Friday, June 3, 2011

Milt Hankins: God is one, with many names

Writer, theologian - Huntington, WV resident, Milt Hankins

by Milt Hankins

Have you ever wondered what religion you might follow if you were born in another part of the world? I have.

For example, were I born in Japan, I would likely be Shinto. In India, Hindu. In the Soviet Union or Communist China, I might have grown up without any knowledge of any religion. In Iran or Iraq, I would most likely be Moslem.

When my wife and I went to Tanzania to do mission work, we quickly learned the Tanzanians believed in Mungu. One elderly gentleman told me in Swahili, "We have long believed in the God who made everything. Can you look at the heavens and not believe? We call God 'Mungu.'"

I've learned that the world's people have many different names for God, but, for the most part, they all worship the God of creation. The Tanzanian gentleman actually went on to say, "We have been waiting for you to come and tell us more about the Creator God and His son, Jesus."

You may not find this so astonishing, but we assumed we were going to Africa to teach "heathens" about God; we discovered they already believed in God and were hungry to know more about God. It was an exciting trip, but it wasn't at all what we expected.

In both the Old and the New Testaments, we learn there is only one God. As a matter of fact, the Ten Commandments make it clear that God will not share with "other" gods. Even Jesus carefully differentiated between himself and God, calling God "his heavenly Father" and referring to "your Father who is in heaven." When God was asked by the Jewish patriarch by what name He should be called, God answered, "I am that I am." Thus, God is the great "I am!" In other words, "I am Being" or the God who really exists.

Different languages have different words or names for God. However, if people of other lands recognize the God of creation, by whatever name they call Him, they worship the one true God!

I have said on many occasions the more I study about God, the more I realize how little I know about God.

Recently, some folks asked me about the thousands of Japanese people who were swept away by the horrifying tsunami that recently devastated their country. "Will they be lost?" "Will they spend eternity in hell?" "Will they be a part of God's kingdom?" How can we honestly respond to these questions?

I suggest a theological response and a simple, common-sense reply. Theologically, God loves all the people of the world. God holds "the whole world in His hands." The simple answer is that God always does the best thing in any situation we can imagine. I believe the God I worship would be incapable of doing anything less than the most loving thing for His creation and for the world's people.

Whatever we may erroneously presume about God -- God will always be God.

Milt Hankins of Ashland, Ky., is a retired minister, theologian and freelance writer.

Source: The Herald-Dispatch


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