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Theism ( Gr. Θεός / ϑεός theós “God”) denotes belief in gods , with monotheism denoting belief in one god and polytheism denoting belief in several gods.

Theism understands God as the creator of the world , who also maintains it and intervenes in it. In this way theism differs from deism , which denies any intervention by a god in the world. The god of theistic religions is predominantly transcendent ; sometimes it also has immanent elements / manifestations. Although it works in the world (for example through miracles and revelations ), its substance is completely different from it ( dualism of creator and creation ). This is where theism differs from pantheism and panentheism .

The designation was coined as a categorizing term in the philosophy of religion in the Enlightenment (18th century) compared to atheism , but also as a demarcation from deism .

Differentiating terms

Within theism a distinction can be made between

  • Monotheism (there is only one god)
  • Henotheism (there is a supreme god, but other gods can also be worshiped)
  • Monolatry (there are several gods, but only one is worshiped)
  • Polytheism (there are several gods / goddesses); However, polytheism mostly does not correspond to the above definition, since polytheists often do not know any explicit creation (in the sense of "actively building the world") and understand their gods as inner-worldly powers.
  • Open theism (English: open theism ): there is a loving God, but of the freedom of decision respected the people and thus a "risk" comes in, using his omnipotence and omnipresence limits and give up control and predictability of human behavior.

Theistic religions

Theistic religions are among others

as well as some historical religions , mostly assigned to henotheism ; among other

Critique of the theistic concept of God

An important objection to the theistic concept of God arises from the theodicy problem . If a God can direct and guide intervene in the course of the world, the question arises, why does he then allow innocent people to experience great suffering. The properties of omnipotence and omnipotence are assumed for this god.

A possible intervention of a god in the world is also rejected by some because this would amount to "making God a being alongside others".

Delimiting terms

Theism is distinguished from other positions on the existence of God or the essence of the divine, for example

  • of worldviews that do not require gods, especially
    • from agnosticism , which considers the question of the existence or non-existence of gods to be unanswered or unanswerable.
    • from Ignostizismus , which requires that a uniform definition of "God" is given before one can answer the otherwise meaningless question of its existence.
    • from atheism , which rejects belief in deities or denies the existence of deities.
    • of cosmotheism , which understands the world as a unity that organizes itself without needing the willed act of a creator god.
    • of nihilism , which denies any possibility of knowing something.
  • of worldviews in which God is perceived differently
    • of deism , which admittedly accepts a God as creator of the world, but does not believe in his further influence on it.
    • of pandeism , which admittedly accepts a God as creator of the world, but does not believe in his further influence on it, because God was absorbed in creation / world.
    • from pantheism , which regards nature and God as completely (and always) identical.
    • from panentheism , which sees the world as part of a developing (or self-experiencing) deity.

A sharp demarcation is often not possible because there are multiple overlaps.

See also


  • Gregory A. Boyd : God of the Possible. A Biblical Introduction to the Open View of God. 2000, ISBN 0-8010-6290-X .
  • Norbert Hoerster : The question about God. Becksche series 1635, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-406-52805-8 .
  • John Leslie Mackie : The Miracle of Theism. Arguments for and against the Existence of God. Clarendon Press, Oxford 1982 (German The miracle of theism. Arguments for and against the existence of God. Philipp Reclam jun., Stuttgart 1985).
  • John AT Robinson : God is different. Honest to God. Chr. Kaiser, Munich 1970.
  • John E. Sanders, Clark Pinnock, Richard Rice, David Basinger, William Hasker: The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God. Paternoster and IVP, 1994.
  • John E. Sanders: The God Who Risks: A Theology of Providence. IVP 1998/2007.
  • John E. Sanders, Chris Hall: Does God have a Future? A Debate on Divine Providence. Baker Academic, 2003.
  • Manuel Schmid: God is an adventurer. Open theism and the challenges of biblical speeches from God , Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2020, ISBN 978-3-525-55669-6 .
  • Richard Swinburne : Is There a God? ontos, Frankfurt 2005, ISBN 3-937202-91-9 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Theism  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

    • Theism. In: Friedrich Kirchner: Dictionary of basic philosophical terms. 5th edition, Leipzig 1907.
    • Theism. In: Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon , Volume 19, 6th edition, Leipzig 1909.
  1. Peter Knauer SJ: Faith comes from hearing. Fundamental ecumenical theology. Styria, Graz / Vienna / Cologne 1978, p. 50 ff.
  2. Christof Bauernfeind: God has no plan for your life! ideaSpektrum Liestal / Wetzlar, January 24, 2018, pp. 8–11.
  3. Norbert Hoerster: The question about God. Becksche series 1635, Beck, Munich 2005, pp. 87–111.
  4. Peter Knauer: Faith comes from hearing. Fundamental ecumenical theology. Styria, Graz 1978, p. 52.