Polytheism . . . or Pluralism?

I have a question pertaining to Rev. Spronk’s ar­ticle on “The President’s Polytheism” (Feb. 1, 2013). Wouldn’t it be more accurate to identify President Obama’s religious perspective as pluralistic rather than polytheistic? Religious pluralism is the view that all re­ligions are equally valid. According to religious plural­ists, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, Hinduism, Buddhism, et. al., are all equally worthy, even equally true religions. In President Obama’s “New Beginning” speech in Cairo, he said:

People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind and the heart and the soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it’s being challenged in many different ways. (Remarks by the President on A New Beginning: Cairo University, Cairo, Egypt, June 4, 2009.)

President Obama identifies himself as a Christian (monotheistic), but embraces religious tolerance. Wouldn’t this perspective be religious pluralism? Are polytheism and pluralism distinctively different? I fear that religious pluralism might be the greater threat to Christianity today.

Jane Woudenberg

Hudsonville, MI


It would indeed be accurate to characterize President Obama’s religious perspective as pluralistic. And it is indeed true that religious pluralism is a serious threat to Christianity today. My intention in the article to which you refer, however, was to address the matter from a little different perspective. I pointed out that there are “different forms of polytheism” and that Obama’s is “the more subtle form in which he does not personally believe in other gods, but he tolerates the religions of others…even worships with them.”

You are right, Obama claims to be a Christian. But the words of Elijah on Mt. Carmel come to mind: “How long halt ye between two opinions?” One who is committed to the one true God must reject both the existence of any other gods and the validity of worship­ing them. With Obama were representatives of Presby­terian churches, Jews, Muslims, and Sikhs, and he stated that he would have welcomed others. His declared monotheism, I said, is “not the monotheism demanded by and defined by Scripture.” Scripture “forbids the toleration of other gods and requires the rejection and condemnation of them.”

At the interfaith prayer meeting, was Obama doing nothing more than practicing a pluralistic approach to the validity of other religions? My point was that it was more serious than that. Perhaps those who attended the prayer service were not at that point a whoring after other gods, but “they did play footsy with those gods.” “By spiritually flirting with the gods of other religions, these professing Christians did not practice true mono­theism as it is defined by God in Scripture. They did not break down the altars of the other gods by con­demning those other gods and testifying plainly there is only one God . . . . I am not arguing that the President needs to use his position as president to declare the gos­pel. But we do need to understand that his presence at the interfaith prayer meeting as a professing Christian was the horrible sin of spiritual unfaithfulness to the one true God . . . . We need to understand that tolerating other gods is a subtle but deadly form of polytheism”—a spiritual flirting with other gods.