Friday, March 10, 2017

Is there more than one god?

Some religious belief systems indicate there may be many gods in addition to the one mentioned in the Bible. Three major world religions are monotheistic: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Are there many gods or only one? What authority can we rely upon for an answer?

Many gods
Hinduism, while not a monolithic world religion, allows for many gods:  Brahma the creator god, Vishnu the sustainer, Shiva the destroyer, Rama, Krishna, and many others. A proper general categorization for Hinduism is not easy to nail down and there are numerous sects:
“There is no single Hindu idea of God. Hindu concepts of deity can include any of the following: monism (all existence is one substance); pantheism (all existence is divine); panentheism (God is in creation as a soul is in a body); animism (God of gods live in nonhuman objects such as trees, rocks, animals, etc.); polytheism (there are many gods): henotheism (there is one god we worship among the many that exist; an monotheism (there is only one God).”[1]

Mormonism teaches that there are many gods as evidenced by a statement from LDS apostle Orson Pratt:
“If we should take a million of worlds like this and number their particles, we should find that there are more Gods than there are particles of matter in those worlds.”[2]
Joseph Fielding Smith, who served as LDS church president from 1901-1918, stated:
“Joseph Smith taught a plurality of gods, and that man by obeying the commandments of God and keeping the whole law will eventually reach the power and exaltation by which he also will become a god”.[3]

Others assert that we are gods. For example, Kenneth Copeland has stated:
            “You don’t have a god in you, you are one,”[4]
And, according to Benny Hinn:
            “Are you ready for some real revelation are god”.[5]

Many more examples could be given, but these are sufficient to illustrate the point that a number of major world religions include belief in many gods. What is the truth?

What source is reliable?
To accurately determine an answer to the question of how many gods may exist, we must have a reliable information source. The Vedas are the generally accepted Hindu scriptures. Mormons use the Pearl of Great Price, Doctrine & Covenants, and the Book of Mormon. Others, such as Hinn and Copeland use the Bible, but with some unorthodox interpretations at times. Muslims, who are monotheistic, of course use the Quran, which draws some information from the Bible. In addition, there are countless other religious writings with everything from the Satanic Bible to L. Ron Hubbard’s books. But, there is only one book about God that is verifiably trustworthy. Evidence for the reliability of the Bible is overwhelming, though we do not have space to devote to that issue in this article. See articles on this website or, for even more thorough research, see books by Josh McDowell, which are outstanding.[6]

What does the Bible say?
The Bible states very clearly in numerous verses there is only one God. A few selected examples include:
·         “Before me there was no God formed, and there will be none after me” (Isaiah 43:10).
·         “There is no god besides me” (Isaiah 44:6).
·         “Besides me there is no god” (Isaiah 45:5).
·         “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like me” (Isaiah 46:9).
·         “He is God; there is no other besides Him” (Deuteronomy 4:35).
·         “…there is no god besides me” (Deuteronomy 32:39).
·         “…there is no God besides You” (2 Samuel 7:22).
·         "Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4)
·         “…the glory that is from the one and only God” (John 5:44).
·         “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God” (John 17:3).
·         “…there is no God but one” (1 Corinthians 8:4).
·         “…there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him” (1 Corinthians 8:6).
·         There is “one God and Father of all” (Ephesians 4:6).
·         “…there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men” (1 Timothy 2:5).

The Hebrew word normally translated into English as “one” is eh­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ad (Strong’s H259), and is rendered in the KJV as such 687 times. The Greek word translated as “one” is heis (Strong’s 1520), and is rendered “one” 229 times in the KJV, including those listed above. Throughout the old and new testaments, the Bible is emphatically monotheistic.

Are we “little gods”?
Is it true that Jesus said we are gods? In John 10, immediately after Jesus made the statement, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30), the Jewish religious leaders prepared to stone him for blasphemy. Jesus then answered:
“Has it not been written in your law, I said ‘You are gods'? If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, ‘I am the Son of God'?” (John 10:34-36)

Jesus was quoting Psalm 82:6, which states, “I said, ‘You are gods and all of you are sons of the Most High.’” Who is the Lord speaking about in this verse? The next verse, number seven, continues by saying, “Nevertheless you will die like men and fall like any one of the princes.” Context is critical in Biblical interpretation and, in this passage of scripture, Norman Geisler has noted: 
“This psalm addresses judges who are judging unjustly. The title of ‘gods’ is not addressed to everyone, but only to these judges about whom Jesus said are those to ‘whom the word of God came’ (v. 35). Jesus was showing that if the OT Scriptures could give some divine status to divinely appointed judges, why should they find it incredible that He should call Himself the Son of God? Thus, Jesus was giving a defense for His own deity, not for the deification of man.”[7]

But, wait a minute, some Christian teachers say. If God created someone in His image, doesn’t it make sense that the created beings would be “little gods”? Joyce Meyer makes the point that human parents have human babies and so God’s children would naturally be little gods, right? To her credit, Ms. Meyer does make it clear that we are not the “God” with a big G. But, could we be little gods?

In His image
In addition to John 10:34, another verse normally used by those who profess we are little gods is Genesis 1:26-27:
            “…God said, "Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness’ and
            “God created man in His own image”.

Geisler states:
“All Genesis 1:26-27 is teaching is that humanity was created in God’s image or likeness in the sense that a human being is a finite reflection of God in rational nature (Col. 3:10), in moral nature (Eph. 4:24), and in dominion over creation (Gen. 1:27-28). In the same way that the moon reflects the brilliant light of the sun, so finite humanity (as created in God’s image) is a limited reflection of God in these aspects. This verse has nothing to do with human beings becoming God or being in God’s ‘class.’  If it were true that human beings are “little gods,” then one would expect them to display qualities similar to those known to be true of God.”[8]

We need to remember a critical technique of Biblical hermeneutics is interpreting difficult scriptures in light of clear ones. One verse, which is somewhat unclear, mentions that we may be little gods, while numerous other verses clearly do not place us in the same category as God, with a big “G”. Below are some examples.

·         God is eternal, humans have a beginning:
“Everlasting God” (Isaiah 40:28)
“Eternal God” (Deuteronomy 33:27)
“the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God” (1 Timothy 1:17)
·         God is omniscient, humans are not:
“His understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:5)
“God is greater than our heart and knows all things” (1 John 3:20)
·         God sees everything, humans do not:
“Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?" declares the Lord, ‘Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?’" (Jeremiah 23:24)
·         God is the Creator, we are the created:
“Has not one God created us?” (Malachi 2:10)
“It is I who made the earth, and created man” (Isaiah 45:12)
“You have created all the sons of men” (Psalm 89:47)
·         God never tires, humans do:
The Lord “does not become weary or tired” (Isaiah 40:28)
“He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4)
·         God is righteous, we are not:
God is righteous with respect to all His deeds” (Daniel 9:14)
“There is none righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10)

The Bible very clearly does not allow for any other gods beside the one Creator. This also includes human beings; we are not God and never will be.

[Biblical references are from the NASB version.]

[1] Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, revised 2003), p. 391.
[2] Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, (London:  Latter-day Saint’s Book Depot, 1854-56), 2:345, cited in Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Mormons, by Ron Rhodes & Marian Bodine, (Eugene, OR:  Harvest House Publishers, 1995), p. 245.
[3] Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation (Salt Lake City, UT:  Bookcraft, 1975), 1:98.
[4] Kenneth Copeland, The Force of Love (Fort Worth, TX: Kenneth Copeland Ministries, 1987), audiotape #02-0028, side 1.
[5] Benny Hinn, “Our Position In Christ”, tape # AO31190-1
[6] Excellent resources by Josh McDowell include:  The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict as well as He Walked Among Us: Evidence for the Historical Jesus
[7] Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe, When Critics Ask (Wheaton, IL:  Victor Books, 1992), p. 417.
[8] Norman Geisler and Ron Rhodes, When Cultists Ask (Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Books, 1997), 798.

No comments: