How can we argue for the uniqueness of a God-like entity?


(I have in mind here, something similar to "uniqueness" proofs in math. I think if we want to name something, we should show both that it exists and is unique.)

(By "divine attributes", I mean attributes like omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, all-loving, eternal, unchanging, necessarily existing, being worthy of worship, being the first cause or being the cause/ground of everything else, and so on. Of course, some theists of different stripes may disagree about whether God possesses all or only some of these attributes, and exactly how each attribute should be defined.)

(By "God-like entity", I mean something that possesses some of the divine attributes.)

Some background: I was discussing with a friend yesterday about various arguments for the existence of God. We agreed that each of the arguments, if successful, establishes the existence of an entity which possesses some of the divine attributes. For example, we might say that some versions of the cosmological argument establish the existence of an entity that necessarily exists, is immaterial, and acts as some kind of first cause or ground of material or contingent beings. Likewise, some versions of the design argument might establish the existence of an intelligence that "guides" or plans the state and laws of the physical world. And the moral argument, if successful, shows the existence of an entity that is the ground of moral truths and goodness. (Whatever, the exact arguments and what they show aren't particularly relevant to the main question that I'm about to ask. Just that they purport to show the existence of an entity that possesses some of the divine attributes.) But how might we go about showing that all of these entities that each argument argues for, are in fact the same one entity? Or, how might we try to show that there can be at most one God-like entity?

Another weaker way to phrase it: Are there any arguments that try to show that for some of the divine attributes, there can't be distinct entities that possess some combination of those attributes. For example, arguments that show things like for any x and any y, if x is omnipotent and y is omniscient, then x must be identical with y. An example I kind of sketched to my friend, but don't know how to argue for properly, is that there cannot be two distinct omnipotent beings. Intuitively, I feel that they would "encroach" upon each others omnipotence, but I don't know how to make this point precise.

Adam Sharpe

Posted 2019-02-14T18:36:47.933

Reputation: 3 594

"if we want to name something, we should show both that it exists and is unique." But why? Let's say there are two god-like beings up there. What is logically wrong with giving one of them a name? – None – 2019-02-14T18:59:36.063

Oh, nothing is wrong with that. I just mean if "God" is like a proper name and not just a description, it should name one thing. Like constants in first order logic or math. But there's technically nothing wrong with picking one of the objects and calling it "God". Or calling them all gods, where here "gods" functions more like a predicate than a name ("it is God" vs "it is a god"). My second sentence was a bit frivolous anyways, because there may be non-referring names, and so on. But my second sentence is also not really essential to my main question :) – Adam Sharpe – 2019-02-14T19:18:22.467


Possible duplicate of Why can there only be one necessary being, as opposed to two or thirty seven?

– Conifold – 2019-02-14T19:23:44.537

1Unless you pack enough "super" attributes into a single entity, as is done in monotheistic religions, you can not argue for a single god, polytheism always had multiple ones. Even Christian gnostics had evil Creator in addition to the benevolent "true" God. Arguments for the existence of God are all abductive, they argue that there has to be X (necessary being, sum of all perfections, etc.) to explain some things, and then bring in God as the "best" explanation. Non-uniqueness is inherent in such arguments, the "best" is only the best until a better one is offered. – Conifold – 2019-02-14T19:30:49.350

I remember some answer to some question that two such entities would use their powers to restric each others powers and then they could not be omnipotent. Can't remember what the question was though. – rus9384 – 2019-02-14T20:47:35.230

@rus9384 however, that relies on an assumption (or axiom?) that there has to be a truly omnipotent being. This may be disputed; there certainly might be a god-like entity that has god-like powers and is fulfilling certain god-like roles e.g. creation of the universe, creation of life, sustaining of life, managing of souls and afterlife, performing the eventual end of the world, etc, without being truly and unrestrictedly omnipotent. If you assume that there's an omnipotent being who can do anything and no other being can restrict it, then it must be unique, but that's just circular reasoning. – Peteris – 2019-02-16T18:25:35.523

Interesting question. The question of God's existence might not matter here.since your question would apply to definitions of God whether or not He exists. It seems to me you are proscribing the nature of the Ultimate and noticing that there is no way to define the Ultimate that makes sense to our ordinary way of thinking. It is complicated by the fact that beyond monotheism the word 'God' often refers to a phenomenon that has exactly this property. – None – 2019-02-17T16:05:10.030

It's a bit surprising that any literate person would have trouble understanding the meaning of omnipotent. And as a noun, it actually means God. My point is, omnipotent suggests that there can only be one. If there were more than one 'omnipotent' being, then neither would be omnipotent. – Bread – 2019-02-17T17:58:35.943



You can go to Aquinas if you want deductive arguments like that. I recomend Edward Feser's books for some introduction to the theme.

Probably you want some theorem like "there is only one omnipotent being". Well, supose we had two omnipotent beings A and B. Since they are different there is something that A can do and B cannot. This is impossible, because if A can do X, this makes X something that is possible in principle, and B cannot do something that is possible in principle, so B is not omnipotent. This is a contradiction.


Posted 2019-02-14T18:36:47.933

Reputation: 383

1In the classical theism, we have a "simple" God, that is to say that the attributes in God are "the same thing", they are convertible in one another, this is why you can make a point to uniqueness. If you use a more modern view, a more personalistic view of God, then i think is difficult to see why there is only one being with some characteristic. There is another point, this things could be "the same" in God, just because of the analogical way we talk about then and not in a univocal sense, for a classical theist, the personalist view is anthropomorphic. – LAU – 2019-02-17T13:04:47.980

LAU, that's a good point. There can't be any two nonidentical simple beings that share a property, by transitivity of identity together with the fact that simple beings are identical to their properties. If we assume that simplicity is itself a property had by simple beings, that means there can only be one simple being at all. Unfortunately, I don't think simplicity is established in the context of the OP. – Ben W – 2019-02-17T15:24:45.173

Surely if we have two omnipotent beings, then each could remove the other from existence. Then we would have only one, or with excellent timing none. On the other hand, being omnipotent means they can prevent themselves from being wiped out, so the other isn't omnipotent after all. On the gripping hand, being omnipotent means one such being can create another one, and then we have two. – gnasher729 – 2019-02-22T12:46:45.497

i don't think that a Omnipotent being could do everything, like a round square or in this case a necessary being, like we think in the classical theism. This is why i used the "possible" term, i think that one have to be careful in this point. – LAU – 2019-02-23T21:03:22.657

1Sorry for my long delay in continuing the discussion! Thanks for your answer. I've actually stumbled across Edward Feser's blog recently, and found some of his posts really really interesting (as far as I can understand them, that is - typically it seems a lot (maybe all?) of his arguments depend on premises taken from his Thomistic metaphysics, and they can seem sort of cryptic without a proper study, I think). I'll probably check out some of his books eventually though. – Adam Sharpe – 2019-03-11T21:30:40.113

You write "Well, suppose we had two omnipotent beings A and B. Since they are different there is something that A can do and B cannot." I'm having trouble with this point. What exactly is it that one can do that the other cannot? – Adam Sharpe – 2019-03-11T21:32:01.020

i'm assuming the simplicity of the omnipotent being. So, in this case to exist two distinct beings one need at least one difference between then, otherwise they are identical, they are the same being. This is why i have the conclusion that there is something one can do and the other not. – LAU – 2019-03-11T22:13:20.210

Ah okay, got it. – Adam Sharpe – 2019-03-12T15:56:34.740


All these attributes (omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, all-loving, eternal, unchanging, necessarily existing etc) carry the meaning all, ever, never, always etc plus some ideas. These terms indirectly imply that each god is never ready to handover his own attribute at least a little.

Let us assume that each god has only one particular attribute. If we find a little of these attribute in somewhere else, that attribute must be nobody else's other than god's. Otherwise we will have to conclude that the same attribute is some other entity's/god's. If this about the attribute of god 'A', this degrades god 'A' and enhances god 'B', 'C' or 'D' (or some other god who has any of the attribute you mentioned)). Because 'B', 'C', or 'D' gets one more attribute than we assumed. And this makes our assumption or usage meaningless.

Each god becomes helpless and their attributes become useless if you assume that each one has only one particular attribute and there is no connection with each other or other attributes.

All these imply each god is not different entities. Or the entities that has no connection with each other, as we assumed, is not God. If there is God, that which coordinates all these entities/attributes can only be called God and that 'God must be/is unique'.

If you go further you will understand the meaning of this mantra: Isavasyam idam sarvam yat kim ca jagatyam jagat


Posted 2019-02-14T18:36:47.933

Reputation: 2 594


Because you are referring to mathematics: Before attempting to prove the uniqueness of an object with certain properties, one should verify the existence of at least one such object.

Of course existence in mathematics is different from existence in religion.

Nevetherless, as long as the existence of at least one God-like entity has not been verified, one should first prove that the concept is free from contradictions. The latter is a difficult task. It has to meet all the objections which Leibniz already in his work "Théodicée" tried to rebut.

Jo Wehler

Posted 2019-02-14T18:36:47.933

Reputation: 17 204

3This isn't really an answer to the question; I recommend you either delete it or re-post it as a comment. Besides, I don't think you are correct anyway. Even supposing we are unable to show to our mutual satisfaction that a god-like being exists, why shouldn't we show that such an being would be unique if it did exist? You may not find such questions interesting (neither do I) but that's an entirely different matter. – Ben W – 2019-02-16T19:54:52.313

1@Ben W You are right! The answer is my advice: Do not wrestle with questions which cause any headaches, before ensuring that the concept of the question is not empty :-) – Jo Wehler – 2019-02-16T20:04:20.367


One way of arguing for there being only one entity with the before mentioned attributes is using the idea of Occam's razor. While that in itself doesn't mean it is so, it supports the idea.

And if one is to hypothesize about a multitude of entities, one would need to ask questions far beyond our ability to answer. For example, is there a limit to how many? Do these entities work together or compete? Are they all eternal, or were some of them created by the other(s)? You end up with a bunch of questions that, outside of divine revelation, will only needlessly complicate the discourse.

And in the end, you are met with the same question/dilemma: Something/someone has to have existed forever, or outside of the space-time continuum, thereby being uncreated and eternal. No beginning or no end, since no time means no progression of one state to another. So you have to begin with something that is presupposed. And Occam's razor hints to this being a singular being.


Posted 2019-02-14T18:36:47.933

Reputation: 109


Doesn't it depend on the respects are in which a creature is (not God but) Godlike? A Godlike being cannot have all the attributes of God. It is similar to God in respect of having certain of God's attributes, or it would not be Godlike but it also does not have some of the attributes of God or has extra attributes, otherwise it would be (a?) God. Until it's specified wherein the likeness and the difference consist, I don't see how we can say whether the Godlike creature would be, contingently or necessarily, unique.

Geoffrey Thomas

Posted 2019-02-14T18:36:47.933

Reputation: 34 276