Each of us has an image of God. In our lives and in our communities, we have created God in our image. And we continually recreate that God as a reflection of both our experience and of our need.
We have many names for God – gracious Father, Father God, Abba, Daddy, precious Savior, Jesus Son of Mary, Redeemer, Comforter, Emmanuel, Adonai, Lord – but our words for God represent nothing more than “our conceptions of the divine nature” (Gregory of Nyssa). They do “not convey the meaning of that nature.” Our names for God are human constructions, even if they are revealed in scripture.
Why, then, do we name God?
The issue of naming is an issue of control. Consider the formula “to pray in Jesus’ name,” a formula that simply gets it wrong. To pray in Jesus name must always be a prayer of humility, must never be a prayer of control.
What, then, is spiritual maturity?
It is a willingness to let God be God.
Our names for God are human constructions
Is our language a human construct or was language created by God. (Though tainted by human existence for sure.) ” God – gracious Father, Father God, Abba, Daddy, precious Savior, Jesus Son of Mary, Redeemer, Comforter, Emmanuel, Adonai, Lord” – not names at all, but in fact titles, attributes, forms of respect and I hope endearment.
When Moses asked how to describe the God he met in the dessert that would lead them out of Egypt, because he knew the Jews has turned to many false gods and the title no longer held the meaning it once had.
Exodus 3:6 ‘Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.’
God responded with His relationship to Moses and the Jews, rather than another title. He wants us to know that God that created the heavens and the earth, that came to earth to die for us, to redeem us, to have a personal relationship, an intimate knowledge of who He is, not just a name or title for someone we don’t know.
There is in all languages this idea that language itself is a divine gift. Without an ability to connect, for instance, we are largely unable to survive. We need each other. Language helps us to connect. But language also has its limits. Just as human understanding and imagination have their limits. If God is infinite and humans are finite, then our understanding of God and our experience of God is also finite. It does not matter, then, whether these names are human constructs or actual attributes. They still fall short. They are by their very nature incomplete. But we tend to forget that. We tend to think that God is God, when the reality is far more complex and much, much bigger.
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