“God and” or “God alone”?

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As we have been looking at a couple of ancient near eastern texts that help us see how surrounding cultures tried to explain the world around them I want to mention this quote from Nahum Sarna in Understanding Genesis

Since, according to pagan concepts, man’s destiny is controlled by two separate forces, the gods and the powers beyond the gods, it was inevitable that magic became an integral part of pagan religion. Man had to be able to devise the means of activating those forces superior even to the gods. Religion, as a consequence, became increasinly concerned with the eloboration of ritual designed to propitiate the numerous unpredictable powers that be. Anyone who reads the Hebrew Bible, especially the Book of Psalms, is aware that the ancient Israelite was as struck by the majesty of natural phenomena as was any of his pagan neighbors. But unlike them, he did not profess to see God within those prenomena. The clear line of demarcation between God and His creation was never violated…Here we find not physical link between the world of humanity and the world of the divine. There is no natural connection between the Creator and his handiwork. Hence, there is no room for magic in the religion of the Bible. The God of Creation is eternally existent, removed from all corporeality, and independent of time and space. Creation comes about through the simple divine fiat: Let there be!


There can be no manipulation of our God through natural means. There is no ceremony we can perform to force His hand to act. The surrounding cultures thought that power came through gods and…We believe it comes just through God and that leaves no room for “going over God’s head” to a greater power, aka through magic or ritual. God is other than us. He is holy and there is nothing like Him. Sarna is not saying that God has no connection with us. He is saying the connection is intimate but in no way can it be manipulated through natural means. It is humbling that God’s power is the only power. It is not God and…it is God alone and nothing else.

0 Responses

  1. I wonder if (I’ll call them …) “ultra-conservatives” look at worship & worship order in a similar way that others do magic spells: a prescribed order to bring about a desired response from God.

    Makes me wonder of there’s any thought to manipulating God…

  2. That is an interesting point that can be made from this. I think there really may be an element of that in some places and that is very dangerous. Good thoughts Philip.

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