During a recent conversation with a friend, a fellow Roman Catholic who not only attends church regularly, but who often serves in Mass as both a reader and a Eucharistic minister, she revealed, to my surprise, that her quest for Truth has so far led her to put into question some of the most fundamental of Christian teachings.
She is not alone. Unfortunately, as I have gathered from my own experience as a college philosophy professor—a Christian professor who for the last 20 years has almost always taught at secular institutions—many, and perhaps most, self-identified Christians are either confused as to the ideas traditionally affirmed by their religion or they have outright repudiated them.
The first and most fundamental misconception that must be addressed prior to attending to any of the others is that surrounding the concept of God.
People, and especially self-declared Christians (at least those living in the West), are put off by the exclusivity of the claims that distinguish each religion from the other. On what basis, so goes the common question, can Christians claim to know that their God is the one true God when the adherents of countless other religions make similarly exclusive claims regarding their gods?
This question is misplaced, for it reflects a gross misunderstanding of the nature of monotheism. The latter differs from polytheism not in degree, but in kind. They are in different leagues.
In affirming the existence of one God, the monotheist doesn't mean to deny (or affirm) that there are other deities within the world. As a monotheist, it isn't immanent, but ultimate, reality with which he is concerned.
The God of the monotheist is a Deity that transcends the world, a Deity in whose absence there could be no world.