Are There One or Many Gods? Do Deuteronomy 6:4, Isaiah 43:10, 44:6, 8 Contradict Christian Monotheism?

There is one God who exists in three persons. No contradiction.
Bible "contradictions"

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The argument

Some argue that the Bible is contradictory concerning whether there are one or three Gods. Here are the relevant passages:

There is only one God

Deuteronomy 6:4 - Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
Isaiah 43:10b - ...Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.
Isaiah 44:6 - ... besides me there is no god
Isaiah 44:8 - ... Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.

There are many Gods

Genesis 1:26 - Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness..."
Genesis 3:22 - Then the Lord God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil..."
Genesus 11:7 - Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech.
1 Corinthians 8:5 - For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"...
1 John 5:8 - the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.

The answer

There is only one God

Foundationally, there is only one God, as Deuteronomy 6:4, Isaiah 43:10, Isaiah 44:6, and Isaiah 44:8 state.

Other "gods" are false gods that do not truly exist

When the Bible speaks of other "gods," it is speaking of false gods that do not exist, as demonstrated by the following passages:

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. (Galatians 4:8)
...and have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. (Isaiah 37:19)
Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? (Jeremiah 2:11a)

Possibilities concerning the Genesis passages

In Genesis, when it refers to God using the words, "us" and "our," there are two reasonable possibilities that do not contradict the doctrine that there is only one God.

  1. The plural pronouns could point towards the doctrine of the Trinity, which states that the one God exists in three "persons," or that God is one in substance and three in person, which is not a contradiction. There is a distinction between "substance" and "person."
  2. The plural pronouns could be a "royal we." Sometimes, the pronoun "we" is used to refer to a king or monarch.

God is one in substance and three in person

1 John 5:8 points towards the doctrine of the Trinity, which teaches that the one Godhead exists in three persons. In other words, there is a sense in which God is one, and there is another sense in which God is three.

God is one in the sense that He is one in substance. God is three in the sense that He exists in three "persons": 1) the Father, 2) the Son, and 3) the Holy Spirit.

The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct in that each one is the "terminating front-person" for the various acts of God. In other words, while the entire Godhead performs all the actions of God (since God is one), the different things that God does is generally "attributed" to one of the persons of God. This is what we mean when we say that a particular person of God is the "terminating front-person" for a particular action of God.

"I don't buy that explanation"

Some people have trouble accepting possible explanations to alleged contradictions in the Bible, especially ones that they consider a stretch. For example, Dan Barker, president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, says this:

I have received numerous replies from Christians who think that these contradictions are either trivial or easily explained. Yet not a single "explanation" has been convincing.

Fact vs Opinion

The fact is that there are plausible explanations for every alleged contradiction in the Bible. That there is a plausible explanation for an alleged contradiction does not mean that it is definitely the correct explanation for the alleged contradiction.

However, as long as a possible explanation has been suggested, then it has been objectively demonstrated that there is no necessary contradiction regarding the Bible verses and passages brought up.

When people like Dan Barker say that they don't find a particular explanation for a contradiction "convincing," then that is merely their opinion. A plausible explanation has been suggested that eliminates the necessary alleged contradiction. They simply don't like it, which is not at all a relevant argument against the explanation.

Additional Resources

To read more about solutions to Bible contradictions and difficulties, check out Norman Geisler's The Big Book of Bible Difficulties: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation. While we do not agree with some of Geisler's theology, particularly concerning his view of predestination, this book is still an excellent resource. It is thorough and filled with research.

Another book to check out is Tim Chaffey's Demolishing Supposed Bible Contradictions: Exploring Forty Alleged Contraditions, which also answers many alleged contradictions in the Bible.

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