The Intersection Between The Interpretation of Gods in Eastern and Abrahamic Religions

What if God isn’t all that different across the religions?

Abrahamic Religions believe in ONE God — the Creator of the Universe. Eastern religions, however, believe in the existence of multiple gods. On the surface, it appears that the two category of religions hold contradicting worldview. However, make no mistake that the overarching structure of divine deities are pretty similar in many ways. Heck, I think there might even be a possibility that they were observing the same vision (or Being).

In Abrahamic Religions, especially Protestantism, people who have put their faith in Christ are considered “Sons and Daughters of God”. They claim this because according to the Apostle Paul in both Ephesians 1 and Galatians 4, he wrote that believers of Christ are predestined for adoption as His sons through Jesus Christ. He do this by redeeming us who are under the law. From the broader perspective, “Sons of God” may also refer to angelic beings. We see this in Genesis 6 when the “Sons of God” find the “daughters of men” attractive and married them as they chose. Who exactly are these “Sons of God” though, we do not know. But most theologians and Biblical Scholars agree that they are angels. Fallen angels to be exact. Building on this foundation, we see that in Abrahamic Religions, “Sons of God” may refer to both (1) people who put our faith in God as well as (2) angelic beings.

In Eastern Religions, we see a similar structure. All gods were given birth from a Formless Creator God. Whether is it the Holy Trimurti in Hinduism and Buddhism, the Three Pure Ones in Taoism, or Chaos from Greco-Roman mythology, the Formless Creator gave birth to a multitude of “gods” who then each govern a particular aspect of the created Universe. In most mythologies, we read that these “gods” some time appear to human beings in physical form, intervening in human affairs and some times, even having promiscuous relationships with human counterparts (an example would be the legend of Chang Er and Hou Yi).

Are the “angels” or “gods” that the ancients saw at different parts of the world the same people? I would think so. In Eastern Mythologies, these gods generally introduce themselves as who they are. Depending on the situation these deities found themselves in, they would either introduce themselves with their name, or conceal it until the appropriate time and act as a normal human being. Likewise in Abrahamic Religions, we see the same happening. When the Three Visitors appeared to Abraham, Abraham responded by calling them “my Lord” (Genesis 18:3, NIV), suggesting that Abraham might not have been aware at the moment that these three men in physical form was indeed, God. Further in the passage, we read that these Three Men debated amongst themselves whether to make known to Abraham their plans. Following which, it was inferred that Abraham might have figured their true identity when the destruction of the city took place. It was funny why Abraham never seem to have any big reaction (except for the infamous plead) even when the men said they would destroy the city. Maybe, he knew that God would appear in “human form”? In a similar scenario, Abraham’s descendant, Jacob, met “a man” after sending his entire family across the stream. This “man” wrestled with him without asking him anything. There was no recorded conversation other than the fact that Jacob asked the man for a blessing. I mean, how weird is that?! It was only then the “man” disclosed himself to Jacob saying that he had wrestled with God and he shall be called “Israel” instead. Now, when Jacob asked for his name, the man wouldn’t say. Now, Jacob, in contrast with Abraham, didn’t know that the man was God. Hence, his response was “I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared” (Genesis 32:30, NIV).

It appears therefore, that human beings can indeed see “God” and his angels physically. There were many examples in the Bible and if I were to list every example here, this post would have been really long. However, the point is clear. Both God and angels can appear physically to human beings. In many occasion, angels would have been easily mistaken as God. We read this in Revelations 22 when the Apostle John bowed down to the angel and wanted to worship the angel because he saw how magnificent the angel was. Here, we can infer that angels can appear God-like and people might mistake their magnificence and their powers as God’s actual power. Building on this hypothesis, it can be easily understood why people of Eastern culture worships every god they met and knew about; the different gods who are in control of different aspects of the created universe. That said, even though Easterners knew that there is a sovereign God above it all, they still chose to adhere to their traditions and worship everyone that they knew existed. I believe that was because of the notion that even if the sovereign God weren’t aware of their existence, the minor “gods” will still take care of their every need according to the power attributed to them.

From these, we see that the divine structure of deities in both Eastern and Abrahamic religions are somewhat similar. We have the Creator God who is apparently Formless. Branching out from Him, there are many other divine beings sent out to govern certain aspects of the universe or given specific tasks to complete. These beings can appear in human form and interact with people, interfering with human affairs.

I hope that this post will help us peel back the barrier of culture and stereotypes, allowing us to experience how the Divine Realm interacts with the physical world that we live in.

Image by olcay ertem from Pixabay
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