Theophany

Q. You Christians say you have God appearances in the Bible. We Buddhists have spirit manifestations too. So what’s the difference? Why should I believe in your and not our own gods?

A. The difference is as big as day vs. night, or sky vs. earth. The appearances of God in the OT, or Christ before His incarnation, are called “theophanies” or “Christophanies”. Some examples include:

  • Gen 12:7 The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord who had appeared to him.
  • Gen 18:1 Now the Lord appeared to him (Abraham) by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day.
  • Gen 32:28, 30 He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” … So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.” 
  • Ex 3:2 The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed.
  • Ex 24:10-11 and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself. 11 Yet He did not stretch out His hand against the nobles of the sons of Israel; and they saw God, and they ate and drank.
  • Deut 31:15 The Lord appeared in the tent in a pillar of cloud, and the pillar of cloud stood at the doorway of the tent.

Notice that the appearances could be day (e.g. Gen 18, Ex 3, 24, Deut 31) or night, in ordinary or extraordinary circumstances (e.g. Ex 3, 24, Deut 31), to individuals or groups, and there was nothing spooky about such appearances. The people realized that they saw God, but their lives were spared, so they worshipped.

In contrast, incidents of spirits appearing to people, whether in Eastern ghost stories or Western haunted houses, are invariably sinister and cause fear and unease. The people recognized that they have encountered demons or evil spirits who meant them harm and are fearful for their lives. There is simply no comparison.

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Comments

  • Nancy Wu  On March 10, 2020 at 7:48 pm

    The appearance of the disembodied spirits:
    The BENEVOLENT appearances of 1) the Christian GOD, YHWH, His name He reveals to man (He identifies Himself in His appearances) or 2) His holy angels (identify themselves as such in appearances).

    The MALEVOLENT appearances of the devil or his evil angels (small letter gods).
    The “gods” are created by GOD. Be wise and worship the only omnipotent GOD who has the power to promise free salvation to humans. Why bother worshiping the lesser gods, whether they are the good angles or the evil fallen angels or imaginary gods. Worshiping “gods” begets GOD’s punishment in hell. This includes trying to achieve nirvana which is impossible for humans.

    1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from GOD, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
    Exodus 15:11 “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?
    Deuteronomy 6:14 You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you—

    The one supreme and true God, the God who has forever known Himself as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, reveals Himself to His people in personal self-disclosure.
    In the act of naming Himself, the God of Israel, whom Jesus taught His disciples to call Abba, is distinguished both from the deity of philosophical speculation and from the gods of polytheistic religion.
    Here we are confronted not with “the awful Unnamable of this universe,” as Thomas Carlyle described an ultimately anonymous deity, but rather with the living God who allows Himself to be known and named. “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:32; Rom. 10:13);
    I pray that people have the wisdom to worship the only GOD that can save us from hell, before our lives on earth get consumed by the coronavirus or any mishap

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