Polytheism: "There are many limited gods!"
A fourth worldview that we'll quickly examine is that of polytheism, which comes from the two Greek words "poly" for many, and from "theism" for god. Obviously, this is the view that says there are many finite limited gods controlling and influencing reality together. Modern day examples of polytheism include Mormonism, Hinduism, the New Age movement, and the surviving remnants of the ancient cults of worshipping the many Roman, Greek, and Norse gods.
In the popular media today, polytheism is probably most often seen in superhero comic books and movies. This would include productions like "Avengers", "Thor", "the Immortals", and even Disney's cartoon version of "Hercules." In all of these movies, there appears at least one character who happens to be a "god" from a certain world or a certain realm in the universe. These "gods" are not all-powerful, all-knowing, and infinite, but rather like superpowers humans who come from another dimension.
A person who is a polytheist may tell it to you in many different ways, depending upon which religion, or philosophy the persons subscribes to. For example a Mormon man, who believes in what they call the "Law of Eternal Progression", could say:
" As men now is, God once was,
and as God now is, men may become."
For the Mormon male, this means that they hope to achieve personal godhood through a lifetime of faithful service and obedience to the Mormon church, in keeping with the three different books they hold to in addition to the Christian Bible. These Mormon males believe that they will each personally rule over their own universe, which would be populated by the offspring of them many hundreds of "spirit wives."
In the far east, a practicing Hindu (though also a pantheist) might share his polytheistic beliefs with you in this way:
"The goddess Kali desires for me to go after what I want in life."
Or perhaps would say:
"Lord Vishnu has blessed my family with prosperity this year."
For the follower of the New Age movement, a typical declaration of their concept of God, would be that of Shirley McClain as she famously stands upon the beach sure, with arms spread open, and face lift up to the sky, wearing a metal triangle hat, passionately crying out:
"I am God! I am God! I am God!"
Though it can take many forms, even in our modern day and age, polytheism centers around the basic belief that there are many finite and limited gods directing and influencing the events of the universe. A quick comparison of the many "gods" of polytheism with the biblical concept of God, would look something like this:
Limited Gods of Polytheism: The One God of Biblical Christianity:
Gods partially control the universe. God is sovereignly ruling over the universe.
Gods are very imperfect. God is absolutely and infinitely perfect.
Gods are authors of good and evil. God is All-Good (omnibenevolent).
Gods are very finite. God is absolutely infinite and unlimited.
Gods have limited power. God is All-Powerful (omnipotent).
Gods have limited knowledge. God is All-Knowing (omniscient).
Gods are limited to one location. God is Ever-Present everywhere (omnipresent).
As we apply "the boomerang test" to polytheism, it quickly fails just like the other non-Christian worldviews about reality. First, polytheism simply pushes the God question back one step further. If the "gods" are the ultimate answer for the beginning and source of the universe, then who is? This view of reality just pushes the question of origins back another step by appealing to many finite limited gods, without giving us an ultimate answer to the question.
Secondly, the very fact that these "gods" are finite and limited would seem to disqualify them from being God, in the classical sense. In the most basic sense, to be God means to be the ultimate being, the greatest being, in the most perfect being who is himself unlimited in any way, but also infinite in every way. The polytheistic idea of God runs head on against this classical concept of God.
Thirdly, it has to be realized, that even the polytheistic "gods", would ultimately need an infinite and eternal Creator. After all every finite effect, ultimately, needs and infinite cause. Every being that is dependent and contingent, requires a being that is independent and necessary to be it's Source for existence. In this way, polytheism quickly "slits its own throat" intellectually.
Fourthly, as was stated above, it seems that in Polytheism the followers are merely worshipping a glorified, finite, limited creature as a "god." How is it logically possible to call something "God" that is finite, limited, and striving towards perfection, just as his creatures are? Wouldn't this be a very good Biblical definition of "idolatry"? Worshiping a finite, limited, and imperfect creature in the place of the infinite, perfect, and unlimited Creator God seems obviously a lot like logical absurdity and spiritual idolatry.
It might be good enough for comic books, in modern day movie hits, but polytheism isn't strong enough intellectually or logically, to stand up and function in the world of reality!
- Pastor J.