Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What is God's Name?

After last Sunday's sermon, "WHY (the idea of) GOD?" someone texted me the following excellent question:
"Does it matter what we call God? If we believe in a power greater than ourselves that defines good and evil must we call him God?"

Great question! I simply could not do this question justice in a minute or two at the end of my sermon.

Does it matter what we call God? Does "God" have a proper name? First, I would make this observation: If there is a God, then God must have certain attributes, certain qualities or characteristics...so we would say God has an identity and personality, extending from "personhood" (in a divine or otherworldly sense, if you will, but beyond human personhood).

What we can know about God must be deduced from looking at the world he has made (please excuse my use of the male gender for God in these posts, it's simply easier than switching back and forth or constantly avoiding the use of pronouns - it becomes awkward to always write "God" rather than he, him, his, etc. I am not making the assumption that God is male versus female; that's a theological discussion for a different post!).

God has made an intelligent, orderly, beautiful, useful world in which we live, and yet we could also say that God has made some things we don't fully appreciate, like wasps, sharks, flys, germs, tornadoes, etc. But even though we may not appreciate them, through observatioin we learn that many of them have a place in the world, contributing somehow to the balance and rhythm of nature.

From looking at this evidence, we would deduce that God is intelligent, rational, caring (he has provided food and many other resources for our use), and orderly. None of this tells us God's name, but it tells us a great deal about God.

But does this God have a proper name? If God does have a proper name, then he would have to reveal it to us somehow...because all of this evidence around us still does not tell us a proper name for God. It's not written in the heavens, it's not carved into a tree...God will have to reveal his name to us if we are to know what to call him.
Most of the world's religions claim to reveal who God is, and many have particular names for God. As Christians we don't have a particular name for God, although in the Old Testament, which is part of our scriptures, God revealed himself to Moses as, "I Am that I Am." One of the Hebrew names for God, the holy, unspoken name of God, consists of the consonants, "YHWH," which scholars pronounce, "Yahweh."

Which leads into the topic for next Sunday's message, "WHY (believe in) JESUS?" Because of the teachings of Jesus, I believe God can be known to us. Speaking about God, Jesus called God "Father." And about God the Father, Jesus said, "If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him" (John 14:7).

Jesus then responds to a question by one of his disciples, Philip, by explaining that he (Jesus) is a reflection of who God is: "Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me..." (Jn. 14: 11). Often in his teachings, Jesus made the claim that he was from God, and that his purpose was to reveal God to us.

So we have to make a decision based on the information in the Bible; the teachings of Jesus, the other teachings in the Bible:

Does Jesus actually and accurately reveal God to us? Can God be known through Jesus? What evidence do we have to make this claim, or to believe this?

And that is what I will be talking about this Sunday, September 20!

Stay connected...

Pastor Mike

1 comment:

  1. I love the blog! This is an excellent follow-up from sermons to provide additional information for those who are looking for it. We are in the age of social media and this adds to the experience. Thanks for providing it.