Does reason show the First Cause to be one or plural? If one: whence the strong tendency to polytheism? This may be explained in part by the craving of the common mind for concrete ideas. We may add the causes stated by Turretin: That man’s sense of weakness and exposure prompts him to lean upon superior strength: That gratitude and admiration persuade him to deify human heroes and benefactors at their deaths: And that the copiousness and variety of God’s agencies have suggested to the incautious a plurality of agents. Hodge (Theol. P. I. Ch. 3.) seems to regard Pantheism as the chief source of polytheism. He believes that pantheistic conceptions of the universe have been more persistent and prevalent in all ages than any other. “Polytheism has its origin in nature worship: . . . . and nature worships rests on the assumption that nature is God.”
But I am persuaded a more powerful impulse to polytheism arises from the co-action of two natural principles in the absence of a knowledge of God in Christ. One is the sense of weakness and dependence, craving a superior power on whom to lean. The other is the shrinking of conscious guilt from infinite holiness and power. The creature needs a God: the sinner fears a God. The expedient which results is, the invention of intermediate and mediating divinities, more able than man to succor, yet less awful than the infinite God. Such is notably the account of the invention of saint-worship, in that system of baptized polytheism known as Romanism.
– R.L. Dabney
1820 – 1898