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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: When the God of the Bible Is Rejected

Don Stewart :: What Is Henotheism?

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What Is Henotheism? (The Belief in Many Gods but the Worship of Only One of Them)

When the God of the Bible Is Rejected – Question 10

There is one particular belief system that is similar to polytheism, the belief and worship of many gods. This system is known as “henotheism.” There are a number of important points to consider about henotheism.

Henotheism Defined: Belief In Many Gods But The Worship Of Only One

Henotheism is the belief that many gods exists. Yet the henotheist worships only one of these gods. A henotheist would admit that many gods have real existence and are able to be worshipped however the henotheist chooses to worship only one of these many gods. This sets the henotheist apart from the polytheist who worships many gods.

Some Problems with Henotheism

There are problems with the henotheist position from a biblical standpoint. They include the following:

1. They Believe the Same as the Polytheists: Many Gods Exist

The first problem with henotheism is that they believe in the existence of many gods. Although henotheists worship only one of these many gods, they admit to the existence of other gods. In this sense they are the same as the polytheists, they deny that only one God exists.

The Bible rejects the idea of the existence of other gods. These so-called gods have no real substance. There is only one God by nature. This is the God of Scripture. Paul wrote to the Galatians about this important truth:

Before you Gentiles knew God, you were slaves to so-called gods that do not even exist. (Galatians 4:8 NLT)

Scripture says that only one God has genuine existence, the God of the Bible. He is only one God who is God by nature. Consequently, there are not many gods that exist like the henotheist believes. None of the other so-called gods are real.

The prophet Isaiah records the Lord saying that He alone is God:

This is what the Lord, the King of Israel and its Redeemer, the LORD of Hosts, say I am the first and I am the last. There is no God but Me. (Isaiah 44:6 HCSB)

Consequently, people do not have the choice to worship one god among many gods because only one God exists.

2. They Cannot Be Certain about the Power of the Gods They Are Worshipping

If a person believes in many gods but chooses to worship only one of them, they have a number of problems.

For one thing they cannot be certain that the god they are worshipping will be powerful enough to grant their desires. If a god is not all-powerful, there is always the chance of another god conquering him. He may be the chief god but certainly he is not all-powerful. This is not a very comforting thought.

Therefore, there will never be any sense of certainty that the request to a particular god will be granted. Consequently a henotheist can never have any real security that their prayers will be answered. At best, they can only hope that their god is powerful enough to help them to some degree.

3. The God of Scripture Presents No Problem

No problem like this exists when one worships the God of the Bible. First, He is the only God which exists so one does not have to choose among the gods as to which one to worship. Thus, no choice has to be made. He is the only one who is there.

Next, He is all-powerful. Consequently, there is no need to worry that He can be conquered by another god because there is no other God! He alone has all-power.

Thus, the God of the Bible can do whatever needs to be done. We can be confident that He will answer our prayers. There is no need to be concerned that our prayers will be ignored.

Therefore, the henotheist has no security whatsoever while the believer in the God of the Bible can be secure in all things.

Summary – Question 10
What Is Henotheism? (The Belief in Many Gods but the Worship of Only One of Them)

The henotheist, like the polytheist, admits that many gods exist in the world. For whatever reason, they choose to worship only one of these gods. This is what distinguishes a henotheist from a polytheist. They not only believe in more than one God they worship these many gods.

However, the Bible says that only one God exists, not merely there is only one god to be worshipped. All the others so-called gods are false gods. Only the God who is revealed in Scripture has genuine substance.

In addition, there is a practical problem for the henotheist. They can never be certain that their particular god can perform for them. If many gods exist, there is always the possibility of one god conquering another. Therefore, henotheism gives no real security to the one who chooses to worship one god out of many. The god whom they choose might not be able to grant their requests. He may lack the power.

This is in contrast to the God of the Bible. First, no choice among the gods has to be made because He is the only God which exists. There are no others. In addition, since no other God exists there is no fear that He will be conquered by another.

Knowing these things gives real security to the believer. We can be assured that our prayers will be answered and that our lives will always be under His control. What a contrast this is to the henotheist who cannot have assurance about anything!

What Is Polytheism? ← Prior Section
If the God of the Bible Is the Only One Who Exists, Then Why Does Scripture Speak of Other Gods? Next Section →
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