Are Christians Monotheists?

November 2, 2006 § 19 Comments

It boggles my mind that Christians claim monotheism… truly this claim by Christians is false and should be addressed by “real” monotheistic Christians, if such a thing exists. The Kashmiri Nomad and I have written numerous articles about this and the argument that I hear again and again is that the One God the god of the Monotheists is being worshiped through prayer to ‘Esa ibn Marayam (Jesus the Christ), Saints and even Angels, etc.. This to me is absurd and suppositious (not superstitious, although it is!). The reasoning behind my allegations is simple and in all seriousness needs no further explanation however, to maintain the integrity of this article I will rationalize my position.

In light of the since passed holiday, no not the Muslim’s ‘Eid but the Western holiday Halloween, which I also wrote an article on (see here), many Christians may have observed All Saints Day instead. All Saints Day is a holdiay that developed as a result of the Christian arrogation of All-hallow-even (archaic Halloween). Well recently I came across an interview of real interest entitled, To Whom Should You Pray on All Saints Day? by Jesuit Priest James Martin where it says,

“It’s All Saints Day, but most people don’t know what to think of the saints beyond the idea that you pray to them to get stuff like an ‘A’ on a test or to find a good parking spot. Jesuit priest James Martin says saints are more than plaster statues: They were real people whose lives show us that holiness is actually possible for the rest of us.” (J. Martin, NPR) audio2

And of course this is when I slap my hand to my head shaking it in disbelief. Disbelief of what you ask? Well disbelief that Christians cannot see that there is a polytheistic or pagan connotation to these practices. I would like to point out that the word pray according to the American Heritage Dictionary says,

pray (prā)

v., prayed, pray·ing, prays.

v.intr.

  1. To utter or address a prayer or prayers to God, a god, or another object of worship.
  2. To make a fervent request or entreaty.

This clearly shows that their is a deified power attributed to these Saints. Are they then lesser gods? If not why beseech them? Please understand I am not condemning you for these actions, worshiping Saints or lesser Gods. However what I am saying is that Christians need to be honest about their religion and stop claiming to be monotheists when theologies such as the Trinity and practices such as those on All Saints Day, etc. are clearly polytheistic, it is a matter of honesty. And if you are a Christian and have never thought about this before… maybe its time you start.

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§ 19 Responses to Are Christians Monotheists?

  • What monotheism (tawheed) means to Muslims varies. Most notably, there is a contrast between Muslims who emphasise Allah’s transcence, e.g. Hanbalis, Deobandis, Wahhabis and Salafis, and those who see Allah as imminent within Creation (Sufis). Also, which Christians are you talking about? Protestants don’t pray to Saints. Unitarians deny the Trinity and proclaim a Monotheism not dissimilar to the first group of Muslims referred to above. Christianity, like Islam, is a diverse faith.

    Wasalaam

    TMA

  • Salam

    I like this blog a lot and I enjoy the Muslim perspectives you bring and discuss. So I was a bit taken aback because this post was sort of troubling to me. I’ll try to articulate why.

    I don’t know why you’d try to convince Christians that their theology is mistaken in this way. I don’t know how it is going to be beneficial. As Irving pointed out they differ widely on how they treat concepts like trinity etc. and it reminds me how I reacted to non-Muslims telling me they think some of the Ramadan fasting rules are unhealthy – why is it polite for you to discuss this issue when this is not your faith tradition?

    I know it is trendy since the days of Ahmed Deedat to attack Christian theology using their own texts against them and try to make them convinced that their theology is wrong. I guess I just don’t like this antagonistic stance. (With Ahmed Deedat it was at least more understandable in that he was responding to people who were trying to convert others such as Swaggert and Falwell. But you are addressing this comment to all Christians.)

    I seem to remember studying the way early Muslims and the Abysinnian Christians discussed what they had in common and how much they respected each other, rather than trying to pick apart each others’ beliefs, and I think this is a preferable way to relate to those people who follow a religion besides ours.

    Of course it is your blog and your da’wa. But I decided to submit this differing thought just because I really have enjoyed discussing stuff with you since discovering this blog fairly recently.

  • Abu Sahajj says:

    Wa ‘alaikum as-Salaam…

    “I like this blog a lot and I enjoy the Muslim perspectives you bring and discuss. So I was a bit taken aback because this post was sort of troubling to me.”

    Do you mean that you don’t like this post? I know it is a bit clumsy however… I figured that the audio clip and the overall question was enough to ask Christians… basically whats up with this stuff (Saint Worship)?

    And you are right… it was an invitation to all Christians… primarily to inspire a discussion among Christians on a Muslim blog… I have yet to see this.

    wasalaam

  • DrM says:

    I see nothing wrong with Abu Sahajj putting this post up, unlike the fundagelicals, its neither rude or confrontational.
    Well done Abu Sahajj.

  • Dirty Butter says:

    Ok, I don’t know how to keep my mouth shut, so I’ll put my two cents in. I’m a Protestant, and I don’t understand the veneration of Saints, either. But I have never considered Catholics to be putting Saints on the same level as God. I think they would be the first to say that would be blasphemy.

    As for the Trinity – I do believe in the triune nature of God, but I very strongly believe that our God is one God. This is a matter of faith, not logic. And I realize that this is something that we will never agree on.

  • PatB says:

    As a child I was taught that you pray to God and ask the saints to intercede (assist/carry the message).
    In the new testement the referal to saints normally refers to those in the church community (alive breathing members of the church). An inclusive term.

  • Aziz says:

    I agree that this post is in poor form. For one thing, Christians claim they are monotheist, so thats’ that as far as we are concerned. Do you like it when they insist that what we call hirabah is actuallthe attitude of y jihad? Leave theirtheology to them and ours to us. lakum deen nakum walaya deen.

    For another, praying to saints is not the same as believing in multiple gods. So the premise itself is flawed. This is not even a point of absolute concensus within Islam, let alone between Islam and Christianity.

    Please keep in mind that posts that cause division between muslims or between muslms and others are not suitable for the carnival of brass. We dont want to pick public fights for no reason.

  • Aziz says:

    note, of course you have a right to post this and invite discussion. But i personally am insulted when “invited to discuss” jihad on Christian sites. So I cant imagine why a Christian would want to engage in a debate about their own fundamentals.

    I mainly take exception to this post being appropriate for the carnival.

  • sunrunner says:

    You know, you are really opening up a can of worms here. What about Shia saints? What about the 99 names of God?

    Now I know that you know that Shia saints (well, maybe you do think that is polytheism–but Shia’s don’t, so you see it is a slippery slope, because there are some Protestants who would say that Catholics are devil-worshippers, for the same reason) are not the same level as God, and you also know that just because there are 99 spoken names for God does not mean there are 99 different gods. But you see, here is the rub. Christians who believe in the “triune” nature of God, do not say that they are three seperate entities. Rather 3 different faces, or “names,” if you will for the same unitary Being.

    Not that I am a theologican or a Christian apologist (because I am not), but I do know that you are entering dangerous territory when you start to make sweeping statements about any religion, including your own.

    And btw–what is with all the ploytheism bashing? A particularly monotheisitic hang-up if I may say so. Some people read the assertion of monotheism as code for my-way-or-the-highway. Or there is only One way. My way. Or how I happen to interpret my way Today. Polytheism (or pagan) bashing is a favorite past-time of many Christo-facists.

    Which is kind of my way of saying that you will not win friends and influence enemies with this tack, you will only increase the already existing polarization. And anyway, real polytheists are your natural allies as most would agree also that “the gods” are various manifestations or representations of a single mysterious unknowable entity. And are not interested in “being right” about anything–which means that they are less inclined to interfer in how you choose to find God.

  • Abu Sahajj says:

    lakum deen nakum walaya deen.

    I hear you, but I’m just one man asking a question… I think this is being blown out of proportion unless my blog holds more weight in the mainstream media than I think it does?

    Aziz… I have posted several articles to the Carnival of Brass some which have been accepted but most that have not… as with many blog carnivals… however this is the first time you have ever personally contacted me to tell me that a post was not acceptable, whats up with that, is this going to be a standard policy for posts you do not accept?

    C’mon you guys are over reacting, unless Wa Salaam has reached a status that even I am unaware of. You all who disagree with this post should read an essay that I recently wrote called, “Flesh and Fangs: Risk and Ridicule in Writing” (another post that wasn’t accepted to the carnival), that’s the least you can do for criticising my integrity on Wa Salaam.

    “So I cant imagine why a Christian would want to engage in a debate about their own fundamentals.”

    Interestingly though… your comment comes right after a few Christians commenting on their fundamentals… wasalaam

  • Abu Sahajj says:

    “You know, you are really opening up a can of worms here. What about Shia saints? What about the 99 names of God?”

    Yes I do… which is why (contrary to what some may feel) this is a good post!

  • Abu Sahajj says:

    “Christians who believe in the “triune” nature of God, do not say that they are three seperate entities. Rather 3 different faces, or “names,” if you will for the same unitary Being.”

    No… but they do say,

    “Within Christianity, the doctrine of the Trinity states that God is a single Being who exists, simultaneously and eternally, as a perichoresis of three persons (personae, prosopa)”

    So anyone please answer me this if as the Nicene Creed of 381 says,

    “[Jesus] Who for us men and for our salvation came down from Heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man”

    Why then continue to worship the since passed incarnation if the manifestation of the Father as Jesus the Christ has since returned from whence he came?

  • Saint intercession does not equal saint worship. The shifa’a of Muhammad PBUH (let along other saints, e.g., Sufis that have tombs in Egypt – or Shia saints – etc etc etc) was debated hotly among Muslims (and for all I know it still is). Some think it is tantamount to Shirk (which as others pointed out is an extremely dangerous road to start down and one that many Muslims are at pains to avoid). Others obviously don’t.

    See, this is where I have a problem with some forms of interfaith discussion. It’s OK to discuss them in the abstract for the purposes of understanding where they are coming from – I just don’t see the utility in debating other people’s faith bases on the grounds that they do or don’t make sense.

    At the bottom, faith is not grounded in logic, you know. We extrapolate with logic but faith is basically the concept of believing something whether or not there is evidence and whether or not you profess to completely understand it.

    As an example, I know that Muslims try to “prove” the Quran’s nature as a divine text like Rashid Khalifa did with the numerology stuff – but in case you were unaware Christians have done similar stuff with the Bible. I’ve never found it to be particularly convincing as I believe the Quran’s words stand on their own and don’t need this sort of thing to be convincing. But at the end you either believe the Quran is a divine text, whether you try to justify it to others or not; or you don’t.

    Similarly Christians either believe in the concept of Trinity or they don’t. Maybe they would find it a very difficult concept to articulate, and many of us Muslims find it really strange and we ourselves would not accept it. Well fine, we are not Christians.

    Personally I don’t accept the doctrine of original sin and that is one of the main reasons I found christianity unconvincing. Would I raise this with a Christian without severe provocation? No not really. What would be the point? You either believe it or you don’t.

  • Dirty Butter says:

    This post did start on a more confrontational tone than most of yours have, Abu Sahajj. If I were new to your blog, I probably would have been inclined to move on to the next blog, but we have a history with each other, so I took it in stride.

    We each have our own strongly held beliefs, which, I believe we have examined carefully and not just accepted blindly. I think you are wrong, and you think I am wrong. That’s not likely to change. But we can learn from each other, if we keep the lines of communication open and respectful.

  • ummadam says:

    Aziz, there is a big difference between inviting a non muslim to discuss tawheed (which is what this post is indirectly about) on an islamic forum, and being invited to discuss jihad on on non muslim forum. Tawheed is our call, first and foremost. That’s our foundation. So if you are ever invited to discuss jihad, do so, but take it back to it’s roots of tawheed.

  • Aziz says:

    AS, it just struck me as a post that was substantially different from your usual ones. That is why i was motivated to comment. You’re right I dont usually do so and I will try not to do it again. But i was very surprised to see this post, that’s all.

  • Lion Kimbro says:

    Do Christians in America think about Nicene Creeds or Trinity?

    I strongly doubt it. I’m not Christian, but I’ve been to a few churches before, and I’ve talked with religious Christian friends before, and I don’t really hear them talking about those things.

    I knew one friend had a few books on her bookshelves about the subjects, but she never mentioned those ideas, and they never seemed to hold any importance to her.

    I think people like to have a human interface to God, so for the Christians, we have Christ, and for Islam, we have Mohummad. I don’t think it gets much more complicated than that.

    Your pantheistic polytheistic monotheistic naturalistic spiritually evolutionary friend, Lion.

  • In Islam our prophet is not a human interface to God. The parallel to Jesus’ theological role in Christianity would be the Quran.

  • Dirty Butter says:

    Do Christians in America think about Nicene Creeds or Trinity?

    I strongly doubt it. I’m not Christian, but I’ve been to a few churches before, and I’ve talked with religious Christian friends before, and I don’t really hear them talking about those things.

    I have been going to Sunday School most of my 63 years. Our Adult class delves into some very deep discussions about the Bible and our beliefs. We discuss the meaning of the Trinity and the nature of God regularly, as it applies to the particular topic at hand. So I guess it really depends on which Christians you speak to as to whether the Trinity is important to them or not.

    Now, do I make a practice of talking about spiritual matters outside of discussions with my Christian friends? Not nearly as often as I should, and for that I can only be ashamed of myself.

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