A few days ago, as I was driving along the main road to Acco and passing a neighboring Arab village, I noticed a message painted on the exterior of a house in clear white English letters: God is great. My initial reaction was not theological but linguistic. In other words, I wondered which God the houseowner meant.
To explain, if the letters had been in Arabic and read Allah Akbar, I would have known the sign was referring to the Moslem God. Likewise, the sign saying Dieu est grand in France would be referring to the Catholic God although the same sign in Algeria would probably refer to Allah. However, back to our allah akbar, in Iraq, it is not clear whether the Shiite or Sunni master is the subject of the sign.
For that matter, a German Gott ist groß is no less ambivalent as Germany is historically a mixture of Protestant and Catholic provinces. By contrasts, in the American south, that sign in English would most probably refer to the Baptist or other Protestant diety. Likewise, in Spain or South America, Dios es grande is directed at the Catholic commander-in-chief.
The Hebrew version possesses another question. While there is no dispute among Jews about the identity of the Chief Engineer (we focus our disputes on what exactly he wants us to do), the expression Elohim Gadol has two twists. For some, it imbibes the omnipotence of God. However, the term is also used in slang to express a complete lack of control. For example, if asked whether the contractor will finish the job on time, someone could answer Elohim gadol, the English equivalent being God knows.
So, upon seeing that sign, I responded in a typical Israel way: Yes, but. That is I did not formally disagree but immediately complicated the issue. Theology can be so confusing.