Most Christians take for granted that the creator of the universe and the God of Israel are one and the same being. The one who made the heavens and the earth is the one who called Abraham. The one who brought Israel out of Egypt is the one who made man and woman in his own image. Not much debate here, at least within the hermeneutical circle of the Christian community.
But there is a subtle difference of approaching this equation that can have far reaching consequences. The question can be put this way: Is the Creator of the Universe the God of Israel, or is the God of Israel the Creator of the Universe? In other words, which is given priority: the universality of the divine creator or the particularity of the divine covenant? Let's take a look at each view in turn.
The Creator of the Universe is the God of Israel
The point here is that we all know something about the creator of the universe. There is a general human common ground here. Christians come along and say, "Hey, that thing you call 'God,' or 'The Ultimate,' or 'The Supreme Being' happens to be the God who linked himself up with the history of Israel culminating in Jesus Christ."
The advantage to this way of speaking is that the universal scope of God's reign is emphasized. Also, a point of contact is established between people's assumptions about divinity and their fulfillment in Scriptural revelation. The disadvantage is that the particular history of Israel can be construed as a mere "illustration" of what is already true between God and the world, rendering it superfluous. Also, the unique claims of Christ are harder to hold up when the universality of God is already assumed.
The God of Israel is the Creator of the Universe
The point here is that if there is a specific revelation of God we should start there, before moving on to the larger implications of who God is in relation to the world. God has chosen to focus his dealings with creation and humanity on the one little nation of Israel. Through this nation he desires to bless all the nations of the world. But this particular history always remains in the foreground, even as God opens up his covenant to the Gentiles.
The advantage to this way of thinking is that the particular identity of God is emphasized. Thus one is not caught in the forecourt of philosophical questions of whether God exists or what God is like, but rather turns directly to who God is. Also, this view can serve to support claims about the uniqueness of Jesus the Jew. The disadvantage of this approach is that one is always tangled up in questions of the scope of mercy outside the history of covenant (e.g., "what about the man on the desert Island?)". Also, this view has a harder time building bridges across cultural boundaries because the identity of God is so tied to the particularly cultural history of Israel
What do you think?
Is the Creator of the Universe the God of Israel?
Or is the God of Israel the Creator of the Universe?
How do you decide?
In what ways does this distinction play itself out practically?
For instance, do you communicate the Gospel differently in each case?Is there something missing from this discussion?
Is there a way to use both of these approaches?