What Do You Mean By “God”? Defining Terms

When having interfaith dialogues, the word God is often thrown around. “You believe in God? I believe in God!” When in actuality, the “God” spoken of is totally different in the eyes of the respective believer. So it is imperative in these conversations to “define terms”. Ask what does a person mean by God. Ask them who they believe God is.

It’s often said that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. However, the Muslim God has no Son unlike the Christian God. Muslims believe in “Jesus” but their Jesus was not crucified and therefore did not die for the sins of the world. Of course, the Christian Jesus did. These are, in no way, minor differences.

The Mormon god was once a man who is currently married to his heavenly wife. This is a different god.

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus is not God but is, instead, the archangel Michael. In Mormonism, he is the spirit child of “God” and his wife and is the brother of Lucifer. This is a drastically different Jesus. Yet, both Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons consider themselves Christians.

Many Arabic speaking Christians call God “Allah”. Muslims call their’s “Allah”. It is not the same “Allah”. Though many would have us believe it is.

Many religious groups other than Christians use the term God when speaking of their own deities. Often it is used as a generic term. Even in Christendom, God is actually a title and not a name for Yahweh (YHVH from the Hebrew יהוה). The word “God” actually comes from the German “Gott”.

To some people “God” may just mean some non-personal energy or just the material universe itself. To others we human beings make up the collective “God consciousness”.

To have clear and concise communication in theological discussions, defining terms can make the difference between what we agree on and what we disagree on. It lays the foundation. Understandably, we won’t always be right in everything we discuss. But making the differences known from the beginning can get to the root of the issue.

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

3 thoughts on “What Do You Mean By “God”? Defining Terms

  1. Also your clown example would be more accurate if you used two clowns that looked alike and both you and your brother thought you were talking about the same clown but really they weren’t and in reality there were several very distinct and important differences between them. That is the main point of the this blog. =)

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  2. So what, then, is the definition of “God” to which you hold? It seems curious to see such a thing omitted from an article like this.

    Also, some of your objections here seem curious– for example, pointing out the fact that the Christian God is said to have a son while the Muslim God does not. Are you asserting that the property “has a son” is a part of the Christian definition of God? It would seem quite peculiar to do so.

    Let’s say that my brother and I both go to the circus and see the performance of a certain clown. After the show, we are talking about that clown’s act. We agree on a great many things, but for some reason, I remember the clown’s hair having been blue while my brother swears that it was instead green. Are we talking about the same clown?

    Similarly, both Christians and Muslims talk about a God which is omnipotent, non-physical, intelligent, personal, and which is the creator of the universe. While obviously of extreme religious importance, the idea that God has a son does not seem to be one which is contained in the definition of God– which is likely why NONE of the prominent arguments for God’s existence discuss God’s fatherhood; whereas they most certainly DO discuss God’s omnipotence, non-physicality, intelligence, personhood, and creation of the universe.

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    1. Thanks for reading a replying!
      Actually one of the attributes of the Christian God of historical orthodox Christianity would be His truinity. That He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in one. As you said, his “personhood”. I plan on writing a blog in the very near future on the nature of God. This blog was just about how we should define terms during dialogues.

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