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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Did/does Baal exist? More on Elijah at Mt. Carmel

A person, choosing to remain anonymous, commented on my recent post about Elijah and the encounter at Mt. Carmel as follows:

You stated that, "Probably being sacrificed, even to a non-existent god, defiled a bull for sacrifice to the God of Israel." My question is in regards to the "non-existent god." Do you think monotheism is a) the belief that only one God physically (or I suppose "spiritually" would be a better word) exists, and that all other "gods" are nothing more than imagined beings, or b) the belief that there is one God who alone is holy, righteous, and worthy of worship, who is greater than all other "gods" and is the creator of all other "gods" just as He is the creator of everything else?

I know that option "a" is the traditional answer (or at least that it has been traditional for most of church history) but do you think there is reason enough in the Bible to consider option "b" as being valid? A couple of points off the top of my head - the commandment "have no other gods before me." Sort of an easy one to stick to if no other gods exist, right? The name "most high God" (Daniel 5.18). If there is a "most high" God, doesn't that seem to imply that there are also "less high" gods? Throughout Scripture the term "god" or "gods" is used as though such "lesser gods" do physically/spiritually exist (Psalm 97.7-9). Perhaps we typically call them angels or demons (2 Cor 4.4 - Satan = "the god of this world") and its just a matter of semantics? What do you think?

An interesting book on this subject is God at War by Gregory A. Boyd.

Thanks for your comment. Actually, I thought, as I posted the phrase "non-existent god," that perhaps I ought to have been more careful and precise, but wasn't. Sorry.

Obviously, what I think on this particular question is of limited interest--I am not an authority in this area. However, what the Bible says about it should be of broad interest. As the commenter points out, the Bible seems to indicate that there really are spiritual beings who have power. Although the Bible also seems to teach that physical idols were totally impotent (for example, Dagon, "god" of the Philistines) that doesn't mean that spirits who might have responded to idol worship might not have existed, and have had some limited power. The New Testament indicates, in Ephesians 6:12, that there are spiritual beings with powers.

In other words, I'm not sure that Baal is or was non-existent. Perhaps some evil spirit, called Baal, inspired Baal-worship, and, for all I know, performed miracles in the name of Baal. If some evil spirit was Baal, then it certainly was impotent in the face of the One God of the Hebrews, and should never have been, or be, worshipped. In other words, if I had to vote, I would vote b.

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