Posted by: Kenn Hermann | February 5, 2006

Why I Don’t Believe in God — and You Shouldn’t Either

Now that I have your attention, we can address a serious issue, both for Christians and those who deny Christianity’s claims . It is so commonplace for both Christians and non-Christians to use the noun ‘G-O-D’ that we forget that it is a sheer abstraction that has been inherited from the Greeks. There is danger for both Christians and non-Christians to continue using this abstract noun, particularly in a culture whose language is increasingly shaped by post-Christian philosophical and religious assumptions.

Christians do not believe in an abstract ideal or entity; they believe in a Person with a name, Yahweh in the Old Testament, and Jesus and the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. This Person is not a member of the class ‘gods.’ The sooner we consciously distinguish between the abstract G-O-D from the Person Yahweh, the clearer will be our confession to believers and unbelievers alike. It is understandable that early Church would adopt the Greek word Theos to denote the Divine Being whom they worshipped. In fact, the Apostle John successfully transformed the meaning of the Stoic Logos into Jesus as the Word of Yahweh. As Christianity penetrated more deeply into the intellectual life of both West and East during the first 15 centuries, it successfully transformed the abstract noun Theos into the intimate, particular, and personal name for the triune Deity of Christian worship. So far, so good.

However, beginning with the Enlightenment and gaining greater momentum in subsequent centuries, the inherent tension between the abstract root and the Christianized meaning of G-O-D became more visible. Ironically, apologetic arguments for the existence of ‘G-O-D’ had the very opposite effect from what was intended in this climate: rather than pointing people to Jesus, the incarnation of Yahweh, these arguments tended to point people to the belief in an abstract principle or ideal.

This split has continued to gather strength in Western Culture. It is easy for people to say they believe in G-O-D without committing themselves to a Christian understanding of the Divine. They can say that they believe in a ‘higher power’ or ‘spiritual’ reality without being too specific about what they mean. The core meaning of the Christian confession in Yahweh has thus been evacuated of specific content so that the term means all things to all people. Politicians exploit this ambiguity by ending their speeches with the pious phrase “God bless America.” Of course, they cannot be too specific about this G-O-D whose blessing they are invoking without stirring the passions of those faithful to Particular Deities.

That is why I don’t believe in G-O-D. When the term no longer faithfully points to the Triune whom I worship, I must give it up. In fact, in this cultural context Christians need to be very careful that the G-O-D that they glibly confess their allegiance to is not, in fact, a false god, dressed up in the costume of fuzzy abstract spirituality. For example, do we see the TV shows that explore the ‘spiritual’ moving closer and closer to the Person of Jesus Christ? No. What we do see is the tent of ‘spiritual’ becoming so expansive that it includes everyone who lays claim to believe in the ‘spiritual,’ the more opaque and ambiguous the better. Christians must not live under that tent.

So, the next time someone tells you that they don’t believe in G-O-D, ask them about the God they don’t believe in. Chances are very high that the god they disbelieve in is, at best, a caricature of the True and Living Jahweh. Then tell them that you have Good News: their god does not exist. Then tell them about “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”

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Responses

  1. I appreciate these thoughts and have gained some new insight into what I have only sensed before. But am not quite prepared to give up the word or its uses. I agree that the “God” is often a generic abstraction that avoids the particularities of our faith in Jesus the living Lord of Life. But like the word “spiritual” or even “faith” the word continues to be needed to communicate. Left on its own, it can be meaningless or even only a PR term. It is clearly dependent on how it is used–something that the context often makes clear. (I also live in a country where, in contrast to the US, God-talk by public figures is virtually unknown.) But using it may also be the beginning of a conversation that leads to further questions or opportunities. To say publicly that you believe in some form of transcendence is sufficiently unique to provoke either a dismissal or an interest in more. I would prefer to use whatever word allows me a first step to connecting with someone who may be seeking for an anchor for their lives.

    Using loaded words create risks. In my own new blog, I say that I look at public issues from a “faith perspective”. “Well, okay what does that mean?” someone may say. “Which faith?” But I want to spark interest; create an invitation to read further. Pure confession about the specifics of my faith may be good for my soul, but it may not always communicate. So the words we use may depend on our audience.

  2. as-94783-sa

    Nice blog.. I ll come back :]

  3. Take a look at how the Bible speaks of God. It uses the covenant name YHWH in many contexts, but it also uses the ordinary name that the surrounding nations used. This is so in the Old Testament with the names ‘El’ and ‘Elohim’, and it is so in the New Testament with the name ‘Theos’. What you’re suggesting here flies in the face of the way the Bible itself speaks of YHWH.

    All that is even in addition to the fact that the Bible says that the same language non-Christians use for God does refer to God but just says false (or incomplete) things about him. Consider Acts 17, which takes the unknown God the Athenians worshiped to be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and II Kings 17, which speaks of nonbelievers brought into Israel after the exile worshiping YHWH but combining it with worship of other gods. The narrator is willing to say that in one sense they were not worshiping God (i.e. not worshiping him truly), but he also says quite clearly that it was God they were worshiping (even if it wasn’t true worship of God). That suggests to me that when people speak of God, but don’t have a Trinitarian conception of God, it is really God they are speaking of and not another non-existent being. It’s just that they don’t really know God or worship him properly.

  4. I am also uncomfortable with the noun “God” and for some of the same reasons. But there is another reason that you did not mention. We do not use the Greek “Theos” – we use the Teutonic “Gott”. What does that mean? What did it mean at the time that Christian missionaries first encountered the rough tribes of Northern Europe?

    The Teutonic tribes certainly did not have any concept of monotheism – so “Gott” must refer to either a generic deity or a being that is something less than the transcendant Triune Yahweh. “Gott” has the connotation of “good” – but what kind of good? Just nice? Or is it the blazing intolerable holiness that dwelt between the cherubim on the mercy seat?

    The word “God” doesn’t tell us anything anymore. It doesn’t mean anything.

    I sometimes use the word “Creator” – at least that tells us something He has done. But it, too, is inadequate. Only the names by which He has called Himself are truly appropriate – Almighty, I AM, Lord of Hosts, Lord of Glory, Holy Lord, …Jesus.

  5. The German “gott”? No, the Old English “god” from the same root. And, yes, it is a near-homonym for “good,” which in OE would have been “god” with a macron. We use the word Anglo-Saxon had for deity.

    There is a similar culture-problem in Japanese. The only available Japanese word for deity is “kami,” but this can mean the most local spirit or the sky-god of Shinto creation tales. Christians therefore pray to “ten-no to chi-no ai-suru kami-sama” or “Loving God of Heaven and Earth,” which is something none of the pagans can do.

    I prefer to always speak, in theology, of the Father, Son, or Spirit, but will use “God” where there is no call for differentiating them; the unity of will among the members of the Trinity means that for many actions whose springs are more of the Empyrean than the empirical, we are necessarily a bit more generic than might be desireable.

    I do not, however, ever try to get people to “believe in God” anymore. Either they accept the Christ of Scripture, or they miss the boat. There is no point thinking of “mere theism” as something desireable, or as an advance over any other sort of paganism.

    Cheers,
    PGE

  6. WHY I BELIEVE IN GOD AND YOU SHOULD TOO!

    35 years ago, I experienced the strangest ever, being-specific, and self-sufficient power at what appeared to be a Live transmission of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross; powerful enough, in fact, to change my life instantly from near-suicidal to unbelievably new!

    I used most of the following years to understand what really happened by validating Scripturally my experience and to have an assurance of sustainable newness and faith. It is all there: the being-specific presence, name (“I Am”, i.e., self-sufficient life) and forum: the cross of Christ as the “tree of life”! PRAISE THE LORD.

    When you run out of your old life, don’t forget to trade it in for new at the perfect death of Jesus Christ on the cross! Blessings.

  7. If you are a real estate professional, be really careful in dealing with KoRes Corp. in Weston Florida. Tulio Rodriguez & Monica Cataluna-Shand are shysters and look for anyway to steal ones customers. They attempt to steal your client by requesting their contact information and later contact them behind your back to get them to deal with them directly.

  8. BELIEVE IN GOD!!!

    What if I were to tell you that there was a person who died for you? Someone who gave up his life because he loved you while you betray him in front of his eyes?
    That person is Jesus Christ
    He is our savior, son of God but all at the same time he IS God
    The Origin of our idea of the Trinity does not come from the Latin root words but the words that were said by Jesus Christ himself

    Our GOD, yours as well, is with you
    Do not pursue secular desires over the worldly luxury..
    What does anything you do in this world matter? When you die it is meaningless, but work done for God lasts forever even in his kingdom of heaven
    GOD exists, I know it’s cliche but seeing isn’t believing, believing is seeing

    • Believing by real good concentration during prayer and by feeling the Holy Spirit second-guesses what is already defined in principle (John 14: 18-21) and in practice (Ibid. 19: 30-37).

      In effect, it is a repetition of Simon Peter’s costly mistake (Matt. 16: 21-23) or a delusion, a.k.a., Satan “disguised to look like an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11: 1-15), against the transfer of know-how on God’s self-revelation by means of the death of Jesus, viz.: the difficult and time-consuming treatment requiring intensive discipleship training extended by 40 days (Acts 1: 1-5).

      The simple SOLUTION is to move forward by accepting and obeying the commandments and see what happens even if out of curiosity. (Acts 2: 5-13)

      God will take on from there and bless you beyond your expectations. Amen!

  9. Believe In God He Is Great ! If You Concentrate Real Good When You Pray You Will Feel The Holy Spirit..Trust Me C: God DOES Exist ^.^


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