Monotheistic religions are religions that believe in the existence of one single deity. 'Mono' means 'one' or 'single,' and 'theos' translates to 'God.' Therefore, monotheism is the belief in one God. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are the three most popular monotheistic religions in the world.
Scholars within theses religions have, over the course of history, postulated what God is like. These scholars are called theologians. Theologians are individuals who study God. They seek to understand God's nature. In order to describe God's attributes, or characteristics, theologians use three important terms: omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence.
Omni is the Latin root, meaning 'all.' This is important to remember as we move along.
Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Omnipresence
Omnipotence means all-powerful. Monotheistic theologians regard God as having supreme power. This means God can do what he wants. It means he is not subject to physical limitations like man is. Being omnipotent, God has power over wind, water, gravity, physics, etc. God's power is infinite, or limitless.
Omniscience means all-knowing. God is all all-knowing in the sense that he is aware of the past, present, and future. Nothing takes him by surprise. His knowledge is total. He knows all that there is to know and all that can be known.
Omnipresence means all-present. This term means that God is capable of being everywhere at the same time. It means his divine presence encompasses the whole of the universe. There is no location where he does not inhabit. This should not be confused with pantheism, which suggests that God is synonymous with the universe itself; instead, omnipresence indicates that God is distinct from the universe, but inhabits the entirety of it. He is everywhere at once.
Many theologians regard these three attributes as essential to God's nature. In other words, if God did not have these characteristics, he wouldn't be God. For example, for God to be God, he would need to have supreme power (omnipotence); if he was not omnipotent, he wouldn't be qualified to be God.
The same line of thinking also applies for the other attributes, like omniscience and omnipresence. In the Christian religion, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, and others are among the theologians who have written extensively on these three attributes of God. According to these theologians, God also possesses omnibenevolence, which means he is literally all-good, or wholly good, without any trace of evil.
Monotheism is the belief in one God. In monotheistic religions, theologians, or individuals who study God, have identified three important terms to describe God's nature. These terms describe God's attributes, or characteristics.
- Omnipotence means God is all-powerful. This means God has supreme power and has no limitations.
- Omniscience means God is all-knowing. This means God knows everything, including the past and future. There is nothing God is unaware of.
- Omnipresence means God is everywhere at the same time. God is distinct from the universe, but inhabits the entirety of it.
For centuries, theologians of monotheistic religions have used these three terms to describe the central characteristics of God.
Monotheistic Deity: Terms & Definitions
|Monotheism||belief in one God|
|Theologians||scholars who study God|
|Omnipotence||God is all-powerful|
|Omniscience||God is all-knowing|
|Omnipresence||God is everywhere at all times|
|Omnibenevolence||God is all-good or without evil|
Review the lesson then put your knowledge to the test:
- Define monotheism
- Identify and discuss the attributes of God according to monotheistic theologians
- Recall the definition of the Latin root word 'omni'
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Monotheism and Godly Characteristics: Further Exploration
This lesson taught you about the characteristics associated with some monotheistic interpretations of God. Take a look at the following prompts to consider the issue further.
There are a number of monotheistic religions, with Christianity, Judaism, and Islam being the three largest. Though these religions share some common roots, their ways of understanding God are quite different. Do some of your own research to see how these three religions define and understand their deities. Focus particularly on whether each religion describes God as omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, or whether these terms are more common in one religion than in others. Write your findings in a comparative chart or essay.
One topic raised in this lesson that you may wish to explore further is omnibenevolence, or the belief that God is all good. Look up the theologians associated with this belief and see if you can understand their arguments in favour of omnibenevolence. Do other theologians disagree with them on this issue? And is omnibenevolence a feature of any monotheistic religion besides Christianity? Write down your findings, and your opinions on the subject, in a paragraph or essay.
Other Monotheistic Frameworks
While it may be common for some monotheistic traditions to view God as omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, there are other ways of thinking about a singular God. For example, Deists believe that while God created the world, he no longer intervenes in human affairs; whether or not he is able to do so becomes immaterial. Look up other, lesser-known monotheistic religions like Babism, Sikhism, and Zoroastrianism. How do they understand God? Write a compare and contrast essay between the Christian view of God and the view espoused by one of these religions.
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