Do Christians and Jews worship the same God?

C_M_C_M_ Posts: 3,466

An old thread asked: "Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God"? https://www.christiandiscourse.net/discussion/comment/5914#Comment_5914

1. What do you believe is the consensus of the cited thread above?

Consider the current thread, basically, the same question, except for the ending: "Do Christians and Jews worship the same God"? Is there a set standard to worshipping God? If so, what is it? If not, Why not?

Mitch and Jan, considering the current OP ["Do Christians and Jews worship the same God"?] do you want to change your response or outlook on the Bible, Jesus, and the way of salvation when the Muslims were the point of focus, but, now the Jews? If so, why? If not, why not? This topic is one, like many others, that calls for the serious-minded and sober thinkers. 

We need to let this year (2020) be the year of addressing topics (original thoughts and/or quoted sources) and not the person or personalities. I would even invite GaoLu to chime back in with the new subject matter at hand. He and all former CD Users still have access to these forums. 

We must avoid personal attacks, driven, many times, by inflated egos. Don't let your political persuasion influence or color your biblical knowledge and understanding. Again, we have to want to do better. Don't you think the times demand it? Please address the topic at hand, the best way you can! CM

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Comments

  • MitchellMitchell Posts: 546

    @C_M_ posted: do you want to change your response


    No, I still stand by the response I gave in October of 2018 (now re-posted here):

    @Mitchell posted: The Bible I believe is clear that there is only one God (1 Kings 8:60, Ephesians 4:5-6 ), one way to God (John 14:6).

    The Bible is also clear that God chose the time and places were people would live (Acts 17:26) and that people from all nations and languages would worship God (Revelation 7:9). This I think makes clear that all languages are permissible (if not divinely ordained) to use in prayer, worship, study, and communication. Christians in different places thus have a right to use their ethnic, national, local, or regional languages.

    So, there is one universal 'Truth', but it can and must be expressed in the languages and or ways that people can understand. This why Christians in English speaking countries use an English translation of the scriptures, listen to sermons in English, pray in English, Sing in English and so on. However, the same is equally true other languages and speakers of other languages around the world. I interpret Paul as speaking on his practice of this concept in passages like 1 Corinthians 9:19-2.

    https://www.christiandiscourse.net/discussion/comment/10314/#Comment_10314


    Grace and Peace

  • C_M_C_M_ Posts: 3,466

    Thanks, for your response, Mitch. Please, tell me, can one extract from your statement above, with some justification, that there is one "World Religion" using different languages and names for God? What is the essence of worshiping God? CM

  • MitchellMitchell Posts: 546

    Rather I would say that there is simply only one God and that this one God accepts those from every nation who are faithful (acts 10:34~35). Therefore in my mind one can’t go around saying look over there this the kingdom of God(Luke 17:20-21). Throughout history the kingdom of God is among those are the faithful regardless of man made division, denominations, or sects. In the Hebrew Bible the kingdom God was among particular individuals from various nations, then later Abraham and his family, then later mainly the tribes of Israel(but not exclusively), and in the NT those to whom he saves through his son be they Jewish or Greek(of the nations), male or female, free or in slavery.


    Grace and Peace

  • MitchellMitchell Posts: 546

    But to answer the question "Do Christians and Jews worship the same God" at least in today's world?

    I would say that the answer to this question depends 100% on the individual Jew and the individual claiming to be a Christian. Other than that there is no way I could in good conscience answer this question.

    Grace and Peace

  • Bill_ColeyBill_Coley Posts: 1,925

    @Mitchell posted:

    But to answer the question "Do Christians and Jews worship the same God" at least in today's world?

    I would say that the answer to this question depends 100% on the individual Jew and the individual claiming to be a Christian. Other than that there is no way I could in good conscience answer this question.

    I'm curious about your reaction to this thought experiment, Brian: Two honest, objective witnesses to the same crime in good faith describe the person they saw fleeing from the crime scene. One witness describes the suspect as standing about six feet tall, weighing about 180, and wearing blue jeans, a black sweatshirt, and sunglasses. The other witness describes the same suspect as about 5' 7", weighing 210, and wearing a blue hoodie, and no sunglasses. Are they describing the same suspect? In my view, yes, if the question asks about the suspect - they indeed ARE describing the same suspect. It certainly doesn't sound like it, but that's only if the question asks about their descriptions, in which case the answer to the question is no, they don't seem to describe the same suspect.

    I believe people in all kinds of religions and spiritual endeavors in good faith describe the same God, IF the question is about the God they describe, not the descriptions they give to that God. My Christian description of God is different from a Jewish person's description of God, but we're describing the same God. Our descriptions are different!! But we ARE describing the same God.

    Your thoughts?

  • WolfgangWolfgang Posts: 2,332

    @Bill_Coley posted

    Two honest, objective witnesses to the same crime in good faith describe the person they saw fleeing from the crime scene. One witness describes the suspect as standing about six feet tall, weighing about 180, and wearing blue jeans, a black sweatshirt, and sunglasses. The other witness describes the same suspect as about 5' 7", weighing 210, and wearing a blue hoodie, and no sunglasses. Are they describing the same suspect?

    Just from their descriptions, There is the possibility of them talking about different suspects, especially if their descriptions are regarded as highly accurate --- providing a discrepancy between "with sunglasses" and "without sunglasses". On the other hand, one may well suspect that there is something inaccurate with one or both of the witness descriptions and they could be describing the same suspect. A sure clarification either way is only possible from additional information, and you in your opening sentence already assume / state information based on such outside evidence aside from the descriptions by stating that the two witnesses are in fact describing the same suspect.

    In my view, yes, if the question asks about the suspect - they indeed ARE describing the same suspect. It certainly doesn't sound like it, but that's only if the question asks about their descriptions, in which case the answer to the question is no, they don't seem to describe the same suspect.

    See above ... the point seems not about who or what the question is about, but whether or not there is additional information which establishes that they are speaking about the same suspect.

    After such fact is established, one has the situation that there are two descriptions giving different information details which will together produce the overalll picture of the one identical situation.

    If that fact is not established, one has the situation of two different descriptions possibly describing two different similar - but not one identical - situations.

    All that of course on the assumptions tha the witnesses are not purposely giving false reports.

  • C_M_C_M_ Posts: 3,466
    edited February 5

    @Mitchell said:

    I would say that the answer to this question depends 100% on the individual Jew and the individual claiming to be a Christian. Other than that there is no way I could in good conscience answer this question.

    @Bill_Coley said:

    I believe people in all kinds of religions and spiritual endeavors in good faith describe the same God, IF the question is about the God they describe, not the descriptions they give to that God. My Christian description of God is different from a Jewish person's description of God, but we're describing the same God. Our descriptions are different!! But we ARE describing the same God.

    Brethren (Bill/Mitch),

    Is God a subjective Holy Being? To my chagrin, Dave's terminology, surfaces. Are the two of you making God to be a Holy "Rorschach Inkblot Test"? Is God's existent and power are limited, to how a person or religious group describes Him? Is not God has spoken to men in various times and ways? Are we stuffing too much in our religious mouths at once? Are we "putting the cart before the horse"? Are we dismissing God's revelation and elevating man's perceptions of God?

    Which was here first, religious group or God? Why do we have so many religious groups to begin [possible new thread]? Could it be that on some level, man rejected God's voice and revelations, even the incarnation of Jesus, the Christ? Man can describe all he wants, but what has God revealed?

    Am I hearing the two of you saying God has no requirements or standards for one to be a believer in the "Almighty"? Have the two you relegated God to a "Free Space" on a Bingo Card? That is, God is whatever a person or religious group wants Him to be and call "bingo" (spiritual or God-faring)? Is the Bible a spiritual cafeteria where religious groups can pick and choose from God's laws? Are we in an era of religious "I am ok, you're ok" universalism?

    Your statements appear to be a concoction of spiritual niceties, forming an all-inclusive "Trojan-horse", to accommodate any religious group, including the anti-Trinitarians. God is more than the thoughts of humanistic verbiage. I remain. CM

    Post edited by C_M_ on
  • MitchellMitchell Posts: 546

    @Bill_Coley posted: your thoughts?

    My thoughts are to be clearly found in taking into due consideration my:

    (1) particular reference to acts 10:34~35

    (2) complete avoidance of the term 'religion' in my response.

    (3) insistence that the answer to the question depends on particular individuals rather than the social construct they belong to.

    (4) insistence that those of faith are not to be found in only one sect, denomination, nor man made division. (but rather that this is question that can only be answered on an individual by individual biases).

    (5) my use of Luke 17:20 - 21

    (6) understanding that while terms like Christian and Muslim are usually always a religious terms, that the term Jew differs in not always being a religious description.


    Also I think Wolfgang's response was interesting and fun!


    Grace and Peace

  • Bill_ColeyBill_Coley Posts: 1,925

    I think you've engaged the thought experiment I proposed in ways similar to the ways I engage it, Wolfgang. That said, here are some additional notes:

    @Wolfgang posted:

    Just from their descriptions, There is the possibility of them talking about different suspects, especially if their descriptions are regarded as highly accurate --- providing a discrepancy between "with sunglasses" and "without sunglasses". 

    I agree that from their descriptions it is possible that the two witnesses are describing different suspects, but as you also point out in your response, my thought experiment stipulated that whatever the content of their descriptions, they were talking about the same suspect.

    In my thought experiment, I offered no comment about the accuracy of the witnesses' accounts. I said they were honest and objective, and testified in good faith; I made no claims about their accuracy... and that was intentional.


    ...the point seems not about who or what the question is about, but whether or not there is additional information which establishes that they are speaking about the same suspect.

    In my thought experiment, I didn't specify the conditions enough to address this issue. My intention - but clearly not stated as such - was that the two witnesses were the only two to observe the suspect fleeing from the scene. However, the experiment produces the same basic result if there are more than two witnesses offering consequentially different descriptions of the suspect.


    After such fact is established, one has the situation that there are two descriptions giving different information details which will together produce the overalll picture of the one identical situation. If that fact is not established, one has the situation of two different descriptions possibly describing two different similar - but not one identical - situations.

    I agree, and in my view, it is this element of your response to the thought experiment that is most directly applicable to the issue of whether people of different faith traditions believe in the same God (assuming there is in fact only one God).


    As I read your response, Wolfgang, I didn't see an assessment of the thought experiment's relevance to the issue of whether people of differing faith traditions believe in the same God. Do you have any thoughts about that?

  • WolfgangWolfgang Posts: 2,332

    As I read your response, Wolfgang, I didn't see an assessment of the thought experiment's relevance to the issue of whether people of differing faith traditions believe in the same God. Do you have any thoughts about that?

    For one, I would say that people's faith tradition does NOT define God, it only defines what they oi their "faith tradition" claim to be God.

    The fact that perhaps 20 different people each declare in their faith tradition that each believe in only one God, does NOT mean that they all believe in the same God (cp. person 1 believes in "the sun" to be his one God, person 2 confesses his "Ford Mustang sportscar" as his one God, person 3 claims the "God of nature" (whatever that might be, he can't even say) is his one God, and on it goes ...

    Obviously then, whether people actually speak about and believe in the same one God will need some authority outside the persons themselves determining which God it is they believe in, and then establish further whose God is actually the same God as someone else's God. Just because different people each claim to serve "God", does not mean much just by itself.

  • WolfgangWolfgang Posts: 2,332
    edited February 5

    As for "Jews" and "Christians" worshipping the same God, I observe the following:

    Many "Christians" ever since the 4th century AD councils have a "3 Person God" (in clear words, actually no longer one God, but three Gods) whereas the biblical Jews (those of the tribes of Israel) had a "1 Person God". Considering these differences, it seems plain and clear that those Jews and those Christians for the most part do NOT have the same God ..despite any claims and confessions to the contrary.

  • C_M_C_M_ Posts: 3,466
    edited February 5

    A simple comparative view of World Religions would show that each group is NOT referring to the same Divine Being (God). For example:

    Muslims / Jews (Judaism) / Christianity / Hindus / Buddhism

    1. Attributes of God. / Attributes of God? / Attributes? / Attributes? / Attributes?
    2. Who is the Creator? Creator? Creator? Creator? Creator?
    3. Who made man? Who made man? Who made man? Who made man? Who made man?
    4. Terms of Salvation? Salvation? Salvation? Salvation? Salvation?
    5. Holy Book (name)? Name of Holy Bk Name of Holy Bk? Name of Holy Bk.? Name of Holy Bk?
    6. Sin? Sin? Sin? Sin? Sin?
    7. Who is Jesus Christ? Jesus Christ? Jesus Christ? Jesus Christ? Jesus Christ?
    8. Heaven? Heaven? Heaven? Heaven? Heaven?
    9. Death? Death? Death? Death? Death?
    10. Origin of Holy Book? Origin of Holy Bk? Origin of Holy Bk? Origin of Holy Bk? Origin of Holy Bk?

    This is not theory, but up to the minute. I know some in CD may not want to go on the records facing this truth, because of reality. Others would refrain from going on the records due to some sort of internal conviction to mask a lack of knowledge on the subject matter. I can understand. As for the bold users, who's not afraid of truth, before you lies a stark contrast. What says ye? CM


    Sources to consider (Wolfgang):

    -- Morgan, G. R. (2012). Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day (p. 3). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.

    -- Eckman, J. P. (2004). The truth about worldviews: a biblical understanding of worldview alternatives (p. 3). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

  • MitchellMitchell Posts: 546
    edited February 5

    Bill,

    @Bill_Coley posted: I didn't see an assessment of the thought experiment's relevance to the issue of whether people of differing faith traditions believe in the same God.

    without respect to an individual's personal beliefs such can not be determined. For example just because an individual is ethnically Jewish does not mean that they observant or that they hold to any particular beliefs, they for instances might be an atheist. A said Christian might venerate Mary or the Saints, while another might not. A shintoist might a assume that there are multiple gods, or that all things in nature have spirits or are gods while individuals who hold to traditional to the world view derived from the Hebrew Bible may believe that all things in nature are but creation of on God.

    @C_M_ posted: Brethren (Bill/Mitch), Is God a subjective Holy Being?

    No, rather people's understandings (ideologies, theologies, and whatnot) of the Objective God are very subjective and often contradictory. This may in theory be at least part of the reason why there are so many schisms, denominations, and opinions.


    @C_M_ posted: Are the two of you making God to be a Holy "Rorschach Inkblot Test"?

    The answer CM is to be found in what I wrote. Notice I been mostly describing people/individuals rather God. Then when I did describe or point to God it was within the confines of my received texts.


    Also notice that in my first post on this thread or rather re-post my reference to: John 14:6


    'Search well, read carefully, for the truth of the matter is to be found within the details'

    Post edited by Mitchell on
  • C_M_C_M_ Posts: 3,466

    @Mitchell said:

    "'Search well, read carefully, for the truth of the matter is to be found within the details'"

    And it is likewise said: "'The devil is in the details'"


    SOURCE:

    The source of the proverb is often attributed to the German/American architect Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe. This is almost certainly a misattribution. The expression derives from an earlier German proverb - "Der liebe Gott steckt im detail", which translates as 'God is in the detail'. CM

    the devil is in the details

  • MitchellMitchell Posts: 546

    Of course for the devil is but a tool of the one true God. Therefore the it is important to pay attention to the details so that one not be mislead by either ones wrong interpretations or some one attempting to mislead you.

  • MitchellMitchell Posts: 546
    edited February 6

    Bill_Coley posted: Two honest, objective witnesses to the same crime in good faith describe the person they saw fleeing from the crime scene. One witness describes the suspect as standing about six feet tall, weighing about 180, and wearing blue jeans, a black sweatshirt, and sunglasses. The other witness describes the same suspect as about 5' 7", weighing 210, and wearing a blue hoodie, and no sunglasses. Are they describing the same suspect? In my view, yes

    Bill from the first sentence of yours you make it clear that they saw the same person. And, at the end of the section I quoted you again affirm that they saw the same individual. Therefore without a doubt is the above store the suspect is one is the that both witnesses saw is the same individual.

    Now, both witness were honest/sincere in doing the very best they could to describe the individual but as it is clear that their stories line up it possible that one the stories is more accurate than the other, or that both witness got at least some details right and some wrong.

    If my understanding is correct I would say that this story in part is a useful analogy to how people around the world may differ in understanding reality. However, some people may also believe that the world is flat, that there is or that there isn't as case of global warming and so on. In cases like that people maybe not just describing the same data, but in fact be interpreting the data and coming to conclusion that clash, or contradict with one another.

    I would say that passages like Romans 1:19 ~ 20 may very well speak to this issue. There is enough evidence in the world to point to a very powerful transcendent God so that it is possible for everyone to at least have some knowledge. However just because people around share some of the same basic data that could lead them to understand that transcendent God exist does not mean that it will come to the same conclusion about God. And, when differing religions/theologies begin to move from the concept of transcendent to the concept of Immanence of God is where I believe faith system divergae so greatly they controdict each other. I think it is also clear from the greater context in Romans chapter one that author does not believe that all people come to believe and follow the one true God just because of the evidence found in the natural world.

    This one of the reasons why I think the Bible is so useful because we are no longer left at the mercy of our own understanding of the natural world to help us come to grips with the the divine, but it defines to us who God is and how it is that can come to have a relationship with God. Because We have texts and others do to we can compare the various texts and the theologies there in to see if they really are speaking of the same God or if instead they are at odds with one another.

    Question "Do all of the worlds religions/faith system describe the same God?"

    Answer (mine): No, as far as I can see world religions/faith system have conflicting world views and theologies that are often the antithesis of each other. For example how does one reconcile an Orthodox Jewish point of view with an Orthodox Shintoist point of view. Judaism states there is one God who created nature while Shintoism promotes the idea that different parts of nature and even artificially created things are various gods/Kami? Christianity or at least the NT seems to promote the idea that there is only one way to God and that through the son, while universalism seem to claim that all ways lead to God. Provide of have gotten the claims right are those claims not contradictory or are they really describing the same reality?


    Now Bill if you embrace the concept of universalism or relativism (I am not sure if you do) and believe that all are faiths describe the same God I find it hard to understand why you disagree with the the Trinitarians or with the Trinitarian point of view? Aren't they simply describing the very same God in your paradigm?


    Well, thanks for the thought exercise, but for me your story does not seem very relevant at all to the issue.


    .............................POST SCRIPT.......................

    On the question "Do Jews and Christian worship the same God?"

    A Messiaic Jew would believe in Jesus/Yeshua and share much in common with a Protestant Christian. Messianic Jew might not share the same common ground with a Catholic or an Orthodox christian. Then there are Atheistic Jews, Buddhist Jews (or rather individuals of Jewish heritage who have embraced Buddhism), and so on these Jewish individuals would not share the same God or values with a Protestant Christian. Orthodox Jews would at least share the Hebrew Bible/OT scripture in common with the Protestant Christian and with Catholics, but not with Orthodox Christians who accept the LXX. In that regard religiously observant Jews and Christians share some of the same scriptures and some of the same ideas about God but they do not see eye with protestant on the Yeshua/Jesus, the NT, and the Church.

    This why I believe that CM's question must be consider on an individual to individual basis.

    However, just as the demons believe in God (James 2:19) and as that belief does not save them so too I think that with people (Matthew 7:21 - 23) it isn't cognitive acceptance of the concept of a one God that saves one but rather a relationship with Yeshua/Jesus which why there is only way to the father and that is through Yeshua/Jesus. So, for me whether or not different communities of faith speak about the same God is irrelevant, simply being a member of such communities does not mean one is saved, rather being in right relationship with the one God through Yeshua/Jesus is what saves. For in the NT there is only one way to the Father. Of course, however, God reserves the right to save people anyway he choose to and he may have done so in the Hebrew Bible/OT, but rather than counting on that I think it is best to count on the clear words found in the Bible.


    Grace and Peace

    Post edited by Mitchell on
  • WolfgangWolfgang Posts: 2,332

    Although the thread originally asked about whether Christians and Jews worship the same God .... what about some other people of the world? Did the various Native American tribes worship the same God as Christians and Jews, just using different names, terminology and ideas?

  • MitchellMitchell Posts: 546

    Good Question Wolfgang!

  • Bill_ColeyBill_Coley Posts: 1,925

    @Mitchell posted:

    Bill from the first sentence of yours you make it clear that they saw the same person. And, at the end of the section I quoted you again affirm that they saw the same individual. Therefore without a doubt is the above store the suspect is one is the that both witnesses saw is the same individual.

    Now, both witness were honest/sincere in doing the very best they could to describe the individual but as it is clear that their stories line up it possible that one the stories is more accurate than the other, or that both witness got at least some details right and some wrong.

    Good catch! Quite intentionally did I construct my thought experiment on the fact that the two witnesses saw the same suspect. My purpose in doing was to make clear the distinction between the suspect and the witnesses' description of the suspect. In other words, that the two witnesses offered consequentially different descriptions of the suspect does not necessarily mean they saw different suspects. Or in still other words, the identity of the suspect is not dependent on the witnesses' descriptions.


    If my understanding is correct I would say that this story in part is a useful analogy to how people around the world may differ in understanding reality. However, some people may also believe that the world is flat, that there is or that there isn't as case of global warming and so on. In cases like that people maybe not just describing the same data, but in fact be interpreting the data and coming to conclusion that clash, or contradict with one another.

    I agree with your analysis. The assist offered by my thought experiment in the examples you cite is that the actual shape of the earth and the actual trajectory of global temperatures are not dependent on the conclusions drawn by observers. The earth is flat/round/etc regardless of observer conclusions. Global temps are rising/falling/staying the same regardless of observer conclusions. All observers assess the same earth and measure/analyze/guess at the same temperatures.

    Each observer's conclusions matter! In the case of global climate change, which observer conclusions public policy makers employ matters! But neither public policy nor the observer conclusions on which it is based determines the actual trajectory of global temps.


    I would say that passages like Romans 1:19 ~ 20 may very well speak to this issue. There is enough evidence in the world to point to a very powerful transcendent God so that it is possible for everyone to at least have some knowledge. However just because people around share some of the same basic data that could lead them to understand that transcendent God exist does not mean that it will come to the same conclusion about God. And, when differing religions/theologies begin to move from the concept of transcendent to the concept of Immanence of God is where I believe faith system divergae so greatly they controdict each other. I think it is also clear from the greater context in Romans chapter one that author does not believe that all people come to believe and follow the one true God just because of the evidence found in the natural world.

    Very well said. I agree with your assessment of the applicability of Romans 1 and commend Acts 17.16-34 as another critically valuable text. In it, Paul compliments Athenians for being "highly religious in every way" (Acts 17.22) and then presents to their high council his understanding of the God whom they have described as "unknown."

    Three lessons to take from the Acts 17 story: 1) Paul's respect for others' religious experiences; 2) Paul's role as one who explains to the Athenians his observations of who God is; 3) Paul's declaration that the God the Athenians worship as "unknown" is the same God he is telling them about ("for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about." (Acts 17.23) 


    This one of the reasons why I think the Bible is so useful because we are no longer left at the mercy of our own understanding of the natural world to help us come to grips with the the divine, but it defines to us who God is and how it is that can come to have a relationship with God. Because We have texts and others do to we can compare the various texts and the theologies there in to see if they really are speaking of the same God or if instead they are at odds with one another.

    My starting point is that independent of observer conclusions there is one and only one God, which means, in my view, various religions MUST BE referencing the same God. (The oneness of God is not dependent on observer conclusions.) So for me, various religions MUST reflect observer conclusions about the same God. Their descriptions vary greatly! But there is only one God, so they can only be referring to the same God.


    Question "Do all of the worlds religions/faith system describe the same God?"

    Answer (mine): No, as far as I can see world religions/faith system have conflicting world views and theologies that are often the antithesis of each other. For example how does one reconcile an Orthodox Jewish point of view with an Orthodox Shintoist point of view. Judaism states there is one God who created nature while Shintoism promotes the idea that different parts of nature and even artificially created things are various gods/Kami? Christianity or at least the NT seems to promote the idea that there is only one way to God and that through the son, while universalism seem to claim that all ways lead to God. Provide of have gotten the claims right are those claims not contradictory or are they really describing the same reality?

    I respect your view, but for the reasons unpacked above, I disagree. In my view, there is only one God for world religions to describe, so they must be describing the same God.


    Now Bill if you embrace the concept of universalism or relativism (I am not sure if you do) and believe that all are faiths describe the same God I find it hard to understand why you disagree with the the Trinitarians or with the Trinitarian point of view? Aren't they simply describing the very same God in your paradigm?

    If my comments gave the impression that I believe observers of God have to agree with each other's conclusions, then I erred. The point I've tried to make is that observers of God who disagree with each other's conclusions are still talking about the same God, whether those observers think so or not. I've never intended to suggest Trinitarians have to agree with my point of view or that I have to agree with Trinitarians' point of view. The principal obligation I place on Christians on all sides of the Trinitarian discussion is respect for each other's views: Trinitarians are my brothers and sisters in Christ. They ARE Christians and they believe in the same God as I, their disagreement with my point of view on the Trinity issue notwithstanding. I think I deserve the same consideration from Trinitarians, but as many posts in many threads over the last several years these CD threads attest, such consideration is not always given. (And I'm confident there are non-Trinitarians who sadly exhibit similarly judgmental intolerance toward Trinitarians!)


    Well, thanks for the thought exercise, but for me your story does not seem very relevant at all to the issue.

    For all the reasons fleshed out, or at least hinted at, in this post, I disagree with your conclusion about the relevance of my thought experiment.

  • WolfgangWolfgang Posts: 2,332

    @Bill_Coley posted:

    ... In my view, there is only one God for world religions to describe, so they must be describing the same God.

    The problem is that world religions not only describe God ... comparing what some religions promote as their "God" reveals that some of these "Gods" appear to be more of human mind inventions rather than descriptions of the existing true God.

    Your idea seems to contradict the idea found in Scripture that some works of human hands and human minds declared to be "God" are FALSE GODS ( Idols). Or were Egyptians worshiping a golden calf or their pharaoh worshiping the true God, just using different terms, representations, etc ?

  • Bill_ColeyBill_Coley Posts: 1,925

    @Wolfgang posted:

    The problem is that world religions not only describe God ... comparing what some religions promote as their "God" reveals that some of these "Gods" appear to be more of human mind inventions rather than descriptions of the existing true God.

    Your idea seems to contradict the idea found in Scripture that some works of human hands and human minds declared to be "God" are FALSE GODS ( Idols). Or were Egyptians worshiping a golden calf or their pharaoh worshiping the true God, just using different terms, representations, etc ?

    There is NO DOUBT that human descriptions get God wrong... in some cases WAY wrong! YES, there are false gods. But my contention is that God's reality and unity are independent of our descriptions of God. HOWEVER wrong people are in their descriptions of God (or whatever they call their divine beings) - and this advisory pertains to you and me as well! - there is still only one God who has a character and reality that are not dependent on human descriptions.

  • WolfgangWolfgang Posts: 2,332

    HOWEVER wrong people are in their descriptions of God (or whatever they call their divine beings) - and this advisory pertains to you and me as well! - there is still only one God who has a character and reality that are not dependent on human descriptions

    Of ocurse, man's descriptions do not change a thing about the true God. Yes, I would say there are people who actually are referring to the true God and who do not use biblical terms for God, since they may not even know that there is such a thing as the Bible or that there was a man Jesus who was sent by God as Messiah, etc.

    On the other hand, I contend that not all varying descriptions of God are actually speaking about the same true God ... and that many descriptions actually describe FALSE Gods rather than the one true God.

  • MitchellMitchell Posts: 546
    edited February 6

    Bill_Coley posted: Three lessons to take from the Acts 17 story: 1) Paul's respect for others' religious experiences; 2) Paul's role as one who explains to the Athenians his observations of who God is; 3) Paul's declaration that the God the Athenians worship as "unknown" is the same God he is telling them about ("for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about." (Acts 17.23)

    Sure, it seems Paul paid the Athenians at least some respect...

    Paul however, also clearly made a distinction between the unknown God, and the numerous know gods the Athenians also built shrines for. Paul seems not to have extended his respect for the Athenians 'worship' and acknowledgment of the unknown God to their worship of known gods. From the text at hand and the clear distinction Paul seem to be making between the known and the unknown I see no evident that Paul might have even consider the possibly that Athenians were describing and worship the one true God by their worship of the various other gods in their numerous shrines.

    Bill_Coley posted: The point I've tried to make is that observers of God who disagree with each other's conclusions are still talking about the same God, whether those observers think so or not.

    I am curious how Paul coming from a Jewish background felt about the Athenians practice of worshiping the unknown God along side their worship of other gods? I would have thought that the Hebrew Bible/OT  many injunctions against the practice would make it difficult for him to respect and praise the Athenians practice? Would he also have come to the conclusion that the Athenians were worship the one true God in there various Shrines?

    Bill_Coley posted: The principal obligation I place on Christians on all sides of the Trinitarian discussion is respect for each other's views: Trinitarians are my brothers and sisters in Christ.

    In the example of the Athenians worship of the unknown God along with various known gods would Paul have said the same? Did Paul believe that they were his brothers/sister in Christ because they had an altar to an unknown God?

    Unitarian Christians and Trinitarian Christians share the very same scriptures and very often very similar social-cultural backgrounds and understandings as well, but could Paul have said the same about the Athenians who were worshiping an unkown God without Biblical knowledge about how to do so?

    Another question that arises is why does Paul criticize his Jewish brothers for not accepting Christ/Messiah in the book of Romans? He did not seem to accept them as brother/sisters in Christ and because of the Hebrew Bible/LXX they knew far more than the Athenians in you example as well as having far more in common with Paul.

    It seems to me that Paul still felt a need to teach the Gospel to both the Jew and the non-Jews (Romans 1:16 and 1 Corinthians 9:20-23) for it would lead them both to salvation. It seem that Paul felt both Jews and non-Jews knowledge of the divine was insufficient, lacking, or incorrect at some point.


    Bill_Coley posted:There is NO DOUBT that human descriptions get God wrong... in some cases WAY wrong! YES, there are false gods.

    I agree with the above statement of yours.


    Grace and peace

  • Bill_ColeyBill_Coley Posts: 1,925

    @Mitchell posted:

    Paul however, also clearly made a distinction between the unknown God, and the numerous know gods the Athenians also built shrines for. Paul seems not to have extended his respect for the Athenians 'worship' and acknowledgment of the unknown God to their worship of known gods. From the text at hand and the clear distinction Paul seem to be making between the known and the unknown I see no evident that Paul might have even consider the possibly that Athenians were describing and worship the one true God by their worship of the various other gods in their numerous shrines.

    It's certainly true that Paul contends that his faith in a living, ever-present God is superior to the faiths of those who have fashioned their gods out of "gold, silver, or stone." (Acts 17.27-29)

    It seems to me that in at least one instance Paul understands their "unknown" god to be the God Paul knows (Acts 17.23).

    Does Paul think they worship the one true God? In at least the one instance, I think so, yes. In the case of the idols, the most he says is that the city's shrines demonstrate the religiousness of the community.


    In the example of the Athenians worship of the unknown God along with various known gods would Paul have said the same? Did Paul believe that they were his brothers/sister in Christ because they had an altar to an unknown God?

    To me, it's clear from the Acts 17 text that Paul feels a spiritual camaraderie with those who worship the "unknown" god because, Paul believes, that god is the same God he worships. I don't think he would call those worshipers his brothers and sisters in Christ, however, because Christ is a specific manifestation of God's self-disclosure, one not common to all who worship God.


    Unitarian Christians and Trinitarian Christians share the very same scriptures and very often very similar social-cultural backgrounds and understandings as well, but could Paul have said the same about the Athenians who were worshiping an unknown God without Biblical knowledge about how to do so?

    (Given the content and spirit of some posters' responses in these forums to Christological points of view different from their own, I wonder about the benefits of shared Scriptures and backgrounds/understandings! 😛 ) I think the point Paul makes to the Athenians about their "unknown" God is that he and they don't need shared backgrounds to understand that one God can be known and made Godself known in Jesus.


    Another question that arises is why does Paul criticize his Jewish brothers for not accepting Christ/Messiah in the book of Romans? He did not seem to accept them as brother/sisters in Christ and because of the Hebrew Bible/LXX they knew far more than the Athenians in you example as well as having far more in common with Paul.

    As I noted above, connections to others "in Christ" are results of a specific manifestation of God's self-disclosure, one most of Paul's Jewish brothers and sisters did not share. The intensity of his critique of their refusal to accept Jesus as Messiah likely also has roots in that revelation's proximity to the Jewish community. OF ALL PEOPLE they should see the truth revealed in Jesus. I don't think Paul holds Athenians to the same expectation.


    It seems to me that Paul still felt a need to teach the Gospel to both the Jew and the non-Jews (Romans 1:16 and 1 Corinthians 9:20-23) for it would lead them both to salvation. It seem that Paul felt both Jews and non-Jews knowledge of the divine was insufficient, lacking, or incorrect at some point.

    I've never intended to deny the command to make disciples of all nations, or the value of persons of faith to inviting others to hear the Gospel.


    At a meta-level, your insightful post has caused me to revisit my views on the subjects we're addressing, and to be candid, at the moment I have myself confused! I'm confident of my assertion that there is one and only one God. I'm confident that people of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic faiths - all who claim the existence of a monotheistic God - pursue the same God, even though their apprehensions of that one God are in significant ways very different from each other. But polytheistic faiths clearly propose a formation that is at odds with my central claim of one and only one God. That reality poses an existential threat to some of the claims I made in my last post. So for the moment, my claim that ALL who seek God must believe in the same God, however differently described and experienced, is on life support. Thanks for your perceptive comments that compelled me to rethink these things.


    @Wolfgang posted:

    On the other hand, I contend that not all varying descriptions of God are actually speaking about the same true God ... and that many descriptions actually describe FALSE Gods rather than the one true God.

    I understand your point, but I hesitate about its implementation. At what point, for example, is a description of God so far from "the one true God" that it's not longer a description of God? If I describe God as one who on multiple occasions has commanded the genocide of women, men, and children, and who not only tolerated but gave rules to regulate the ownership of human beings by other human beings (slavery), do I describe the one true God? I can argue both sides of that question, but I'd do so with far more conviction and passion when defending a "no" response, even though such conduct is in fact clearly part of the biblical record and therefore embraced by countless numbers of Christians and Jews.


    MY BRAIN HURTS!!! 😀

  • WolfgangWolfgang Posts: 2,332

    @Bill_Coley posted

    It seems to me that in at least one instance Paul understands their "unknown" god to be the God Paul knows (Acts 17.23).

    Does Paul think they worship the one true God? In at least the one instance, I think so, yes. In the case of the idols, the most he says is that the city's shrines demonstrate the religiousness of the community.

    Looking at Acts 17 and the situation of Paul trying to preach the gospel of the true God, one should note that Paul was being confronted and basically accused of preaching "other than our Athenian gods" which - if found guilty by that court - could lead to rather sever e consequences for Paul and his life. The Athenians had been quite "smart" and in their endeavor to not cause any god's wrath by possibly having forgotten to build a separate altar for him, they built one "inclusive" altar to "the unknown God".

    Now, Paul apparently was not stupid and a rather wise fellow in this situation when brought before the Aeropag ... and he countered this threat of the charge of preaching "other foreign god" by picking up on the one escape he could think of to catch the Athenian accusers "in their own trap". He turned to them with "Eh, what are you talking about? You yourself have not only altars to named gods but I saw an altar to an "unknown God". I am declaring that unknown God" .... Tja, the accusers were stumped and Paul's life saved.

    Did Paul seriously believe that the Athenians were actually worshiping the true God Whom he, Paul, was preaching, on that altar "to the unknown God"? Obviously NOT! He considered that altar to be just as much an altar to their false gods as all the other altars were. Now, was the true God Whom Paul intendedd to preach "unknown" to the Athenians ?? Obviously, YES! Paul was therefore not lying, he was very wisely using the word "unknown" - in a different sense, from how the Athenians had originally intended, and thus escaped their judgment on his life without being forced to lie.

  • Bill_ColeyBill_Coley Posts: 1,925

    @Wolfgang posted:

    Looking at Acts 17 and the situation of Paul trying to preach the gospel of the true God, one should note that Paul was being confronted and basically accused of preaching "other than our Athenian gods" which - if found guilty by that court - could lead to rather sever e consequences for Paul and his life. The Athenians had been quite "smart" and in their endeavor to not cause any god's wrath by possibly having forgotten to build a separate altar for him, they built one "inclusive" altar to "the unknown God".

    Where in the Acts 17 text do you find support for what seems to be your claim that the Athenian high council acted as some sort of judicial tribunal when it met with Paul? I see no evidence in the text that the tribunal invited Paul's input as part of a proceeding held to judge his guilt or innocence. Instead, it was Athenians' curiosity that led to the invitation, and that fueled their reaction to his presentation. Consider these verses:

    19 Then they took him to the high council of the city. “Come and tell us about this new teaching,” they said. 20 “You are saying some rather strange things, and we want to know what it’s all about.” 21 (It should be explained that all the Athenians as well as the foreigners in Athens seemed to spend all their time discussing the latest ideas.) (Acts 17.19-21, NLT)

    It seems to me that the text makes clear Paul's meeting with the council was a predictable outcome of the community's practice of exploring ideas, and NOT an event at which punitive consequences were in play. Further, the council's reactions to Paul's presentation give no suggestion that an assessment of guilt or innocence was ever at issue:

    32 When they heard Paul speak about the resurrection of the dead, some laughed in contempt, but others said, “We want to hear more about this later.” 33 That ended Paul’s discussion with them, 34 but some joined him and became believers. Among them were Dionysius, a member of the council, a woman named Damaris, and others with them. (Acts 17.32-34, NLT)


    Now, Paul apparently was not stupid and a rather wise fellow in this situation when brought before the Aeropag ... and he countered this threat of the charge of preaching "other foreign god" by picking up on the one escape he could think of to catch the Athenian accusers "in their own trap". He turned to them with "Eh, what are you talking about? You yourself have not only altars to named gods but I saw an altar to an "unknown God". I am declaring that unknown God" .... Tja, the accusers were stumped and Paul's life saved.

    Where in the text do you find support for your claim that Paul faced a "threat of the charge of preaching 'other foreign god'"? I see no such threat, which is in keeping with the fact that in the text the council exhibits no characteristics consistent with those of a body empowered to issue such threats.

    Further, I see nothing in the text that Paul saw his reference to their "unknown" god as an "escape" from any "trap," nor that Paul's life was ever at risk, and hence needed to be saved. So again I ask: Where in the text do you find support for your claims?


    Did Paul seriously believe that the Athenians were actually worshiping the true God Whom he, Paul, was preaching, on that altar "to the unknown God"? Obviously NOT! He considered that altar to be just as much an altar to their false gods as all the other altars were. Now, was the true God Whom Paul intendedd to preach "unknown" to the Athenians ?? Obviously, YES! Paul was therefore not lying, he was very wisely using the word "unknown" - in a different sense, from how the Athenians had originally intended, and thus escaped their judgment on his life without being forced to lie.

    At best, it seems to me, you're contending that though Paul didn't lie to the Athenians, he certainly misled them. Here's the applicable section of the Acts 17 text:

    22 So Paul, standing before the council, addressed them as follows: “Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, 23 for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about. (Acts 17.22-23, NLT)

    Contrary to your claim, it seems to me that Paul very clearly identifies the God who sent Jesus as the very same God one of their altars labeled "unknown." If Paul believed that God was truly "unknown" to the Athenians, why would Paul believe that "unknown" god was one the Athenians worshiped?

  • MitchellMitchell Posts: 546


    @Bill_Coley posted

    It's certainly true that Paul contends that his faith in a living, ever-present God is superior to the faiths of those who have fashioned their gods out of "gold, silver, or stone." (Acts 17.27-29)

    What practically speaking does 'superior' mean? Does this really mean that at some point Paul thinks of idol worship as an inferior yet somehow valid form worship of the One true God?


    @Bill_Coley posted

    Does Paul think they worship the one true God? In at least the one instance, I think so, yes. In the case of the idols, the most he says is that of the city's shrines demonstrate the religiousness of the community.

    What does the Athenians' worship of an unknown mean? And, were there Athenian individuals that were only worshiping the unknown God, or were Athenian individuals worshiping the unknown God in conjunction with the other gods signified by the various shrines? And, if so does Paul consider these expressions of faith to be permissible for people in general and/or for Christians?


    @Bill_Coley posted

    To me, it's clear from the Acts 17 text that Paul feels a spiritual camaraderie with those who worship the "unknown" god because, Paul believes, that god is the same God he worships.

    If, the above is the case I wonder why it is that Paul can on one hand feel such spiritual fellowship/Friendship with Anthenians but on the other hand be so very critical of his Jewish brethren whom actually share at that point in history the very same scriptures as him, and much of the same understanding of the one true God him, and who are by heritage his brothers/sisters.

    @Bill_Coley posted

    connections to others "in Christ" are results of a specific manifestation of God's self-disclosure, one most of Paul's Jewish brothers and sisters did not share.

    However as mentioned before Paul's Jewish brothers and sisters did share far more in common with him than did the Athenians and his Jewish Brothers and sisters knew the one true God in ways that the Athenians clearly did not as they were refering to the One true God as an unknown. If Paul feels fellowship with the Anthenians just because they have an altar to an unknown God why would he not feel much, much, much more connection with his Jewish brother/sisters and with the individuals mention in the book of Galatians?

    @Bill_Coley posted

    There is NO DOUBT that human descriptions get God wrong... in some cases WAY wrong! YES, there are false gods.

    And, I thought you maintained that all expressions of faith were some how directed at the one true God? Well, then in your paradigm how does one discern the worship of the One true God from the worship of false gods?

    @Bill_Coley posted

    I've never intended to deny the command to make disciples of all nations, or the value of persons of faith to inviting others to hear the Gospel.

    If, all faiths/religions are expressions of worship to the one true God(as you seemed to claim earlier), why would it be necessary to make disciples? Or rather what would the making of disciples mean in such a paradigm? Would this mean that people convert or move from on expression of faith to another? Or would it mean that people continue in whatever expression of faith they belonged to but are 'disciples'?


    At a meta-level, your insightful post has caused me to revisit my views on the subjects we're addressing, and to be candid, at the moment I have myself confused! ...

    Thank you for the compliment however I am simply trying to figure out how this paradigm works. I am neither a theologian nor an academic scholar of theology not even even an amateur one. I consider myself to be a simple congregant and gallivanter.


    Grace and Peace

  • WolfgangWolfgang Posts: 2,332

    @Bill_Coley posted:

    Contrary to your claim, it seems to me that Paul very clearly identifies the God who sent Jesus as the very same God one of their altars labeled "unknown."

    I do not see Paul anywhere identifying the true God with the idol behind the altar "to the unknown God" the Athenians were worshiping. The Athenians had this altar to an "unknown God" solely in order to sort of not miss any "god" (from a Biblical view, an "idol") and thereby perhaps invoke this "god's" wrath. The Athenians were NOT ignorantly worshiping the true God, but instead were consciously worshiping idols, and that to a degree which the record in Acts 17 describes as "city was given completely to idolatry" (Acts 17:16).

    If Paul believed that God was truly "unknown" to the Athenians, why would Paul believe that "unknown" god was one the Athenians worshiped?

    See above ... to the Athenians the "unknown god" was nothing more than any of the other "gods (= IDOLS)" and was part of the "complete idolatry" to which the Athenians had given themselves. Furthermore, they seemed rather hostile to anyone preaching "a foreign god" as the scene as a whole and what is recorded in Acts 17 indicates to me.

    As I mentioned before, Paul very wisely used this "altar to the unknown god (idol)" as a welcome and smart "entry" to do some preaching among these idolatrous Gentiles .... In a sense, no different from his method to use the sabbath reading of scripture in a synagogue as an "entry" to preach Messiah Jesus among the Jews. Eh, we today as teachers or preachers at times use some "current headline" or something we recently saw or experienced as an "entry" to a teaching or sermon.

    In other words, the record in Acts 17 does not give me the impression that Paul was actually of the opinion that the Athenian "unknown god (idol)" was in truth the true God whom he wanted to preach.

  • MitchellMitchell Posts: 546

    @Wolfgang posted:

    The Athenians had this altar to an "unknown God" solely in order to sort of not miss any "god"

    I concur that the above is probably the most likely explanation and would fit very with Paul's stated philosophy found in 1 Corinthians 9:20-23

  • WolfgangWolfgang Posts: 2,332

    @Wolfgang posted:On the other hand, I contend that not all varying descriptions of God are actually speaking about the same true God ... and that many descriptions actually describe FALSE Gods rather than the one true God.


    @Bill_Coley posted

    I understand your point, but I hesitate about its implementation. At what point, for example, is a description of God so far from "the one true God" that it's not longer a description of God?

    It's not the description of a God by which it is determined whether the one true God is in view or some false God (idol) is in view.

    Considering some information from Rom 1, I gather that the one true God can be acknowledged by any human being, provided that human being follows that sincere and innocent desire to know and worship his creator which God initially put into man's heart when He created man. The creation provides the truth to testify of the one true God.

    The problem is that man fell and essentially began to make and fabricate his own "god(s)) of creatures and parts of creation, thus worshiping the creation more than the Creator and forsaking the true God and replacing Him with his own god / gods (idols). In addition, man following the lie and worshiping false gods also has gone as far as to describe the true God falsely.

    If I describe God as one who on multiple occasions has commanded the genocide of women, men, and children, and who not only tolerated but gave rules to regulate the ownership of human beings by other human beings (slavery), do I describe the one true God?

    If the true God gave such commandment and rules, you would be describing the one true God. If the true God did not give such commandment, you would be giving a false report of Him.

    I can argue both sides of that question, but I'd do so with far more conviction and passion when defending a "no" response, even though such conduct is in fact clearly part of the biblical record and therefore embraced by countless numbers of Christians and Jews.

    See above ...

    IF these things happened and were commanded by the true God, your description would be that of the true God.

    IF these things happened and were not commanded by the true God, then your description would not be about the true God

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