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Naming God

Our Russia team was not allowed to mention the word "God" on their recent trip to orphanages there, but was allowed to say things like, "the Creator of the world said such and such." This forced them to rediscover some of the titles God has had throughout history.

What is the Biblical precedent for labeling the persona of God?

In an excellent essay, Michael Gilleland demonstrates that it was considered rude for a disciple (of, for example, Jesus) to utter the name of their superior, whether to his face or when absent, but elevating when the Teacher mentioned the name of the underling. I don't feel the need to defend Saint Benedict, as the author apparently does, but the analysis of asymmetric forms of address between superiors and underlings in hierarchic societies is top-notch.

Is it a dishonor yet today to call Christ by the name "Jesus" instead of Lord, Teacher, Master? Postmodern Western society would certainly say it isn't. I know lots of Christians who prefer to value Jesus' pronouncement that we are his friends over those more asymmetric roles, but even that passage says we're his friends (φίλοι) if we do what he commands us. So there's still some inequality involved.

Look, your parents were authoritarian and saw clear boundaries between acceptable behavior for peer interaction and acceptable behavior for interaction with superiors and underlings. So in your rebellion you've spent your whole life fighting that, and now teach your kids those lessons at every opportunity. The funny part is that you're overloading them to the point that they will reject your lassez-faire approach to religion, and will respond by fighting for more austere forms of religion. So don't be surprised when your kids mention the name of Jesus less and less. You may interpret their preference of "Lord" over "Jesus" as a slide into Docetism or form criticism, but if you rarely use the word "Lord", you may simply be at the opposite extreme, for "...no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit" I Cor 12:3b. Even the demons know his name; maybe their use of his name as an address was an insult.

How far should we allow our culture to dictate our relationship with Christ? Should we carry our American appetite for iconoclasm over to the very person of God and make him our best buddy? I'd prefer to say "no" but I'm a tiny grape in front of the steamroller of progress. What I can do is choose myself to address and discuss the Christ with respect.

Permalink 08/31/08 03:47:29 pm, by fumanchu Email , 479 words, Categories: Misc , Leave a comment »

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