Exclusive Religion, Exclusive Truth
In the Old Testament's description of the Samaritans and their religion, the author of the second book of Kings notes that they "feared Jehovah, and served their own gods, after the manner of the nations from among whom they had been carried away" (17:33). He concludes his' discussion of them with this summary: "So these nations feared Jehovah, and served their graven images; their children likewise, and their children's children, as did their fathers, so do they unto. this day" (17:41).
The voice of inspiration rehearses the warning God had given to his people that they not bow themselves down to other gods or serve them: "Ye shall not fear other gods, nor bow yourselves to them, nor serve them, nor sacrifice to them" (v. 35). And, when the rehearsal is over, the sad facts of history are that "they did not hearken, but they did after their former manner" (v. 40). To their own hurt, they did not pay attention to the most exclusive aspect of the teaching of the Law of God: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One" (Deut. 6:4).
Truth is exclusive. God cannot be the one and only true God, and permit the worship of other divine beings at the same time. Isaiah proclaims on the Lord's behalf: "I am the first, and I am the last; and besides me there is no God! " (44:6) God looks around himself in his heaven and sees there no divinity other than himself, and says, in essence, "There's nobody up here but me!" The truth about God being all by himself, exclusively God, if you will, is a fact which excludes the divinity of Baal, Asherah, Molech, etc. The Samaritans could not buy this point about God because they lived in a world which was brainwashed by paganism. No god could ever claim exclusive dominion in heaven, because the heavens were thought to be peopled with divinities, each having dominion over a different aspect of nature or over separate nations of earth. But the entirety of the Old Testament, in all of its different parts, was an argument against this false notion. The God of Israel was exclusively God, and the truth about him branded the ideas of the nations and their so-called gods as false.
This is a very easy and simple way of viewing the idea of the monotheism of the Bible. Yet this explains more than just monotheism as a concept of the nature of God. It also touches the nature of truth itself. The "truth" which the Bible communicates is exclusive not only in addressing the oneness of God, but also in other areas as well. Now, I realize, this is not a notion that is particularly comfortable in the twentieth century mind. We of this era tend to pride ourselves in being open-minded, even to a fault. As one fellow said it, "You do not want to be so open-minded that your brains fall out." Unfortunately, I believe that this is precisely what has happened with the thinking of modern men. People have tended in recent years to force all issues of morality and religion into the category of "subjective truth." "Objective truth," on the other hand, would be mathematical relationships and historical and scientific realities. For example, two plus two equals four is a verifiable and/or duplicatable truth. Therefore, it is objective. The same would apply to the historical fact that Abraham Lincoln lived and served as a U.S. president. As well, the scientific observations regarding gravity, would serve to illustrate scientific truth. It is objective.
But according to this way of viewing morality and religion, it fits into a separate compartment of the mind. The world is filled with different religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Moharnmedism, Judaism, Christianity, and so forth. And even Christianity is divided into warring factions, each with its own particular slant upon how the "truth" is to be viewed. These observations, combined with the contemporary indifference to morality and religion, result in a way of thinking which considers "truth" in this sphere to be highly flexible and elastic, and subject to personal and individual apprehension and experience.
Understand, dear reader, that while this may be a very tempting way to see the world, since such thinking may be found all about you, it is was not the teaching of Jesus Christ, nor is it the teaching of the Bible! It was difficult for the Samaritans to look beyond the thinking of their forefathers, to see Jehovah as the only true God-so much so that they failed to do it! And it is hard for us to see the truth of the Bible as propositional, rather than subjective. But it is still a fact that the Bible intends to be viewed as a book of propositional truths, to be taken at face value and not to be read as so many mystic observations subject to the whims of each reader. Jesus speaks across the centuries to those so bemused: "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God" (NIV, Matt. 22:29). Think with me for a moment: if moral and spiritual truth is individual and subjective, rather than objective and impersonal, how could those people have been "in error"? They took the position that the Hebrew Scriptures did not teach a resurrection of the body, and further made peace with the philosophies of their time by denying the existence of angels and spirits (cf. Acts 23:8). Jesus just said that they were wrong. The same must be said for much popular thought about the Scriptures today. Do not be taken in by it. Read this book, the Bible, you will find much of what you have heard about it lately to be "in error"!
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 6, p. 173