Other gods...how to respond?

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A non-Christian recently asked me about the first commandment. They said the first commandment doesn’t disallow for other gods, just gods that were put before God. So their argument was that polytheism is okay as long as God is the main God, and the other gods are lesser. I don’t agree with this, but I didn’t exactly know how to respond. Any help would be appreciated.
 
The 10 commandents were given to the Israelites, a people who were to be led by God to dwell in a land where they would be surrounded by peoples that worshipped numerous “gods.” These “gods” were only apparent, not real, i.e., false. Therefore, the Isrealites were not to worship these so-called gods because they were false (non-existent).
 
I suspect a serious lack of understanding of what God is and is not. There cannot be more than One God because He is Infinite. Infinite, as used here, is in its absolutely pure form. Infinite means without any limitation, no boundaries, no boarders, no separable parts, no potentialities to be anything else.

Our whole Universe displays constant change through the method of cause and effect. A good demonstration of that is a row of standing dominos. Knock the first one into the second and they all fall in sequence. That’s cause and effect. However, it is absolutely necessary that someone or something start the process by knocking the first domino. None of the dominos can fall by itself. This is our world, our Universe, our existance.

If we find the one who started the dominos to fall, and if that “cause” had no cause itself, then you have come to God. If that “starter” had a cause, then you must continue back until you find the First Cause, the Creator. There MUST be a First Cause, because the row of dominos cannot be infinite. If we assume the row is infinte, then there is no** first domino to fall**, therefore none of the dominos will fall. Anything infinite **cannot change ** because there is no first place to begin. If you want to imagine that the infinite rows of dominos already have dominos falling by cause and effect, how long will it take an infinite progression to reach you? The **answer is an infinite amount of time; therefore, it will never reach you.**The First Cause must be Infinite, which means it is the **First Cause ** of everything else, including the existence the the dominos and everything that exists.

More than one **Infinite Being ** is a contradiction. An Infinite Being has no limitations, no borders. If there was more than One God, then there would have to be a defining point where one begins and one ends. That limitation, by reason and logic, would eliminate either one, or any among the many, to be infinite, therefore none of them could be God.

God is the Uncaused First Cause, the Unmoved First Mover, the Absolutely Essential Being (whithout Whom nothing could exist), the Absolutely Perfect Being (everything that is must be derived from His Perfection), and God must be Absolute Intelligence (a mindless god is a contradiction, it could not cause anthing, that is, create.

I suggest reading the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas, starting with its narrative equivalent in **“A Companion To The Summa” ** by Father Walter Farrell. These are very long, multi-volume books, but the existence of God is addressed in the beginning.

Available online: op.org/farrell/companion
 
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neededausername:
A non-Christian recently asked me about the first commandment. They said the first commandment doesn’t disallow for other gods, just gods that were put before God. So their argument was that polytheism is okay as long as God is the main God, and the other gods are lesser. I don’t agree with this, but I didn’t exactly know how to respond. Any help would be appreciated.
The literal reading of the Hebrew from what I understand is “Thou shalt have no other gods before My face” or “in My presence.” The “before me” is not the best translation, IMHO. Some Bibles translate it “Thou shalt have none other gods but Me” (The old Book of Common Prayer) or “You shall have no other gods besides Me.” Also…

Isaiah 43:10-11 “You are my witnesses,” says the LORD, "and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am He. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior.

Isaiah 45:22 - " “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.”
 
Thank you all for your responses. Especially J_Chrysostomos. I apologize that I didn’t phrase my question in the best way possible. I should have just asked why the commandment reads “before” instead of “besides”. I swear I need to learn to Hebrew so I can figure what the Bible actually says. Again thank you all, and I look forward to being a part of this message board.

I didn’t really introduce myself, but I’m a 25 year old “cradle” Catholic, who hasn’t really been around the church much lately. I’m just now starting to get back into my faith, so I was happy to find this board.
 
Here are some quotes from the book of Isaiah that might help:

43:10 “You are my witnesses, says the Lord, my servants whom I have chosen to know nad believe in me and understand that is it I. Before me no god was formed, and after me there shall be none.”

44:6 “Thus says the Lord, Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord of hosts. * I am the first and the last, there is no God but me*.”

44:8 “Fear not, be not troubled, did I not announce and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses! * Is there a God or any Rock besides me*?”

44:24 “Thus says the Lord, your redeemer, who formed you from the womb. I am the Lord, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, when I spread out the earth, who was with me?”

45:22-23 “Turn to me and be safe, all you ends of the earth, for* I am God, there is no other*. By myself I swear, uttering my just decree and my unalterable word. To me every knee shall bend, by me every tongue shall swear.”
 
Very interesting Topic this is.

In the Old Testiment, it seems like there was ONE, and only ONE GOD, but when Jesus was praying to the Father in Heaven, like in the Garden prior to the Crucifiction, that we find that there is still the Father in Heaven. Interesting How there can be the ONE GOD and the Trinity at the same time. Its like Like Light being both a particle and a wave(wavelength and amount of light), like two different things being the SAME.
 
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Geocacher:
Very interesting Topic this is.

In the Old Testiment, it seems like there was ONE, and only ONE GOD, but when Jesus was praying to the Father in Heaven, like in the Garden prior to the Crucifiction, that we find that there is still the Father in Heaven. Interesting How there can be the ONE GOD and the Trinity at the same time. Its like Like Light being both a particle and a wave(wavelength and amount of light), like two different things being the SAME.
Christ revealed to us that He and the Father are One; and that He will send the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth, Who proceeds from the Father.

There can be no possible explaination of the Holy Trinity using physical, material examples. There are Three distinct Persons in One God. There can exist only One God because God is an Infinite Being. There **cannot be ** two infinites. Where one ends and the other begins becomes a FINITE condition. This is a Mystery which our minds cannot understand, but we have been given the capability to believe it through Faith.

Another Mystery which cannot be explained by material world rules is: the Christ Jesus is 100% God and 100% Man. He is not half and half, not a mixture or a blend. He is a Single Person and He is God and He is Man, the God-Man. Nowhere in our world can we find a single item that is 100% of this, AND 100% of that, at the same time. Another Mystery to be believed through Faith.
 
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neededausername:
Thank you all for your responses. Especially J_Chrysostomos. I apologize that I didn’t phrase my question in the best way possible. I should have just asked why the commandment reads “before” instead of “besides”. I swear I need to learn to Hebrew so I can figure what the Bible actually says. Again thank you all, and I look forward to being a part of this message board.

I didn’t really introduce myself, but I’m a 25 year old “cradle” Catholic, who hasn’t really been around the church much lately. I’m just now starting to get back into my faith, so I was happy to find this board.
Welcome!! 😃 Everyone else answered your questions, but I thought I’d direct you to a couple of threads where you could introduce yourself and learn about some of the others who are here. Regenhund started a poll (the little icon to the side looks like a sideways bar graph) I think the thread is labeled “Religion” under the Apologetics forum where people talk about their backgrounds. You’ll like the boards the people here are incredibly helpful. There’s another thread, I’m not sure where they moved it though(it might be under Miscellaneous), I think Scott started it asking what people’s usernames meant. If I find it I’ll come back and post that as well.
 
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neededausername:
A non-Christian recently asked me about the first commandment. They said the first commandment doesn’t disallow for other gods, just gods that were put before God. So their argument was that polytheism is okay as long as God is the main God, and the other gods are lesser. I don’t agree with this, but I didn’t exactly know how to respond. Any help would be appreciated.
This is the first time I’ve heard of this argument. However, that argument contradicts other passages of scripture itself, for instance:

*“See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.” Deuteronomy 32:39 *

_________________________

God Himself says there are no other gods aside Himself. Are we to argue with scripture itself?

Gerry 🙂
 
Roy Schoeman, in his new book “Salvation Is From The Jews” (Ignatius Press) makes the point that the “gods” of the pagan cultures surrounding the ancient Israelites were very real. However, they were not gods (by definition there is only one God), but demons, which accounted for the depraved nature of these religions. So the gods that the first commandment addresses would be the false “gods” of the pagans, which the Israelites were to shun.
I suggest reading the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas, starting with its narrative equivalent in “A Companion To The Summa” by Father Walter Farrell. These are very long, multi-volume books, but the existence of God is addressed in the beginning.
I don’t know if I’d recommend starting out with a heavyweight like St. Thomas and his Summa. I’d recommend instead Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacellis’s Handbook of Christian Apologetics. It does a very good job of explaining the proofs for God (and many other tough questions) in a readable manner.
 
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Geocacher:
Very interesting Topic this is.

In the Old Testiment, it seems like there was ONE, and only ONE GOD, but when Jesus was praying to the Father in Heaven, like in the Garden prior to the Crucifiction, that we find that there is still the Father in Heaven. Interesting How there can be the ONE GOD and the Trinity at the same time. Its like Like Light being both a particle and a wave(wavelength and amount of light), like two different things being the SAME.
An utter mystery, a complete understanding of which is beyond our human capacity to grasp. Only certain aspects of the Trinity can be understood, and then only incompletely. Yet this does not detract from the fact that Triune God is not the same as the multiple ‘gods’ of the pagan polytheistic religions, each of whom are neither omniscient, omnipotent or eternal.

To gain some insight into the mystery of the Trinity, we can for instance think of visible light. Light appears as simply white [a single color], yet a prism can break it down to its constituent colors which corresponds to different wavelengths, what we usually call the rainbow. Each color sharing the same characteristic of possessing “colorhood” with the others, yet when combined make up only one simple color [white].

Gerry 🙂
 
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Fidelis:
Roy Schoeman, in his new book “Salvation Is From The Jews” (Ignatius Press) makes the point that the “gods” of the pagan cultures surrounding the ancient Israelites were very real. However, they were not gods (by definition there is only one God), but demons, which accounted for the depraved nature of these religions. So the gods that the first commandment addresses would be the false “gods” of the pagans, which the Israelites were to shun.
St. Augustine of Hippo also deals with this extensively in City of God. I’ll have to admit, I had never even considered the possibility until I read Augustine, but I have found that it makes perfect sense. What better agent to pull men away from God than demons posing as gods? (I’m sure they found the worship quite pleasing too).
 
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