The God of Mistaken Identities: Or Is There Only One God?

By Eugene C. Scott

I’m a man of mistaken identity. I can’t count the times people have said, “I have a friend who looks just like you.” Sometimes I get mistaken for a celebrity. I know, I know. What can I say? When my hair turned gray, some said I looked like Richard Gere. I made them take it back.

The worst is when people say, “You’re not the Dr. Gene Scott are you?” They always have wry smiles on their faces. (He was a brilliant, crazy, heretical TV preacher) But the joke gets old. Even though it is an honor to be mistaken for famous people or even an infamous preacher (who many would describe as brilliant but crazy–and possibly a heretic), I want to be known as me–not someone else. I am an individual. On the surface I may look, act, and sound like someone else. But if you get to know me, you’ll find out who I really am. Different. Unique.

It seems that God suffers from mistaken identity too.

It’s common today for people to assert that it doesn’t matter which god you believe in or which name you call God because they are all the same. After all, our many gods–at first–look so similar it’s easy to mistake them.

For example, the Hindu gods of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva each represent in turn a creator, sustainer, and ender of life. On the surface this sounds like Christianity’s trinity. Digging deeper, however, you discover the differences between the Hindu gods and the Christian God are as profound as the differences between me and Richard Gere. A simple case of mistaken identity. But a dangerous one.

The late Joseph Campbell–who studied what he called the god myths common in almost every culture on the planet–found so many similarities in the myths that he concluded that humans invented the concept of god and that we endowed these gods with many similar traits because it is human to do so. We invent them in our own image.

Other thinkers, including C.S. Lewis, look at the same facts and conclude that our god myth similarities come from God himself. We take the truths we see about God and attach them to lesser gods of our own invention because we twist and misunderstand the data about the God who does exist.

Still we want all gods to be the same. I understand this belief. Believing this feels better and it is a lot easier to say everyone is right. I once took this tack when people asked me if I preferred to be called Gene or Eugene.

“Whatever you want,” I’d say, not wanting to make them uncomfortable. This backfired and confused them because they would not know what to call me. Worse I was being dishonest. I did care. If I have to go by such an odd–almost goofy–name, I prefer the full version: Eugene. The full version means “well born, noble.” “Gene” just means “origin.” Also Gene could be confused as a girl’s name. Plus I’m a Eugene not a Gene. Eugene describes me better. It fits. And that’s what my mom named me.

Yes, I’ll answer to Gene–or even Tom, Dick, and Harry–for a time. But once you really know me, you will call me by my real name. Otherwise, I will realize you don’t really know me and probably don’t want to.

The same is true for knowing God. Of course we are not talking only about arbitrary naming. Of course a mere meaningless name makes no difference. Names in older times, however, were chosen not by popularity but as a descriptor. They let others know more about you. The core you.

Moses asked the Burning Bush, after God commanded him to confront Egypt about keeping Israel captive, “Who should I say is sending me?”

“I Am,” God named himself. The One who Is, always has Been, always will Be. The One source of all life.

This is important because most other gods only claim to be a part of the source of life such as a river or fertility or the sun or–as in Hinduism–the beginning (Brahma), the middle (Vishnu), or the end (Shiva) of life.

Does it matter what we call God? Yes, just as it is crucial that I call you by your correct name and follow that naming with a knowing, so it is with God. Someone once said, tell me about the god you don’t believe in. I probably don’t believe in that god either. This can only make sense if there are things that are true about God and things that are not true. I cannot be Eugene and Jack, tall and short, vengeful and full of grace all at the same time. It is not possible for me to be the cigar smoking, ranting and raving, cussing, crazy theological wild man Dr. Gene Scott just because you call me by his name.

God is a Being of mistaken identity. This hurts us, the mistaken, more than it does God. Still, just as you and I correct those who call us wrong, God set the record straight.

More on how he did that next Wednesday.

6 Comments

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6 responses to “The God of Mistaken Identities: Or Is There Only One God?

  1. Georgie-ann

    It’s a good thing to examine what we think we “know” about God — or anything, for that matter. Some of our conceptions (or preconceptions) have come to us, unexamined, from “who knows where?” and “somewhere along the way.” Ah!,…such good reference material! The neighborhood schoolyard, an off-hand opinionated or indoctrinated comment overheard once-upon-a-time or repeated a thousand times, family, the movies, even the “pull-pit,” but what did God really say? There is a lot of “clap-trap” and there are a lot of familiarized comments being parroted around about God throughout the culture, and — interestingly, tellingly — a whole lot of disagreement and cross-accusations.

    But God tells us that He is not “the author of confusion.” (1 Corinthians 14:33) So, I’m sure Eugene has plenty of good stuff to say!

    (p.s., that first video looks to me to be of someone who is the epitome of a sick-o cult leader,…I would most certainly run in the other direction from that nonsense.)

    (no offense intended!)

    (-:

    • Georgie-ann:

      You are a fun and intelligent conversationalist. I bet people from all over the neighborhood seek you out.

      I hope you keep thinking deep. And sharing it with us. Eugene

  2. elna

    I am from a multi -cultural country. We also have 11 official languages spoken by only 49 million people. So you can imagine that this can lead to a lot of confusion. To top it, there are all these different christian denominations. Many times I have been in a conversation with a certain line of thought, and the answer this person gives is so foreign…and I have to sit back and ask this person to clarify to find out what is the basis they are coming from, and to try and understand the cultural background of this person. Someone once said that as an adult he became a Methodist, and after a lifetime as a Methodist he is still surprised by things done by people who were born into the denomination. …which they find quite normal!
    Often I am surprised, sometimes even shocked, by how much I am influenced by my culture, and the way it mangles my understanding of the Bible.

    • Yes, Elna. And how easily we accept ideas that feel right but cannot be true. Not just that they are not biblical but they don’t match reality.

      I hope the weather is improving there and that the dogs can finally come out of the shade. Eugene

  3. Georgie-ann

    Well, thank you for a nice compliment, but truthfully I spend a lot of time hiding from people, or just smiling and saying “hi-how-are-you?” in passing. (Right now, I live in a senior apartment complex.) I love them, but I really don’t have the energy to be engaged in a lot of out-going things, and — (really truthfully, now!) — I don’t think they’re all that interested in what I would really have to say.

    You all are just “sitting ducks” by comparison, and I figure you can always just “take it or leave it,” or argue or complain or elaborate and elucidate — all of which is fine with me. I really do try to get my full point across — (which has an advantage in this set-up, because no one can interrupt me!) — and I think for as educated and exposed to various ideas as we all are these days, it is a good thing for us all to examine the concepts we find ourselves living by!

    I spent a lot of years as a personal one-on-one or small group college tutor, and had a lot of opportunity to “think on my feet,” form ideas and clarify concepts that hopefully were tailor-made for helping myself and others understand what we were talking about. I think I got a little burned-out on the perpetual talking aspect, but the thoughts keep coming! So, this is a welcome opportunity for me, in actuality.

    I retired early to spend quality time with my mother who had Alzheimer’s. I have a great family who have all moved away from this (secondary) point of origin (so-called “upstate” NY) — (Louisville, Kentucky being the first). So I survive here with plenty of more or less life-long acquaintances, and as many beautiful “close friends” (like family) as I can manage, and excellent church and music and language opportunities. But as simple and streamlined as I try to keep it , I always need to rest a lot in between things/events — which being quiet, thinking (praying), and “writing” does afford me.

    I guess you’re right in that most people who know me never can guess that I have such a nerd-y side! And I’m sure that I have ancestors who no doubt have “kissed the Blarney Stone” more than once or twice!! But to me it’s all fun — the human ideal being sharing life and thoughts and, even better, a yummy warm-hearted meal together. So,…we can pretend about the meal!

    Thanks again for the nice words!,…”nice” is good!,…the world needs a lot more “nice” goin’ on!,…(-:

  4. Georgie-ann

    Elna,…I think that one of the most amazing things about these last two centuries (2oth & 21st), is how so much “mixing” of cultures and ethnicities has occurred. Nothing will challenge and shake us up, pre-conceptions and all, as living next to someone who is very different from ourselves. We may sense our common human bond — a heart reality — while being very astounded by extreme external differences. Barring overt negativity, which can be fairly commonplace however, it becomes very interesting to experience different aspects of the human potential and helps us to expand our repertoire!

    But it is also good — and probably necessary — to have Christ and His Word as an anchor and reference point in the middle of all the flux.

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