Tag Archives: Trinity

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.

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Quitting The World’s Oldest Profession

A few years ago, I spent a week speaking at the Youth With A Mission base in Las Vegas. During my stay, I met a woman who was trying to launch a ministry to the many prostitutes who work in the city.

“After doing a little research,” she explained to me, “I discovered that 10,000 women work the streets of Las Vegas.”

I was astounded.

Although it has been hit by the recession of late, prostitution points to a longing all of us share. In fact, a friend of mine who used to frequent prostitutes once told me, “When I used to solicit prostitutes, what I valued more than sex was the opportunity to be held by someone.”

Like me, you may have never solicited the services of a woman (or man) of the evening, but you may have sought acceptance or fulfillment through a job, a relationship, or a possession.

Nevertheless, in many ways it resemble prostitution.

Join me today to learn more about quitting the world’s oldest profession.

TODAY’S READING

1 Chronicles 5:18-6:81
Acts 26:1-32
Psalm 6:1-10
Proverbs 18:20-21

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

1 Chronicles 5:18-6:81. You’ll notice that the chapter about the Levites is exceptionally long. The Chronicler was trying to emphasize the importance of the centrality of worship in everyday life. Remember, this was written after the people of Judah returned from exile in Babylon. So, they were reexamining where they had gone wrong and how they could avoid history from repeating itself.

Acts 26:1-32. Paul deeply believed in the power of his message. While on trial, he used the opportunity to try to convince King Agrippa that Jesus, the messiah, had risen from the dead. He thought nothing of self-preservation. We can learn from Paul, who repeatedly shared his story about his encounter with Jesus. This was the third time in the book of Acts that we read this story (also in chapters 9 and 22). People can argue philosophy and theology, but no one can argue an encounter with Jesus.

While respectful of the king, Paul was surprisingly direct!

Most interesting of all, Paul could have been released had he not appealed to Caesar. Without a doubt, he hoped that his appeal would give him an opportunity to share his story with the most powerful man in the world.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

As the Chronicler recounts the settlement of the half-tribe of Manasseh, he adds this editorial comment:

But they were unfaithful to the God of their fathers and prostituted themselves to the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them (1 Chronicles 5:25).

God created you to enjoy a relationship of intimacy with him. Before the foundations of the earth were laid, God wired you for relationship.

Think about it: the Trinity comprises a relationship of three—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is a God of relationship. In turn, we were formed in the image of the relational God, created for not just any kind of relationship, but a relationship of intimacy that can only be compared to the sexual union shared between a husband and wife. It’s a relationship that is protected by a commitment to fidelity, deepened by taking the risk of vulnerability, and grounded in a pledge of covenant love.

Prostitution offers none of these. It is neither faithful, vulnerable, nor committed.

Prostitution thinks only of itself and what it can get out of the other person. Covenant love finds life by giving itself away.

In the same way, God longs for the give and take of healthy intimacy. All too often, though, we opt for the “take” part in a relationship, thinking only of ourselves and forfeiting intimacy with God in the process.

Friends, rather than settle for the shallowness of idolatry, I invite you to choose the better, more satisfying way.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. In what ways do people prostitute themselves to the gods of this age?
  3. What prevents you from drawing closer to God in intimacy?
  4. What has helped you draw closer in intimacy with God?

What does intimacy with God look like in your life?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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