The question at hand leads directly back to an intriguing question of whether the God of the Bible is, in fact, the monotheistic source. Heretics, including some Gnostics, went so far as to accuse the IHVH deity of being a pretender.° This is not so entirely preposterous as modern Christians would pretend.
Originally Posted by SetiAlpha6
Consider, first, for comparison, polytheism. The notion of polytheism is an interesting one, and we call the members of those panthea (pantheons?) gods or deities in large part because it never really occurred to us—at least, on any serious level—to call them anything else. We might compare, then, the Greek and Roman panthea to Christian angelology°. Perhaps the most accessible work on angelology is Gustav Davidson's A Dictionary of Angels, which surveys as much of the literature as the author could find and compiles encyclopedic information about the nature of the angels. Some of the entries are fairly rich:
Gabriel ("God is my strength")—one of the 2 highest-ranking angels in Judaeo-Christian and Mohammedan religious lore. He is the angel of annunciation, resurrection, mercy, vengeance, death, revelation. Apart from Michael, he is the only angel mentioned by name in the old testament—unless we include among the Old Testament books the Book fo Tobit, usually considered apocryphal, in which case Raphael, who appears there, becomes the 3rd-named angel in Scripture (but see Gustav Davidson's article "The Named Angels in Scripture", wherein no less than 7 angesl are named). Gabriel presides over Paradise, and although he is the ruling prince of the 1st Heaven, he is said to sit ont he left-hand side of God (whose dwelling is popularly believed to be the 7th Heaven, or the 10th Heaven). Mohammed claims it was Gabriel (Jibril in Islamic) of the "140 pairs of wings" who dictated to him the Koran, sura by sura. To Mohammedans, Gabriel is the spirit of truth. In Jewish legend it was Gabriel who dealt death and destruction to the sinful cities of the plain (Sodom and Gommorah among them). And it was Gabriel who, according to the Talmud Sanhedrin 95b smote Sennacherib's hosts "with a sharpened scythe which had been ready since Creation." Elsewhere in Talmud it is Gabriel who, it is said, prevented Queen Vashti from appearing naked before King Ahasuerus and his guests in order to bring about the election of Esther in her place. In Daniel 8, Daniel falls on his face before Gabriel to learn the meaning of the encounter between the ram and the he-goat. The incident is pictured in a woodcut in the famous Cologne Bible. Cabalists identify Gabriel as "the man clothed in linen" (Ezekiel 9. 10ff.). In Daniel 10-11 this man clothed in linen is helped by Michael. In rabinnic literature, Gabriel is the prince of justice [Rf. Cordovero, Palm Tree of Deborah, p. 56] Origen in De Principiis I, 81, calls Gabriel the angel of war. Jerome equates Gabriel with Hamon (q.v.). According to Milton .... (Davidson, 117-119°)
And some of the entries are sparse:
Saraiel (Sariel)—governor of the sign of the Twins in the zodiac, at which post Saraiel is assisted by another genius (i.e., angel) named Sagras. [Rf. The Prince of Darkness, p. 177] (258)
While the assignation of such duties is composed chiefly by clerics and assorted crackpots (sorcerers, occult philosophers, &c.), the underlying principle requires that something bind these angels, such as Saraiel, to their duties. That underlying principle, naturally, is the authority of the IHVH deity. Indeed, one of my favorite fallen angels, Penemue°,
Instructed mankind in writing, "and thereby many sinned from eternity to eternity and until this day. For man was not created for such a purpose."—Enoch I, 7.8. Penemue also taught children the "bitter and sweet, and the secrets of wisdom. (349)
Only the authority of the legendary Creator, the IHVH deity, could decide the purpose of humankind, and delineate the duties of the angels.
Returning to the Greek and Roman panthea, we see a similar process at work. The Encyclopedia Mythica describes Apollo as,
... the god of music (principally the lyre, and he directed the choir of the Muses) and also of prophecy, colonization, medicine, archery (but not for war or hunting), poetry, dance, intellectual inquiry and the carer of herds and flocks. He was also a god of light, known as "Phoebus" (radiant or beaming, and he was sometimes identified with Helios the sun god). He was also the god of plague and was worshiped as Smintheus (from sminthos, rat) and as Parnopius (from parnops, grasshopper) and was known as the destroyer of rats and locust, and according to Homer's Iliad, Apollo shot arrows of plague into the Greek camp. Apollo being the god of religious healing would give those guilty of murder and other immoral deeds a ritual purification .... (Leadbetter)
Similarly, the EM (Tuccinardi°) describes Athena as, "the Greek goddess of wisdom, war, the arts, industry, justice and skill."
Why should Apollo's patronage of archery not include war? Why should war be the provenance of Athena? Do Apollo's ritual purifications of immoral deeds include those who fought in Athena's wars? Who makes all these rules? Again, the practical answer is the clerics and crackpots, the priests and priestesses, bards and philosophers of the time. Functionally, though, what holds authority over the gods?
And is that authority, that source, not an implicit assertion of a monotheistic power?
Steering back into the vicinity of the issue at hand, though, we might consider the question under the more general rubric of, Why did God make the Universe as He did?° Possible answers include all manner of philosophical and logical (my favorite is that chaos constrained reflects its boundaries°) to the purely fantastic (I recommend Steven Brust's To Reign in Hell°). However, as the redemptionist discussion tends to consider whether or not the cycle of sin and salvation was absolutely necessary according to God's will, the solutions inexorably focus on the question of whether or not God wanted humanity to fall, become infected with sin, and therefore exist in a state dependent on His Grace in order to fulfill His Will. And that, for people on both sides of the general argument, is where the whole proposition becomes untenable. The believers can scarcely bring themselves to admit that their faith is part of such a depraved racket. The infidels refuse the proposition that such a curse is a product of love. There is another possible answer, though: God could not have made things any differently. If God had wanted to, He would have made things differently. This proposition is poison to the faithful. If God could have made things differently, He would have. This proposition, also, is poison to the faithful.
The common dodge, that God is somehow ignorant when it comes to human nature, is downright silly. Perhaps it is a modern invention. In a December, 1648 sermon delivered to the British Parliament, Thomas Watson, pastor of St. Stephens, Walbrook, asserted as doctrine, "That the most secret cabinet-designs of man's heart are all unlocked and clearly anatomized before the Lord," that, "God knows our thoughts before we ourselves know them". In other words, God damn well knows what is going on.
This particular assertion of God, then, created the Universe such as it is either by a specific act of will that He so desired, or else according to the only way He could have made things. Being that the proposition of God's specific will so undermines the illusion of love in the offering of redemption, we must necessarily consider the possibility that God simply could not have brought about any other result.
But what could possibly limit God's will? To what law or authority does God respond?
One of the most infamous failures of logic in all theology is Anselm's Proslogion, which contains the following:
Therefore, Lord, you who give knowledge of the faith, give me as much knowledge as you know to be fitting for me, because you are as we believe and that which we believe. And indeed we believe you are something greater than which cannot be thought. Or is there no such kind of thing, for "the fool said in his heart, 'there is no God'" (Ps. 13:1, 52:1)? But certainly that same fool, having heard what I just said, "something greater than which cannot be thought," understands what he heard, and what he understands is in his thought, even if he does not think it exists. For it is one thing for something to exist in a person's thought and quite another for the person to think that thing exists. For when a painter thinks ahead to what he will paint, he has that picture in his thought, but he does not yet think it exists, because he has not done it yet. Once he has painted it he has it in his thought and thinks it exists because he has done it. Thus even the fool is compelled to grant that something greater than which cannot be thought exists in thought, because he understands what he hears, and whatever is understood exists in thought. And certainly that greater than which cannot be understood cannot exist only in thought, for if it exists only in thought it could also be thought of as existing in reality as well, which is greater. If, therefore, that than which greater cannot be thought exists in thought alone, then that than which greater cannot be thought turns out to be that than which something greater actually can be thought, but that is obviously impossible. Therefore something than which greater cannot be thought undoubtedly exists both in thought and in reality.
In fact, it so undoubtedly exists that it cannot be thought of as not existing. For one can think there exists something that cannot be thought of as not existing, and that would be greater than something which can be thought of as not existing. For if that greater than which cannot be thought can be thought of as not existing, then that greater than which cannot be thought is not that greater than which cannot be thought, which does not make sense. Thus that than which nothing can be thought so undoubtedly exists that it cannot even be thought of as not existing.
And you, Lord God, are this being. You exist so undoubtedly, my Lord God, that you cannot even be thought of as not existing. And deservedly, for if some mind could think of something greater than you, that creature would rise above the creator and could pass judgment on the creator, which is absurd. And indeed whatever exists except you alone can be thought of as not existing. You alone of all things most truly exists and thus enjoy existence to the fullest degree of all things, because nothing else exists so undoubtedly, and thus everything else enjoys being in a lesser degree. Why therefore did the fool say in his heart "there is no God," since it is so evident to any rational mind that you above all things exist? Why indeed, except precisely because he is stupid and foolish?
Perhaps the human endeavor is the result of the divine version of a drunken wager. After all, it seems so simple as to be, well, foolish. That than which nothing greater can be thought—to whom Anslem directs his sycophantic balbutive—is none other than the IHVH deity of the Bible, the very God who, it seems, may well be bound by some authority that prevents Him from doing anything differently. That anything could bind the IHVH would suggest that it is greater, except, as Anselm asserts, there can be nothing greater. Thus, God must have chosen, for some reason, to submit to such perverse terms when He otherwise would not have been so cruelly stupid about it. Sounds like a drunken wager to me.
Of course, it could be that the IHVH deity is a pretender. There well could be something greater than God. An unmoved mover, or unnamed namer. A blind and crawling chaos limited only by the relevant aspects of its manifestation. We can only perceive so much of the Universe, and therefore the gods we recognize will be constrained by the range of our senses and comprehension.
There is, I suppose, the proposition that it's all shite. That humans invent gods, and not the other way around. That whatever the hell is wrong with God is a reflection of the human condition. Unfortunately, that would make a whole lot of sense, which, as we know, is about as definitive an indicator as we can get that a given proposition is utterly and completely daft.
° accuse the IHVH deity of being a pretender — I'm going to leave this one unsourced in part because of the hour, and also because that's the problem with library books. I don't remember specifically when I picked up that assertion, although I'm estimating it was within the last couple years. I think I know where it comes from, but I am unsure. It will take me a while to confirm the source, so ... er ... yeah.
° angelology — You'd think, wouldn't you, that they could have found a better name for the study of angels? The study of devils, demonic agents, and fallen angels has a much cooler name, diabology.
° Davidson 117-119 — That's not quite half the entry.
° Penemue — A legend according to the Book of Jubilees, also included in Genesis 6.1-4, in which the Watchers (or Grigori) descended from heaven "to instruct the children of men; they fell after they descended to earth and cohabited with the daughters of men—for which act they were condemned (so legend reports) and become fallen angels." (Davidson, 349)
° Tuccinardi — The entry on Athena is, comparatively, lacking. To the other, it implies that Athena was ... um ... do we get to use the word lesbian? Or sapphic? At any rate, Tuccinardi informs that, "Athena's companion was the goddess of victory, Nike, and her usual attribute is the owl." I don't recall ever encountering that point before.
° Why did God make the Universe as He did? — The question is usually more bluntly delivered, more centrally aimed: "Why did God go forward knowing what would happen at Eden?"
° chaos constrained reflects its boundaries. — This principle actually justifies the statement that we are made in God's image, but it's something of a digression at this point.
° To Reign in Hell — A truly ripping yarn.
Davidson, Gustav. A Dictionary of Angels: Including the Fallen Angels. New York: Free Press, 1967.
Leadbetter, Ron. "Apollo". Encyclopedia Mythica. January 31, 2004. See http://www.pantheon.org/articles/a/apollo.html
Tuccinardi, Ryan. "Athena". Encyclopedia Mythica. May 26, 1999. See http://www.pantheon.org/articles/a/apollo.html
Watson, Thomas. "God's Anatomy upon Man's Heart". (December, 1648.) Bible Bulletin Board. See http://www.biblebb.com/files/TW/tw-anatomy.htm
Saint Anselm of Canterbury. Proslogion. Trans. David Burr. Fordham University, 1996. See http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/anselm.html