29 May 2007

Westminster Wednesday

Are we ready for Q&A #5? Let's push on then.

Q: Are there more Gods than one?
A: There is but One only, the living and true God.

Deuteronomy 6:4. Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.
Jeremiah 10:10. But the Lord is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.

Thomas Watson tells us in his Body of Divinity, That there is a God has been proved; and those that will not believe the verity of his essence, shall feel the severity of his wrath. 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord' (Deut. 6:4). He is 'the only God.' 'Know therefore this day, and consider it in thy heart, that the Lord he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath, there is none else' (Deut. 4:39). 'A just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me' (Is. 45:21). There are many titular gods. Kings represent God; their regal sceptre is an emblem of his power and authority. Judges are called gods. 'I have said, Ye are gods' (Ps. 82:6); viz., set in God's place to do justice; but dying gods. 'Ye shall die like men' (verse 7). 'There be that are called gods, but to us there is but one God' (1 Cor. 8:5, 6).
I. There is but one First Cause that has its Being of itself, and on which all other beings depend. As in the heavens, the primum mobile moves all the other orbs, so God gives life and motion to everything that exists. There can be but one God, because there is but one First Cause.
II. There is but one infinite Being, therefore there is but one God. There cannot be two infinites. 'Do not I fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord' (Jer. 23:24)? If there be one infinite, filling all places at once, how can there be any room for another infinite to subsist?
III. There is but one Omnipotent Power. If there be two Omnipotents, then we must always suppose a contest between these two: that which one would do, the other power, being equal, would oppose, and so all things would be brought into confusion. If a ship should have two pilots of equal power, one would be ever crossing the other; when one would sail, the other would cast anchor; there would be confusion, and the ship must perish. The order and harmony in the world, or the constant and uniform government of all things, is a clear argument that there is but one Omnipotent, one God that rules all. 'I am the first, and I am the last, and beside me there is no God' (Is. 44:6).
Use one: Of information: (1) If there be but one God, then it excludes all other gods. Some have feigned that there were two gods; as the Valentinians: others, that there were many gods; as the Polytheists. The Persians worshipped the sun; the Egyptians the lion and elephant; the Grecians worshipped Jupiter. These 'err, not knowing the Scriptures' (Matt. 22:29). Their faith is a fable. 'God hath given them up to strong delusions, to believe a lie, that they may be damned' (2 Thess. 2:11).
(2) if there be but one God, then there can be but one true religion in the world. 'One Lord, one faith' (Eph. 4:5). If there were many gods, then there might be many religions. Every God would be worshipped in his way; but if there be but one God, there is but one religion; one Lord, one faith. Some say, we may be saved in any religion; but it is absurd to imagine that God who is One in essence, should appoint several religions in which he will be worshipped. It is as dangerous to set up a false religion, as to set up a false god. There are many ways to hell; men may go thither which way their fancy leads them; but there is only one direct road to heaven, viz., faith and holiness. There is no way to be saved but this. As there is but one God, so there is but one true religion.
(3) If there be but one God, then there is but One whom you need chiefly to study to please, and that is God. If there were divers gods, we should be hard put to it to please them all. One would command one thing, another the contrary; and to please two contrary masters is impossible: but there is only one God. Therefore you have but One to please. As in a kingdom there is but one king, therefore every one seeks to ingratiate himself into his favour (Prov. 19:6), so there is but one true God; therefore our main work is to please him. Be sure to please God, whoever else you displease. This was Enoch's wisdom. He had this testimony before he died, that 'he pleased God' (Heb. 11:5).

Alexander Whyte explains further, Having given us our Lord's definition or description of what God is, and having supplemented that definition by gathering round it a cluster of His scriptural attributes, the Catechism proceeds to ask, God being such, "Are there more Gods than one?" And the answer is made, "There is but One only, the living and true God." "Thus," says an eminent teacher of Christian truth, "we must ever commence in all our teaching concerning the Holy Trinity: we must not begin by saying that there are Three, and then go on to say afterwards that there is One, lest we give false notions of the nature of that One; but we most begin by laying down the great truth that there is One God, in a simple and strict sense, and then go on to speak of Three, which is the way in which the mystery was progressively revealed in Scripture. In the Old Testament we read of the Unity; in the New, we are enlightened in the knowledge of the Trinity." The Old Testament taught that "God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth." The unity and spirituality of God formed the article of a standing or falling Church in that early dispensation of grace and truth.
One only—"The words ‘one' and ‘only,' ascribed to God in Scripture, are not used in contrast to the Son or the Holy Spirit, but rather with reference to those who are not God, and are falsely called so" (Basil). "One," in this connection, is not used in the sense of numeration; it points to an absolute aloneness rather than to plurality and accumulation. This has been called a transcendental unity, or the oneness of what is indivisible. Thus it has been said: "To apply arithmetical notions to God is as unphilosophical as profane. . . He is not One in the way in which created things are severally units; for one, as applied to ourselves, is used in contrast to two or three and a whole series of numbers. But God has not even such relation to His creatures as to allow, philosophically speaking, of our contrasting Him with them" (Newman's Grammar of Assent). "Our divines, therefore, reckon not God, in point of arithmetic, together with us. They cast not God and us into the same numbering. They suffer not creatures to bear or sustain the repute or account of numbers after Him, or when He is spoken of. They say of Him that He is unicus [unique], the only One, who stands apart by Himself, out of all arithmetic, as His transcendent being comes not under our logic" (Goodwin). The living and true God. Living in the supreme sense of having life in Himself and thus being the Fountain of life to all His creatures. "For in Him we live, and move, and have our being." "No name is so free from the taint of anthropomorphism, or of anything incongruous and degrading, as the living God" (Goldwin Smith, Bystander, ii. 141). And true as distinguished from all false gods. This doctrine of God was the ground of all the prophetical preaching and controversy in the Old Testament. "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord" (see Q. 44). And Paul, treating of things offered to idols, made a restatement of this fundamental position of the Hebrew and Christian faith: "We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. To us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in Him."
Quoted from A Commentary on the Shorter Catechism.

I've never liked and always thought unbiblical, and indeed they are, the analogies to water+ice+steam, a three leaf clover and all the other likenesses that attempt to explain the Trinity. We cannot understand it in our finiteness, why try to? It is 3 and 1 at the same time, 100% of the time. Truly it is one of the wonderful mysteries we must accept on faith. And quite faithfully, we do.

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