Chapter Five: Pictures To Represent Christ Communicate Monism

(“The Medium Is the Message”)

What Is Monism?
“Monism, then, is the belief that all that is, is one.
All is interrelated, interdependent and interpenetrating.
Ultimately there is no difference between God, a person, a carrot or a rock. (Or a picture!—ed.)
They are all part of one continuous reality that has no boundaries, no ultimate divisions.
Any perceived differences between separate entities...are only apparent and not real.” (Groothuis, 18).

Monism In The Nineteenth Century
“It has been said that the one great ‘unit idea’ that characterizes the nineteenth century is that of continuity.” (Farley, p. 17, citing Van Dusen.)

Monism A Hundred Years Ago In America
All areas of modern thought—including physics, literature, theology, and philosophy—were moving toward monism, observed A. H. Strong, the theologian, in 1894. He said that at that time monism “holds an almost undisputed sway in our American universities.” Strong named Harvard, Yale, Brown, Cornell, Princeton, Rochester, Ann Arbor, Boston and Chicago as centers of the new monistic philosophy. (Carl F. H. Henry, 106-107).

Monism In India Today
“... the mainstream of Indian thought has been Advaita, or non-dualist, Vedanta, a pure monism. This is still the most vital school in modern India.” (Os Guinness, 211).

Monotheism Is Not Monism

God and the universe are not the same Being. My own concept of the Deity of Christ began to be transformed when I consciously distinguished Yahweh God from the created universe. Yahweh is not a created Being. Yahweh is a different kind of Being than any created being. The Deity of Christ means that, as Yahweh, He is not the world, He is a different kind of Being than the being of the world. This fact that God is not the world is basic to the whole argument of this book.

My earliest thoughts about God, if I recall correctly, were more of an ancient Man up in heaven looking down on the world that He had created out of nothing. I knew that God was separate in some way from the world: He is over the world and ruler of the world.

I always had thought that pantheism (the idea that everything is God) was a ridiculous, incredibly stupid idea held only by people who never heard about the true God. Yet I, myself, sometimes thought of God in worldly pictures that made a monism of God and the picture, not realizing that they were monistic images and that those images are the doorway to pantheism and atheism.

Then I went to Japan as an evangelistic missionary and learned about monism. The book that made me aware of monism was a doctoral dissertation by missionary Tucker N. Callaway. That book compared salvation as it is understood in evangelical Christianity with the salvation concept of Buddhism.

That book opened to me monism. Monism is the idea that everything that exists is basically one substance. The book classed Buddhism as monistic. For the first time I began to see the significance of monism. The book showed how the monist sees salvation as becoming aware of his unity with the universe, and that nothing else exists besides this great all-inclusive oneness.

Monistic “salvation” excludes belief in the transcendent God of the Bible (because the transcendent God of the Bible is not part of the monism: he is not the same as the world). To my horror, I began to realize that the “salvation” of monists is not salvation but utter rejection and exclusion of Yahweh God who is other than the created universe. I came to see monism as a basic theological system which is very antithetical to the Bible. In fact, it dawned on me that monism is the perfect anti-Christ system because it philosophically encompasses everything in the universe, ties everything into one complete system, and can take biblical Christian vocabulary (including the names of God) and redefine them consistently with monistic presuppositions.

Monism seems so reasonable in light of the modern scientific discoveries which show that matter and energy (which constitute the world as we know it) are transferable from one state to the other. Energy and matter really appear to be one thing (E = mc²); this one thing is manifested in the endless variety of forms (visible and invisible) that constitute the created universe. Thus, as far as the created universe is concerned, I too am a monist. I believe that every created thing is made of atoms (“Give me hydrogen—the simplest atom—and I’ll give you the universe,” as somebody has said.)

But I am not a monist when it comes to God and the universe. I believe that Christians, so far as the created universe is concerned, can accept the monistic findings of modern science. But Christians must know that the God who created this universe is not the same kind of being as the universe. The unity of the universe (a limited “monism”) does not include the Being of God. Pantheists and secular monists take the benefits of science, but they presuppose that the monism of the created universe is all that exists.

Monism is the ultimate, perfect, one-world philosophy for atheists and pantheists. Monism is “one-worldism” because the world is made of one thing (and nothing else exists, in the eyes of a monist). Any world ruler, to be accepted by most religions of the world, would have to be a monist. Monism provides the metaphysics to unite the various monistic faiths. Monism is the ultimate antichrist “theology.”

Monism Is The Basic Premise of Most Non-Christian Faiths

There are at least three degrees or kinds of monisms:

1. A Total Monism—where everything is one thing: everything that exists (including “God”) is seen as basically one thing. See pantheism for a classic example of a totally monistic system.

2. A Partial Monism—such as the created universe where the universe is reducible to one thing (atoms), but God is recognized to be other than the atomic nature of the monism. (I personally hold this limited kind of monism.)

3. A Monism of God and any part of the universe: When images of created things are used to represent God, this creates a mental monism of “God” and the image. This limited monism opens the door for category #1 above (A Total Monism) as soon as the image is recognized to be a part of the larger monism of the universe. This monism of God and the image opens the door for eastern religions, the New Age religions, etc.

When the word “monism” is used in this book, it usually refers to category #3, the category that confuses God with some part of the created universe. But it is always in the light of category #1 (a total monism) because if the universe is truly a universe (e.g. made of atoms) then any monism of “God” and an image will ultimately become a total monism (pantheism).

Monism is basic to other faiths. Monism is the basic theological error foundational to most non-Judeo-Christian faiths and philosophies. Notice that they all monistically confuse God and the world. Not all the non-Christian systems are completely monistic, but nearly all of them monistically confuse “God” with the world when they think of “God.” Here is a very brief overview:

1. Go back in church history. Monism is basic to the Platonism that corrupted some of the church’s theology. Much of Greek philosophy is monistic. Monism is the basic presupposition of gnosticism. Monism is also the basic presupposition of much mysticism in the church. Mystics try to encounter God through their spirits (which they presume are monistically like God’s Spirit).

2. Monism in the modern secular world says that the universe is all that exists. This atheistic monism is a basic assumption of (a) Marxist communism, (b) secular humanism, and (c) secular evolutionary theory.

3. Monism floods over into the western world in the form of eastern religions that are coming westward. The monism of Hinduism and Buddhism came years ago in Christian Science and Theosophy. Now it comes in the New Age movement. These few samples of monism suggest how universal is the influence of monism outside the church and inside the church.

As we think about the various non-Christian faiths of man, see how they are based upon some monistic presumption that “God” is like a created Being.

Pictures to Represent Christ Are Monistic (Not Monotheistic)

Monism assumes the oneness of all
Monism assumes that man and God are the same kind of being. God manifests his being in many ways, says the pantheistic monist. God is a man, says the man who (maybe unwittingly) presumes (monistically) that God and man are the same kind of being.

“The medium is the message” (God is Mediated by the Picture)
Pictures are a monistic medium that only can show physical beings. Whatever is pictured is physical. Pictures can picture a man because man is physical.

“What you see is what you get” (A man and nothing more than a man)
“Pictures don’t lie.” A picture of a man is only a picture of a man. If the picture of a man is given the name of a member of the Trinity (Father, Son, or Holy Spirit), the picture says that the Person pictured is the same as a man.

Pictures cannot show the God of the Bible
Since pictures are a monistic medium (a medium that only can show physical, created things,) a picture of a man that is used to picture Christ cannot picture his divine nature. This brings up two matters: the nature of the incarnation, and the possible interpretations of a so-called “picture of Christ.”

The nature of the Incarnation. A later chapter of this book shows how the church has understood whether Christ has one or two natures. He is God and man is what the historic Christian creeds say—for reasons that are biblical.

Can these two natures (the human and divine natures) be separated (so that just the human nature of Christ is pictureable)? See what the Chalcedonian creed says: Christ’s two natures cannot be separated from each other; nor can they be confused with each other. In this sense, God did not become a man. Instead he “assumed” a human body and human nature.

“Assumed” is the theological word used to say that God, the eternal Son, took unto himself Mary’s humanity. God did not change himself into a man and quit being God when Christ was born. God, the Son, kept his divine nature and he also assumed man’s nature. This is the Incarnation. This is Jesus.

A picture can only be accepted as a picture of Christ if a person (consciously or unconsciously) accepts one of the following three presuppositions:

Presumption 1: “God is a monistic being who can be pictured.” This interpretation is acceptable if you are a Hindu, or Buddhist, or some other kind of monist. It also appears to be the presumption of the Second Council of Nicea (787 A.D.) when it required pictures of our Lord and God.

Presumption 2: “Christ is only a man—so a picture is acceptable.” This interpretation is acceptable if you do not believe in the deity of Christ. Secularists and liberal Protestants see Christ as being only a man, so they can accept a picture to represent Jesus as acceptable.

Presumption 3: “Christ’s two natures can be separated, and the picture only shows his humanity.” One problem with this interpretation is that it gives us only half a Christ: it leaves out his divine nature. Or it makes two persons of Christ (a human person and a divine person); consequently, it puts a fourth person into the Godhead.

(Chapter 13, “The Incarnation in the Light of the Christological Councils,” gives evidence that those earlier Councils rejected a monistic view of Christ. They assumed a distinction between Creator and creation, even in the one person of Christ.)

Conclusion: Pictures Communicate Only a Monistic Christ

Thus, any picture accepted as a picture of Christ communicates the idea that Christ is a monistic being. When the church uses such pictures it puts itself into the monist camp and spreads the monistic message.

The church may or may not realize that its “Christ” pictures communicate monism, but the cults understand this kind of monism. Eastern religions understand monism. Secularists understand monism. They can see from our pictures that our “Christ” is not really different than their gods. Any difference is merely a matter of degree or form. Our pictures give the lie to our words, and our pictures are believed more than our words.

To communicate to the world that Christ is only another manifestation of the monism of the universe, is to commit a blunder of proportions so great as to be incalculable. Such a blunder makes nonsense of most biblical theology, renders most evangelistic and missionary efforts null and void, and transforms much of Christian educational work into the job of translating biblical theology into the world’s monistic theology, only using Christian vocabulary.

The following chapters tell the story of the continuing conflict between monotheism and monism—conflict between the monotheism of the Bible and the monism of worldly theologies. It is the basic theological conflict of the last four thousand years. At this time it would appear that monism is winning. After all, the church is the foremost spreader of monistic pictures to which the church affixes the name of Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.

But it is time to hear the case for biblical monotheism. The Bible reveals that monotheism will win at the end. All false images of God will be destroyed, thus destroying the monisms that lead people into pantheism and atheism.

Selected Bibliography

A comprehensive study of monism would include dictionary and encyclopedia studies of the meanings of monism and the history of the concept and of the word. It would include inquiry into the necessary consequences of monism for such diverse subjects as theology, christology, anthropology and psychology, ethics and morals, worship, evangelism and missions, Christian education, economics, political science, and ecology. It would include studies of both materialistic and idealistic monism such as are found in various monistic systems like Platonism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Gnosticism, Hegelianism—both as it went eastward in Marxism and as it went westward in Protestant theological liberalism, and the secular monism expressed in Darwin’s evolutionary theory, Freudianism, and the secular physicists who absolutize the atomic theory and the unified fields theories. A comprehensive study of monism would also research the difference between monism and monotheism (Biblical monotheism vs. monism). Here are samplings of the kinds of books to look for, but be prepared to search: it is hard to find books that explain monism from a Biblical viewpoint. Modern culture operates on monistic presuppositions, but the church is unaware of monism.

Callaway, Tucker N. Japanese Buddhism and Christianity: A Comparison of the Christian Doctrine of Salvation With That of Some Major Sects of Japanese Buddhism (Tokyo: Protestant Publishing Company, 1957). Explains what monism is and how monism changes the concept of “salvation.”