Existence of Multiple gods

Hello everyone,

I was talking to one of my friends about God recently and it was very hard for him to imagine that God is simply uncreated and has eternally existed. For me its easy to imagine because I understand that whatever I use in this universe to describe God will simply not do God justice. A finite mind cannot understand an infinite one. So we went back and forth and he asked me why there could not be 2 other gods that eternally existed. And I struggled to answer that. In my head it makes sense that God is infinte and has always existed and you simply cant have some other thing beside God, like some sort of competing god. Can anyone please help me answer this question? If you did it in a clear logical way that would be great.

Thanks!

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@CipriCo I think the Onotological argument might help here - it argues that God is the greatest conceivable being. While this is normally used to argue for God’s existence, I would say it also helps you because you cannot have two greatest conceivable beings. There can only be one greatest conceivable being.

From a Biblical perspective, God consistently makes claims that show that there is no other like Him and we can point to Jesus as evidence of God’s goodness. And if God is good, we can trust His claims about Himself.

Hope something in there helps :slight_smile:

If God is not the greatest being possible, then it’s possible that some other being could have existed which would be greater than God, so that God should be obligated to bow down and worship Him! That is impossible, for then God would not be God. Surely you don’t think that God is only contingently God.

Plantinga takes maximal excellence to include such properties as omniscience, omnipotence, and moral perfection. A being which has maximal excellence in every possible world would have what Plantinga calls “maximal greatness.” It would be what you, Luke, call the Greatest Conceivable Being (GCB). Now Plantinga argues:

  1. It is possible that a maximally great being exists.

  2. If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.

  3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.

  4. If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.

  5. If a maximally great being exists in the actual world, then a maximally great being exists.

  6. Therefore, a maximally great being exists.

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Hi @CipriCo,

Thank you for your great question!

This gets into ontology and can get quite philosophical. If we go back into the early days of philosophy they were having a very similar conversation. They were actually trying to answer the question of can there be multiple things? Or is everything just one thing? This lead to a discussion of how do we tell one thing from another thing? The rough answer is the one thing is not another thing if they do not share all of the same attributes. If two “things” were to share all of the same attributes then they would be indistinguishable and, therefore, would be the same thing. (There is a further discussion about divisions and prime matter, but God is not made of matter so we can leave that aside for now.)

Therefore, if there were two “beings” who were alike in every way, we could not distinguish between the two and they would, therefore, be the same. They would actually be one and the same being. If there were a difference, as @SeanO pointed out, one would be necessity be more of one thing than the other and that would make one greater than the other.

There is also the question of the indivisibility of God due to his divine simplicity, in that he is not composed of parts. So you could not divide God and say that these three distinct beings are God. This is where the Trinity starts to get tricky. I say that to say you could not say that there could be more than one being made up of the “same stuff” from which they derive their attributes and in that way they would all be equal. That would be an argument your friend could make that wouldn’t work because then the substance itself would be prior to the being and who would be there to compose the being of such a substance?

Anyway, I hope this isn’t more confusing than helpful.

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To the question “why can’t there be more than one eternal God? Why only one?” I would go back to Jesus? How does Jesus speak to this question?
Jesus teaches that there is one God eternally existing as 3 persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Jesus, himself claimed to be God (the Son).
Jesus said the proof of His claim to be God would be His resurrection following his crucifixion.
Christians get there knowledge of God from Jesus, His teaching, from the inspired Word of God, the Bible and the indwelling Spirit of God (Holy Spirit).

Ok, so I tried to explain it to him this way: God is the greatest conceivable being. Therefore if there were two gods equal in power and attributes, then none of these beings would be the greatest conceivable being. The greatest conceivable being has no equal. If the greatest conceivable being has an equal then that being would not be the greatest conceivable being. That means the greatest conceivable being has no equal. I am not sure if this is right anymore after writing it down but it worked at the time and it made sense to me at the time.

Then he asked why does God have to be the greatest conceivable and not just a reasonably great being which played perfectly into the question asked by the swedish student in the link you posted. I tried to explain that the greatest conceivable being is not dependant on human imagination. But it sort of fell on deaf ears and he still had the notion that it was still tied somehow to human imagination. Probably because he didn’t fully comprehend the argument as probably neither did I. So we went back and forth and reached a dead point. It is very philosophical as I have noticed and I am no philosopher so there were definitely some faults in how I explained it, I am sure.

Thank you to everyone for the help though.

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@CipriCo Praying for wisdom as you reach out to your friend and that the Holy Spirit would open the eyes of his heart to recognize the eternal power and glory of the one true God in the world around him :slight_smile:

@CipriCo, kudos on pressing through with your friend! I have been in similar situation where an argument totally makes sense in my head. Then I try to explain it and it doesn’t seem to make sense anymore. Keeping pursuing the question. Try to do some reading on the subject and see if you can grasp the concepts more fully. Getting a particularly challenging question can be a fantastic opportunity to do some research and challenge yourself to find an answer. Keep going!

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From my own background as a once-upon-a-time militant atheist, i would inquire what kind of god could be the highest, greatest, most powerful, and yet perfect in every way? I like to say that atheists are very right – the god they don’t believe in doesn’t exist.

But a far better one does. And that perfectly loving and righteous God just happens to also be the all-powerful Source of all there is. So, if there were more than one god of that type, they would, in righteous love unite to one another and thus become One Being.

Hey, news flash, what if that were true! What if Father, Son and Holy Spirit, before there was any created universe (by them), before they created time, united in love into only one God, with three major roles, each working through the other two in perfect harmony to create a universe and then a Forever Family as their kids?

Fascinating idea, i think…The triune gods uniting and becoming/acting as One God, through their Creation, so they/He may create other living extensions of their/His Union-Life for perfect fellowship with them/Him beyond time.

And no, i haven’t been smoking any funny stuff. :wink:

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This intriguing and important conversation makes me think of Proverbs 25:2
It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.
I loved reading this chain of comments and questions and was touched by the humility of obviously intelligent and thoughtful people. Thanks for being a great role models

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Any update, Ciprico? What’s been happening?

I can’t seem to let go of the idea that the Triune God has perfect internal unity and harmony (or love) as a fundamental characteristic, thus being in ultimate nature one God. And that we mortal humans are very warmly invited spiritually to become extensions of that Oneness in the Final Eternal Family.

[And thanks, Dee, for your heart that fits the concept.]

Could anything be better than that, i wonder…

Hey @DeanW
I had conversations with my friend from time to time about God. We are very good friends and he has known I am a Christian. But as he told me in the last conversation he thinks that believing in God is pretty much the same as believing in unicorns and leprechauns. He also always says that maybe when he gets older and will need something to rely on he will start believing in God. He is not a hardened atheist but he does not see believing in God as something that is necessarily relevant to his life. He has this impression that a lot of Christians are hypocrites too so its a bit hard to talk to him.

Buuut, while we were discussing that day during our study, there was a Muslim guy listening and we met again and he started talking to me about God. We had a respectful conversation and I asked him a few questions about Islam which by his reaction I suspect that really got him thinking. I also managed to explain the Trinity roughly among the lines you did in the last paragraph @DeanW, which I think cleared out some misconceptions he seemed to have. Smart guy, was studying bio medical science.

Isn’t it amazing how we are sometimes trying to reach out to someone who rejects our Message, while someone else is listening and begins to get interested in what is being said?

I’ve also had that kind of experience, on both sides of the equation. Like being in a restaurant discussing God and someone is listening in who later comes up to me to express interest in what was said. Or being in a coffee house and overhearing two people discussing theology at a nearby table, then going up to one or both of them, when it seems right, and they are wide open to the Gospel.

Amazing how He works, isn’t it! Also, i’m glad the idea of unifying perfect-eternal-love within the Godhead extending into all who are willing to submit to Him appeals to your new friend. Many concepts in islam can be bridges between us, can’t they, like “God” (Allah, the only word for God in Arabic) is “full of pity, merciful toward mankind, relenting, forgiving, gracious, most beneficient”, etc.

And if we take all of those characteristics / attributes, which Muslims believe in, based on the Quran, and imagine what they would look like, all together, in human form, we will see Jesus ('Isa in Arabic). And if we love Him, God expressing Himself through Jesus/'Isa, we will gladly submit to Him, in adoring surrender, which is the meaning of the word “Islam”, right?

Thus, it is Yeshua/Jesus/'Isa, as God’s representative, that unites all who truly submit/surrender to God by His love. Wish/praying that we could all see this unity, in HIm…
And may He bless your efforts to present Him to others.

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It may be that all future conversations you have with your friend might no longer lean towards such weighty philosophical considerations, but I just briefly wanted to deal with his question as to why God couldn’t just be reasonably great, instead of having to be maximally so.

I think at least one of the reasons why God could not be considered as a being who is only “reasonably great” would be because, to begin with, mere “reasonable” greatness would not be a greatness sufficient enough to create beings with the capacity to conceive of something beyond it. We can, for the most part I think, safely say that men and women can and do carry the attribute of reasonable greatness, as many truly great things have been achieved as a result of human effort and ingenuity. But men and women, along with all of the other existing entities within the universe, still permanently possess the attribute of contingency and must themselves, therefor, irrespective of such greatness, however instantiated, be dependent upon that which is not contingent, which logically takes to us the word necessary. God can logically be shown to exist as necessarily, that is to say that he exists in the ‘necessity of His own nature’, as formulated in ‘the argument from contingency’

This short video link below gives a summary of the argument

Once we can see why a being who exists in the necessity of his own nature is the only thing logically adequate for the creation of contingent entities existing in the universe, a question we can can ask ourselves in regards to why God has to be thought of as a being who must have maximal greatness would be:

Can a being who exist necessarily exist as anything less than maximal?

A state of existence which is, in the absolute sense, independent or non-dependent, would have to be thought of as a maximal state. Contingency is not a maximal state, it is a dependent state. Contingent entities, such as humans, exist with an inherent dependency on a myriad of factors that work together to ensure the continuation of there existence, things such as food, the sun, water, and the very air that we breathe. Because of this you can not say that humans exists maximally. Rather our potential in every area is limited and constrained by the physical world. This extends into everything in the contingent world. Nothing within it exists maximally

Things within the contingent world can not exist maximally because they do not exist necessarily

God however does exists maximally precisely because he exists necessarily, which would also logically entail that all of Gods qualitative attributes, such as greatness, would have to exist maximally as well.

The philosophical fact that a necessarily existing being would have to exist maximally helps to secure the argument against the charge of the word “maximal” being a word smuggled in arbitrarily.

I hope that this gives you a different take on some of the things your discussing, which are very difficult and require great amounts of thought and patience. Please Keep us posted as you are able as your conversation continues, and my prayer is that ultimately this individual recognizes his deep and abiding need for the love of Christ which never fails, even when arguments can and do-
After all:
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 1 Corinthians 13:8

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Might help to direct him to Nabeel Qureshi’s YouTube talk Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. He does an excellent job helping people understand how he was a truly devout Muslim but found inconsistencies within the Muslim faith (citing chapter and verse in Quran) that didn’t exist in Christianity, which led to his conversion over the space of a couple of years. He was also in medical school, if I remember correctly. Nabeel also brought out Muslim teachings that many Christians don’t know about like the Trinity is polytheism, Jesus was virgin born but did not die by crucifixion (which is historically provable - big problem for Islam) and that the state of our society is the state of Christianity (as Christian nations, Western countries’ glaring unrighteousness is systemic to the Christian faith and proof it isn’t devout or holy). As such, the way that words are used can vary in meaning and interpretation. He also gave a poignant explanation of what it has cost him to become a believer, which is quite sobering. But, a great resource for both believers and Muslim seekers.

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Well, CipriCo, i scanned over the messages in this topic and my eye got caught by your statement:

“He has this impression that a lot of Christians are hypocrites too so its a bit hard to talk to him.”

I think that can be a way to open some good dialog. Because, if we (all Believers in Christ) are honest enough, we can admit that we are all hypocrites. Thank God He loves us so much even though at least some of our “righteousness” is more like pretended, wannabe, play-acting (especially in church).

One thing i also like to discuss with genuine doubters is my agreement that “Christianity” has been responsible for a lot of evil in the world. Well, i see it more as “churchianity” rather than “pure Christianity”, since Jesus never commanded us to kill our enemies or torture them or hurt them, but instead to lay down our lives in forgiveness for them.

So the Inquisition, the Crusades, the corruption of the institutional churches is not “Christ-is-in-us” but “against Christ while using His Name”. Naturally an arguementative person like i was would think that is just rationalizing, so i have to point out that Jesus forgave His enemies even while they were torturing Him to death. So did Stephen. And all the disciples did the same (well, ok, John was prevented from a violent death but was still martyred in a sense on Patmos).

Then, too, many of the early Church leaders, before it became institutionalized, showed the same willingness to die for their Lord, in forgiveness for their persecutors, rather than fight to preserve their lives.

And that self-sacrificing love is not normal – it requires an empowerment / enablement that goes beyond human capabilities. When that kind of love for even one’s worst enemies is apparent, “the Faith” grows by leaps and bounds. Heavy persecution breeds rapid Church enlargement as history shows. (Did i hear that China now has more Believers than the U.S. does? Makes sense…)

Whoops, i got carried away. Sorry… :face_with_thermometer: …Hope something in this is worth discussing with your friend.

Oh, yeah, the topic is the existence of multiple gods, isn’t it. So, is there any other religion in which the Founder and His closest followers lovingly, forgivingly, lay down their lives for their executors? If not, the Eternal One stands out in the “crowd of gods”, yes?

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