Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Uniqueness of the Bible's God

As we're looking at the various reasons why the Bible can be trusted, we've looked at a historical argument (fulfilled prophecy) and a scientific argument (archaeology), but this week, I want to look at something a little different. While those lines of thinking are more objective and evidence-based, this week I'd like to focus on an aesthetic argument that has its own logic to it. You may or may not find this convincing, but I do. It has to do with the uniqueness of the God that the Bible presents to us.

The Bible claims to be God's word--the only authoritative and reliable record of his activity in history. By extention, the Bible asserts that all other sacred texts that claim the same status (The Qu'ran, The Bhagavad Gita, The Sutras, and so on) are not authoritative and reliable, especially with respect to the ways they deviate from the record given in the Bible.

So it is noteworthy to me that no other religion in the history of the world presents a picture of a God or gods like anything that resembles the God of the Bible.

  • Personally Concerned. In the Bible, God is personally concerned with all of his creation, especially human beings. He lovingly, patiently, tenderly works with them to restore the personal relationship that was originally present in the perfect origins of the world before humanity strayed from his perfect design. In Islam, by contrast, God (Allah) stands as an aloof, unapproachable King and Judge who can be satiated only through radical submission and self-discipline. In eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, God is an impersonal force that permeates the universe. Other religions have a pantheon of warring deities and demi-gods that scheme against one another in an endless quest for their own selfish desires. No other religion presents an image of a loving, concerned God.
  • A Model To Imitate. In the Bible, God uses himself as the ideal for us to follow. His goal is that we should become like him--loving, faithful, honest, just, generous, servant-hearted, compassionate. In other religions, it's a matter of "do as I say, not as I do." God, or gods, must be appeased--human beings must do things their way in order to avoid punishments or to receive blessings. The gods of other religions are drunk with power--they have carte blanche to do whatever they want--and most of the time they are vindictive and capricious. In eastern religions, since God is not a person and possesses no character, there is no corresponding way to imitate; the best that can be hoped for is to be absorbed into God and nothingness.
  • Initiator Of Relationships. At each phase of the biblical story, God is the one who takes the initiative to establish a relationship with us, rather than the other way around. He did this in creation, at the fall of Adam and Eve, with Noah and the flood, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, at the Exodus and giving of the Law, with all the prophets, and finally in Jesus. In all other religions, it is we who must pursue the Deity to gain his "goodies"--in Christianity it is God who pursues us because of his great, unsurpassing love.
  • Incarnate. In no other religion does God wrap himself in human flesh and come to reveal himself more fully than he ever has, and eventually take on himself the curse of sin to repair the broken relationship between himself and humankind. The Incarnation is a service (of the highest order!) to humanity. In some other religions, gods may disguise themselves as humans for personal gain, or because they've been punished by other gods with more power. In other religions, God remains a figure too remote and inaccessible to stoop to such a low level.
  • Dispenser Of Grace. Of all the contrasts, I believe this is the greatest. In all other religions, the worshipers must earn their way to God. But Christianity is the only religion in which God offers grace (unmerited favor) to people. It is based on the truth that we can never earn our way to perfection; if God were to accept us in our imperfection, he would have to himself compromise his own integrity (and cease to be perfect). Instead, he made a way for us to become perfect through the blood of Jesus, because it was impossible for us to achieve on our own. This concept is so remarkable and incomprehensible that the tendency is even for Christians to keep trying to earn God's love and favor. Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons are two "Christian" groups that teach that we must work to achieve our right standing with God, rather than trusting in the work already done by Jesus.

In other religions, God is either impersonal and inacessible, or God is angry and vengeful, or the gods are petty and selfish. Christianity stands alone as the religion where God is personally concerned about us, where he stands as a perfect model for us in all integrity, who initiates a relationship with us, even to the point of himself becoming human, and showers us with his grace and mercy.

You see, when people come up with their own religion, this isn't the kind of God they create. This is the kind of God that everyone should want, but it seems too good to be true. And ironically, the God of the Bible demands the we surrender the thing that we cling to most tightly--our own pride. The Bible says we are totally dependent on God's love and goodness, that we have nothing good to bring to him, and that message is even harder for us to accept than the idea that a god must be appeased with sacrifices.

The God of the Bible gets to the root of the matter. And for me, because God is, at the same time, both more lenient AND more demanding than the gods of other religions, it shows me that he must be the One True God. No person or group of persons could have concocted this story--there's no way anyone could have been so clever as to invent it. When you add in the fact that the Bible has 66 books with dozens of authors spread over thousands of years, presenting one consistent picture of God--yet developing more and more nuance and depth as he more fully revealed himself over time--there is only one conclusion I can reach: It is the story of God, and not of men. And I believe it.

1 comment:

Sande said...

Scott, I just wanted you to know that I am reading your blog. It gives me lots to think about...I don't always feel I know how to reply, but I do want you to know that I am reading and learning from your blog.

Thank you for taking the time to write it.