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  • Ben Lucas

From God (He, Him, His)


Hello. My name is Ben, or Benjamin. I don’t mind which you use. But I won’t respond to Fred, or Pip, or Sandra. I won’t respond because it’s not my name. So, if you could call me Ben, that would be great.


It’s not unreasonable to introduce ourselves and to expect to be named accordingly, is it? In fact, respecting people’s names is something deep in our culture. Respecting the way people wish to be addressed is basic courtesy.


If we meet with someone with a name we find hard to pronounce, we don’t give up and decide to call them something else. We struggle to pronounce it. We try and try again. Why? Because we respect other people. Or, when you arrive in glory and meet Mahalalel, will you say, “I’m sorry, I can’t say your name. Let’s just call you Matt!” You just wouldn’t, would you?


But something odd happens when it comes to God. Compared to us creatures, God didn’t receive his name from anyone. He has no parents who gave it to him. He wasn’t named after anyone else. Indeed, he’s the one from whom all other names are derived (Ephesians 3:14). If anyone should be allowed to name themselves, isn’t it God?


Teaching about naming God, Herman Bavinck explains that, “the names by which we call and address God are not arbitrary: they were not conceived by us at our own pleasure. It is God himself who deliberately and freely, both in nature and in grace, reveals himself, who gives us the right to name him on the basis of his self-revelation, and who in his Word has made his own names known to us on that same basis.” [1]


God has revealed himself in his Word. He’s named himself in his Word. Therefore, we name him as he’s said. The data aren’t in debate. Scripture is effectively signed, “from God (he, him, his).”


And yet, we can be tempted to change his names. Whether it be to refer to him by his actions, “Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer.” (True naming, but the same as refering to me as, “vicar, husband, runner.”) Or we might go further and say that Scripture needs it’s pronouns updating. We seem to have grown past the ‘God godself’ craze. But would we prefer other pronouns? Mother, or Parent, to Father?


There’s a risk here of preaching to the choir. But there’s a warning to all of us. It’s all too easy to impose our own framework on Scripture and not allow God to speak for himself. Not to allow him to reveal himself as he wants. We must resist this temptation. We must allow God to reveal himself as he his. Irrespective of our sensibilities.


In the end, as in so many other things, the real question we’re left with is, “Will we take him at his word?”


[1] Herman Bavinck, John Bolt, and John Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, 4 vols (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2003), vol. 2.99.)

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Benjamin Lucas trained at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford and has an MA in Theology with the University of Wales. He is married to Emily and they have three children. He is a currently a curate at St Margaret's Angmering.


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