Aaron (my 4 year old son) is in this stage where he wants to know what’s “real” and what’s “not real.” He asks about things like dinosaurs, bank robbers, super-heros, China, volcanos, and a long list of other random things – – – “Is _______ real, Daddy?” And if it is not real, I’ll respond in the negative and he’ll follow it up with the statement, “But _________ is real.” I’ll agree and affirm his differentiation. You would think this game would be simple, but I assure you, it’s not. Here’s a sample conversation:
“Are dinosaurs real, Daddy?” – – –
“Well, they are real, yes, but they’re not alive anymore.”
“Well if they’re not alive, they’re not real.”
“That’s not necessarily true, son. Things can be real but not alive.”
“Are you sure, Daddy? That doesn’t make any sense.” – – –
We were in a discussion in Sunday School this morning about “other gods.” It was only a minor portion of our lesson, and it didn’t last very long, but I haven’t been able to shake it yet. There are many religions out there. Many things, persons, entities, and images that people either consider or treat as “gods.” You’ve heard it, and I’ve said it… “The god of Islam is not the God of the Bible.” “The Hindus have many gods.” “Humanists believe we are our own god.” I’m not trying to get caught up in the difficulties of language here. But every time I say something like that, I kindof cringe a little. Why?…
The God of the Bible is the ONLY God. There is no other. Put simply, the “god of Islam,” the “gods of Hindu,” etc, do not exist. They are not “REAL,” as Aaron would say. They are, in reality, not gods at all. Isaiah communicates God’s words very clearly on this subject:
I’ve heard famous preachers, teachers, and even presidents say things like, “The gods of Islam and Christianity are the same.” No, they’re not. And I’ve encountered a growing number of people who believe, with all sincerity, that many of the world’s religions serve the same god, but call him by different names. In fact, I specifically remember hearing Oprah Winfrey say on her show one time, “… there are many paths to what you call God… her path might be something else, and when she gets there, she might call it the ‘light’…”
I teach private lessons on the side. Trombone, Euphonium, and Tuba to be specific. Every student of mine, at some point (usually when working through scales and the Circle of Fourths) calls the key/scale of “Eb” by the name of “E” or the key/scale of “Ab” by the name of “A.” I tell them, “No, that’s not right.” Sometimes it takes a few minutes before they see what’s going on… but in the end, they begin to understand that you can’t call “Eb” an “E.” They are two different notes. Two completely different key signatures; one has three flats, and the other has four sharps. Not even close to the same. If they persist in the error of their ways, I’ll start calling them (the students) by the wrong name. If his name is Terry, I’ll call him Tom. They never like that much. But they eventually learn.
It’s more than semantics. It’s about reality. No matter how many times you call an Eb an E, the Eb does not change into an E. And if you call it by the wrong name one hundred and fifty three times, you will be wrong one hundred and fifty three times. An Eb is not an E. An Ab is not an A. Reality is not dependent on your perception or your understanding of it. It is what it is.
Yahweh, the God of the Bible, is the only God. There is no other. You can call someone or something else a god all you want, but that does not make it a god. You can build a monument, start a religion, carve a figurine, erect a statue, and worship something tirelessly. But it does not become a god. I can’t change reality. There is a God. He is the God of the Bible. And there is no other.
This is not to get you to stop using the phrase, “the god of Islam,” or the “gods of Hindu,” etc, etc, etc. I understand completely the limitation of language. But sometimes, we as Christians need to back up from these arguments a little bit and participate in a reality check of sorts. Let’s get the larger picture here:
People are worshipping non-gods. They may be worshipping a figure from history, a statue, a carving, an idea, themselves, etc… but whatever it is, it is NOT God. In fact, it is not “a god.” There is but One.
Grace and Peace,