God and His Biblical Alter Ego: On Two Types of Monotheism and Their Relation to War and Peace
The three Abrahamic religions have an ambivalent relationship to war and peace. On the one hand, God is viewed as a merciful peacemaker. On the other hand, peoples embracing Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have often been involved in holy wars and religious persecutions. While David Hume argued that polytheism is inherently more tolerant than monotheism, here it will be argued that it is not monotheism as such which generates endless conflicts, but the specific idea of God propagated by the Old Testament. To make his point, the author addresses the issue of the ambivalence of Christianity. Yahweh asks the Israelites to exterminate non-believers and members of other ethnic groups, including women and children, while Jesus Christ exhorts his followers to avoid confrontation by loving their enemies. However, while the two aforementioned persons of the Christian godhead are apparently different, they are merged in the Trinitarian conception of divinity. The article, therefore, presents four main strategies adopted within Christianity to deal with the alleged moral discrepancy between the first and the second person of the Trinity. Finally, the author narrows the focus on the idea of the Unknown God and the related tradition of negative (or apophatic) theology, arguing that this form of monotheism is more productive of religious tolerance. A series of examples illustrate the presence of this idea in Gnosticism and Neoplatonism, as well as within early, mediaeval and modern Christian doctrines.
Received 01 November 2023. Revised 02 December 2023. Accepted 03 January 2024. Published online 11 January 2024
Riccardo CampaJagiellonian University in Krakow