• John G. Stackhouse, Jr.

Defining God

In a lovely note from someone in a recent audience of mine, two questions were raised. I thought you might like to read how I responded–and perhaps suggest improvements on my answer!

Question 1 Who is God or What is God? Question 2 Is God the same God that Christians, Jews and Muslims pray to?

I replied:

Defining God is done in two ways: (1) God is the most excellent being there is + (2) God is who God reveals Godself to be in the Bible. We need to be careful always to include (2), or else “God” becomes simply a projection of our own values, simply an amalgam or collage of what we happen to think is “best.” But when God reveals God’s name to Moses, God says, “I AM WHAT I AM”: which means, “Pay attention to what I’m saying and doing and learn exactly what kind of deity I am, relative to those Egyptian alternatives.”

Going to a good church is the best way to find out who and what God is. Another good thing to do is to sit down with a pastor for coffee and conversation.

As for who prays to what, I’d say that prayers can be properly or improperly “aimed” in any of the three religions. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all claim to pray to the one true God, and many converts from Judaism or Islam to Christianity make it clear that they did not “switch Gods,” but simply came to know the one true God better in the light of knowing Jesus Christ better–since Jesus is the human face of God. Having said that, it is also evident that some Jews, some Christians, and some Muslims are praying to Money, or Power, or Themselves, and not praying to the one true God at all.

Again, knowing your pastor as I do, I’m sure he will be a fine conversation partner for you both on these matters.

Thanks for writing,

John Stackhouse