Many of us say these words. To some, the ellipsis leads to a deeper confession. Muslims bear witness that there is no God but God. Adherents to Judaism echo the words of Moses, saying that “The Lord is One;” those faithful to the teachings of the Hindu ancients speak of “The One” that ties the universe together. Plato and his followers taught that there was “One” that gave form to all things in the universe.
But to others — probably most of us — the ellipsis simply trails off into despair. What does it mean to believe in God? What does it mean that God is one? Perhaps most of us write our own statement of belief as a question: “Do I believe in God?”
When Christians say, “I believe in God,” or even something more precise like “I believe in one God,” it always leads to a deeper confession of who that God is. We don’t talk about God as an idea, or even as a doctrine. We speak of God as personality. When describing a “person” (like the One Lord of Moses) instead of a “thing,” (like Plato’s One) the language shifts from bullet points to an epic story.
Christians tell this story about God in two ways.
The first, is the story of God’s action. Just as when we describe our friends or our family, we often begin by talking about what God does. We can speak of God as the one who creates, who saves, and who makes holy. We talk about God as the lover of humankind and the One who preserves life on earth. In perhaps the most oft-quoted bible passages, we confess that God is the one who sent His son to earth with a mission:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16 New King James Version)
This teaches us not only “that” God loves, but specifically “how” God loves.
The second way we tell the story about God is by words of praise. Really, this is speech toward God: a reaction to the story of His action. We use titles like “God Almighty,” or “Lord of the Angelic Armies.” This language of praise flows naturally from the lips of those who have heard and believed in God’s action.
When we speak about God’s actions, or when we talk about and to God with words of praise, we don’t do so as empty statements about an object. We speak with a living language about a living, personal, deity. The story of God — which for Christians is a deep mystery — is continually veiled and unveiled throughout the pages of the Christian Bible. In this grand story of the Universe, we explore that mystery time and time again. The re-telling of God’s actions, the realization of God’s current action, the promises of His future action, and our reaction of praise all swirl together and find their pinnacle during Christian Worship on Sunday mornings.
Certainly, Christians believe in God…but we go on to say so much more.
If you’d like to find out more about the way Christians talk about God, come and hear our re-telling of the story every Sunday morning, 9:30 am at 780 Grassy Hill Road in Orange. You can get in touch with Pastor Benson by visiting www.zion-orange.com/contact.