Recently I listened to an interview from a popular musical artiste in Jamaica, who recently produced a song that was explicitly religious, with expressions that could be deemed Christian.
A friend sent this interview to me, which I found to be very telling; in this interview he was asked-given the content of the song- if he was now a Christian. Truthfully there was no explicit reference to God as understood by Christians; it was simply the familiarity of the words which gave the impression.
Now the details of what he shared in the interview are not the thrust of this article, but the idea or sentiment that emerged. He essentially shared that he was not indentifying with any particular religious expression, may it be Christian or Muslim; since to do this would be confining his view to a narrow view of thinking. His understanding of who God is as a creator is far greater than a view confined to a specific religion.
Let me firstly say that such a view is not new, since many people have expressed their religious views as not specific to a religion but something a bit more all encompassing and inclusive. They do not affirm an atheistic view of life- where God is absent from the answer to origin of all things- the expression of the musician and others similarly, are that of the analogy of the elephant; where we grasp at parts to explain without committing to “a” part as a total explanation of truth.
I affirm like the apostle Paul such a view for what it is firstly “religious”-as expressed to the men of Athens in Acts 17. The artiste I heard in the interview- and others like him- do not disregard a God/Creator and so we are on somewhat equal footing. Where I question- and invite you to journey with me in exploring- is who we should Understand God to be.
I think, essentially, how we think about God is just as important as what we think about him; since to some level, God can be understood and to personalise our understanding totally, raises the question of what happened to those before you were born and what happens to those after you are gone? In other words I believe that what we believe should have roots; without this reference, how we know and what we know can lack truthfulness, since self-reference (which is what we may have here) has only served for preference and opinion, not truth.
I don’t seek to critique the whole view, nor is this article an attempt to do so- I have never heard its entirety. I seek to question the vague expression of a God, as “creator” who essentially lacks clarity in explanation. I want to simultaneously question this vague expression and commend to you an understanding I have about the God believed by Christians.
Paul in the book of Acts chapter 17 speaks to a group of religious men and philosophers at Mars Hill in Athens, and he uses as his platform an inscription he saw in their midst “An Unknown God”, to share with his hearers about God. Here are two points for you to consider how we think about God. Firstly, Paul says in verse 23 “To the unknown god” and then proceeds to speak about the God of the Bible to illustrate the point that God has revealed himself to not just be known, but to be known with specificity; in order to do that,
Paul in speaking to the men of Athens, saw it fit to not only say who God is “The Lord of Heaven and Earth” but who he is not. He is a God who “does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything...”. Our view of God may be limited-granted- but any exclusive expression of truth has boundaries, by conveying what a thing is and what it is not.
The second point is, if he has revealed himself with such specificity; not only are we to think high thoughts and lovely thoughts about him; there are some ways we are not to think of him, in verse 29 of the chapter Paul says “We ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man”. If we are to consider him great and lofty, then our thoughts move in a direction not only consistent with who he says he is, but who we understand him to be as a result.
The title of this article is “The God who is there”; “there” because he has revealed himself, “The God”, because his expression of himself is objective and specific. What I commend to you reader is this, the passage in Acts 17 says why God created us, namely: to seek Him, to know him and experience an intimacy that he defines and calls us to; not one we piece together. The God of the Bible calls us to call on him; in order to do that, the word is preached; so we hear and know whom to call.
I encourage you as the passage does to “seek him and go further to reach out to him; though he is not far from us”. He is nearer than we think, He is there.
Paul Lewis is a Staff Worker for Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship in Kingston Jamaica, where he also resides. He has aspirations of becoming a Christian apologist and he loves reading, especially topics like: History, Philosophy and Theology. You can follow him on twitter @VeritasDeiVinci
Paul Lewis' previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/paul-lewis.html