Course: Biblical Worldview I: Only Two Religions?
Are Judaism and Islam Twoist?
Oneism is defined as the worship of creation, where all is one when creation is worshipped and served as divine. In Oneism all distinctions are eliminated and through “enlightenment” Oneism proclaims that man is also divine.
Twoism is defined as the worship of the divine Creator of all things. In Twoism God alone is divine and is distinct from His creation, yet through His Son, Jesus, God is in loving communion with His creation.
Whenever we at truthXchange make the claim that there are only two religions—Oneism and Twoism—we receive questions about Judaism and Islam. Don’t these religions believe in the same God as the one worshiped by Christians? Both teach that God is outside the world and that we owe allegiance and obedience to him. Jews and Muslims both begin with the Old Testament, which clearly teaches that God made the world and that he “sits above the circle of the earth” (Isaiah 40:22). They also agree that there is only one God, and that he is not one and the same as the earth…or do they?
As mentioned above, Oneists are not always consistent, nor are Twoists. Unless a Jew is involved in Kabbalah, he would probably think of himself as a Twoist. But one must ask some hard questions. Is the Jewish God personal? Well, yes, it would seem so. The Old Testament speaks often of God’s love, his compassion and his grace. Such attributes are indeed personal. And yet, the same Old Testament Scriptures give hints that God is triune. The first verses of the Old Testament include the hovering of the Spirit, the power of the Word, and the intentions of God the Creator. (See also Genesis 1:26 and other plural references for God, Psalm 110 and other passages that clearly speak of the coming Messiah.) We also see that the Messiah must be God Himself (e.g. Isaiah 35:4). When Jesus comes, he tells his disciples to baptize converts in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, showing a godhead that within itself, independent of the creation, experiences love and relationship (Matthew 28:19; John 14:26). He also makes amazing claims for himself: “If you have seen me you have seen the Father” (John 14:9), and “I and my Father are One” (John 10:30) and “no man comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). To makes such claims, Jesus must be 1. crazy, 2. an utter pagan, or 3. God in the flesh. If Jesus really is God, then a Jew who fails to come to God the Father through Jesus fails to know the true God and thus functions practically as a Oneist. He may believe that there’s a God out there, but he can have no communion with him, no access to him, no forgiveness from him and no protection from his judgment. (Current Judaism does not even have the sacrificial system of the Old Testament to fall back on. Of course that sacrificial system is no longer what God wants us to use to approach him, because he has received the ultimate sacrifice which is alone sufficient to pay for our sins—that of his only Son.)
Old Testament Judaism in its true, heart-faithful form was definitely Twoist. So it is important in speaking with Jews that Christians recognize that. The Old Testament is the first revelation of Jesus Christ, who tells us that the entire Old Testament is about him:
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” (Luke 24:44)
The Jew whose faith is not in Jesus is a very shaky and unhappy Twoist, at best. If you have Jewish friends, you may wish to explore this line of thinking with them. God did command the Jewish people not to worship any images of him. Yet God specifically made the perfect human image of himself—Jesus—and commanded his disciples (as well as Moses and Elijah) from heaven: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5). Did he not then set out for the Jew an ultimate command of worship? Did he not, on the Mount of Transfiguration, redefine the loyalties of every Jew forever? If the Jew refuses that Law, given on another mountain to a prophet far greater than Moses, he can have no hope of his name being caught up in the name of God, as were Abraham’s, Isaac’s and Jacob’s—as are the names of all who put their trust in the Savior provided by God as our righteous sacrificial substitute. In this sense, the Jew who refuses Christ becomes a theological and practical Oneist. His god is not triune and becomes a lonely singularity with whom no one can commune.
Allah, the God of Islam, is also an aberration of the Old Testament God. Though Islam claims allegiance to the Old Testament and sees Jesus as a prophet, it, like Judaism, refuses to worship Jesus and to see him as God’s only means of salvation. In fact, the message of Islam has so corrupted the person of God that he remains entirely remote. He never came down to rescue us. He never provided a way of escape. In fact, Allah is much closer to being a Oneist god than the stunted vision of Jehovah with which Judaism has tried to content itself since rejecting God’s Messiah. Allah is not so supreme as he is made out to be, since he swears by time (Surah 103:1), by steeds (Surah 100), by the signs of the Zodiak (Surah 85:1–3), by the wind and stars (Surah 51:1, Surah 81:15) and by many other earthly, physical things. The God of the Bible refuses to swear by anything, because he can only swear by himself: “When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself” (Hebrews 6:13). This is a truly transcendent God. Allah, oddly enough, is made out to be so transcendent that no one can know anything about him, yet he is so weak and powerless that he must swear by creation.
These are very broad evaluations of Judaism and Islam. Both religions also have their “New Age,” Oneist equivalents in Kabbalah and Sufism respectively, systems experientially-oriented and more easily recognized as Oneist. Traditional Judaism and Islam claim to be Twoist, yet both are functionally Oneist and the god they worship lacks both true transcendence and true immanence. If God is remote, untouchable, impersonal, impotent and silent, there is no hope for any of us! If he has not come down himself to rescue us and to restore communion with us, we would have no way of knowing or loving him.
Only the Christian God is a God whose thoughts are higher than our thoughts and who is above all creation, yet who has come down to live as a man, to die taking our punishment, to live a perfect life of righteousness on our behalf and to set his love on us, filling us with his Spirit and drawing us into a relationship of intimate love and joy. What a God we have!
Let’s live for him, talk about him and love for him, since he has already rescued us, loved us, clothed us and prepared our good works before us!
Glossary of Terms
Introduction and Section 1A Glossary
[i] Secular: not pertaining to or connected with religion
[ii] Indigenous Religions: In this context we mean the “natural” religions that many countries had before Christianity or other major religions arrived.
[iii] Reincarnation: The belief that when people die, they come back to life in the form of another person or animal. Usually the belief includes an aspect of deserving a better or a worse life than the previous life.
[iv] Spiritual Evolution. Just as some people believe that evolution brought into existence the world, animals etc. and that it “knows” how to make the world better and better, so some people believe that there is a kind of “spiritual” evolution, by which somehow the world will gradually become a happier and more moral place until one day, all the problems will be solved.
[v] Meditation: There is nothing wrong with meditation, but it depends on what meaning you give it. Biblical meditation is reflecting on God’s Word, learning it by heart and asking God to show you how to live it out. Pagan meditation means turning inward, leaving your mind behind and trying to become “one” with the “all.” It often involves trance-like experiences.
[vi] Utopia: The word “utopia,” actually means “no place,” but in common use of English it has come to mean an ideal society. It is used in this way in this lesson. If we are talking about God’s ideal society, which he will create when Jesus returns to judge the world, then we should really call it a “eu-topia,” since the “eu” in Greek, from which the word “utopia” is taken, means “good.” A “eu-topia” would be a “good place.”
Section 1B Glossary
[i] Transcendent: In Theology, this word means that God is above and outside of the universe and time and cannot be entirely contained in our knowledge or understanding.
[ii] Theologian: Someone who studies the person and work of God.
[iii] Incommunicable Attributes: Characteristics that only God can have, such as being all Powerful.
[iv] Immanent: In theology, this term means a God who dwells in time and space. A God who is close to his people and even lives in them through his Holy Spirit, and doesn’t remain hidden or distant.
[v] Buddhism: a religion of eastern and central Asia that is based on the teachings of Gautama Buddha. It holds that life is full of suffering caused by desire and that the way to end this suffering is through enlightenment that enables one to halt the endless sequence of births and deaths to which one is otherwise subject.
[vi] Hinduism: the main religion of India which includes the worship of many gods and the belief that after you die you return to life in a different form.
[vii] Islam: the religion which teaches that there is only one God and that Muhammad is God's prophet : the religion of Muslims.
[viii] Judaism: In this context, we mean the religion that was originally revealed to God’s chosen people in the Old Testament but which now depends on tradition and bloodlines in addition to the first five books of the Scriptures (the Torah) for its sense of meaning and purpose. The religion of present-day Jewish people who have not accepted Jesus as Messiah.
Section 2A Glossary
[i] The tower made early in the history of mankind by which people thought they could have God visit them by descending from heaven on a tower-like structure called a Ziggurat. God disturbed their plans by causing the men working on the tower to begin speaking in many languages. Since they could no longer understand one another, they scattered in language groups and the project was not pursued. See the story in Genesis 11. God did come down to mankind, of course, but in his own way—through Jesus his Son who became a man to live with people and to provide a way for them to know God and have communion with him.
[ii] Teilhard de Chardin: A French anthropologist, Jesuit clergyman, paleontologist, and theologian who held that biological evolution was the divine creation process that would lead to the ideal “Omega Point,” a perfection of the consciousness of mankind.
[iii] Cyborg: A person whose body contains mechanical or electrical devices and whose abilities are greater than the abilities of normal humans. Originally seen only in stories, people are now looking more realistically at creating such human/mechanical beings.
Section 3A Glossary
[i] Parliament of the World’s Religions: The motto of this organization, which meets both internationally and regionally, is “Bringing people of faith together for a better world.” Christianity, however, cannot join with other religions to do God’s will.
[ii] Talisman: an object (such as a ring or stone) that is believed to have magic powers and to cause good things to happen to the person who has it.
Section 4A Glossary
[i] Syncretism: the belief that religions can be mixed or blended, and that a person can take portions of several religious beliefs at the same time. God’s people were syncretistic in the Old Testament, for example, by believing they could worship God by worshiping a golden calf (doubtless like the idols they knew from Egypt).
[ii] Animism: The belief that the elements of the earth, such as fire, storm, water or animals, are forms of God and should be both feared and worshiped.
Section 5A Glossary
[i] Gnostic: Gnosticism was an early heresy in the early Church. The Gnostics did not believe in the Old Testament Creator God, but felt there was a “god behind the creator,” who was the true god. They did not believe that Jesus truly died on the cross and believed that creation was either bad or unimportant. Because of this, some of them lived a very immoral lifestyle (our bodies aren’t important) and some lived a very controlled and ascetic lifestyle (are bodies are evil, so we need to master them). Some of the New Testament books, especially the epistles to Timothy and the epistles of John, were written to counter the earliest forms of Gnosticism.
[ii] Shaman: someone who is believed to be able to use magic to cure people who are sick, to control future events, etc.
[iii] Hijra: a person who adopts a gender role that is neither male nor female.
[iv] Sweat Lodge: a hut, lodge, or cavern heated by steam from water poured on hot stones and used especially by American Indians for ritual or therapeutic sweating.
[v] Walking the Labyrinth: This practice involves meditating on one’s inner self, while walking to the center of a labyrinth traced on the ground or in a religious space. The experience is meant to help bring the person into an experience of the divine within. It is often a part of Oneist spirituality in the US and other Western countries.
|5 Points of Oneism||5 Points of Twoism|
|1. All Is One and One Is All – Many people are beginning to think that God is the Spirit of everything. This means that, ultimately, man, animals, rocks and trees are all divine. There is no major distinction between God and Man.||1. One God, the Creator – God is distinct from his creation. Everything that is not God was created by him: the earth, animals and man, who alone is created in his image.|
|2. Humanity Is One – If all people are Equal, no group has unique access to the truth. All humans are divine and must live together, accepting a common standard of morality and trying to become as like one another as possible, rather than emphasizing distinctions that can cause friction||2. One in Christ Alone – The only true unity is created by common faith in Jesus Christ. God defines two categories of people: his children and those who are in rebellion against him. True Christian love knows no racial or economic barriers.|
|3. All Religions Are One – No religion knows the only path to God. All roads lead to the top of the mountain, from which we see the same moon. Religions should emphasize their similarities, not their differences, since they share the same mystical experience.||3. One Truth – Jesus says we can only approach the Father through him. Christians do not revere Christ as one great prophet among others. He is God in human form, come to rescue us from our sin. To spiritualize him as a Christ, present in a variety of religions, is to refuse him.|
|4. One Problem: Amnesia – Since God is in all of us, is all of us, we should not worry about sin and guilt. If we wake up to the wonderful reality that we are God, we will eliminate the distinctions of sex, role and doctrine that divide us.||4. One Problem: Death through Sin – Sin has ruined our peace with God. We dare not approach him because he is so pure that we would be destroyed. Yet sin also destroys us. Without God’s solution, the problem of sin is insurmountable.|
|5. One Answer: Look Within – If you want to be happy, you need to love yourself and stop feeling guilty. The more you believe in yourself and your own power – the more you assert that power for your own happiness, the sooner you will have a sense of freedom from constraint. You will enjoy a truly peaceful and fulfilled experience of God.||5. One Solution: Look to Him – God comes to save us. We do not find salvation in ourselves. We can admit the reality of our sin, repent, and receive God’s just forgiveness. Jesus became sin for us and took its guilt and punishment. He then proved his power over sin in his resurrection. He will transform us and receive us as his children to live with him forever.|
Adapted from Gospel Truth/Pagan lies by Dr. Peter Jones
Founder, truthXchange, Inc.