On the Unity of God

A reader asked me for my ruminations on the question of whether God was one or many, or how one knows that the God we worship is not the creature of some deeper and more hidden god, unknown to us.

I will here give a brief summary of the reasoning behind the argument for the unity of God. This is a brief summary only: whole volumes could (and have) been written to examine each step involved.

Let us start with the self-evident proposition that nothing comes from nothing.

No effect arises except from a cause sufficient to give rise to that effect. For if “nothing comes from nothing” were not true, anything could come from anything, and there were be no such thing as cause and effect, and we could not be having this conversation.

If this axiom were false, neither this conversation, nor any other, is possible. Bundles of thoughts and words that spring spontaneously out of chaos for no reason and which mean nothing cannot converse with each other.

Logic says that either cosmos was created or not created. (“cosmos” here means the whole of everything, seen or unseen, which suffers change and decay over time.)

If the cosmos were not created, either it has a beginning or not.

If it has a beginning, then before the cosmos was nothingness, and the nothingness had the power, acting by itself on itself, to bring the sum total of everything into being for no reason. This is violates our axiom that nothing comes from nothing.

And if it had no beginning, then no chain of cause and effect has an uncaused first cause to define any subsequent effect.

This is as impossible as seeing a line of train cars, each pulling the next, with no engine (an un-pulled first pull, so to speak) to grant motion to the whole.

For while each particular train car has a velocity imparted by the previous car, let us say 30 mph, there is no reason why the whole is moving at 30 mph and not 15 nor 60 mph. The velocity is simply “there”– a brute fact — that exists for no reason and comes from nowhere. It is an effect without a cause. Again, this violates our axiom.

Therefore the cosmos was created. Since nothing comes from nothing, creation cannot arise without a creator.

Human reason, when studying astronomy and physics and the like, tells us that the cosmos is a rational and orderly artifact.

Our poetic sense cannot help but see the beauties in nature as sublime as any work of art.

Our own eyes tell us the cosmos contains organisms whose parts are directed to serve certain ends, eyes for seeing, wings for flying, mouths for eating, et cetera.

Self-knowledge tells us of one organism, man, also has moral laws that should govern his behavior, whose authority all should recognize.

Since nothing comes from nothing, creation implies a creator. No reasoning can exist without a reasoner, no art without an artist, no deliberation without volition, no law without a legislator.

Since creation has a particular character, the creator must have a particular character. He is a “he” not an “it.”

Moreover, and paradoxically, the creator who created all things cannot create himself. Time can only be created and set in motion by a timeless being. The playwright penning the play cannot make his own act of writing the play a plot event inside the play, nor is he one of his own characters. The cosmic creator must therefore be uncreated, and transcendent to the cosmos.

If the creator is uncreated, he can suffer no change over time. Such a being cannot be imperfect, because there is no concept of perfection to which the unchanging can be compared to create imperfection. For example, we cannot improve the fact that twice two is four, nor can this fact decay, nor be made worse. A mathematically perfect circle cannot exist inside time and space, nor the moral law that forbids injustice. It is as it is, with no room for improvement.

Likewise, the creator can suffer from no lack nor lapse, no potential energy, no room for improvement. All actions by the creator therefore are timeless in their origin, even if they manifest inside time at different periods, somewhat like how various circular objects existing in particular times and places can approach, but never match, the timeless ideal of a mathematical circle, and take their properties from it.

Rationality in creation implies a rational creator: He thinks. Art in nature implies artistic creativity in the creator. He creates. Deliberation in nature, that is, things operating for an end, implies deliberation in the creator. He wills.

The legislation of moral laws implies a moral nature: he is righteous. The moral law, at its simplest, is a Golden Rule that one should not do to others what one should not want done to oneself.

This rule cannot be followed save by one who loves others as himself, nor could a just lawmaker make a law He does not follow Himself. Therefore, the Creator creates love, creates creatures able to love, and creates the moral order where love is both the requirement and the reward of love. The creator is love, and created creation out of love.

Since everything in the cosmos arises at his will and by his will, the Creator must know all there is that can be known. He is omniscient. For a similar reason, all events that happen, happen either by his will or by his permission. He is omnipotent.

This creator therefore has all the properties men ascribe to the Supreme Being, and so he is rightly called by the names Lord and God.

Turning next to your specific questions: we know the creator is one and not two or more because the one is omnipotent and omniscient, and there could not be two such beings, unless, perhaps, in some unimaginable way, they were bound together in one spirit, and shared the same nature. But that would be a mystery beyond what natural reason, unaided, could grasp.

Likewise, there cannot be two “first” causes. Either one is first and caused the other, or visa versa. That is what the word “cause” means. It is like asking whether there can be the number 1 on the number line, and then have a second number 1 on the same number line, which is not the same as the first number 1. It is a logical absurdity.

And if it were so, then the two creators create two of the whole set of everything that exists?

To have one superhuman being create a planet, or a galaxy, or a continuum of timespace, existing alongside a second superhuman being with equal powers of creation is imaginable.

To have two “everything-that-exists” is not.

If a second continuum existed alongside the first continuum, as we might imagine in a science fiction story involving time travel, then the pair together would be the cosmos, because both would exist and both would be a member of the set “everything-that-exists.”

Finally, and for the same reason, if something other than God were the real creator, this means that what we mistook for God was not the God, but a god, a powerful spirit-being pretending to be the creator, such as Uranus or Brahma or Bor, or some other human conception from the imagination, not what logic determines must exist.

Logic says that whatever the Creator is, He is omnipotent and omniscient love. That God is worthy of our respect and worship. We may and probably would have false notions or silly notions of what the Creator is like. Our only hope for truth would be if the Creator Himself, directly or indirectly, put agencies inside His creation to tell us of Him, that is, sending prophets, or incarnating Himself as a character in His own story of creation.

Which is precisely as the Christian teaching says He has done.