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Introduction Back to Top

Theism is the belief in the existence of one or more divinities or deities (gods), which are both immanent (i.e. they exist within the universe) and yet transcendent (i.e. they surpass, or are independent of, physical existence). These gods also in some way interact with the universe (unlike in Deism), and are often considered to be omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent.

The word "theism" was first coined in English in the 17th Century to contrast with the earlier term Atheism. "Deism" and "theism" changed meanings slightly around 1700, due to the increasing influence of Atheism: "deism" was originally used as a synonym for today's "theism", but came to denote a separate philosophical doctrine (see Deism).

Theism incorporates Monotheism (belief in one God), Polytheism (belief in many gods) and Deism (belief in one or more gods who do not intevene in the world), as well as Pantheism (belief that God and the universe are the same thing), Panentheism (belief that God is everywhere in the universe but still greater and above the universe) and many other variants (see the section on Philosophy of Religion). What it does not include is Atheism (belief that there are no gods) and Agnosticism (belief that it is unknown whether gods exist or not).

The Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) as well as Hinduism, Sikhism, Baha'i and Zoroastrianism, are all theistic religions.

Types of Theism Back to Top

Classical Theism refers to traditional ideas of the major Monotheistic religions such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam which hold that God is an absolute, eternal, all-knowing (omniscient), all-powerful (omnipotent) and perfect being who is related to the world as its cause, but is unaffected by the world (immutable), as well as being transcendent over it.

The doctrines of Classical Theism are based on the writings of Holy Scripture such as the Tanakh, the Bible or the Qu'ran, although there is also a debt to Platonic and Neo-Platonic philosophy, and thus synthesizes Christian thought and Greek philosophy. To a large extent it was developed during the 3rd Century by St. Augustine (heavily influenced by Plotinus), who drew on Platonic Idealism to interpret Christianity, and was extended by St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th Century after the rediscovery of the works of Aristotle.

Open Theism, also known as Free Will Theism, is a recent theological movement which attempts to explain the practical relationship between the free will of man and the sovereignty of God, contrary to Classical Theism which holds that God fully determines the future. It argues, among other things, that the concepts of omnipresence and immutability do not stem from the Bible, but from the subsequent fusion of Judeo-Christian thought with the Greek philosophy of Platonism and Stoicism, which posited an infinite God and a deterministic view of history.

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