God's Word For You is a free Bible Study site committed to bringing you studies firmly grounded in the Bible – the Word of God. Holding a reformed, conservative, evangelical perspective this site affirms that God has provided in Jesus Christ his eternal Son, a way of salvation in which we can live in his presence guilt free, acquitted and at peace.



©Rosemary Bardsley 2023

When Genesis 1:1 states ‘In the beginning God …’ this immediately raises the question ‘Which God?’ making it necessary for us to discover who it is that the Bible is talking about here. The same question hovers over the concept of the goodness of God. Which God are we talking about when we talk about ‘the goodness of God’?

In ‘the west’, post-modernism, with its accompanying relativism, subjectivism and loss of absolutes, has made the word ‘god’ a meaningless term, in which there is no fixed content, no common meaning, no clear definition, and no absolute truth or reality. For the Postmodern mind, ‘god’ can be whatever or whoever you want ‘god’ to be. And it doesn’t matter, because, for the Postmodern mind, all ‘gods’ are merely ideas constructed by human thought and have no real, objective existence.

When the Bible (and we as Christians) speak of ‘God’, it does so in direct contrast to and in clear distinction from this relativistic Postmodern mindset. It also does so in direct contrast to and in clear distinction from all other ‘gods’. The Bible challenges human ‘god’ concepts on at least four different levels:

The twisted and varied concepts of God that began with Satan’s lies and the human rejection of God in Genesis 3 and diversified and spread throughout the world in the aftermath of the confusion of languages in Genesis 11.

The rise of major world religions and multiple cults.

The denial of anything supernatural that has escalated since the 1800s.

The personalized, subjective, concepts of ‘god’ that have resulted from the Postmodern denial of the existence of absolute truth.

Even in the Christian churches are many people, either nominal Christians, or Christians whose faith and knowledge of God are not grounded in the Bible as the authoritative Word of God, there is a range of ‘god’ concepts, in which people perceive God quite differently from the God who has spoken in the Scripture.


The following ‘isms’ identify a range of worldviews in which there are differing human understandings of the word ‘god’:

Agnosticism: Belief that it is not possible to know if there is a ‘god’, or to know ‘god’ even if there is a ‘god’ there.

Animism: Belief that spirits/gods inhabit all natural objects, and fear of these spirits.

Atheism: Belief that there is no such thing as ‘god’.

Deism: Belief that there is a God, but he is not involved in the world. He is a ‘hands-off’ god.

Determinism: Belief that everything, including what we do, is pre-determined by a range of factors/forces.

Dualism: [Type 1] Belief that God and Satan are equal powers.

Dualism: [Type 2] belief that God and ‘matter’ are both eternal – have both always existed.

Fatalism: Belief that there is a God, and that he has predetermined everything that happens.

Henotheism: Belief in local gods [a polytheistic belief, in which each ‘god’ or a number of ‘gods’ have power over a limited geographical area]; often included is the concept that each ‘god’ rules a specific part of nature.

Materialism [also called Naturalism]: Belief that ‘matter’ – the natural, physical world - is all there is. There is no spiritual dimension.

Monism: Belief that all is one.

Monotheism: Belief in one god. Note that Judaism, Islam and Christianity are all monotheistic. However, this does not infer that they all have the same concept of God.

Panentheism: Belief that ‘god’ is in everything.

Pantheism: Belief that all is god. [Including concepts like ‘mother earth’, ‘cosmic mind’ etc.] Often combined with monism.

Polytheism: Belief in many gods.

Secular humanism: Belief that man is the centre of all things; there is no god, no spiritual dimension.

Spiritism: Belief in, communication with, and worship/fear of the spirits.

Theism: This term usually refers to belief in a personal God who is involved in the world, as distinct from deism.

Discussion questions: Which of the above perceptions of ‘god’ …
Express the biblical perspective?

Are current beliefs in your culture?


Are the most common mindsets in contemporary Western culture?


In which of these belief systems/mindsets/worldviews is ‘god’ actually good?


Do you personally struggle to remove from your thinking? And why is that difficult?





The God who has revealed himself in the Bible is not to be confused with our various human concepts of ‘god’.

Here is a powerful quote from Christian theologian Karl Barth:

‘We must be clear that when we are speaking of God in the sense of Christian faith, He who is called God is not to be regarded as a continuation and enrichment of the concepts and ideas which usually constitute religious thought in general about God. In the sense of Christian faith, God is not to be found in the series of gods. He is not to be found in the pantheon of human piety and religious inventive skill. So it is not that there is in humanity something like a universal natural disposition, a general concept which we Christians call God and as such believe in and confess; so that Christian faith would be one among many, an instance within a general rule. A Christian Father once rightly said that Deus non est in genere, “God is not a particular instance within a class”.

When we Christians speak of ‘God’, we may and must be clear that this word signifies a priori the fundamentally Other, the fundamental deliverance from that whole world of man’s seeking, conjecturing, illusion, imagining and speculating. It is not that on the long road of human seeking and longing for the divine a definite stopping-place has in the end been reached in the form of the Christian Confession. The God of the Christian Confession is, in distinction from all gods, not a found or invented God or one at last and at the end discovered by man; He is not a fulfilment, perhaps the last, supreme and best fulfilment, of what man was in course of seeking and finding.

But we Christians speak of Him who completely takes the place of everything that elsewhere is usually called ‘God’, and therefore suppresses and excludes it all, and claims to be alone the truth. Where that is not realised, it is still not realised what is involved when the Christian Church confesses, “I believe in God”. What is involved is man’s meeting with the reality which he has never of himself sought out or first of all discovered. “What no eye hath seen nor ear heard, what hath not entered into the heart of any man, God hath given to those who love Him”, is St. Paul’s way of speaking of this matter. And there is no other way in which we can speak of it. God in the sense of the Christian Confession is and exists in a completely different way from that which is elsewhere called divine. And so His nature, His being is different from the nature and being of all alleged gods.’ [Dogmatics in Outline, p35,36]

Discussion questions:
How does Barth contrast the God of the Bible from everything else that is called ‘god’?


Which of Barth’s statements best help you to understand that the God of the Bible is the only God?


How do Barth’s statements challenge your ideas of God?


How difficult is it for you to hold this exclusive concept of God in your culture today?


What Barth is saying about God can be expressed in one word: holy. The key meaning of ‘holy’ is ‘set apart’ – distinct, unique, one of a kind.

From the very beginning, the Bible reveals a God who is the only God (that is, the unique, holy God), and we will be looking further at that in the next study . From the very beginning, the Bible challenges us to believe in and hold fast to the God who alone is God. In the Old Testament, this call to believe in this God is a call away from idols and away the occult. In the New Testament, the God who alone is God is given precise and clear definition: he is the God we see and know by seeing and knowing Jesus Christ. The New Testament challenges us to believe that Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, is the Almighty God.

Bible study question: How do these Old Testament verses call us away from idols and/or the occult (or any false concept of ‘god’) to faith in the one true God?

Exodus 20:3 – 6

Deuteronomy 6:13 – 15

Deuteronomy 18:9 – 13

Joshua 24:14 – 20

Isaiah 44:6 – 8

Isaiah 46:5 – 10

Jeremiah 2:10 – 13

Ezekiel 14:1 – 6

Bible study question: How do these New Testament verses teach that we know the one true God by seeing and knowing Jesus Christ?

Matthew 11:27

John 1:18

John 12:44, 45

John 14:6 – 9

1John 5:20, 21


It is this God, the God of the Bible, who claims to be the only God, whom we are talking about when we talk of the goodness of God.


Review questions:
[1] In what ways has this study helped you to understand why people think the way they do?



[2] In what ways did Karl Barth’s statements help you to understand more fully what it means that the God of the Bible is actually the only real God?



[3] How do the Bible verses in this study challenge or confirm the concept of ‘God’ that you have in your heart and mind?