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  1. Is there a unique concept of God (within Christianity)?
  2. If so, since different people probably have their own interpretation on Bible/Christianity/God (albeit the differences between different interpretations could be subtle), how can you (i.e. the Christian community) know that the God you have in mind are the same?
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Do you mean "unique within a denomination", "unique within Christianity", "unique within the three main monotheistic religions", "unique"...? –  Marc Gravell Sep 4 '11 at 19:47
    
unique within Christianity. Sorry I didn't make myself clear. –  Soarer Sep 4 '11 at 23:05
    
I'm not sure if this is the norm here, but can those who downvoted explain? To a layman like me I believe it's a legitimate doubt. Or, unknowingly, was the question offensive? –  Soarer Sep 6 '11 at 16:23
    
seems perfectly reasonable to me. If I had to speculate, some folks get touchy about the whole "one God" thing –  Marc Gravell Sep 6 '11 at 17:20
    
I think this question needs clarification. What do you mean by "the same God?" Many say Islam and Christianity worship the same God because they share historical roots, both acknowledge God/Allah as the God of Israel, etc. Others say the two concepts of God are sufficiently different to make them completely distinct gods. What is your criteria for "the same God?" –  Flimzy Sep 7 '11 at 6:03

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I'm sure you're familiar of the story of the three blind men and the elephant. One of them finds the tail and concludes the elephant is soft, long and round. One of them finds the tusk and concludes the elephant is hard. One finds the side and concludes the elephant is like a wall.

They are all describing the same elephant, but they have caught on to different aspects of it. There is truth in each description of the elephant, but there is error if they assume their description is complete.

So the trick is not to assume your understanding is complete, and this explains the disagreements over the details. But you are all "pointing to" the same thing.

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This is a nice analogy, but it doesn't answer the question. It's really just a restatement of the question. At best it answers the inverse of the question. You have provided no criteria by which to know if these different perceptions are of the same God. The three blind men might be experiencing a vanity pillow, a piece of wood, and a wall. How can they know it is the same elephant? –  Flimzy Sep 7 '11 at 5:57
    
Presumably they're all monotheists, so there is no issue of them perceiving different gods. –  David Schwartz Sep 7 '11 at 6:06
    
So monotheists can't perceive a non-existent God? –  Flimzy Sep 7 '11 at 6:11
    
You cannot perceive anything non-existent. Perception requires an existent object of perception. But to answer what I think is underlying your question: Suppose there's one coin on a table. If three people know different things about that coin and some of them are even wildly inaccurate, so long as there only is one coin, and they all know enough accurate information to separate that coin from the rest of the universe, then they are all referring to the same coin. An error doesn't eliminate the reference. (Even if one thought it was a quarter and one a nickel.) –  David Schwartz Sep 7 '11 at 6:12
    
Not all objects are God, though. It's very possible (and indeed quite common*) for people to perceive non-divine objects as God. *I am passing no judgment on anyone who perceives God in any specific way, I only consider the many contradicting perceptions of "God," and it's clear that they cannot all be true perceptions of God. –  Flimzy Sep 7 '11 at 6:14

My experience when I talk to others who are serious followers of Jesus, is that we both know the same person. Even if we are in different denominations and have disagreements about peripheral things, I can just tell after talking to a person for a while that we have something in common.

Now some Christians may disagree with me on this, but I have even experienced this to a lesser extent when it comes to people in other religions. Some of their beliefs will be very strange to me, but I have had conversations where I suspect that at the core of their experience there is an element of a real encounter with the same God I encounter. Theologically, I believe this is possible because the Holy Spirit draws all men to Christ, no matter what their religious background. Some people may respond to that drawing in a gradual manner, and may have some experience with God in the context of a religion which is flawed in its doctrines. They may convert to Christ in this life, or maybe it won't be until the end of their lives that they realize that the one they were following was really Jesus.

It is only through Jesus that any human can approach God because Jesus is the only one who is God and man, bridging the human and divine in his own person. So when anyone has an encounter with God, I believe it takes place through Jesus, whether the person knows that or not.

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