Reconnect Episode 13: God Is Too Big To Fit Into One Religion!

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN. Right-click to download.
Also listen and subscribe with iTunes.

Reconnect Episode 13
Do you want to have this conversation with your friends, small group Bible study, or class?  Here is the discussion guide that was used in this episode, free for your use: “No Religion Can Contain God!”. Please consider giving a shout out to Reconnect, andywrasman.com, and contradictmovement.org if you choose to use this discussion guide.  Thanks.

There’s no way of knowing God!

Have you ever heard someone say, “There’s no way of knowing God”?

How did you reply?  Here are some possible replies that I hope you will find helpful

Validation:

With all the competing views of who God is, it is difficult to know which view of God is true.  If you mean that it’s hard to relationally know God, I’d agree with that too.  I mean, I know who the President of the United States is, but it’d be next to impossible for me to have relational knowledge with him.  I can’t just text him and meet up with for coffee as I could with any of my friends, and he’s just a human being, now imagine an all-powerful, all-knowing, eternal God, who happens to be everywhere at all times, oh, and he can’t be seen.  I agree; it would seem as if there is no way for us to actually know who he is.

Socratic Method:

“Does this mean you believe there is a God, he’s just not knowable? (if the answer is yes…) Why do you believe there is a God?  What makes you believe you can’t know God?  Do you think it’s possible that God has somehow revealed himself to us?”

“If there is a God and he created everything, why do you think he made us?  Do you think he’d want us to know him?  Do you think he would want to reveal himself to us if it was possible for us to know him?”

“If God were to reveal himself to us, how do you think he’d reveal himself to us?  The Bible teaches that Jesus was God incarnate, God in human flesh.  Who do you think Jesus is? How much do you know about Jesus?  Have you ever read the Gospels, the biographies written by eyewitnesses of Jesus Christ’s life, or written by people who wrote based on eyewitness testimony?”

Answer:

I think you are partially correct.  It’s impossible for us to know who God is on our own.  God is spirit and in our 4-dimensional existence of length, depth, width, and time, there is nothing we can do with our five senses of touch, smell, sight, hearing, and taste to uncover or discover who God is.  However, that doesn’t mean God is incapable of revealing himself to us.  God is God and he can do anything he pleases, and he has shown himself to us indirectly and directly.  God has indirectly revealed himself to us through what he has created.  When we look around us and observe the universe, we see design, order, complexity, and beauty all of which point to a creator.  When we consider the first cause of the universe, an eternal, all-powerful God who exists outside of time is the best explanation for the genesis, the beginning, of the universe.  Nothing comes from nothing, and life does not come from non-life, as the atheistic model of Darwiniansm projects.  So simply from what he has created, God has made it plain that he exists.  But I would also say that God has directly revealed himself to us through the person and work of Jesus Christ.  In Jesus Christ, the fullness of God dwelled in human flesh and he proved his divinity through his life, death, and resurrection.

Jesus Christ Crucifix

Scripture:

Romans 1:18-20 – “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

Colossians 2:9 – “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”

Contradictory Views of the Divine

who is GodViews of the Divine:

  • Judaism – Monotheism.  One person, one nature. God is transcendent and he is called Yahweh.
  • Islam – Monotheism.  One person, one nature. God is transcendent and he is Allah.
  • Christianity – Monotheism. Three persons, one nature.  God is transcendent and exists in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
  • Hinduism – Polytheism/Pantheism.  There is an extensive number of gods and goddesses that can be worshiped.  Yet those gods, as well as all things, are at their core existent of the same divine essence, called Brahman.
  • Buddhism – No God/Irrelevant.  The Buddha denied Brahman and the individual soul as he split from the teachings of Hinduism.  Irrelevance, or ambivalence, best describes the Buddha’s doctrine of God.  Belief and worship in God can actually be a hindrance to reaching nirvana because following a Supreme Power produces fear, as explained by the Buddha in the Dhammapada verse 188, “Men in their fear fly for refuge to mountains or forests, groves, sacred trees or shrines.” Instead of from a God of sorts, refuge comes from the Four Noble Truths.
  • Wicca – Pantheism and other views.  Everything is the manifestation of the divine, which is associated as being of the female sex, being called the Goddess.    Some descriptions of the Goddess give the impression of energy, like the Force in Star Wars that connects all things.  Although some Wiccans are monotheistic, and others say there is both a transcendent God and Goddess, and some say that both the God and Goddess are one, being of the same divine essence.
  • Scientology – There is a Supreme Being, but “the Church of Scientology has no set dogma concerning God that it imposes on its members.”  One’s view of God is contingent upon each individual’s “level of spiritual awareness.”  (Scientology.org)
  • Laveyan Satanism  – Each man is his own God.
  • Atheism – No God.

Contradict Bumper Sticker

Who is God? #3 – The Father

In the previous articles in this series, I have shown that God has revealed himself to be three in person, but one in nature.  The persons of the Trinity are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Who is the Father?

The Father
Does God, the Father, really have a big white beard, and look like an old grandfather?

Have you ever stopped and thought about it?  What image comes to mind when you think of the Father? Forget the big white beard, when you picture the father, what color of skin does he have?  Do you even picture a body? Does he have a body?  Is it wrong to picture God this way?

I think most people picture a human father figure when they hear mention of God the Father, and God the Son.  This makes sense because we are taking the experiences we know from our human families and applying them all to God.  When it comes to God the Holy Spirit, however, we usually don’t have a mental image of a body in our heads.  Often times, we don’t picture anything, which is rightfully so, because spirits are not objects.  But in all honesty, all three, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are by nature Spirit, and do not have bodies.  John 4:24 says, “God is Spirit.”  However, Jesus, the Son, assumed a human nature.  So Jesus, now and forevermore has a human body.  The Father and the Holy Spirit do not.

Malachi 2:10 says, “Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us?”

James 1:17-18 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”

Many Christians can easily recognize that God as a Father is good, that he does give to us generously, that he cares for us, and that he meets our needs.  But for some Christians, and for many who are not Christians, this is hard to understand because they did not have an earthly father, or their earthly father was abusive, or negligent, or unloving, or distant.  If that happens to be you, I highly recommend Donald Miller’s book, Father-Fiction, which was previously entitled To Own a Dragon.

Who is God #2

The Doctrine of the Trinity

Scripture provides two truth statements concerning who God is: “There is only one God” and “That one God exists in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”.   These two statements appear to contradict each other, but they do not contradict.  This is called a paradox.  If the teaching is expressed as God is one, but not one; God is three, but not three, then this would be contradictory teaching, because one must be one.  One cannot not be one! Three must be three.  Three cannot not be three!

There isn’t a contradiction with the Trinity because essentially it is taught that God is one “what” and three “who’s”.  The “what” is the divine substance, or essence, of God.  Substance is the deity.  There are three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who are one in substance.  It could be expressed as saying that God is one (one divine substance) in three persons.  The word person does not refer to being human either.  Person simply refers to someone, not something, who is distinct and recognizable with a self-conscious, able to think and act on his own.  It is with this understanding of “person” that the doctrine of the Trinity states that God is three in person and in substance.

The following video helps to illustrate this doctrine with citations to many verses from the Bible.

Who is God #1

Some people don’t believe in God.  Some people believe in many gods.  Some people believe in only one God, but they disagree on whom that God is.  Others take the stance that there’s no way to know for sure if there is a God or not.

A broad definition of “god”

Martin Luther defined a god as whoever or whatever we fear, love, and trust above all things.  According to this definition even people who claim to believe in the God revealed in the Bible probably have other gods in their life.  It can become very easy for anyone to put trust in our own abilities and provision instead of the one true God.  If people believe in the Christian God and do this, they are not rejecting their belief in God; they are placing an idol alongside God, or above God.  It can become very easy to begin to pursue money, making decisions and living for the pursuit of financial gain, or to fear and seek the approval of men above God.   Luther’s definition is good for generically defining a “god.”  The goal at hand is to show how God has revealed himself to humanity in the Bible.

God revealed in the Bible      

The God in the Bible is clearly revealed to be one.  One of the most cited verses to support this doctrine comes from the Shema, an early creed of Israel, found in Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”  At the same time God is revealed to be three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  All three of these persons are called God in the Bible.  Malachi 2:10 says, “Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us?”  Matthew 6:9, Luke 11:1-13, 2 Peter 1:17, and Colossians 1:2-3 all show that the Father is God.  Matthew 3:16-17 clearly shows the Father proclaiming Jesus to be his son, “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him.  And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”  In addition to numerous other verses that refer to Jesus as God, Titus 2:13 contains a clear statement by Paul that Jesus is God by saying, “while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”  The Holy Spirit is referred to as the Spirit of God or the Spirit of the Lord numerous times throughout Scripture and is referred to as a separate person with the Father and the Son such as in 2 Corinthians 13:14, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

From these verses and numerous others it can be concluded that there is only one God.  Yet the Father is God, Jesus is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.  Therefore, all three persons must be the one God.

Do Muslims and Jews worship the same God as Christians?

Christianity – One God, Three Persons

Judaism and Islam – One God, One Person

Christianity – Jesus is God.
Islam – Jesus is a prophet.
Judaism – Jesus is a false-prophet.