HOW GOD INTERACTS WITH HUMANITY
God's interactions with people as described in the Hebrew Scriptures:
As one reads through the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), one is struck by
the changes in the way that God interacted with humans. "Gradually
through the course of the Hebrew Bible ... the deity appears less and less to
humans, speaks less and less. Miracles, angels, and all other signs of divine
presence become rarer and finally cease." 1Consider:
||In the days of the Garden of Eden, the first few chapters of Genesis seem
to describe an intimate relationship between God and the first couple: Adam & Eve. God
walked through the garden and talked directly to the first humans.
||Later, God seemed to have withdrawn from humanity. He only appeared to the ancient
Israelites on special occasions -- e.g. when he gave them three versions of
the 10 Commandments to Moses.
||God told Moses in Deuteronomy 31:17: "...I will hide my face from them,
and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so
that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our
God is not among us?"
||Still later in the Hebrew Scriptures, God seems to have withdrawn from contact with humanity to an even greater
degree. Communication was through prophets who spoke on his behalf, announcing: "Thus spake
the Lord." They meant that literally; they believed that the words that they spoke
came directly from God.
Jesus' interactions with people as described in the Christian Scriptures:
Conservative and mainline Christian denominations generally teach
that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and the second person of the Trinity.
They believe that during Jesus' one year ministry (according to the synoptic
gospels) or three year ministry (according to the gospel of John), Jesus
was God incarnated in human form. In the Christian Scriptures (New Testament):
||Jesus is described as traveling through Galilee, Jerusalem and the
surrounding areas, preaching to tens of thousands of people. Jesus is not
recorded in the Christian Scriptures as having direct contact with humans outside of
the Middle East
during his earthly ministry. Although the Mormon church
teaches that Jesus made a subsequent appearance in North America, the
remaining Christian denominations believe that Jesus never left the
Galilee/Jerusalem area during his ministry.
||In the gospel of John (John 14:16, 14:26 and 15:26) Jesus is described as
sending a "Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost" to teach and
disciples and other believers after Jesus departed.
||In 1 Corinthians 10:20, Paul writes that those who follow other religions
and sacrifice to other gods are in fact worshiping devils. The implication
is that such believers have no interaction with the real God.
God's interaction with humanity as taught by various faith groups:
Modern-day religions are sharply divided over the question of access to
||Some conservative Protestants have an very exclusive
view about the status of their faith. They teach:|
||That only born-again Christian
believers have a connection to God through prayer.
||Various beliefs concerning the God's role in the life of unsaved Christians.
||That God has
terminated his covenants with the Jewish people.
||That non-Christians are really
communing with Satan or his demons when they pray to their own Gods and/or
||Conservative Protestants in particular teach that when a person repents
of their sin and trusts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, that they are
saved. The Holy Spirit comes to reside in them and take partial control over
their life. Through a process called sanctification, "born again" Christians
become increasingly more like Jesus.|
||Jews consider that God's covenants with the Hebrews were permanent, and
remain in full force today.|
||Followers of almost all other monotheistic, bitheistic and polytheistic
religions are quite certain that their Gods and/or Goddesses exist, and that
a believer can commune with the deities through meditation and prayer.|
||Many Deists believe that after God created the
universe and set everything in motion, he disappeared from the scene.
Some Deists pray, but only to
express their appreciation to God for his works. Others do not pray because
they assume that God is no longer reachable.|
||"Strong Atheists" are convinced that God does not exist.
Atheists generally have no concept of God in their
||Agnostics are unsure whether God exists.
Praying and expecting God's guidance in their lives is chancy, at best.|
God's interaction with Jews, as viewed by Christians:
The early church developed beliefs about God's relationships with Jews and
||Justin Martyr (circa 100 to 165 CE) and Irenaeus of Lyon (circa 130 to
200 CE) believed in an exclusivist status of
Christianity: that only Christianity was "true" and
that all other religions were false. They developed the theological concept of supercessionism
(a.k.a. replacement theology, displacement theology, etc.): that, because
Judaism did not accept Jesus as their Messiah in the first century
CE, God unilaterally terminated his covenants
with the Jewish people and transferred them to the followers of Christ.
Baptists, and some other conservative Protestant faith groups still teach
this belief today. A former president of the Southern Baptists took this concept to its
logical conclusion; he publicly stated that God does not hear the prayers of a Jew.
2,3 By extension, God would not listen to the prayers of
any non-Christian, and perhaps might also ignore the prayers of an unsaved
||Almost all Christian denominations have abandoned the belief in
supercession, and have embraced a more inclusive
stance towards non-Christian religions, viewing other religions as all
containing truth. In particular, many see Judaism as a sister religion to
Christianity, with direct links to the God of the Bible.
||Some religious liberals and post-Christians have adopted a
pluralistic view of Judaism and other religions.
They believe that all religions are "true" and valid, when interpreted within
the cultures where those religions are practiced.
R.E. Friedman, "The hidden face of God," Harper Collins,
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store This
was formerly published as: "The disappearance of God: A divine mystery."
Rev. Bailey Smith, 1980 Religious Roundtable national affairs
briefing in Dallas TX. The quote was: "God Almighty does not hear the
prayer of a Jew." Smith later enlarged on this comment by saying:
"I am pro-Jew…I believe they are God's special people, but without
Jesus Christ, they are lost."
R.A. Ross, "Bigotry lurks in born-again Christian doctrine,"
Arizona Republic for 1982-NOV-6 at: http://rickross.com/reference/Fund5.html
Copyright © 2003 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2003-MAR-10
Latest update: 2003-MAR-10
Author: B.A. Robinson