Challenge: Why Should I Believe There’s Only One God?

Posted: May 3, 2011 by Amy Hall in God is Real, Weekly Challenge

An Australian has posted this challenge on YouTube: What evidence do you have that there’s only one God? Where would you go with your response if a friend sent you this video and asked for an answer? We’ll hear Brett’s response on Thursday.

  1. Sam Harper says:

    I don’t think the cosmological argument or the teleological argument justify the claim that only one god exists. Ockham’s razor may only allow you to postulate one god, since two is unnecessary. It doesn’t follow from Ockham’s razor that only one god exists, but that we can only be justified in postulating one god.

    The moral argument might justify the claim that only one god exists. If there are multiple gods, all co-equal, it wouldn’t be clear which one morals depended on. It seems like if morals could only have their source in one god. Otherwise, we’d have contradictory morals.

    But that’s not the best argument either because (1) it’s possible for there to be one supreme god and multiple lesser gods, and morals may depend on the supreme god, 2) according to the moral argument, morals must be grounded in a person, but in Christian theism, there are three persons. As long as the persons are in perfect agreement, there’s no problem of conflicts about morals. If morality can be grounded in three persons who are one god, I see no reason why they couldn’t be grounded in three persons who are three gods as long as the persons are co-equal, co-eternal, and in perfect agreement.

    Maybe some ontological argument might be able to show that there is only one god, but I don’t know if any ontological argument that is sound. I puzzled for a long time over Alvin Plantinga’s argument, and I’ve decided that there’s just no way to know if it’s sound.

    The only good argument I know of to show that there’s only one god is by appealing to the authority of the Bible or appealing to the authority of Jesus. But the youtuber will think that’s a circular argument. I don’t. If other arguments show that at least one god exists, then resurrection is possible. And if Jesus claimed to have been sent by one specific God, then was raised from the dead, I think that would tell us that his God is the one God. And you can do that without the assumption that God wrote or inspired the Bible, so it’s not a circular argument.

  2. Albert says:

    First of all, he really doesn’t believe there is a God so this is a mute argument. If he could believe that a God or God’s did create the universe it might be a different story, but he doesn’t so I don’t know if I would be able to give him a satisfactory answer.

    So lets go with the understanding that he DOES believe that a God or God’s did create the universe and everything in it. Once he is there, then we ask him to tell us what kind of proof would be satisfactory for him to believe it is one God and not many. This would make a big difference on how we proceed.

    He mentions no circular reasoning. That is understandable. But we can still use the bible, historically, to show that there is one God, once we understand he is open to believing that a God exists.

    It now comes down to physical evidence. Evidence showing that the validity of the bible and all it contains is true.

    We can show that other religions are based on evidence that isn’t as convincing. Historical data that is lacking in many areas where the bible is strong in.
    We show the change in the men that followed Jesus once they realized Jesus’ claim was true, along with many other ways that show that Jesus was who he claimed to be.

    Because Jesus was who he claimed to be and believed that the Old Testament was the word of God then we have the creation account in Genesis as well as the fact that throughout the bible God is referenced as One God.

    NonStampCollector also claims that we can’t use faith for our reasoning. But we need to, at some point, indicate that there is some faith that is needed for all of this to hold any water. Not because the evidence isn’t true, or that we don’t have enough evidence, but that there is a faith (confidence) that what the bible says is true.

    Without that faith NonStampCollector will never believe there is one God as opposed to many.

    The key is to get him to accept that God is a viable factor in all of these things.

    Historical data can point us in the best possible direction if we are truly seeking truth and clear understanding. So once you have established that all books in the bible are validated above all other books out there for other religions as well as other books of antiquity, you can show that it’s very possible that everything in the bible really happened or will happen.

    And like Sam said above, if you can show that Jesus is who he claimed to be, and Jesus believed the old testament, then believing that there is only one God is not that big of a leap at that point.

  3. Elliot Neff says:

    Well, I personally think this is sort of a “soft-ball” question that needs only a short, simple answer. 🙂

    By definition, God is the greatest conceivable being; if anything were greater than Him then that would be God.

    If two ‘Gods’ were to exist, they would necessarily have to be different in some way from one another in order to be considered two seperate entities.

    The differences between the two would have to be greater in one as compared to the other.

    The greater one would have to be God.

    In short, there cannot be MULTIPLE GREATEST beings. It’s not possible.

    The greatest conceivable being is God! 🙂

    • Sam Harper says:

      This is kind of what I was thinking when I mentioned the possibility of having an ontological argument for only one god. But I’m not sure I agree with this line of reasoning for a couple of reasons.

      First, it’s possible for two beings to be distinct if there’s only one thing they don’t have in common–their identity. If the only thing Jim lacks is “being Bob,” and the only thing Bob lacks is “being Jim,” then they can be two distinct individuals even if they share absolutely everything else in common.

      Second, not all properties are great-making properties. For example, it doesn’t seem to me that being three persons is greater than being two persons or being four persons, but God is three persons. To make the ontological argument for monotheism, you would have to argue that identity is a great making property since, as I said above, it’s possible for two beings to share everything in common except their identity. But it doesn’t seem to me that identity is a great making property since it’s possible for Jim to be greater than Bob or for Bob to be greater than Jim.

      With these two observations, it seems to me that it’s perfect coherent to imagine two distinct beings who are both as great as it’s possible to be.

  4. Meg says:

    Ditto to Elliot’s simple response-There can’t be two infinite beings. To be two different beings, one would have to be lacking something the other one had and therefore would not be infinite.
    Another argument for one God is that had to be one mind because the balancing of so many very detailed characteristics about the universe.
    Thanks to Frank Turek for teaching me both of those in his “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist” DVD.

  5. Elliot Neff says:

    Sam– you’re point is well taken and I definitely appreciate the input, but I don’t think your objection stands for a few reasons:

    First, the flaw in your first illustration is that your example involves two subjects which are being used that are far from being infinitely great. They’re humans! Certainly there may be differences among fallible human beings which we do not pay attention to because it does not matter in the least. We know they are not infinitely great!

    It also does not accurately depict the matter at hand because we are not talking about mere semantics. We are interested in the CHARACTERISTICS which make up that being– not names. The characteristics are what gives that being its identity. The name is only representing something– it’s nothing on its own! 🙂

    Second, I don’t quite see your point in the second illustration. It seems a bit extraneous to me. We are still talking about ONE unified greatest being. There are 3 persons and 1 God. Not 3 Gods and 1 God– that would be contradictory. So– you’re right when you stated that 3 persons does not make you greater than just one. I sort of see where you’re trying to come from on this one, but again it just seems a bit tangential.


    • Sam Harper says:

      “Second, I don’t quite see your point in the second illustration.”

      I don’t think you quite saw the point of my first illustration either, but that’s okay. We’ll just wait and see what Brett or Alan have to say. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me, though. 🙂

  6. Philip Motes says:

    It seems to me that an appeal to Ockham’s razor is perfectly appropriate here. It may not prove that there aren’t multiple gods, but if it entails that it is ad hoc and unjustified to postulate them when one God is sufficient, then that has to count for something. I would want to turn it back on the challenger and ask him why he thinks the theistic arguments presented (cosmological, teleological, moral, etc.) should lead us to conclude that more than one god exists. This is a cumulative case for the classical conception of a monotheistic God. Why would polytheism be the logical inference and the better explanation? It would be interesting to hear his response considering he is an atheist who doesn’t believe in any gods, let alone a multitude of them.

    I think that the argument from the authority of Jesus could be a fruitful approach. There should be no doubt that Jesus was a monotheistic Jew who taught that there is only one God. If we can argue historically for Jesus’ divine claims and his resurrection, then we would have good grounds for affirming not only the existence of one God, but the truth of Christianity. This would likely be a long road to go down, but it would lead us where we ultimately want to go anyway- to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

  7. Katie says:

    i’ll make this simple.

    1. which single God am i proving exists? the God that is not of this world, who exists supernaturally. one who’s standards and characteristics can not be measured from a worldly point of view.

    2. everything in the world must have a purpose. if it does not serve a purpose, it will die and nothing/no one will realize it is gone because they did not need it in the first place. everything that exists serves a need.

    One God exists. if this being were a God, it would have access to everything it needed. it would not lack in any way because it is a God. therefore, another God would not have a purpose. the whole point of being a God is that it is of highest nature, not lacking in any way. if there were another God, it would fall away because it would not be necessary/not have a purpose.