by Matt Slick
Monism is the view that reality consists of one fundamental, ultimate essence. It comes from the Greek mono, which means one. All is one thing, one essential substance; hence, the term substance monism. Therefore, in monism, God, if he exists, and the universe are the same thing. This would mean that energy, motion, matter, thought, consciousness, etc., are all of one substance. However, they are perceived differently. They appear as different things though in reality they are ultimately the same essence. Therefore, monism is a fundamental part of the philosophy of pantheism which teaches that all existence is part of the nature of God.
There are different types of monism. There is materialistic monism which maintains that only the physical world is real and that abstraction or mental reality is of the same substance as physical realm. This would imply what is called property dualism, that the mind is a property of the physical brain and that when the physical brain ceases to exist, so does the mind.
Another kind of monism is called neutral monism which maintains that the one thing, the one substance of reality is neither mental or physical but is capable of being expressed through its attributes. Therefore, matter and mind would be properties of this substance.
Idealistic monism says that the mind is all that exists and that the physical world is a mental projection or an illusion created by the mind. This is similar to solipsism which says that the only thing we can be sure is in existence is one's mind and that we can never know anything for sure exists outside of our own minds.
Monism stands in opposition to the dualism (the universe is comprised of two substances: matter and mind) and pluralism (the universe is comprised of multiple substances), but is often defined the same as pantheism, the teaching that God and the universe are the same things.
Monism is unbiblical because it denies the distinction between God and creation. God is, by definition, completely different than the creation which he brought into existence by the exercise of his own will (Gen. 1:1-3; Eph. 1:1). In Christian theology, God is "wholly other" and that the only way he can be known is through his self revelation whether it be through the Bible or to the person of Christ who is God incarnate (John 1:1, 14; Colossians 2:9).
Though monism is a philosophical perspective, it has its logical problems. How does anyone know for sure that the universe is one substance? What exactly is that one substance that is proposed? What is the essence of it? If properties reflect substance, then why is it that radically different properties exist from one substance?