Recently I listened to an interview from a popular musician in Jamaica, who produced a song that was explicitly religious, with expressions that could be deemed Christian. A friend sent an interview with the artiste to me and I found it to be very telling. In this interview the artiste was asked, given the content of the song, whether he was now a Christian. Truthfully, there were no explicit references to God as understood by Christians. It was simply the familiarity of the words which gave this impression.
Now although the details of what the music artiste shared in the interview are not the thrust of this article, the idea or sentiment that emerged is. He essentially shared that he was not indentifying with any particular religious expression, be it Christian or Muslim, since to do this would be confining his view to a narrow way of thinking. His understanding of who God is as a creator is far greater than a view confined to a specific religion.
Who should we understand God to be?
Let me say at the outset that such a view is not new, since many people have expressed their religious views as being not specific to a religion but to 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 inclined is that of an analogy to the elephant. 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. It is firstly “religious” as expressed to the men of Athens in Acts 17. The artiste, and others like him, do not disregard a God or Creator and so we are on somewhat equal footing. What I question- and invite you to journey with me in exploring- is who should we understand God to be. Essentially, how we think about God is just as important as what we think about him since on some level, God can be understood. To personalise our understanding totally, raises the question of what happened to those who were born before us and what happens to those born after we 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 to engender preference and opinion, not truth.
The “Unknown” God
I don’t seek to critique the whole argument, nor is this article an attempt to do so. I have never heard it in its entirety. I seek to question the vague expression of a God, as “creator” who essentially lacks clarity in explanation. I want to simultaneously commend to you the understanding that I have about the God believed in 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 that he saw in their midst, “An Unknown God”, to share with his hearers about God. Here are two points for us to consider regarding 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 not just to 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...” Granted, our view of God may be limited, 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 also ways in which we ought 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 as “The God”. His expression of Himself is objective and specific. What I commend to you reader is 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