Why is there only one God?
Published: 27 April 2013 (GMT+10)
People often have questions about the nature of God, as opposed to ideas that come from pagan philosophies. Carter M, USA, wrote in with the following question:
I believe in God, but why is there only one? Why isn’t there many, like Greek gods?
CMI’s Keaton Halley responds:
Thank you for contacting us with your interesting question.
We believe there is one God because this is the clear teaching of Scripture. God has revealed himself to us in his Word, the Bible, and explained that all other gods are the products of human imagination. For example, in Isaiah 45:18–22, we read:
For thus says the Lord,
who created the heavens
(he is God!),
who formed the earth and made it
(he established it;
he did not create it empty,
he formed it to be inhabited!):
I am the Lord, and there is no other.
Declare and present your case;
let them take counsel together!
Who told this long ago?
Who declared it of old?
Was it not I, the Lord?
And there is no other god besides me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
there is none besides me.
Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
It is incoherent to have multiple supreme beings.
But I think you are asking why only one God exists in the first place. The Bible doesn’t directly tell us the reason that God exists, but it does say that God is infinite, eternal, and sovereign. With this as our starting point, I think we can make sense of the fact that there is only one God.
For one thing, since God is the uncreated Creator, then he must exist necessarily. That is, he cannot fail to exist, and he always has. But other gods do not have to exist, and so they don’t!
Such lesser ‘gods’ could only have existed if God had decided to create them, and he did not.
Also, it seems to me that it is incoherent to have multiple supreme beings. God is supreme and sovereign over all things, but if there was another being equal to him, neither would have total control over the other. Neither would truly be supreme, and so neither would truly be God.
You ask about the Greek pantheon, which consisted of a hierarchy of gods. But the Greek gods were finite and flawed, not supreme and self-existent like the biblical God. Such lesser “gods” could only have existed if God had decided to create them, and he did not.
The evidence really supports the idea of one supreme Creator God who is outside of (transcends) the universe and brought it into being (unlike the Greek gods). See our Creation Answers Book, chapter 1.
So, I hope that helps! You can find many other answers by searching creation.com, but feel free to write us again if you have other questions not addressed there.
Carter M. replied further:
Thanks for replying. Your answer was really helpful. :)
I also had another question — if you don’t mind. I once met a skeptic while rummaging through the internet and they had posted a comment saying, of course, “God doesn’t exist.” I asked them, “If God does not exist, then how did the universe get here and be complex and beautiful, yet perfectly exact?” They said “The universe just naturally occurred.” So, my other question is: how could have our wonderful universe unfold, naturally? How could’ve it “naturally” create living organisms?
With all due respect,
Keaton Halley responds:
Hey Carter, glad to help.
You might try putting your new question to your skeptical friends, since they are the ones making the claim that the universe could arise naturally. From your description of the exchange, it sounds like they have simply made an assertion without offering any evidence in support. The skeptics can keep you busy forever if all they have to do is state their opinions while you scurry about looking for ways to refute them. When they make a claim, they need to shoulder the burden of proof. So I recommend that, before you try to argue against them, you ask them to provide a reason why you should accept their claim.
Now, obviously, we creationists don’t believe that the universe or living things arose by purely natural processes. Many articles on creation.com are devoted to highlighting problems with naturalistic accounts of origins. See, for example, Refuting Evolution Chapter 7, Cosmic Catastrophes, Life from life or not? and The evolution train’s a-comin’.
Also, we frequently point out the distinction between historical and operational science. Operational science deals with repeatable, present-day phenomena like the formation of snowflakes, while historical science deals with unique and unrepeatable past events like the formation of our moon. See It’s not science. Scientists have had tremendous success explaining the day-to-day operation of the universe by appealing only to time, chance, and the laws of nature. But when it comes to explaining how the universe and living things originated, these same causes are demonstrably inadequate.
Unfortunately, evolutionists regularly conflate these two realms and act as though the success of naturalistic explanations in operational science proves that all origins questions must also have naturalistic solutions. In reality, evolutionists presuppose that everything can be explained naturally, rather than demonstrating it. In other words, naturalism is their starting point, not their conclusion. See The rules of the game and Refuting Evolution chapter 1.
Sometimes evolutionists will try to justify their categorical exclusion of the supernatural by claiming that science would not be possible if miracles are allowed, but this is false. All that is needed for operational science to work is for nature to exhibit a general regularity, not an absolute regularity. See Miracles and science.
Finally, to anticipate the skeptical retort: “Who created the Creator?”, you might be interested in If God created the universe, who created God?.
That should give you plenty to chew on for a while. I encourage you to read the links above so you can be even more prepared to answer the challenges critics raise. Also, don’t forget to search our site, which already has lots of material related to your question.
All the best,
Dear Carter, please read both Keaton’s and Jonathan Sarfati’s very helpful articles.
I have also been helped by R.C. Sproul’s writings, particular his mentioned conceptual category of “self-existent entity”. God is the only item in that category. Self-existence directly leads both (1) to God being the uncaused First Cause and (2) to God necessarily being from eternity past. Only God has that unique attribute. (This is why the Arian heresy—saying that that there was when Jesus was not—was so terrible.) Trying to conceive of more than one self-existent entity necessarily gives us a messy headache.
R.C. Sproul also mentions that he has found only 4 basic explanations offered for the universe’s existence. #1 It is imaginary. But we reject this idea when we do or admire science—seeking to discover objective truth in nature. Scientific activity necessarily assumes the universe is really there. #2 It is self-created. In spite of even people like Hawking appealing to this, this idea is incoherent, logically. It violates the logical law of non-contradiction. #3 The universe is self-existent, eternal. As Jonathan Sarfati has pointed out, such would lead to the trending heat death of the universe having already arrived—which it hasn’t. As Sproul points out, everything we see in the universe is contingent, finite and created. #4 Something in the universe is eternal and created the rest of it—or, more tidily, an external self-existent entity, God, created the finite universe. We necessarily get crowded to the Biblical version of option #4.
May this help.
In Exodus 20:3 God says 'You shall have no other god before me' suggesting that other gods were available.
Also, you believe that the Muslim god is not the Biblical God, so how do you explain the growth of Islam and the decline of Christianity?
Other gods were available, like the Egyptian deities. But the very chapter you cite indicates that people were prone to create these "gods" (Exod. 20:4, 23). That is, they were false gods, as the rest of the Bible unambiguously teaches (Isa. 37:19; 44:9-20; Jer. 2:26-28; 14:22; John 17:3; 1 Cor. 8:4-6). Also, several passages indicate that idols actually represent demons (Deut. 32:17; Ps. 106:37; 1 Cor. 10:19-20), which are not true gods.
Regarding the growth of Islam, the Bible never claims that falsehoods cannot flourish. Other religious groups like the Bahais are growing rapidly too, but truth isn't determined by growth rate.
Also, why think that Christianity is in decline? In the West, the population is growing faster than the number of professing Christians, but our numbers are still increasing, not decreasing. Plus, in the global South, Christian growth rates are outstripping the population growth and offsetting the lower rates in the North. But, again, we should evaluate religious claims based on their merits rather than the speed at which people are signing on.
One of the reasons I became convinced the Bible is true is that we can derive the necessary existence of a single, truly transcendent God (infinite and beyond time) from causality.
Since we universally observe that everything is an effect of a cause, which is in turn an effect of a prior cause, then either there's an infinite string of finite causes in time or a single infinite cause beyond time. If the former, this still begs the question of why linear time exists, which in turn could only be explained by the single infinite cause, so there's really only one option.
To be truly infinite, this cause must be alive (or what is best described with our words as that). Either this is the case or there should be no existence at all.
Thus there can only be one God, who is uncaused and who caused everything else.
We can go on to derive several important basics about the nature of the One True God from this as well, like that He and He alone would be able to prove that His Words are genuine with unfakeable prophecy, and He could create miraculously in a short time, as He said He did, being all-powerful.
So no, the universe could NOT "naturally come to exist" (without the existence of God).
Also, it seems to me that atheists who make such claims are making a category error (equivocation fallacy). Usually "natural" means "the operational physics of this universe" -- as in Nature. That's how they define it to argue for evolution, after all; the "supernatural" must be denied. But to say that Nature itself arose naturally requires a Higher Nature, opening the door for belief in God. (Even the multiverse argument would thus be "supernatural"; showing that scientific explanations are being forced to move toward God.)
Dear Mr. Halley:
I have heard this argument before from some Jehova's Witness friends. You both seem to be overlooking something that is buried in our Bible.
If you are rightly dividing the word of God than why does the first chapter of Genesis not support your idea, "One God"?
Of the thirty times the word God is used in the first chapter of Genesis, in no case is he term used in the singular "El", it is always "E-lo-him".
It doesn't sound to me like there is only "One God".
The Jews claim God was talking to some angels and that's the reason for "E-lo-him" being used.
But then Moses, in chapters 2 and 3, throws a curve ball and uses "El" and "E-lo-him" interchangeably when the word "God" is used.
Are you aware of these problems, and do you have an answer for it?
Actually, it would be a mistranslation to render elohim as "gods" in Genesis 1:1, because the verb is singular. This is a common feature of Old Testament Hebrew, to have a plural noun with a singular verb that should be translated as a singular. Some see this as a subtle hint of the Trinity (see Who Really is the God of Genesis? and Our Triune God), but it definitely doesn't contradict the biblical teaching of monotheism.