Do we worship the same God?

There is and can only be one God.

I am not going to defend that statement but to take it as read and see where it leads in the context of different religions.  If you don’t want to accept the statement, this post is not for you so please don’t waste your time and energy reading further.

There is and can only be one God.

That one God is love.  Without God there can be no love.  And so each and every act of love is an act of God.  If a Christian loves, that is God within them.  If a Moslem loves then that is God within them.  If an atheist loves that is God within them.

That one God created and sustained the universe. He sends the rain on the good and the bad.  His laws of science knit us together in our mother’s womb, allow us to experience the world, and present us with the alternatives of love or hate, good or evil.

That one God has made each of us as an individual.  Each of us is a ‘me’.  He has given us freedom to choose to love or hate, to be good or evil.  As individuals we choose.  If we choose to love we choose God whether we know it or not, whether we are Christian, Moslem, Hindu, atheist, agnostic or Jedi.

If someone prays to the single God, creator and sustainer of the universe, to the God who is love, the God who is goodness and power, does it matter what religion they are in?

If someone chooses love and goodness, does it matter what religion they are in?

What is religion? According to the Oxford dictionary it is:

“The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods”

and

“A particular system of faith and worship”

http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/religion

A follower of one religion can challenge whether the “system of faith and worship” of another religion is accurate.  A Christian can reasonably challenge whether what Islam teaches about what is right and wrong is right – but can a Christian challenge which God a Moslem is praying to? Or vice versa?

Can a Christian say that a Moslem worships a different God?  Or can the Christian only say to the Moslem that “you don’t know God like I do”?

I don’t need to use Christians and Moslems for the example.  I could have used Evangelical and Liberal Christians, Protestants and Catholics.

I believe that the teaching of Christ is the best description of what God intends for each of us, and that Jesus life and death are the greatest demonstration of how God loves each and every one of us.  I can guide others to the same source of love and goodness that I have found, but am I to criticise and judge them if they do not understand the Bible in the same way that I do?  Isn’t my job to love, and aren’t I supposed to leave the judgement up to God?

Isn’t religions job to help me do my job?  Surely religion is not there to put obstacles in the way of me loving others?

What does God think of all the conflict that is caused by religious dogmatism about what he is like?  Does he simply want us to get on with loving Him, and loving our neighbour as ourselves?

Grace and love to you all.

About Minimalist Christian

Phil Hemsley is a graduate of the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in the UK. He works for a multinational company in the power industry, has presented technical papers at international conferences and holds many patents. He has published two books, the most recent is "The Big Picture, an Honest Examination of God Science and Purpose". He has lived on both sides of the faith fence. He is married, with two daughters.
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14 Responses to Do we worship the same God?

  1. Deri says:

    Your holy book includes a phrase “you shall know them by their fruits”. It’s the bottom line as counts. No Sunday suits, flowered hats, pious words can disguise the hatred some Christians spew. So I judge your 3 in 1 God by his fruits – the saved ones and the priests and others who show the effect of God in their lives; and I reject them and him. My spirituality these days follows the native American acknowledgement of spirit in everything; I’m a non-technological Jedi. There is one God? I doubt it. Spirit (‘the force’) is too widespread to be concentrated on one bearded bloke in the sky.

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  2. unkleE says:

    Hi Phil, does this represent a change in your thinking, a further development, or something you have thought all along?

    I agree with much of what you say, but I’m not entirely sure if I believe exactly the same. Let’s explore for a minute ….

    1. I would want to define “love”. I think the New Testament generally means “love” = to care enough for the good of another that we want and act for the best for them. (Or something like that.)

    2. Then we’d have to define what is the best for someone, and some religions and value systems would differ with others here I think.

    3. Jesus taught love was towards God and towards people. So loving God means doing what is best for him – which again might be different in different religions. e.g if a crusader or a jihadist or a militant Hindu chose to kill in the name of their God, would that be “loving”?

    So I think I agree that God may accept many whose beliefs are wrong but whose “hearts” are loving, but I’m not as sure as you that it is all that easy to be sure what exactly being loving is. But I’m still thinking about it. What do you think about what I’ve said here?

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    • As always, good questions. I was prompted to write this by a rather ungracious discussion about whether it was right for a Christian to date a Moslem. There were some very strong (and usually literal) interpretations of biblical texts presented as definitive proofs, and a comment that “they don’t worship the same God”. And I have been thinking that if I were God and someone was praying to me, even if they got my name wrong I would still listen.

      OK with your point 1 although I like Scott Peck’s definition “The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” But I’m not sure it works when we talk of us loving God. I rather think that our loving God is becoming what he made us to be.

      I don’t agree with your point 2) from which you get 3). Point 2) implies that what a religion thinks is best for God is actually what is best for God. And I think that is perhaps the crux of the religious problems. “I know what is best for God, and it involves me killing you”. And perhaps that is why it is so important to decide whether Jesus spoke for God. If we think he did, then we should listen to him and put what he said into practice. We know what to do – we should get on and do it.

      …. and then people like Deri would not be so put off by ‘religion’ and might be able to accept that God is ‘the force’ … and so much more.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. graham says:

    First I don’t agree with your statement that ‘there is and can only be one God’. It isn’t a sustainable argument either by looking at the religious texts or from the tradition of many religions. If that premise falls then your whole argument falls.
    But within your argument there are two different things worth looking at, love and the revealed nature of God.
    I would articulate what I think you are saying this way: We are all capable of love because we are all made in the image of God, and because God is love then we can all love. It is just whether we choose to love or not, a persons religion makes no difference to their ability to love because it is part of being made in God’s image.
    But moving on to the nature of God, you choose to articulate this as being able to challenge a religions system of faith and worship. But I think you miss a point here. Religions differ mainly on the revealed nature of God. This is very different between all religions, certainly between the Muslin God and the Christian God. You would find it very difficult to argue that the nature of God revealed in the Koran is the same as the nature of God revealed in Jesus. So a Christian can argue that a Muslim is praying to a different God.

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    • Thanks Graham for the comment. Just for reference, my argument for a single god would not particularly be based on religious text or tradition, but more based on reasoning influenced to a degree by Anselm. If there is a God then the idea of multiple gods seems rather less defendable.

      You introduce the concept of revealed God, and from that reasoning I can see your point, and of course each religion believes that their revelation is correct. It’s a difficulty even within the Christian religion where the revelation from the old Testament seems rather different from that in the new.

      But if there is in fact only one God, then the conclusion must be that some of the ‘revelation’ is wrong. (Did God really tell George Bush to invade Iraq?). And that becomes a point of conflict when followers of a religion consider their religious texts to be the indisputable and revealed word of God.

      i.e. I agree with your last sentence, but I don’t think that they are right.

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  4. johngurnett says:

    Phil….. I do agree on the whole – but then I struggle with what appears to be the ‘audacity’ of Jesus… in John 14 6 “… I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father (that is Father God) except through me. If you really knew me you would know the Father as well”. This seems to imply that there is a single way or path – however I do not doubt that other faiths and persuasions when they are praying are praying to the one God – it appears to be an issue of right of access ….? Lets discuss…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think John that the religion is not the ‘path’, but as I commented to Dave below, the path is the desire and commitment to give up our sinful disposition, at which point we find that through Jesus acts our past sins are forgiven.

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    • Jonathan Davies says:

      2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 ESV

      The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

      Love the truth

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      • Thanks Jon. It is interesting to ponder what that might mean. There seem to be signs and wonders associated with certain American evangelicals which are quite disturbing. I think a good touchstone is ““Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. 16 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.” and “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

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  5. Dave says:

    Some years ago I had a discussion with a Moslem who had become a Christian, he was convinced that Allah is not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and Jesus; and I share that view.
    I also believe that God is love as this is a statement made by Jesus.
    However there are massive differences in the view from say a Christian and a Hindu.
    The Hindu believes that a person has a certain number of ‘lives’ in order to reach oneness with Brahma. A Christian believes that you have one life and you will go to Heaven or Hell depending on whether you accept or reject the revelation of God that is in Jesus Christ, no go rounds, no second chances.
    The two views are not compatible hence they cannot be two views on the same God.
    I agree that a person can ‘do good’ and ‘show love’, however a Christian view point is that you are saved by Grace through Faith, not by works, hence showing love does not get you in to heaven.
    You can be a murderous ******** all your life and 10 seconds before your death accept Jesus as your Saviour. Job Done, in you come.

    Belief that Jesus is the Son of God is the ‘name of the game’ as far as I’m concerned.
    Different Christian doctrines (Anglican, Protestant, Catholic etc) are somewhat irrelevant to me. All one body but different parts.

    This cannot however be extended to ‘Hinduism is another part of the body’ as the ‘body’ in question is the ‘body of Christ’, i.e. those people who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.
    A Moslem cannot believe that Jesus is the Son of God as Moslems believe that God has no Son.
    Again the two views on this aspect are not compatible.
    The inscription in the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem says ‘Far be it from his glory that he should have a son.’

    I have Christian friends in all different doctrine streams and I expect to see them all at the wedding feast of the Lamb and I expect the wine to be amazing with no hangovers!

    (P.S. don’t give a stuff how the Oxford dictionary defines ‘religion’, makes it sound like you can chose one at random, like you might chose which flavour milk shake you want at the cinema!)
    P.P.S. Chocolate.

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    • Thanks Dave for the comments. They reflect the human view that Moslems and Christians do not think they worship the same god. But more important is what God thinks. Hinduism seems a little vague about whether it is indeed a religion – see http://hinduism.about.com/od/basics/a/hinduism.htm

      As regards to who will be in heaven, I frequently quote a chaplain who simply said ‘sin cannot get into heaven, otherwise it would not be heaven’. So all of us need to give up our sin. Just believing that Jesus is the son of God is not enough – even the devil does that, but a murderer who truly wants to give up his disposition to sin has already had his past sins forgiven.

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  6. Discuss says:

    I think it is healthy to judge (discern, weigh). This isn’t the same as judging (condemning) and doesn’t necessarily mean we’re dogmatic fideists.

    Acts 10 suggests that those who don’t know Jesus will be heard by God when they pray.

    But when the Koran states that Jesus didn’t die on the cross, then it is speaking of a ‘different’ God to mine. If a Muslim deliberately rejects the truth of Jesus and continues to pray to his God then I wouldn’t be at all surprised if God doesn’t really listen.

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