“Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God? Thou art the God that doest wonders: Thou hast declared Thy strength among the people.” (Psalm 77:12-13, emphasis mine)
It’s almost as if Asaph was saying that there were other gods for which the true God, i.e. Jehovah, was vying among for worship and devotion. There are places in the Old Testament even where God Himself is competing for the Israelites’ spiritual attention:
“Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you; (For the Lord thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the Lord thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 6:14-15) Why would God even say that? Is He insecure? Is He referring to actual gods? After all, the same Hebrew word is used for both (elohim). Is this a sly ploy of Moses to keep the people dependent upon him for direction? Clearly Moses doesn’t seem like the kind of person to have a millions-strong following for no real reason.
There are several terms in religious parlance which refer to the consideration and therefore belief in a god or gods. You have pantheism which puts forth that “god” is more of an impersonal force that imbues the natural world with its presence. I wouldn’t capitalize it because “god” in this sense is less of a person than a noun. A figment akin to something you might see out of your peripheral vision only to find it was a tree or some other inanimate object. “God” is everywhere—”god”, is nowhere. Pantheism is similar to deism in that while “god” might be real, it cannot be known. Whether it stepped back from creation after setting it alight, as in deism, or imbues everything commensurately, as in pantheism. It’s the same. It’s the impersonal in each that fails to mesh with the God whom Jesus referred to and revealed. Now, just push “god” back a bit more and add one little syllable and yet another word you’ll find is panentheism. Panentheism includes the definitions of deism and also pantheism and then goes one further in defining the deity as being within and also greater than its creation. From deism—god is but is unknowable. To pantheism—god is everywhere. To panentheism—god is everywhere and beyond. And these three words—were we to start somewhere wanting a god in which to believe—only touch on the inherent existential qualities. Be careful though. They say that if you talk to god, it’s prayer. But if god talks to you, it’s schizophrenia. And while neuroscience is on its way to conclusively explaining away the phenomenon of belief as merely a product of our neurons and synapses, it leaves out the wonder and possibility that God may indeed be the person as revealed through Jesus Christ, two-thousand plus years ago and enumerated in the pages of the Bible. Assuming you have it, where is that kernel of desire coming from? Because if “god” is indeed real, everything going on in our brain is only epiphenomenal and is in one sense, neither here nor there with reference to God. You can understand why, abandoning belief, one would want to look inside the brain only for a perfectly natural explanation for this stuff.
But what about all of the religious debate that centers around the dissonance between religions? The existence or mere mention of another belief system essentially makes a mockery of any attempt at understanding one’s belief system in the world, at large. Because if I assent to belief in the God of Judeo-Christianity, does that negate the gods of the Hindu pantheon? Gods that are just as ardently believed-in as my monotheistic interpretation of the numinous? What about ancient Greco-Roman theology and all their gods and goddesses? And just like that, we’ve jumped to having to explain away both multiple deities and also dual genders! Might as well throw in every belief system the world over from across time and try and make sense of it. Because if the God of my fathers is the One, I want to substantiate it. If I want to be both spiritually fulfilled and also tantamount to that, intellectually honest, it’s as if by assenting to Jehovah, I’ve taken on the position of henotheist, wherein I’m not disbelieving in the other gods, I’m just vested in the worship of One.
Please don’t label me a heretic, but I don’t think the above is too far a cry from Asaph’s declaration at the top of the page. In leaving the interpretation there and going no further, it doesn’t answer the question of personal interaction with a spiritual being. Many people the world over report having conversations with entities on other planes, with those who identify themselves as individual gods that have been named before. Angels, aliens, and humans who’ve passed on to some ‘other side’ too, as vague and ambiguous as all that might sound.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17)
One of the reasons Christianity has the appeal it does, is because it teaches that the same ‘God’ who spoke in the Old Testament, decided to reveal Himself to the world through a human being. An end-to-end revelation. And this is where it shifts from all of the prior isms, to ‘theism’. Theism purports that ‘god’ has taken pains to reveal himself to the dominant race. To humans by a human (Christianity specifically). That human’s name is Jesus Christ. The simplicity of the stories that take place in the New Testament bely an infinite and near-infinite complexity. And while the God of the Old Testament shares many of the same attributes as a god defined by deism, pantheism or panentheism, He also has a voice:
“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds.” (Hebrews 11:1-2, emphasis mine)
Here’s the point I’m trying to make. If you have an idea that there could be someone out there, play it up. Try out Zeus or Shiva or Sol Invictus. But be careful. As Jesus led with love, we’d do well to consider the definition for life as laid out by Him. I’m not talking about a spiritual smorgasbordism (not to be confused with Swedenborgianism). I’m talking about a measured and impartial investigation into both the Bible and also anything else that stands up to sound and non-biased analyses. Things have to make sense in the world of the spiritual for it to be real. Don’t stop there. I recommend Jesus. Who did things that no one (god or man) did while they walked the earth. I can guarantee you that none of those entities, were they to show up in all their glory (assuming they’re real in some way, shape or form), has anything approaching the selfless love for you that Jesus has. I believe that Jesus can speak for Himself. And that He can speak to you. That’s my prayer for you.
“To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:19-20)