WARNING: controversial post. Enter at your own risk. Don’t burn me at the stake. Consider what I say.

Is Christian polytheism possible?

Don’t answer too quickly. I have an interesting passage to post for your comments.

Ancient Beliefs and Modern Interpretations: From Monolatry to Monotheism

In the Old Testament, it is ubiquitously shown that the Jewish nation adhered to monolatry. They believed in many gods, but Yahweh was their only God. This is distinct from henotheism, which involves the worship of many gods with one primary deity.

Transition in the New Testament: The Shift to Sole Deity Worship

However, in the New Testament, there appears to be a definite shift in worldview, from monolatry to monotheism.

The Concept of Redemptive Hermeneutics in Biblical Commandments

God permitted the belief in many gods in the Old Testament. He often accommodated incorrect views, progressively correcting them. This concept, known as redemptive hermeneutics, is evident in the first commandment, which states, “You shall have no other gods before me,” rather than the more definitive, “You shall have no other gods.”

Debating Monolatry in the New Testament Era

However, I often ponder this: Did God allow a form of monolatry in the New Testament? It seems that the apostles were phasing out this worldview, yet still tolerated it to some extent.

Apostolic Tolerance of Diverse Worldviews

Consider this passage where Paul speaks to the Corinthians:

“An idol is nothing at all in the world” and “There is no God but one.” For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us, there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

“But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food, they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.” (1 Cor. 8:4-8)

Monotheism vs. Polytheism: The Corinthian Christian Dilemma

From this passage, it seems that there were Christians who believed in more than one god. When Paul says, “but not everyone possesses this knowledge,” he refers to believers in the Corinthian church. Some did not understand the concept of monotheism. Isn’t that interesting? One might assume this would be among the first teachings of Paul, and perhaps it was during his time there. But it also seems possible that he had not yet taught this and assumed the people already knew. In my opinion, what seems indisputable is that some of these Corinthians were Christian polytheists.

Theological Evolution: Implications for Contemporary Christian Beliefs

If this is true, is it possible for people today to be messed up in their theology to such a degree that they are Christian polytheists?

Seeking Understanding: The Complexity of Early Christian Beliefs

What do you think? Where might my reasoning be flawed?

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    4 replies to "Is Christian Polytheism Possible?"

    • C Michael Patton

      What do you mean?

    • Ewan Kerr

      It is a matter of historical debate exactly what the Israelites believed before the triumph of Yahweh worship. However, even if, for the sake of argument, the bible is giving us a true picture, then even here, the picture is not entirely clear. In the Second Temple period, some Jews saw heavenly figures as ‘divine’ or gods. Angelic type beings were considered ‘gods’. The term ‘God/god’ is applied in the bible to diverse figures from Moses to satan.
      Therefore, even calling Jesus ‘God’ does not in itself equate him with Yahweh. Indeed, the fact that there are so few occasions where Jesus is unambiguously called ‘God’ in the NT suggests that in the first century, the early Christians still viewed Yahweh as the only true God, the Father and God of Jesus, and that Jesus was still the messiah, the Son of God. As the message reached into the gentile world, a world where a figure exalted to heaven would be viewed as divine or a god, we see the beginning of the struggle between the belief in one God and th Christological conundrum.

    • Tom F

      I don’t think it is possible.

      For Christians part of the “definition” of God is that God is the supreme (trinitarian) being of which none greater can be conceived. He is the first cause. The unmoved mover. If there is a 2nd being like this then he, or they really, are no longer the first cause, the unmoved mover(s), the being(s) of which none greater can be conceived because something produced them. God is uncreated.

      It is possible, and correct I think, for Christians to believe that spiritual beings other than the triune God exist. These beings could perhaps be referred to as gods and worshipped as gods, but they are created beings. More than likely they are demons if they are accepting worship (see the angel in Revelation who tells John to stop worshipping him, also Paul and Barnabas(?) refusing to be worshipped as Hermes and whoever else [I forget]).

      The saints in heaven are not spiritual beings. They are human beings awaiting resurrection and life in the new heavens and new earth.

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