Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.” Mark 12:29-30NKJV
Question 8 of the Larger Catechism asks, “Are there more Gods than one?” It gives the answer, “There is but one only, the living and true God.” In longstanding Jewish tradition, every morning and evening, the faithful recite aloud Deut. 6:4 – what Jews call the “Shema,” – “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!” After so many centuries of God’s judgment, due in large part to their recurring polytheistic faith and practice, Jews from the return of the Babylonian captivity onwards wanted no parts of the worship of other gods! They had finally learned the lesson that other gods could not help them. Perhaps the most fundamental article of our faith is that God is one. Accordingly, in the Scripture verse at the head of this article, Jesus quotes the “Shema” when He was asked what is the greatest commandment?
Over a dozen times the Bible declares that the LORD is God and there is no other (see especially Isa. 45). All of the other gods worshiped by men, many of which are mentioned in the Bible, are false gods. They are idols, created by men for various reasons, but they are not real. They do not exist outside of the imaginations of those who dream them up. That is still true for all non-Christian religions today. “Allah,” the god of Islam, is not real. He was invented by Muhammad in the 7th century, AD. Likewise, Vishnu, the supreme god of Hinduism, is a creation of the minds of men. Though Vishnu’s fabrication greatly predates Allah’s, they are both equally false gods in that they do not actually exist in the real world. Perhaps the saddest creation of a false god is when 1st century Israel rejected Jesus as the Son of God while continuing to profess faith in the Lord. From that moment on non-Christian Jews substituted a false god for the real one. Thus, today’s Judaism is a false religion, worshipping a false Son-less god who does not exist.
Unlike idolatrous Muslims and modern Jews, the sin of ancient Israel was not that they substituted a false god for the real one, but that they worshiped other gods in addition to the Lord. Polytheism continues today not only in false religions like Hinduism, but some cultic Christian sects profess the existence of many gods. In Mormon teaching, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are held to be 3 gods, united in purpose and plan but not in being. Likewise, God the Father is believed to have once been a mortal like ourselves. And in the Mormon doctrine of salvation, those men who are, by their works, the best Mormons, attaining to the highest celestial sphere, will one day have the same relation to their dominions as God the Father has over this realm. The Catechism condemns all such polytheistic religions where it asserts of God that “there is but one only.”
In declaring that this one God is “the living and true God,” the Catechism is targeting monotheistic religions (like Islam and modern Judaism as mentioned above) and single essence philosophies. Deism and similar religions rightly teach that there is one god, but the god they declare is not the true God of the Bible. The Deistic god is impersonal. He is the creator of all things, but he is not involved in his creation. He is like the clockmaker who creates the clock, winds up the clock, but then moves on to something else while the clock operates more or less on its own. The Deistic god is similar to Aristotle’s “unmoved mover.” He is not involved in this world. He does not love His creation. He is not angry with sin. He simply is. In modern science, sometimes a single essence or substance like energy or matter – or even a non-entity like “chance” – is credited as being the source or cause of all things, and in effect becomes the mindless “god” (creator) of the universe. Such foolish notions are not too far from the popular science fiction of Star Wars, which attributed the creation and governing of all things to “the force!” In the midst of all of this darkness, the Catechism declares the simple truth of the Bible that there is only one God, who is both living and true. Take some time to worship Him today!