Mono or Poly? Colossians 1.15-18
Several years ago, I accompanied Dylan's1 soccer team to Scottsdale, Arizona, for a big tournament. One afternoon between games, I went to lunch with two of the other soccer moms-one who was born and raised in Japan. When she learned a little about me, she quietly said, 'I am a good candidate to be a Christian.' 'Oh, why is that?' I casually asked, taking a bite of one very great taco. 'Well because I went all of my school years to a Catholic school, and I know a lot about Jesus.' 'Well then, why don't you believe in him?' I asked. 'Oh I do, but I don't want to abandon my other gods. See in my country, we have the Shinto religion, and we believe in many gods. We pray to different gods for individual things such as fertility, weddings, and at the time of death-things like that. I don't want to miss out on those things,' and then she lowered her eyelids and chuckled rather demurely.
To most Western Christians, the idea of many gods seems foreign, at the very least. But in practice, I think our culture has become rather polytheistic, whether we know or recognize the reality. Oh, we don't want to offend, and we must be open-minded(!), so we think that Jesus-plus-other things can't be too harmful ... right? You know what I'm saying - Jesus + positive thinking . . . Jesus + some Buddhist principles. . . Jesus + New Age beliefs . . . etc., then, we've got all the bases covered too, just like my new soccer mom friend. 'Of course, I believe Jesus was a great moral teacher!'
However, it does not work, because that kind of thinking is antithetical to a Holy God. Have you read the Ten Commandments lately? The first one reads: "You shall have no other gods before me." No idols, no bowing down, no worship of another god ... period. Why? Because God said, I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God2. And then of course, here in Colossians 1, Paul goes on to explain the supreme position of the Son of God, in relation to God the Father, beginning in verse 15 ...
"Now Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God. He existed before creation began, for it was through him that everything was made, whether spiritual or material, seen or unseen. Through him, and for him, also, were created power and dominion, ownership and authority. In fact, every single thing was created through, and for him. He is both the first principle and the upholding principle of the whole scheme of creation." J.B. Phillips New Testament
Hmmm . . . No other gods before him. Jesus, Son of God, Creator of all things--external and internal, visible and invisible - he who has always been ... equal with God the Father and the Holy Spirit ... he who says, 'You shall have no other gods before me.' Jesus plus nothing.
And Paul goes on to say that besides creating all things, Jesus also redeemed us. "For God in all his fullnesswas pleased to live in Christ,and...now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless."3
Oh don't you see, Friends, Jesus, who he is ... well, he is fully God, God the Creator, God incarnate, and the perfect One given for us. We must never add something to Jesus; it must never be Jesus - plus - anything else. Nor can we ever say he was just a great teacher ... realize, "You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."4
So here's what I propose: let's be people of Christian faith - not polytheistic, but absolutely monotheistic, one God made flesh in Jesus Christ, because that is what God requires. Not Jesus plus any other stuff. Whaddayasay?
1 - Dylan is my third child, one of three sons
2 - Exodus 20.3-5
3 - Colossians 1.22
4 - C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity