Rejecting the Right God


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It occurs to me that the “new atheists” are rejecting the wrong God. They are famous for saying that they don’t believe in the Christian God any more than they believe Zeus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It seems to me that, if someone is going to reject God, they ought to be rejecting the right one.

Not all gods are created equal. The Christian concept of God is not on a par with Zeus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, to say the very least.

The ignorance of the new atheists about these things is rather shocking, though it shouldn’t be altogether surprising. They admit they find no use for such things as gods and, therefore, have spent no time studying or considering them. The ignorance is more willful then due to any lack in ability to understand.

I can’t do justice to the subject in a short blog, but I will try to summarize. The only serious contenders for consideration as God are the gods of the major world religions. They can’t all be true because they are incompatible with each other[1], so which one, if any of them, is the most likely candidate?

Before getting to summaries, we should acknowledge that some have questioned the idea of an exclusive God on the basis of the variety of conceptions of God that exist. While acknowledging that, again, not all conceptions of God are created equal. They are also mutually exclusive. They may have some appearance of sameness on the surface, but they are fundamentally different.

Just because people differ on the conception of God is not any evidence against the existence of God. People differ on the origins of the universe, even scientists who do not believe in God. Competing theories of the reality do no negate the reality.

The Eastern religions, like Buddhism, Hinduism, and Daoism are similar in that they conceive of God or gods as forces of nature. To that extent we can view them together for our purposes.

Although Hinduism has many gods, and those gods are “persons”, those “persons” are more like personalities given to forces of nature. The Hindus see the divine in everything. This, in essence, is like saying that God and the universe are the same thing. Hindus have gods for various aspects of the universe with a supreme god, Vishnu, at the top of a hierarchy of gods.

The real essence of Hinduism is karma – the moral law of cause and effect. “Life carries its moral bills, and they are paid in the cyclical pattern of rebirth until all dues are paid in full. Hinduism … conveys an inherited sense of wrong, which is lived out in the next life, in vegetable, animal, or human form.”[2] Hinduism is fatalistic, and “although karma is seen as a way of paying back, this payback is never complete….”[3]

In Buddhism, historical proof of the person of Buddha or authenticity of Buddha is not a concern. The important thing is not whether Buddha lived but the story. The story is about obtaining enlightenment and becoming one with all things. There is no God in a personal sense; rather “God” is conceived as the elemental substance of nature that is in all and through all. In Buddhism, God and the essence of nature are one and the same thing.

These are gross oversimplifications, but in essence accurate as I understand them. I have studied world religions, but not recently enough to be able to go into as much detail as I might like in these matters. If you are interested to know more, Ravi Zacharias, a Hindu turned Christian, can speak in detailed understanding and nuance of each Eastern religion.

Standing against the “Eastern religions” are the monotheistic religions of the “west”. In truth, all of the major world religions are eastern if we consider that they arose east of Western civilization.

In Judaism, is the concept of a monotheistic, personal God, but that God is unapproachable and can only be known from a safe distance. Ancient Hebrews would not even say the name of God. They would pronounce the letters, because of the wholly “otherness” of God. For the Jews there is no mediator between God and man. Man is left to his own devices to try to eke out a ritualistic existence that is palatable to God

In Islam, the “otherness” of God is even more austere. God makes demands, and those demands must be met. All unbelievers are infidels worthy of nothing other than cursing and death or the payment of a ransom to be allowed to live.[4] Allah, the Islamic name for God, is distant, unapproachable and does not stoop down to mere men.[5] No mediator exists in Islam.

God in the Christian conception rises above all other gods. Unlike the Eastern conception, God is personal. Like other monotheist conceptions of God, He is “the” maximal Being, the creator of everything, but God did stoop down to His creation. He shed that “otherness” and took on the form of humanity.[6] God can relate to us because he experienced what you and I experience.

In Jesus, we find God entering into the history of His own creation, encountering His own creation at its own level, and fully living out the character of God for His creation to see. “In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form….”[7] Jesus modeled God, the creator of the universe, to us.

In Jesus, God provided a mediator, one who could span the gap between man and God, creature and Creator. In Jesus, God stooped down to our level to lift us up to His level and make Himself accessible to us.

As one recent speaker put it, all the world religions claim Jesus and attempt to coopt Him. Jesus is the universal religious figure. To that extent, he posited to a class on world religions, a person ought to start with Jesus.

The problem with the atheist is their starting place. They start with a definition of God that includes Flying Spaghetti Monsters. They don’t take the issue seriously, and we can hardly, therefore, take them seriously.

God, by definition, is the uncaused Cause, the maximally great Being. Anything other definition for God is not God. Any definition that falls short of those things is not what we are talking about.

Any conception of God as a created being is a conception of something other than God.

Scientists once thought the universe was eternal and uncaused. They now know that is not true. What does that leave us for an uncaused cause, but God?

From the beginning of Scripture, almost 3500 years ago, we read that God created the universe out of nothing. Before the universe was, God is. The universe – all of space, time and matter – arose from the mind of God who spoke all of space time into being. Intelligent, volitional, personal – we are created in God’s image.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”[8]

Until Jesus, God appeared distant to us, but everything changed when “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”.[9] If you want to reject the right God, you need to consider Jesus. Not what others say about Him. Read the Gospels for yourself.

Many will reject Jesus out of hand because they have predetermined that miracles don’t happen. If God created the world, however, anything can happen. A naturalistic view of the world is a provincial view of the world. It is a myopic view of the world. It still assumes the world caused itself to exist, which doesn’t match up to science, logic or common sense.

For the new atheist, it’s easy to knock down a Flying Spaghetti Monster or to wrestle Zeus from his perch. They are not maximally great beings. They are not uncaused causes.

The Eastern conception of God does not recognize and respect the difference between creator and creation. It equates the natural world with God and God with the natural world.

The Jewish and Islamic conceptions of God are views from an unapproachable distance.

The Christian God is a God who stands outside the natural world, but reveals Himself in the nature world intimately and personally. Unlike the other religions, the Christian conception of God is testable by logic, by science and by personal experience.

So, if anyone is going to reject God, they should at least be sure to reject the right God. If they are going to reject Him with any honesty, integrity and authenticity, they should stop rejecting a caricature or apparition, and understand the real thing.

Read the Gospels for what they say, not what others say about them. Consider the evidence for the resurrection without assuming it could never have happened from the start. Let the evidence take you where it leads.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

[1] See Point of Exclusion, by Ravi Zaccharias regarding the exclusivity of all the major world religions.

[2] See How Does Christianity Relate to Hinduism? by Ravi Zacharias January 13, 2012

[3] Ibid.

[4] See Do the Roots of Jihad Lie in the Quran? by Nabeel Qureshi from the HuffPost  April 5, 2017

[5] See Who is Allah in Islam? At the Arabic Bible Outreach Ministry

[6] Speaking of Jesus, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:6-11)

[7] Colossians 2:9

[8] John 1:1-2

[9] John 1:14

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