'Thank
ye the God of gods,' and 'The God of gods hath spoken, and called the earth.'
Now God, according to the Gospel, 'is not the God of the dead but of the
living.' Those gods, then, are living of whom God is God. The Apostle,
too, writing to the Corinthians, says: 'As there are gods many and lords
many,' and so we have spoken of these gods as really existing.”
- (Origen, Commentary on John, Book 1, Chapter 34).
This author cannot realistically be described as the originator of the Watchtower view, however, given that the
gnostics were openly polytheistic; as were, of course, the pagans. The very first spokesman for this god-count
is he who spoke in the garden of "gods," in the plural. Origen
did, however, open a door, through which he himself did not go; but in
generations to come, Arius and company did venture through and came to a bad conclusion.
- “If we are taken to
task for believing in operating 'Gods' and 'Spirits' while
rejecting a personal God, we answer to the Theists and
Monotheists: 'Admit that your Jehovah is one of the Elohim,
and we are ready to recognize him. Make of him, as you do,
the Infinite, the ONE and the Eternal God, and we will never
accept him in this character.'”
- (Madame Helena P. Blavatsky,
Isis Unveiled and the Secret Doctrine, Kindle location 41334,
SD Vol. 1, p. 492).
A pagan polytheist like Madame Helena P. Blavatsky has no special
objection to the deity of Jehovah, provided He is understood to be one
of a crowd. As she points out, there are plural references in the
Bible: "Now in the original texts it is not 'god' but Elohim, —
and we challenge contradiction — and Jehovah is one of the Elohim, as
proved by his own words in Genesis iii. 22, when 'the Lord God said:
Behold the Man has become as one of us,' etc."
(Madame Helena P.
Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled and the Secret Doctrine, SD Vol. 1, pp.
492-493, Kindle location 41392).
What is the meaning of a plural reference like 'one of us'? Does it, indeed, as she claims,
vindicate pagan polytheism? The claim is made that there are many gods, because the Hebrew word 'Elohim,' 'God,' is plural in form:
"The monotheists have taken (and are still taking)
advantage of the profound esotericism of the Kabbalah to apply the
name by which the One Supreme Essence is known to ITS manifestation,
the Sephiroth-Elohim, and call it Jehovah. But this is quite
arbitrary and against all reason and logic, as the term Elohim is a
plural noun. . ." (Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled
and the Secret Doctrine, Complete Illustrated Edition, pp. 129-130
Secret Doctrine, Kindle location 27201.)
Why is this reference plural?
The inter-testamental literature of the Jews, though never counted
by them in the canon of scripture, assents to the general trend:
"I, like my brothers, surrender my body and my life for
the laws of our father. I appeal to God to show mercy speedily to
his people and by whips and scourges to bring you to admit that he
alone is God." (2 Maccabees 7:37-38).
"Have pity on us, O Lord,
thou God of all; look down, and send thy terror upon all nations.
Raise thy hand against the heathen, and let them see thy power. .
.Let them learn, as we also have learned, that there is no God but
only thou, O Lord." (Ecclesiasticus 36:1-5).
While these works are not authoritative to the Christian, they do
show an unbroken chain between the revelations of the Old Testament
prophets and the New Testament era. Still less authoritative is the Sibyl,
"There is one God, sole ruler, ineffable, who lives in
the sky, self-begotten, invisible, who himself sees all things. No
sculptor's hand made him, nor does a cast of gold or ivory reveal
him, by the crafts of man, but he himself, eternal, revealed himself
as existing now, and formerly and again in the future." (Sibylline
Oracles, Book 3, Verses 11-16).
For all her faults, the Sibyl counts better than do the Jehovah's
Witnesses. Philo Judaeus also assents, "And God said, 'At first say
unto them, I am that I am, that when they have learnt that there is
a difference between him that is and him that is not, they may be
further taught that there is no name whatever that can properly be
assigned to me, who am the only being to whom existence belongs.'"
(Life of Moses, Book I, Section 75, Chapter XIV).
"And he [Moses] is constantly prophesying and telling his people
that there is one God, the creator and maker of the universe; and at
other times he teaches them that he is the Lord of all created
things, since all that is firm, and solid, and really stable and
sure, is by nature so framed as to be connected with him alone."
(Philo Judaeus, The Special Laws, Book I, Section 30, Chapter V).
"But God is alone, and by himself, being one; and there is
nothing like unto God. . .Therefore God exists according to oneness
and unity; or we should rather say, that oneness exists according to
the one God, for all number is more recent than the world, as is
also time. But God is older than the world, and is its Creator. "
(Philo Judaeus, Allegorical Interpretation, Book II, Chapter 1).
As an external witness, the pagan historian Tacitus, while not
generally well informed about Judaism, is at least aware that the Jews
knew of only one God:
"The Egyptians worship many animals and monstrous
images; the Jews conceive of one god only, and that with the mind
alone: they regard as impious those who make from perishable
materials representations of gods in man's image; that supreme and
eternal being is to them incapable of representation and without
end." (Tacitus, Histories, Book V, Chapter 5).
Who were the people in antiquity who agreed with the Jehovah's
Witnesses that there are many lower-ranking deities, and one major?
The pagans. The Jews and Christians believed there is only one God
in existence, not varied ranks of the species.