Whorled View

July 26, 2007

My God vs. Your God

Today I was hopelessly searching for a decent radio station to listen to in the garage, and in the process happened upon a “Christian music” station where they were singing some song about how great their God was. It wasn’t about “God” in general, or “the” God, but they consistently used the term “my God” with as much or more gusto on the word “my” as they did on the word “God”. I then thought – if you believe in only one God why even mention “my”, or “our”? The phrase “my God” implies that there is more than one God (my God vs. someone else’s God). That’s an oxymoron if you’re a monotheist (someone who believes in only one God).

“The obvious problem with this claim, of course, is that these people who are comparing Gods also claim to be monotheistic.”

[added 7/27: I actually don’t really have so much a problem with “my God” or “our God”, because I think people generally mean that they’ve chosen to be subject to God. In fact, “How Great Thou Art” is one of my favorite songs, as are others which frequently use this terminology to denote subservience and dedication. It seem however that not everyone uses those phrases with that intended meaning.].

I’ve also heard from many (but not all) religious people claim that their God is better than another person’s God. As a Mormon person I frequently hear this directed toward me from mainstream Christians. I’ve always responded that we worship the same God, although we understand the physical/spiritual nature of the Godhead to be different from their concept. To which they usually respond vehemently that no way is our God the same being as their God. The obvious problem with this claim, of course, is that these people who are comparing Gods also claim to be monotheistic.

The only logical rationale I can imagine for this implicit contradiction is that they consider “God” to be a concept rather than an actual being. I don’t think that is what they’re doing though since they, like me, claim that God lives, not that He’s just some kind of philosophical construct to make people feel better. So I must conclude that they’re just trained to insist that different religions believe in different Gods even though they’re monotheists, and they don’t care that what they’re saying makes no sense.

“…most of the problems in the middle east have their roots in the irrational My God vs. Your God mentality, instead of promoting the fact that we all worship the same God differently and simply have different ideas about Him.”

If one is literally referring to God with the intent to compare religions the best thing they can say is “our understanding of the nature of His being and power are different”. Of course, the implied meaning is “You’re wrong about God’s nature and power, and I’m right”, but at least it’s plainly understood that there is only one God.

From time to time I’ve heard the interesting accusation (from people of all religions, including my own) that certain people “don’t worship the true God” or variations on that theme. Although this seems very offensive, I don’t think it is as dangerous as pitting one God against another, and besides this accusation abides by the rules of a monotheistic perspective. Of course, it is an extremely presumptuous accusation to say someone simply isn’t worshiping the true God because they don’t understand the nature of God’s being and power. It is also irrational to suggest that misunderstanding something about the object of worship instantly disqualifies the worshipful actions, making them null and void; Besides there are no scriptures I know of to back up that absurd claim.

“Making such presumptuous and irrational accusations alienates others and engenders spite between religious groups, wherein the Christian should consider the counsel to ‘Judge not an unrighteous judgment’.”

It’s also obvious that making such presumptuous and irrational accusations alienates others and engenders spite between religious groups, wherein the Christian should consider the counsel to ‘Judge not an unrighteous judgment’. It can be reasonably argued that most of the problems in the middle east have their roots in the irrational My God vs. Your God mentality, instead of promoting the fact that we all worship the same God differently and simply have different ideas about Him. If the middle-east Jews, Christians, and Muslims accepted what an irrational idea that is, and that they all believe in the same God, but only interpret Him and His nature and purposes differently, then the idea of the “enemies to God” based on religious preference would dissolve as would the philosophy behind “Jihad”. The challenge there is that so much of their scriptures do seem to refer to a plurality of monotheistic Gods, so that isn’t likely to happen without a new interpretation of those verses.

Sadly, that’s not going to happen as long as religious leaderships continue to senselessly pit their monotheistic Gods against each other as the Greeks or Romans did. Fortunately, those of us in the civilized world can be rational and realize we all worship just one God, the Creator of the earth, – just differently. Admittedly some might be more accurate that others in their ideas about God, but can all worship the same God by simply doing good and appreciating each other for it.

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21 Comments »

  1. The reason Christians use the term, “my” God, is because we know that there are other false gods. It is a way of showing that we follow only one God, no other. I, as a Christian, believe that there is only one true God, and there is no other way. Monotheism is the belief in only one, true god. It isn’t the belief that everyone follows the same god.
    A muslim, for example, doesn’t follow the God I serve. They follow a different one.
    It isn’t that you misunderstand the God I worship, it’s that you don’t believe in Him. Yet still, that isn’t the problem.
    The problem is that you refuse my God’s offer. The God I worship doesn’t care if you call Him by a different name. He does, however, care if you refuse the gift. It’s not that you worship a different god. For all I know, you could worship the same one I do. But if you choose not to accept the gift, how will you receive it? Especially if accepting the gift is the only way to receive it.

    Comment by D — July 27, 2007 @ 12:21 am

  2. http://mw1.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/monotheism. Monotheism is the belief in only one God, not many gods with only one of them being the “true God”.

    Besides, do Muslim’s believe in only One God who is the Creator of all things? Yes. Do Christians believe in only one God who is the Creator of all things? Yes. Is this being perfect in every way in both religions? Yes. In both religions is he both the judge and the benefactor of mankind? Yes. Do both teach that he came to earth, as the son of God, and took upon himself the flesh of man to be subject to the worst that mankind has to offer, and rose above it to break the bands of death? No, only in the Christian religion is this taught. It’s the same God, but Muslims don’t recognize everything He did for us. That means they don’t know what Christians (myself included) consider to be the most important characteristic of God: the infinite depth of love and His tender mercies, which as a Christian myself I find very sad that they miss out on this it and their limited perspective provides me with compassion and understanding for the things they do. Same thing for the Jews.

    Like it or not, God is the God of all even if all don’t realize everything that He’s done. What right has anyone to say that ignorance disqualifies one from worshiping the only God the best that they can given whatever scant understanding is at their disposal? None. We don’t have that right, God reserves it for himself.

    Incidentally, when gods isn’t capitalized in the Bible I believe it is referring to idol worship. Muslim people do not personify their God in a rock or some object. Buddhists do, but Muslims do not.

    Comment by lullabyman — July 27, 2007 @ 12:48 am

  3. The muslim god isn’t perfect. Often, its commandments are wrong. For instance, if allah spoke through muhammed, allah said that it was ok for a husband to beat his wife. The god muslims worship is more violent, and is impersonal. While the Christian God is perfect and personal. I simply used muslims as an example.

    Comment by D — July 27, 2007 @ 1:09 pm

  4. When I said the word, “wrong,” I meant wrong in the sense of unjust, not righteous, etc.

    Comment by D — July 27, 2007 @ 1:10 pm

  5. See, you’d say that’s the Muslim God. I’d say that’s the Muslim understanding of God, there being only one God over all. You’d call Him unjust, but that’s the same God that we know from the Old Testament. Has He changed? No, we have and so according to Christians a new law was given by Christ (according to Christian Theology). Even there we see that it’s all the same God. Christ said Himself, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:7).

    You are correct though to say there are significant differences of opinion about God. I still say however that there are hundreds of people who have all different opinions about you, but that doesn’t make a hundred different versions of you. When they refer to you, it’s still always “you, yourself” they mean, despite how differently each one perceives you. It is the same with reference to God. There is only one God.

    Comment by lullabyman — July 27, 2007 @ 4:03 pm

  6. So far we’ve established that there is only one true God, and He is the same God throughout the Old and New Testament. My belief is that there are other, false gods (notice that “gods” isn’t capitalized, as I use the word, “gods,” as another word with a different meaning than God).

    Comment by D — July 28, 2007 @ 2:00 am

  7. >I use the word, “gods,” as another word with a different meaning than God
    So what is your meaning for “god?” Does Mohammed Ali worship a “god” or God? Is his God the same as the God of the Old Testament – Creator of all things, or is his God more like a false god … a car, house, career, etc that somebody might worship and put above all other things?

    Comment by lullabyman — July 28, 2007 @ 7:55 pm

  8. I use the word, “gods,” as a common noun, and God as a proper noun. When I say, “gods,” I mean false gods that’re different than the true One. Muslims worship don’t worship God, rather, they worship Allah, which is their god.

    Comment by D — July 29, 2007 @ 11:40 pm

  9. Precisely, and that is why I wrote paragraph #8 and #9 (starting with “From time to time…”).

    Comment by lullabyman — July 30, 2007 @ 2:30 am

  10. How did this argument start off again?

    Comment by D — July 30, 2007 @ 2:46 pm

  11. Hello,

    I’m obviously very late to the conversation, so I won’t expect you to respond. In John 20:28, Thomas referred to Jesus as my Lord and my God. Jesus is the one true God, but Thomas was saying that he was dying to himself, and submitting his life to Jesus.

    Mormons believe that Jesus is a god, the Father is a god, and the Holy Ghost is another god, which makes three gods. Therefore, they’re polytheists. This is contradictory to the Bible (Deuteronomy 6:4, Isaiah 43:10, 44:6, 44:8, 45:5-6, 46:8-9, Galatians 3:20, 1 Corinthians 8:4, 8:6, just to name a few verses indicating monotheism).

    I would say there are many false gods/idols. Last night on the Little League World Series, they were talking about a statue of some guy at the stadium, and the Japanese team always goes and bows down to this statue, because they believe it’s the god of baseball. Hindus have 300 million gods, and they will worship those idols believing they really are a god. The Muslims don’t have a little satue of Allah, but they nevertheless worship an idol. Allah is not the same as the God of the Bible.

    Jesus said that if you don’t have a proper understanding of who he is, you would die in your sins (John 8:24). So, it’s very important that you figure out who Jesus really is, and whether you worship an idol named Jesus, or the only God.

    Thanks,
    Bill

    Comment by billphillips — August 24, 2007 @ 3:33 pm

  12. Good comments.

    It’s true that LDS people do believe that God the Father, his Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three distinct separate individuals, and they make up the Godhead. LDS people also ONLY worship the Father as God. I find it interesting that I often hear phrases from LDS people (even in hymns like How Great Thou art) like “O Lord, My God” which insinuate that Jesus is our God, who according to LDS theology is our Lord, and although the theology teaches that Christ is a God in his own right, doctrinally the LDS church officially teaches that we must only worship the Father as God.

    Incidentally, that’s opposite from what JW’s believe who also believe God the Father and Jesus Christ are separate individuals, but they believe that we must worship the Son as God and not the Father, and they also use John 8:24 to suggest that one’s salvation hinges on this point.

    Trinitarian doctrine, is no less confusing. It also refers to each member of the trinity as a separate and distinct God, yet these are not 3 Gods, but one God, even though the Nicene and Athanasian creeds discuss the three as if they were separate and distinct, as does the Bible (Christ on the right hand of God, Holy Ghost descending as a dove, Christ praying to the Father, and making requests to the Father like “Forgive them”, and otherwise schizophrenic sayings like “Father why hast thou forsaken me?”, and the Atonement of his Son being a sacrifice of the Father, etc).

    I think the one thing we can all agree upon, regardless of our faith, is that wherever your riches are there your heart is also, and that is where one’s true object of worship is to be found. Whether that is God (the one true perfect being who we recognize as the author of our Salvation, regardless of his nature), or a god (a dead idol – like a clay figurine, a house in the Hamptons, or an expensive car) is the most important thing with regard to John 8:24.

    At least that’s my take. Some of my church leaders may disagree with me on that point, but most seem to share my opinion.

    Comment by Dave Austin — August 24, 2007 @ 5:19 pm

  13. your arguments are all very entertaining. I especially like the way you all couch your condescending, simplistic and mal-informed opinions of other religions, cultures and “other gods” in a warm blanket of phony respect, but then make sure you re-confirm your superiority with disjointed bible quotes. I love it.

    Word it and couch it and twist it however you like. You are all polytheists.

    From your Father and Son and Holy Ghost, to your saints and angels and Satans and devils, all the way to your prayers for help and guidance from dear departed Aunt Emily, all with their “powers” great and small, you have more gods and supernatural beings floating around than could ever fit on Mount Olympus 3,000 years ago. And the big guy you’re arguing about? You just don’t call him Zeus anymore.

    Comment by Jimm Kane — November 14, 2007 @ 12:19 am

  14. Jimm … I think you’re confused. You seem to be almost in complete agreement with me. You just made my point that all these people claim their religions are monotheistic but talk as if they are polytheistic, including those of my faith.

    The only person who’s condescending here is you with regards to me. I’m just calling it like it is. You’re engaging on a personal attack. Incidentally, who’s Aunt Emily? Do you think I seek to commune with dead ancestors? Sorry to disappoint you but Mormons like me only pray to God the Father – at least doctrinally that’s what we’re supposed to do.

    Comment by davea0511 — November 14, 2007 @ 4:54 am

  15. Sorry, Dave. Nice effort, Love the wording, and the way you’ve righteously risen above the other bloggers without them realizing it, but you’re still in with the rest. And it’s the farthest thing from any sort of personal attack toward you or anyone. Kinda speaks volumes that you took it personally.
    It’s simply that you’ve got gods everywhere. And Mormon teachings have the best “tales of the gods” of all! Chock-full of supernatural beings with varying powers and exciting, detailed, classic good vs evil stories that rival anything Hollywood comes up with. You’ve got dad, his wife, his two oldest sons, Jesus and Lucifer, wars, rebellions, and armies of angels and devils. And all of these gods are still around today, working their “magic” on us mortals. And lookout! One of them is “hell-bent” on destroying us! Nice touch, but sorry, that’s polytheism.
    By they way, what ever happened to the big guy’s wife? She still around? After introducing her so logically in the beginning, you don’t hear Mormons talk much about her anymore. Does/Did she have a name? I guess “goddess” would be too obvious.

    Comment by Jimm Kane — November 14, 2007 @ 7:30 am

  16. >It’s simply that you’ve got gods everywhere.
    So what? That’s what I said. You’re still not contradicting me. Mormons do indeed believe in a plurality of gods. I never denied that. I don’t see what your beef is.

    Like I said, you seem to entirely have missed the point of the post.

    Comment by davea0511 — November 14, 2007 @ 1:58 pm

  17. Although you’ve missed the point of the article entirely I will digress a bit to clear up some obvious misunderstandings you have about my faith:
    1) although LDS doctrines contain a degree of polytheism (as supported in the Bible: Gen 1:26, 3:22, john 10:34, Psalm 82, 1 Cor 8:5-6) they do NOT worship any but God the Father as did the saints in Corinth (see 1 Cor 8:5-6).

    2) Neither do LDS people pray to anyone but God the Father (I think you might be confusing us with Catholics on that point). With respect to that LDS people don’t even pray to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, but only to the Father. LDS people do not worship anyone but God the Father. Even in the most hidden rooms of LDS temples is there any sort of worshiping or praying of any kind to any being other than God the Father. LDS are like the saints in Corinthian who said “But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.” Incidentally, I always found the distinction that Paul makes here between “God, the Father” and “Jesus Christ” as being extremely enlightening. More Christians ought to study that distinction because that one sentence is loaded with clues.

    3) All your talk about mormon “magic” and “supernatural beings” is to be found nowhere in church sanctioned LDS literature. There’s 100 bucks waiting in a Paypal account if you can prove me otherwise. The way you use those words can be applied to any religion that believes in a higher power.

    Comment by davea0511 — November 14, 2007 @ 2:24 pm

  18. Dave, now we’re keeping busy basically agreeing with each other. You’re splitting hairs about gods and what constitutes “magic” and “supernatural”. And your “by-passing all of your other gods” and only talking to Zeus directly doesn’t really change a thing.

    And you know I could easily flood you with pages of LDS doctrine that SHOULD garner me a nice little paypal payday. But I know I’d never see it. Not that you wouldn’t “pay up” or anything. I just fear you’d find a way to limit, justify, close ranks, tighten and shift basic dictionary definitions of words, and basically work up to “yea, that’s true too, Jim. but that doesn’t count”.
    for example, would you insist the Mormons’ Lucifer, with numerous “LDS-documented” powers affecting things and people (physically and mentally), not to mention having eternal life, does not have anything to do with the supernatural, or magic? (or would you claim that those documents are from OLD or OTHER LDS sections that you don’t personally adhere to anymore).
    Give me a chance at my paypal windfall! Let me know what strange dictionary YOU use. If I can talk you into Merriam-Webster, that $100 is in the bank! (just kidding)
    By the way, I gotta ask you. If one googles “Mormon Lucifer teachings”, you not only see lots of great info, you also see LOTS MORE that’s outrageously anti-Mormon! Some of it very heated, some of it claiming Mormonism is “of the devil”, “Lucifer’s cover religion” and such, coming from other christian factions. Much of it has an energy and negative-focus that rivals Nazi propaganda against the Jews! I always thought I knew the long history of prejudice and persecution, but I had no idea it was still so “fresh” and dangerously vibrant. Where “the hell” is THAT coming from? Who is still spouting that manure? and who is still listening?

    In an attempt to get back to the theme of this blog (ONE god, and “my god vs. your god”), it’s nice to see you agree with me that most of the arguments above are superfluous and contradictory. The polytheists (and most of the major religions) have pulled the wool over their own eyes and convinced themselves they are somehow monotheists. Then they scramble to find ways to declare how their god is the real one, or the only one, and use laughable, ill-informed prejudices and partial truths to belittle and smear the gods of other religions. My favorite is the guy who tells us the japanese Little Leaguers are worshipping “the god of baseball” when they bow in front of that statue. If he only knew the real story of why the kids now have that fun tradition every time they visit that field in Pennsylvania. Hopefully he’d have a good laugh at himself. And maybe re-think (or think through!) some of his other silly religious prejudices.

    and lastly, let’s drop the $100 dollar paypal thing. I get your point (and I merely expanded on the concept above to have fun making mine). I wouldn’t take it anyway, even if we ever were to agree that I’m right. Let’s keep this fun.

    Comment by Jimm Kane — November 14, 2007 @ 11:29 pm

  19. Jimm –

    It seems you make no distinction between say a “miracle” and “magic”, regardless of the religion. I’m I correct in that perception? If there is a difference can you please define it for me? By that same token do you accuse all religions that claim to have the power and authority from God as attempting to practice magic? Also, by the same token do you make any distinction between “God” and “Supernatural Being”?

    It just sounded to me like you were singling out one religion as practicing “magic” and involving “Supernatural Beings” by using arguments that could be applied to nearly any religion.

    In fact, these distinctions cut right to the heart of the matter of my original post. There are so many words and phrases that people use to mean the same thing, and often they technically don’t perfectly match up with the intended meaning, but are used anyway to put down other religions. Like Spiritual (positive connotation) vs. Supernatural (negative connotation), or “Sacred” (Positive connotation) vs. Secret” (Negative connotation), or “Miracle” vs. “Magic”. Like “Cult” vs “Sect” vs “Religion”, etc … where “cult” has taken on a derogatory intonation despite the fact that the apostolic church established by Christ 2000 yrs ago technically fit the original definition of “cult”.

    It’s easy to make any belief system sound like pure insanity if you chose the exact wrong words, or describe the beliefs in a selective way that makes them sound crass or hollow. I think people get into such a habit of doing this that they develop the habit of approaching religion the same way a lawyer approaches a trial. That’s when they loose their center – the real reason they turned to God in the first place – to the point that what they say even about their own faith doesn’t make any sense anymore and they don’t even realize it (like my monotheistic God is better than yours).

    Comment by davea0511 — November 15, 2007 @ 9:16 am

  20. Dave,
    please re-read your latest, and ANSWER almost all your questions to me with the proper “yes and no” as you would see fit! We are agreeing (or at least you are basically, correctly defining my focus and direction). Those are my perceptions, and I am indeed mixing/melding those words as I see fit.

    But as you warn, a word is a word. Trust that I do NOT attach the current, media-driven, derogatory notions and intonations to words like “cult” and “magic vs. miracle”, etc. And although I see, understand and appreciate your separation of terms, I do not join you regarding “spiritual vs supernatural”. Spiritual is one thing, and I feel we could go on wonderfully for hours and discover we basically agree on that too.

    But I reserve the right to attach the word “supernatural” anytime those concepts extend to “powers” that get attached to the numerous deities that most modern “one-god religions” espouse (from crediting their various deities for “modern-day miracles”, to “patron saints of lost-causes” etc, all the way down to the cliched phrase “the devil made me do it”). That’s all “supernatural”, and it’s all evidence of their polytheism. Something they amazingly hold very dear, but then spend massive amounts of energy and anger denying (while simultaneously, hilariously, denying and demeaning the gods of all the other religions).

    AT THE SAME TIME, although some will view my concepts as an attack, I do not mean to lower or demean any of those beliefs as “crass or hollow”. I know many are of a notion that “thinking less” is the only way to approach their beliefs and faith, and that even the act of typing comments like mine put me “in the company of the devil” in many people’s minds. But I am one who feels strongly that keeping an open mind CAN be part of healthy spiritual growth for people. And if there is anything I “espouse” to, it is your excellent last paragraphs above. THAT is what we should all be chasing here.

    Comment by Jimm Kane — November 29, 2007 @ 7:36 pm

  21. I See … you don’t fit the typical mold of what I’ve come to expect from those who discuss other religions in terms of magic, supernatural, and the such. Typically such people do indeed mean it in the most derogatory of ways, but from you last comment I gather that you do not, but rather you use some of those terms are interchangeably.

    If indeed I adopt the same definition for magic as I have for miracle, or if I adopt the same definition for “supernatural” as I have for “other-worldly” (admittedly a better fit than “spiritual” which has multiple definitions) then I think your comments would have been much easier for me to digest. I think however that most people distinguish these terms as being very different, and for example would never say that Jesus performed “magic” instead of “miracles” (unless, of course, they do not think Jesus was divine in any way).

    I think it’s common to believe, even in modern Christianity, that the age of miracles has ended. If anyone does something supernatural then it is considered magic instead of a miracle by the majority of Protestants. That is, of course, why so many accuse Joseph Smith of doing nothing more than practicing magic because what Mormons believe about him seem so miraculous. Of course, it doesn’t help that in his early years he used a divining rod to try to find water (which was in fact a very common practice at the time), and that his method of translating the Book of Mormon seemed more like looking in a crystal ball than standing before a burning bush or seeing the finger of God write words in stone.

    I’ve thought for some time about writing a book about all dissension coming from misunderstanding what other people really mean by what they say. If we could all grok each other there’d be a lot more respect for other’s beliefs, and there’d be no need to compete or get illogical about their own beliefs to put down the beliefs of another.

    Comment by davea0511 — November 29, 2007 @ 9:11 pm


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