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The Unknown God


Paul said, "I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. This one whom you ignorantly worship, Him I declare unto you". Acts 17:23

In our dealings with Hindus in India, it has been possible to have an almost Christian fellowship with some of them when we have talked about "The God" as they call him. Amongst themselves they have gods with various names: Krishna, Rama, Shiva, Laxshmi, etc. But when they talk to Christians, they talk about "The God" not as though they were talking about a foreign competitor, but rather with an understanding that this God is the ultimate force behind all that is true and good in their various individual gods.

When Paul addressed the people at Mars Hill and made reference to their monument to the Unknown God, he was speaking as we have done to the Hindus. In both cases, the message has been understood better than if we had concentrated on attacking their immature representations of this one true God.

The difference between a theological representation of God and the true Christian perspective of God should be that we are not trying to create a banner to hold over our heads as we mount an attack against all other groups. We should be humbly seeking Ultimate Truth; and even when we discover some powerful and convincing aspect of that truth, we should recognise that it is not the whole picture. There is so much about God and life and eternity that is still beyond our comprehension. There really are Answers out there, but we are a long way from even knowing how to frame the questions perfectly.

Without a doubt, Jesus Christ (and in particular, his teachings) explain the mysteries of life better than anything that we have ever come across. We can say with confidence that he is, indeed, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. But confidence is not arrogance, and it allows us to recognise our limitations. A total picture of how this one Man living at one time in human history, brought into existence the sun and the stars is beyond us all. And, as Jesus himself said, people could be forgiven for thinking that He was not the Unknown God in human flesh. But what they could not be forgiven for was resisting the Holy Spirit of Truth and Love that was communicated through all that he said. (Matthew 12:32)

The idea of God being universal was there, in a more primitive form, in the Old Testament, where Moses was told that the name of his God was YHVH, an unpronounceable group of consonants which has been translated "I AM whatever I want to be." The God of the Hebrews was not to be packaged up in a statue or a building or even in a name. He was too big for that. He was even bigger than "the God of the Hebrews." He was the God and Creator of the universe.

Nevertheless, when he spoke eternal truth, God expected people to respond in humble obedience. He often used the Hebrew people as the instrument through which to communicate important truths. And today he speaks at times through those who have chosen to follow his Son. We must stay aware of our finite understanding of his truth, but also speak with confidence that YHVH stands behind us in what we say on his behalf.

"The God" "YHVH" "The Unknown God" They all have found their ultimate revelation, not in a name, but in the Truth that was revealed through the life and teachings of Jesus. So let us look beyond theological differences to the God whom we are all going to face one day, and do what we can to promote him more than our individual religions.

(See also Another Cornerstone.)

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