- Dec 10, 2006
- Reaction score
That's just so overly simplistic. One could argue the opposite about us; if Trinitarianism is "monotheistic" then they just aren't real monotheists. Sure you and I would argue in response, "it is monotheistic if you understand it correctly!" BINGO! That's exactly what a Hindu theologian would say as well.Iconodule said:If Hinduism isn't polytheistic, then there is no such thing as polytheism.
Then how is that polytheism? One god, just many incarnations = polytheism? That's not true polytheism. Poly-incarnational perhaps, but not polytheism. I'm sure there is some scholarly word to describe it, but it's not polytheism in the classical sense of the word. (a belief in many gods, separate and distinct "beings"/minds from one another etc.) Just think about it. Classical polytheism, like the gods of Olympus were NOT seen as emanations of one all powerful source. They were seen as beings in their own right, who may have come into being from the Titans, but where none the less distinct and were in no sense "revealing" a piece of a whole truth to anyone or anything. Zeus didn't come to reveal the truth of the Brahman, he came to, well, do Zeus like things and be worshiped and feared. (of course there is no Zeus, but you see what I mean) That's what I call raw polytheism, or classical polytheism. Almost no one in modern Hinduism understands Hinduism in that respect. Practically speaking they might be called, "polytheistic" in a sense, but not in the sense most everyone means by that word.Yes, most Hindu theologies treat the deities as different manifestations of a single Godhead.
I believe it is of the utmost importance to get facts, details, ideas and theologies as clear as we possibly can then judge them based on their own merits. As a priest once told me (while I was still a Protestant) if you want to know what Judaism teaches, go ask a Jew, don't ask Pat Robertson. That statement forever changed the way I gathered information about other religions. It's very easy to look at Hinduism and "see" polytheism, but then as I said, the same can and does happen with us, just ask John Hagee what we believe, he'll tell you!
I just do not believe the majority of Hinduism can be classified, well into any single framework really, but not polytheism either. That doesn't make me a Hindu though. I find much in the religion that is interesting, and in fact true, that still doesn't make me a Hindu anymore than seeing truth in the ancient Pagan religions made Justin martyr a worshiper of Isis or Mithras.
From a scholarly perspective titling all of Hinduism as polytheistic is useless. In a Christian missionary sense it would be useless too because a Hindu who has knowledge of his/her religion would either say, "So what?" or they'd respond, "uh no we're not. if you can't get even that detail right, why should I bother listening to anything else you say?" It's the same reaction most of us have when we're told we "worship icons/idols" we either brush them off as crack pots, or we think they just haven't the slightest clue about our religion. (see the massive thread with dattaswami to recall just how silly we see people who do not take the time to get our theologies straight)
Appearances can be deceiving, especially when viewing them from the outside. If any sort of Christian should understand this it should be Catholics and Orthodox.
Even putting aside Hinduism though, polytheism does still exist in some parts of the world. As does Animism and all sorts of religious and spiritual views. However much of the world is monotheistic, and I think this is a testament to the Church's ability to spread it throughout the world, even among those who are no Christians. Medieval Arabia got the idea of monotheism from the Church (and resident Judaism) and I suppose an argument could be made that even Hinduism, being influenced by monotheism began to adopt a more monotheistic approach. (though I think there is evidence there has always been a monotheistic strain within Hinduism dating back thousands of years) I guess that's all an exercise in futility because we'll never know. It is an interesting option though.