During Cor Deo we had a visit from Glen Scrivener. He made a comment that has stuck with me. He was critiquing the idea that we should first establish common ground with an unbeliever by establishing agreement on the existence of “God“ as some sort of ultimate being (after all, many people are open to that kind of generic deity).
Glen critiqued this philosophical theism approach by pointing to what Elijah didn’t do in his interaction with the prophets of Baal on Mt Carmel – “Yahweh is a bit like Baal, but bigger, and a bit less despotic.” Um, no. Or “Come on guys, we all believe in ‘god,’ let’s not get tense with each other.” Absolutely not.
This week I was reading through Kings and was struck again by the clear distinctions between Yahweh and Baal. There didn’t seem to be any confusing “god” with “God.”
Baal was the most prominent Canaanite deity. He influenced agriculture, fertility, was in conflict with death and was referred to as master, or even husband, and sometimes with the plural term.
Yahweh was the highly prominent Israelite deity. He influenced agriculture, fertility, was in conflict with death and was referred to as master, or even husband, and sometimes with a plural term. (In fact, during Hosea’s time it seems that they were using the term Baal to refer to Yahweh and it was causing some issues, as you can imagine.)
But what is so striking in reading Kings is that there seems to be no confusing the deities. A prophet of Yahweh would not be confused with the prophets of Baal. There was an awareness of the personal and specific nature of each God/god that brought distinction to their identity.
Maybe we need to bring back Baal. Why? Because at least “he” was generally distinct from Yahweh, the God of Israel. Today we have this generic view of God that pervades the world’s thinking, and sadly, a lot of church thinking too. We wrongly assume that when people refer to God, they are referring to the same God as we have in mind.
In recent weeks I have had numerous conversations with people about this “which God?” subject. It has implications in how we evangelize those of different faiths. It has implications in how we interact in our churches. It really does make a difference which God we are speaking about. Is it right to feel positive about a vague montheism involving a God defined in His substance apart from the Trinity?
For example, do we ever find ourselves talking with someone in church and after a few minutes of talking get the distinct sense that we may not be talking about the same God? Maybe we are referring to the triune God who makes Himself known in the Son, by the Spirit, a God who is love, a self-humbling, others-exalting, gloriously giving and worship-stirring God. But maybe they are referring to the all-powerful, throne focused God who cannot be known, who is a glory-demanding, self-exalting, fear-inspiring God. Maybe their God is essentially a monad, or essentially a power-broker, or essentially distant, or whatever. But somehow it doesn’t feel like the same God that we are starting to know through our times in His Word.
This is why I wonder if we should bring back Baal. Not to give any glory to a demonic and despotic Canaanite false god. But in order to bring back the notion that it is naïve in the extreme to assume that all who refer to “god” are referring specifically to the God of the Bible. I don’t want Baal or any other satanic counterfeit. I do want to know the real thing, our LORD, the God of the Bible, the God revealed in Jesus the Christ.