Monotheism, the conviction that there is only one God who has created the world, is fundamental to the Christian and Reformation doctrine of God. Furthermore, biblical monotheism asserts that the one creator God is not some generic deity but is rather Yahweh, the personal covenantal Lord of Israel (Isa. 45:5). Even though other religions such as Islam are monotheistic, the one god they worship is not the God proclaimed in Christian theology. Only that God, the God of the Bible, is God.
However, the fact that there is only one God does not entail that the other beings called “gods” in Scripture are unreal. What does this mean? First, we have to note that many passages of Scripture seem to speak of gods as being nothing. Today’s passage, for example, says “all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols” (1 Chron. 16:25–26). Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 8:4 that “an idol has no real existence.” Yet these texts do not mean that there are not actual beings behind the idols or the deities we find in non-Christian religions. Instead, these passages mean that the other gods worshiped on this planet are not God in the true and proper sense. They are not the real God, the Creator who made all things. After all, “the Lord made the heavens” (1 Chron. 16:26), not any of the other beings worshiped in non-Christian religions. Those so-called gods are pretenders to the throne of the Almighty.
Second, the Bible reveals that while other gods are not God in a real sense, they do have a real existence as supernatural beings. “What pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God” (1 Cor. 10:20). Biblical monotheism affirms the existence of a supernatural realm of angels who serve God and demons who are worshiped under such names as Krishna, Baal, and even Allah (when Muslims use the name). Yet the God of the Bible is not one among equals in this realm; rather, He stands outside and above it as its Creator, just as He stands outside and above the natural world. The Lord God of Israel is “most high over all the earth . . . exalted far above all gods” (Ps. 97:9).
These other “gods” exercise a tyrannical rule over their subjects, enslaving them to fear and uncertainty. If one does not serve the sovereign God over all, one cannot be sure that one’s god can be of true help in a time of need. Another rival god might be stronger. But those who turn from the false gods to serve the one true God through Jesus Christ are released from such slavery (Gal. 4:8–9).