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|Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky|
Orthodox dogmatic theology
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The unity of God.
“Therefore, we believe in one God: one principle, without beginning, uncreated, unbegotten,
indestructible and immortal, eternal, unlimited, uncircumscribed, unbounded, infinite in power,
simple, uncompounded, incorporeal, unchanging, dispassionate, constant, unchangeable, invisible,
source of goodness and justice, light intellectual and inaccessible; power which is not subject
to any measure, but which is measured only by His own will, for He can do all things whatsoever
He pleases; one Essence, one Godhead, one power, one will, one operation, one principality, one
authority, one dominion, one kingdom, known in three perfect Hypostases, and known and worshipped
with one worship” (St. John Damascene, Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, 1:8;
Engl. tr., p. 177).
The truth of the oneness of God is so evident now to human awareness that it needs no
proofs from the word of God or simply from reason. It was a little different in the early Christian
Church, when this truth had to be set forth against the idea of dualism . the acknowledgement
of two gods, good and evil . and against the polytheism of the pagans, which was popular at the
I believe in one God. These are the first words of the Symbol of Faith (the Creed). God possesses
all the fullness of perfect being. The idea of fullness, perfection, infinity, omnipotence of
God does not allow us to think of Him other than as One, that is, as singular and having one Essence
in Himself. This demand of our awareness is expressed by one of the ancient Church writers
in the words “If God is not one, there is no God” (Tertullian). In other words, a divinity limited
by another being loses his divine dignity.
The whole of the New Testament Sacred Scripture is filled with the teaching of the one
God. “Our Father which art in heaven,” we pray in the words of the Lord's Prayer (Matt. 6:9).
“There is none other God but one,” as the Apostle Paul expressed this fundamental truth of faith
(1 Cor. 8:4).
The Sacred Scripture of the Old Testament is entirely penetrated with monotheism. The history
of the Old Testament is the history of the battle for faith in the one true God against pagan
polytheism. The desire of some historians of religion to find traces of a supposed “original polytheism”
in the Hebrew people in certain Biblical expressions, for example, the plural number in
the name of God, “Elohim” — or to find a faith in a “national God” in such phrases as “the God
of gods,” “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” — does not correspond to the authentic meaning
of these expressions.
1. Elohim. For a simple Jew this is a form of reverence and respect (an example of this may
be seen in the Russian and other European languages, where the second person plural, “you” as
opposed to “thou,” is used to express respect). For the divinely inspired writer, the ProphetMoses, the plural number of the word without doubt contains, in addition, the profound mystical
meaning of an insight into the Three Persons in God. No one can doubt that Moses was a pure
monotheist, knowing the spirit of the Hebrew language. He would not use a name that contradicted
his faith in the one God.
2. The God of gods is an expression that sets faith in the true God against the worship of
idols; those who worshipped them called their idols “god,” but for the Jews, these were false
gods. This expression is used freely in the New Testament by the Apostle Paul; after saying that
“there is none other God but one,” he adds: “for though there be that are called gods, whether
an heaven or an earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many), but to us there is but one God,
the Father of Whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom are all
things, and we by Him” (1 Cor. 8:4-6).
3. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is an expression that expresses only the chosen
Hebrew people as the “inheritor of the promises” given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The Christian truth of the oneness of God is deepened by the truth of the Tri-hypostatical