“There is no other God but one. For even if there are so-called gods . . . for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.” 1 Cor 4-6
 Sometimes I run into people who have an interesting view, and it’s tricky to talk to them. Often they won’t, so I don’t push them. But strangely, just as often, they are a bit proud of their view—they feel enlightened. Those are the people who give me a slim opening into conversation, and I take it.
The people I’m talking about are the ones who believe whole heartedly that there is a god. These people see themselves as spiritual and enlightened because their god cannot be defined. Their god is not judgmental, and manifests itself to people in many forms. He/she is not offensive to other gods and other views of god. Their god is amorphous, and yet they honor it.
Now on one hand, at least the person believes in a god, so there’s something to work with. But on the other, this person is often quite dedicated to the idea that “you can’t put god in a box.” However, this person is not being entirely honest, and their real view is that anyone’s god can be god except Jesus. Why? Because Jesus made exclusive claims to be the only way to heaven, and that He is from the God of the Bible, who created the universe. He is the judgmental God. For some reason, they don’t see Allah as exclusive or judgmental, but they don’t really understand Allah, and the faith is too political for them to criticize.
When I talk to people like this, I find they come from all walks of life. Many are young people committed to today’s culture of inclusiveness. Many are older people who think they are “good enough,” and some day will join this spiritual being of the beyond (heaven). They have their own view of God, and believe that everyone should. Typically this person can tell you what their god is not, rather than what their god is.
So you probably don’t go around asking strangers what they think about God the way I do, but chances are you have someone in your life who has this vague perspective about God, and it makes them seem impenetrable for the Gospel—and they may be, “but with God, all things are possible” (Matt 19:26”).
Here are some approaches I’ve used to plant seeds with people who believe there’s a god:
I like to ask them questions about their god. Does it have a name? Did it create the universe? What can it do? What is it in charge of? Is there a heaven? Who gets to go? Does it have any standards of good and bad, right or wrong? When I ask them, I am genuinely interested, not quick to criticize. I build a relationship through mutual curiosity and respect.
I find that most people do not have any clear answers for these questions. Typically they fall back on god being indefinable, but not judgmental. They like to say the old stand-by that there is more than one way to heaven, and that “all roads lead to god.” Anyone’s god can get you there—except one. They won’t blatantly exclude Jesus because they are “enlightened,” but you’ll find that this is what the view is designed to do. You can usually tell this by their impatience when you bring Him up.
These people often dismiss Jesus with a huff, or they become stern. If they look like they are about to leave, I ask them: “Okay, what evidence you do have for your god?” This either repels them away, frustrated, or it sparks a new interest in the conversation. We, of course have lots of evidence for our God—plus Jesus is a fact of history. Their god is by nature illusive and indefinable. Either way, it is a seed planted in their intellect that God can work with.
But, I learn a lot from these questions. Questions are a great way to start talking to someone about their faith because we like to talk about ourselves. It shows that you’re interested, and it helps you get a sense for a starting point of where to enter into the conversation. It’s called kairos in the Greek—the right time, season, or fitting entry point into a situation. Questions help you find that entry point, and with the Holy Spirit, God can give you the questions that challenge their ill-defined view of god.
For instance, when people tell me that you can call god by any name, or that god is different for every person, I’ll say, “Well, that’s interesting. It’s a god, but it has no particular personality, or power, or character traits—not even a name. I mean we are just humans, and we all have these traits, but your god is nothing in particular. How could it be a god if it can’t be known?” Then I sometimes play a trick on them (you have to gage the person to do this). I’ll ask their name, if I don’t already know it. Then I’ll say [whatever the name is] “Erika. Hmm… I actually don’t like that name. I’m going to call you Nicole instead. I like that name better. Is that okay?”
Sometimes they try to play along, but usually you can see them getting offended. They get flustered, and can’t figure out how to respond right away. Sometimes I’ll take it the next step, “And to me, you are a high school drop-out, and you work at MacDonald’s. I don’t really know about your life, but that’s what I imagine is true about you. I’ll tell other people that it’s true about you too. Is that okay?”
Usually they catch on by now what I’m getting at, but it has a strange effect—people don’t like to be misunderstood. They don’t even like it when you get their name wrong. This really offends them. Sometimes I won’t even tell them that I’ll call them by another name, I’ll just do it—I’ll get their name wrong on purpose, and they’ll quickly correct me, or stand there fuming.
So at this point, when it is clear that the person I am talking to likes to be known for who they are, I point this out:
“See? You are just a person, and you have a personality, and beliefs, and characteristics, a history, and a name. No one else is like you, and you don’t change to suit every person’s tastes. That would offend you. You like to be known and even loved for who you are. So don’t you think that God, who is greater than we are, has these same traits? And don’t you think that this God wants to be known for who He is? That He can’t possibly change for every person’s tastes and preferences. He couldn’t possibly be a god if He is some caricature that we get to draw and erase to suit our view on life.”
Here is when I find out how thoughtful the person is. They have let me talk to them this long, and as I explain these last ideas, I have a gentle, inviting tone. I am inviting them to reason. People simply don’t have a response to these points—either they say, “I see what you mean,” or they waive their hands dismissively, throw one last insult at me, and leave. The key, though, is in getting them to realize that they don’t like to be misunderstood—why would God actively promote it?
I’ve also had a few conversations when God took me another way, instead. After I initially find out that they have a breakfast buffet kind of god, where they pick and choose its traits, I might tell them about Isaiah 44. I say:
“You know, God talked about something like this to His people in the book of Isaiah. It’s actually pretty funny. He says ‘Hey, let’s reason about this. You cut down a tree and burn half of it to warm yourself and to bake your bread, and the other half you give to a craftsman, who carves an idol out of it for you. It can’t see, or hear, or speak—you have to carry it around, yet you fall down and worship it. But you don’t consider that half of the tree you burned, and with the other half you made yourself a god to worship.’”
Then I turn and ask, “Crazy, huh?” They usually nod. Then I say,
“But think about it. If we pick and choose what traits our god has just to suit our liking, then really—who is the god? Our “god,” or us?”
Twice I have elicited this response, with astonished realization: “Huh. We are.”
For either scenario, if they have listened this long, I tell them the Gospel. There’s a million ways to do it, and usually God gives me the words and demeanor on the spot. But it goes something like this:
“Well, it’s not an accident that we are talking today. The God that I know loves you very much. He has a good plan for your life, and He wanted me to tell you how much you mean to Him. He created the whole universe, and yet you among the millions of people, matter so much to Him. He wants you to know Him, and He wants to give you life. You’ve heard about Jesus, right? Well, He was a real guy—He really lived. And He said He came to give us life. He was actually God, come down from Heaven to live, and then die in our place, and then He came to life again. He’s in Heaven now, and if we accept His gift, then He cleans away all the things we’ve done wrong so that we can go to perfect Heaven. You already believe that there’s a God. You must understand that there is only one God—anything else is not logical. It is this God who made you and loves you and will give you eternal life—if you believe.”
I don’t always get through the whole thing. God often signals me about how much a person will hang in there. But whatever you leave out, focus on 2 things: He is the God that created everything, and that Jesus is the way.
Trust me, if you get that far, then God is doing something. And you don’t have to memorize anything like a script. There’s a logic that God gives us that the natural man doesn’t get. Once you see it, you won’t lose it. He’ll give you the words in due season (kairos).