Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

Do different faiths worship different gods?


  • Please log in to reply
42 replies to this topic

#1 Stephen Hayes

Stephen Hayes

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 52 posts

Posted 07 March 2012 - 07:43 AM

In another thread, someone asked if the God of the Baptists was the same as the God of the Orthodox, and the discussion then widened to apply to other non-Orthodox, and some said that the God of Muslims was not the same as the God of the Orthodox, and similar things.

Fr David Moser pointed out, correctly in my view, that "Orthodoxy" means right worship of God, not worshipping the right God.

As Orthodox Christians we say, in the Symbol of Faith, "I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth..."

Isa 45:18 "For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else."

We believe also that God revealed himself to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and also to Moses.

And we believe that the God who created the heavens and the earth is also the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We do not believe that the creator of the universe was some kind of demiurge, inferior to the Supreme Being. "I am the Lord, there is no other."

Thus while those, like Jews and Muslims, who claim to worship the God of Abraham and yet deny the Trinity, may have defective theology and defective worship, they cannot have another God. Their conception of God may be inadequate, but God is not dependent on our conceptions, and defects in our conceptions cannot alter his essence.

It seems to me that those who say that non-Orthodox, or non-Christians generally, worship "another God", are claiming that the nature of God is dependent on human understanding and human conceptions of him, and that therefore, if the last Orthodox Trinitarian Christian were to die, God would cease to exist.

I can understand pagan polytheism, but I cannot understand this "Abrahamic polytheism".

In pagan polytheism there are many gods (and in some cases godesses). But in the Christian understanding, these spirits that are worshiped as gods are creatures. They are not the uncreated creator of all, but they are created by God (see, eg, Deut 32:8; Ps 81/82 passim). So I would not say, for example, that the Hindu Ganesha is the same as the God of Abraham. Whatever Hindus might say about Ganesha, in a Christian understanding Ganesha is, at best, a creature, created by the God who made all things, visible and invisible. Or Ganesha may be purely a product of the human imagination, perhaps arising from the fumbling attempts of fallen man to find a way back to God.

But the God of Abraham, we believe, is not a creature, but the uncreated creator of all. And his creatures cannot change him in his nature by our defective understanding of him, by our defective theology. Nor can we, by our defective theology, multiply him, so that we can say there is one God of the Christians, another of the Muslims, and yet another of the Jews, because to do such a thing does not magnify God, but diminishes him immeasurably.

#2 Herman Blaydoe

Herman Blaydoe

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,157 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 07 March 2012 - 01:25 PM

There is only one God, but there are also spiritual beings that evidently masquerade as "gods". They are not God but they too are worshipped by no doubt sincere but misled people. If we assume that Muslims indeed worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, then a case certainly can be made that they worship that which they do not rightly understand, even as Christ our Lord explained to St. Photini at the well ("You worship what you do not know" John 4:22). I think that positing actual "other" gods is not all that helpful in the discussion, because I don't thing anyone is actually saying any such thing.

However, a case can be made that perhaps Mohammed and his disciples were misled by the "angel" whose "revelation" was of something other than God. Who is to say that this "angel" was merely a demon in disquise? Therefore, at best, what the Muslims worship is a faulty construct, like Ganesha, and thus not the True God. If pagans and Redskins fans can worship false gods, why not Muslims?

Where it comes into play is really in the realm of diplomacy and how we approach others, as typlified by the holy Apostle Paul and the unknown God of the Greeks. I think it is called "knowing your audience".

Herman the sometimes diplomatic Pooh

#3 Michael Albert

Michael Albert

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 241 posts

Posted 07 March 2012 - 01:44 PM

However, a case can be made that perhaps Mohammed and his disciples were misled by the "angel" whose "revelation" was of something other than God.

Indeed. Muslims knowingly and consciously reject the Trinity. Therefore, they are not worshipping the Trinitariain God...the God of Abraham.

#4 Herman Blaydoe

Herman Blaydoe

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,157 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 07 March 2012 - 02:35 PM

But that becomes merely a semantic argument. You really can make perfectly valid arguments on both sides of this issue. It really comes down to whether you are looking to win your audience over or simply alienate them.

St. Paul did not say directly to the Greeks "you worship false gods ...", he simply said, "lets talk about this 'unknown' god over here ..." He was looking to draw them in, not chase them off. Sorry folks, but it really depends on how you want to approach it. Honestly.

Herman the anti-semantic Pooh

#5 Michael Albert

Michael Albert

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 241 posts

Posted 07 March 2012 - 02:53 PM

You really can make perfectly valid arguments on both sides of this issue.

I am grateful that as an Orthodox Christian....I am not mandated by encyclicals to accept that Muslims worship the same God as the Christians. I have seen arguments on both sides and obviously, I am convinced by one side in particular.

It really comes down to whether you are looking to win your audience over or simply alienate them.

Explain please?

St. Paul did not say directly to the Greeks "you worship false gods ...", he simply said, "lets talk about this 'unknown' god over here ..." He was looking to draw them in, not chase them off.

There is no doubt that we need to evangelize Muslims whenever possible...in all truth and charity.

#6 Herman Blaydoe

Herman Blaydoe

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,157 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 07 March 2012 - 03:39 PM

Explain please?


Well, since you asked so politely ...

The Russian evangelization of Alaska was similar to St. Paul's approach to the pagan Greeks. They did not go in and say "You worship demons" or "you don't worship the 'right' God". They took what they found and expanded it. Rather than simply denounce what was "wrong", they built on what was good.

If all you want to do is confront, then fine and dandy. There may be a time and place for that. HOWEVER, if you are trying to establish some basis for understanding and cooperation, you don't start from "everything you know is wrong". Or at least I don't.

I may be a bit peculiar, but I prefer to simply concentrate on what Orthodoxy believes and teaches rather than confront other people with what I think they believe and teach. What I THINK they think may well be wrong, but even if I am "right" it does not necessarily put me on the right side of the argument. We don't always have to be confrontational. We do well to heed the example of the Holy Apostles. They were confrontational when they needed to be and non-confrontational when that was more appropriate. Are we not to be wise as serpents AND harmless as doves? (Matthew 10:16)

#7 Aidan Kimel

Aidan Kimel

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 440 posts

Posted 07 March 2012 - 08:27 PM

Perhaps the way to think about this question and the others like it is to ask this question: If a Jew, Muslim, or ____ were to convert to the Christian faith, would he experience his conversion as a conversion to a different God than the one he had previously worshipped and believed?

Would a Jew think of himself as abandoning or rejecting the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Absolutely not--quite the contrary.

Would a Muslim think of himself as abandoning or rejecting Allah? Probably not, though clearly he would understand his conversion as a rejection of much of what he had been taught about God by Islam.

Would a Neo-Platonist think of himself as rejecting the deity he had learned from, say, Plotinus and others? St Augustine didn't think so.

Would a Hindu think of himself as rejecting Brahman (and the other deities of the Hindu pantheon)? I suspect that the answer would be yes, given the radical differences between the Hindu and Christian understandings of deity.

I think this is a more helpful way to approach this topic than to simply insist that everyone who does not confess the Orthodox understanding of the Holy Trinity believes in a different God.

#8 Michael Albert

Michael Albert

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 241 posts

Posted 07 March 2012 - 08:30 PM

The Russian evangelization of Alaska was similar to St. Paul's approach to the pagan Greeks. They did not go in and say "You worship demons" or "you don't worship the 'right' God". They took what they found and expanded it. Rather than simply denounce what was "wrong", they built on what was good.

Amen. Evangelization is about dialogue.....and living a Christian example.

If all you want to do is confront, then fine and dandy. There may be a time and place for that. HOWEVER, if you are trying to establish some basis for understanding and cooperation, you don't start from "everything you know is wrong".

With all due respect, I am not attempting to evangelize someone who is not a believer in the Trinitarian God. This is an Orthodox forum. I am stating a belief that I share with many people in the Holy Orthodox Church....clergy and laity alike.

We do well to heed the example of the Holy Apostles. They were confrontational when they needed to be and non-confrontational when that was more appropriate.

And they also sacrificed their lives for the Truth....Jesus Christ. I'm sorry, but I have a really hard time believing that the tens of thousands of Neo-Martyrs would have agreed that Orthodox Christians worship and adore one and the same God as the Muslims.....as they were being tortured and murdered.

Are we not to be wise as serpents AND harmless as doves? (Matthew 10:16)

Yes.

#9 Michael Albert

Michael Albert

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 241 posts

Posted 07 March 2012 - 08:39 PM

Would a Jew think of himself as abandoning or rejecting the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Absolutely not--quite the contrary.


Of course some belief systems would not think that they are rejecting a prior understanding. But if that prior belief system rejected the Trinitarian God, is it not apparent that they knowingly and consciously rejected the one true God?

#10 Stephen Hayes

Stephen Hayes

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 52 posts

Posted 10 March 2012 - 07:52 AM

There is only one God, but there are also spiritual beings that evidently masquerade as "gods". They are not God but they too are worshipped by no doubt sincere but misled people. If we assume that Muslims indeed worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, then a case certainly can be made that they worship that which they do not rightly understand, even as Christ our Lord explained to St. Photini at the well ("You worship what you do not know" John 4:22). I think that positing actual "other" gods is not all that helpful in the discussion, because I don't thing anyone is actually saying any such thing.


The important theological point here is the distinction between creator and creature.

As Orthodox Christians we believe that there is one creator God, maker of heaven and earth.

There is no other.

This God is sometimes called the "Supreme Being". I don't think that's adequate terminology, but it will do for a start.

So when others, like Jews and Muslims, claim to worship the Supreme Being, that's who they worship, because there is no other God.

Their conception of God may be wrong, their theology may be wrong, but the nature of God is not changed by the inadequacy of our ideas about Him. God does not depend on us for existence. To claim that there are different Gods for different religions that worship a Supreme Being is to make God subject to human relativism, and to justify the argument of some atheists that "man made God in his own image."

But yes, there are some spiritual beings that not only masquerade as gods, in a sense they are gods.

We say we "believe in one God, the Father Almighty..."

What does "almighty" mean?

To scoffing atheists it means that God can create a stone so heavy that he can't lift it. But if we look at the origin of the word it means something else. "Almighty" translates the Greek "Pantokrator", which in turn translates the Hebrew YHWH Sabaoth, which means the Lord of hosts. St Paul speaks of the work powers (kosmokratores) of this darkness. Deuteronomy 32:8 speaks of the Most High dividing the nations according to the number of the Bene Elohim, the sons of gods, or gods, in other words (Protestant Bibles usually change this to read "Sons of Israel", which makes no sense. But what it means, literally, is that God gave each nation its own god, a kind of national spirit, for them to worship, but Israel had a directline to the Creator, cutting out the middle man. And this is show in ikons of Babel, with the national spirits, the angels of the peoples,. the gods of the nations, each going their separate way. The Pantokrator is Lord of the heavenly hosts, the heavenly powers, the spiritual beings that he created. He is the creator, but they are creatures like us.

But as Christians we believe that God has abolished that distinction. Christ will draw all men to himself (John 12:31f, which echoes Ps 81/82:8). So there are indeed many gods, but the Lord is a great king above all gods, because all those other gods are created. Some of the early Fathers of the church said that the Greek and Roman gods were the fallen angels of Genesis 6, but again, they are creatures, not the creator.

Since the Fall all human religion has been corrupt, and very often worshipping creature rather than the creator, thus worshipping angels and demons, spiritual beings, but created, rather than the creator. But there is only one creator, who is the supreme being, and not a demiurge, as the gnostics falsely suppose. He is Trinity, which Jews and Muslims falsely deny. The verse that says that he who does not have the Son does not have the Father does not mean that there are three Fathers - one for the Christians, another for the Jews, and another for the Muslims, but rather that Jews and Muslims are kept at a distance by their own misconceptions of the nature of God. Their lack of Orthodoxy, to repeat, does not mean that they do not worship the right God, but rather that they do not worship the one God rightly. If they deny the Son, it does not measn that they worship the wrong God, but that they worship God wrongly.

Where it comes into play is really in the realm of diplomacy and how we approach others, as typlified by the holy Apostle Paul and the unknown God of the Greeks. I think it is called "knowing your audience".


That is not so much a theological question as a missiological one. Yes, it is important to know your audience, but it is even more important to know the One of whom you are an ambassador, the One whom you proclaim. God is not the God of the Christians along with (and therefore distinct from) the God of the Jews and Muslims etc, but he is the Lord of All. God's servants do not possess him, they are possessed by him.

#11 Michael Albert

Michael Albert

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 241 posts

Posted 10 March 2012 - 01:05 PM

He is Trinity, which Jews and Muslims falsely deny. The verse that says that he who does not have the Son does not have the Father does not mean that there are three Fathers -

Exactly. There is one Father....God.....Trinity. Those who deny the Son.....do not have the Father. They are consciously and knowingly worshipping something other than the Trinitarian God. In the case of Muslims, they are worshipping Mohammed's "revelation."

http://www.fatherale...tm#_Toc63388455

#12 Rdr Daniel (R.)

Rdr Daniel (R.)

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Validating
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 704 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 10 March 2012 - 01:07 PM

I am sorry but this idea that is floating around that those arguing the Mohammedans or the Jews do not worship God means they are saying there is three gods is not at all true. The fact is we all agree there is but one God, we disagree on whether Mohammedans worship God or an idol (not in statue but idea) which they claim is the true God. Most I think agree that the Jews try to worship God but there worship is not acceptable for they have rejected the Son of God and have hardened their hearts against the Holy Spirit and thus rejected the Father too. Although there is some debate on this also. However this does not mean there is more than one Lord God which I believe no one is suggesting.

In Christ.
Daniel,

#13 Michael Albert

Michael Albert

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 241 posts

Posted 11 March 2012 - 02:05 AM

If they deny the Son, it does not measn that they worship the wrong God, but that they worship God wrongly.

But St John does not say that whosoever denieth the Son, the same wrongly worships the Father.

He says that "whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father."

#14 Rdr Andreas

Rdr Andreas

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,028 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 11 March 2012 - 04:13 PM

It would be interesting to know if Muslims think they worship the same God as do Jews and Christians (though it might not change an Orthodox person's view).

#15 Rdr Daniel (R.)

Rdr Daniel (R.)

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Validating
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 704 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 11 March 2012 - 04:44 PM

I think after a Google search in which I found an article with quotes from the Quran that they believe that they worship the same God as us.

However, what one must remember is within Mohammedanism they believe that God relieved Himself to Mohammed as recorded in the Quran, now this thing (a daemon, the devil or just a figment of Mohammed's imagination) which revels himself in the Quran is clearly not God for he utters a lot of absurd blasphemies against God denying the Trinity and specifically denying Christ is God and which were aimed at Orthodox Christianity, after which I have heard it said Mohammed wishes to throw himself from the mountain but is stopped by another thing which is this time I believe meant to be the Archangel Gabriel whom (if such blasphemies are to be repeated even for showing the falseness of there religion) they believe to be the Holy Spirit.

This is quite different even from the heresy of Arius, in that whilst Arius rejected The Son of God as God and was thereby reject by Him and His Father and The Most Holy Spirit (for the Trinity is one and to reject the Son is to reject the Father and the Holy Spirit), yet he believed he still worshipped God. Whilst Mohamed invented God as having blasphemed against Himself which is surely both madness and blasphemy. And then he and his followers worship this revelation to Mohammed - which whilst they identify Him with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is in fact a created creature or simply false idol of Mohammed's mind opposed to the one True God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob.

In Christ.
Daniel,

#16 Bryan J. Maloney

Bryan J. Maloney

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 364 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 13 March 2012 - 11:38 AM

However, a case can be made that perhaps Mohammed and his disciples were misled by the "angel" whose "revelation" was of something other than God. Who is to say that this "angel" was merely a demon in disquise? Therefore, at best, what the Muslims worship is a faulty construct, like Ganesha, and thus not the True God. If pagans and Redskins fans can worship false gods, why not Muslims?


Perhaps Luther and Calvin were also led by demons in disguise, too. After all, if Mohammed, why not them? Is God the author of heresy?

#17 Rdr Daniel (R.)

Rdr Daniel (R.)

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Validating
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 704 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 13 March 2012 - 12:16 PM

Perhaps Luther and Calvin were also led by demons in disguise, too. After all, if Mohammed, why not them? Is God the author of heresy?

Mayhap they were, certainly God is not the author of heresy. However we must remember not to place two much on the demons they still choice how they did, and there are other factors such as the socially factors of the time period and the already heretical see of Rome in which they rightly saw many errors.

But the point is they were not men that through they worshipped the heathen idols then claimed to see a vision on a mountain in which (if Mohmand was not simplye holisnating) some demon which they (may the Lord have mercy) thought was God and which gave them blasphemies written in the Quran, unlike Mohamand, and there lies a big otherness between heretics such as Arius and Mohammed.

P.S. I would like to add that in saying the god of Mohamed is not God this does not mean a Mohmadite sitting at home trying to reach out to the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob is not worshipping God, just that the revelation to Mohamed and the collective worship is not God.

In Christ.
Daniel,

Edited by Daniel R., 13 March 2012 - 12:32 PM.


#18 Effie Ganatsios

Effie Ganatsios

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,725 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 14 March 2012 - 08:18 AM

"We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen."

#19 Bryan J. Maloney

Bryan J. Maloney

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 364 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 16 March 2012 - 11:34 AM

Amen. Evangelization is about dialogue.....and living a Christian example.


And, according to you, "dialogue" and "a Christian example" to Muslims is to say "you do not worship the God of Abraham." and "You don't worship the right God."--since we are not to lie while evangelizing, of course.

#20 Michael Albert

Michael Albert

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 241 posts

Posted 16 March 2012 - 11:38 PM

And, according to you, "dialogue" and "a Christian example" to Muslims is to say "you do not worship the God of Abraham." and "You don't worship the right God."--since we are not to lie while evangelizing, of course.

If I was asked....I would say that I do not believe that the Muslims worship the God of Abraham....the Trinitarian God.

I did not expect that this subject would create such contention. Articles by Orthodox priests are being labeled as appalling. Writings of St John Chrysostomos are being judged as anti-Semitic and spiritually/theologically dangerous.

I truly feel that the holy Fathers, Saints, Confessors, and Martyrs (especially the Neomartyrs) would not have held to an opinion that those who deny Jesus Christ…..continue to worship the Trinitarian God despite that denial.

But I am not a theologian.

It is time for me to be conscious of my own sinfulness. I think it is also time to cease participating in this thread (and perhaps forums in general). I deeply apologize if I have offended anyone. Please forgive me.

We are in the midst of a mystical journey to our Lord's awesome Passion and glorious Resurrection. May it be blessed with soul-cleansing tears of repentance. I pray that the never-ending joy of our risen Lord Jesus Christ can fill our hearts to overflowing!




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users