‘Isms’ explained

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Atheism, agnosticism, deism, theism and more. What do they all mean?

When it comes to the study of God, there are plenty of "isms" out there. But what do they all mean and what does the Bible say about all these different beliefs?

Atheism: is the belief that there is no God (and no devil, supernatural stuff, miracles, nothing beyond the physical world). Christianity claims the exact opposite, and Jesus himself claims to be God (John 14:9)

Agnosticism: is the belief that God cannot be known. He/she/it may or may not be there, but agnostics say there is no way to be sure. The agnostic position overlooks the possibility that if God exists, he could reveal himself to us and thereby make himself known. This is precisely what the Bible teaches about Jesus; that he descended from heaven to reveal God to us (John 1:14). Jesus clears the fog of agnosticism so that we can see God clearly.

Deism: is the belief that a 'god' exists, but is not active in the world. He made the world but then left us alone and has no dealing with it at all. The world just runs by natural laws, and therefore miracles are impossible. However, the Bible teaches that God is active in his creation. Jesus is not only the Creator of the world, but also the ongoing sustainer of it (Colossians 1:15-17).

Finite Godism: says that God exists, but is limited in knowledge and power. However, the Bible says God is all knowing and all powerful (Psalm 147:5). Jesus even conquers Satan, sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)

Pantheism: is the belief that 'all' is god, or, that the material world is itself god or divine (think 'the Force' in Star Wars; also Hinduism, some forms of Buddhism). The result is that the god of pantheism is impersonal. However, the Bible makes a clear distinction between the Creator and the created (Romans 1:25)

Panentheism: says that God is part of or in creation so that, in a way, creation is like God’s body. Thus God made himself and is going and evolving. In contrast, the God of the Bible is perfect, infinite and independent (Genesis 1:1).

Polytheism: teaches there are many gods (this teaching is found in Hinduism, Confucianism, Shintoism, Taoism & Mormonism). The Bible acknowledges that there are many false gods, but only one true and living God (1 Timothy 2:5)

Monotheism: is the belief that there is only one God, who is separate (transcendent) from the universe, though involved in it (immanent). In one sense, Christianity is monotheistic, but there is more to be said.

Trinitarianism: is the Christian teaching that there is one God in three persons; Father, Son and Spirit. By referring to God as “persons” is it meant that God thinks, feels, acts, speaks and relates. So the Father is God, Jesus is God and the Holy Spirit is God (Matthew 28:19-20; 2 Corinthians 13:14).

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