We are having a fantastic dialog centered around the book, “The Shack”. In chapter two, a discussion takes place between the main character, Mack, and his daughter, Missy, about the Multnomah Native American Legend:
Mack waited while the girls processed their thoughts. Missy was the next to ask, “Is the Great Spirit another name for God – you know Jesus’ papa?”
Mack smiled in the dark. Obviously Nan’s nightly prayers were having an effect. “I would suppose so. It’s a good name for God because He is a spirit and He is great.”
The question that arose from this quote was this: Is it possible that the “Great Spirit” is the one, true God? Here was the answer I posted:
I am going to lay my cards on the table. In my opinion, I believe it is possible (again possible, not a certainty) that the “Great Spirit” could have been God. Here is why:
In reality, there is only ONE real, actual, living God. Period. Regardless of what humans think, there is one. This One God created all that there is, including beings in his likeness. Within this created order he plainly revealed himself; his invisible qualities, his eternal power, his divine nature. This self-disclosure was made evident to all of humanity…no favorites, no pre-selection.
So history continues. Humanity spreads across the globe. All of humanity can plainly see the evidence of this One God. The Native Americans step out into the plains, or the hills, or the mountains, or the oceans, or creation… and are awed, inspired, humbled by this one God that is being revealed to them through creation. Their response is that of worship: the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration towards this One God.
However, amazingly, this One God choose to reveal himself to a specific people, the Israelites, in a very specific way. Among other things, he reveals his name (Yahweh). He reveals more of his essence and character. He reveals his desire to bless, provide and forgive. He then reveals Jesus and the once-and-for-all forgiveness he provides. He reveals that beyond knowing “about” Him through creation, you can actually know him…personally. This Jesus cleared the way for this “personal knowing” of this One God.
But, across the pond, we still have the Native Americans worshiping in and out of the original “basic” revelation of this One God through creation. They do not know his name (Yahweh)…so they call him the “Great Spirt”. They only know of his desire to bless and provide, but not his desire to forgive. They know nothing of this Jesus who opened the door to a direct, personal relationship with God. How could they? It has not been revealed to them. GOD CHOSE to reveal these specifics to the Israelites, not them. But, just because they do not have this “specific” revelation (again, not their fault), it does not render null-and-void their worship of the same One God based on the “general” revelation this same God has given them.
But oh the joy they received when they learned (through the Israelites and people like you and me) the “Great Spirit’s” name, Yahweh; when they learned more about his desire to bless, provide and forgive; when they learned that they could access this ONE God through Jesus…and that their own redemption stories (or legends) actually helped pave the way for them to understand what Jesus did. That their general revelation (again, God given…not Satanic, not pagan, not of human origin, but given BY God to Humans) gave way to specific revelation (also, God given). What GOOD NEWS this was to them. This is why they have a “Native American Christianity” and not a “White-European Christianity”.
I see both general and specific revelation as complimenting each other, not at odds. After all, they are both self-disclosures from the same, One God. So for me, it is better to come alongside their “general” revelation, to work within their existing knowledge of this One God, in order to ease the way into the “specific” revelation of Yahweh (Father, Son, Spirit), as opposed to damning their “general” revelation.
So, this is why I believe it is possible that the “Great Spirit” could have been the “general revelation” name for the One God. But only God knows for sure, huh?