A New Name for God? Stupid Is as Stupid Does
Beware liberal mainline protestants who “reimagine” God, who rename God, who stop using male pronouns to refer to God, and, yes, who start proposing a “new” name for God. Christian Century published this article on its web site. I really am trying to think of a better way to put this, but I can’t, so I’ll just say. This is just so, so stupid! Fundamentally stupid, at every possible level. There is nothing “new” about the Hebrew word “El” which is the somewhat generic Semitic word for “God.” It is an ancient word. And suggesting we use this word for “God” is just….oh, wait…I already said it. OK, it’s also just so, so silly.
Be warned: the more liberal mainline protestant churches tinker with the name of God the further away they move from the one, true God and are ever more embracing a false religion.
The Name that is above every name is “Jesus.” The name “Yahweh” is that unique self-revelation God gave to Moses, the name means, simply, “I am” or “The being one.” [More like an assertion of what is, rather than a name]. But for any one claiming to be a Christian to be chatting up a “new name” for God is … well, I won’t repeat myself.
Here’s the article:
I have a new name for God, at least new to me. The old three-letter word “God” is worn out. Words only last so long before they need to be retired for a season. The word “God” has too much freight on it and too many associations.
I have begun to use a Hebrew word for deity: el. It’s pronounced like the English word ale. (This is an idea I borrowed from Madeleine L’Engle.) El is a simple word, found in the Bible, but it doesn’t have any history for me, and I never use it in my work as a pastor. I walk on the trail in the mornings and talk to el, who hides in the trees. Actually, el is hidden deeply in all things.
I bought a new prayer book to help me talk with el at other times. My old prayer book was looking decrepit, and the cats gnawed off the ribbon markers. My prayer book is published by the Presbyterian Church and includes the psalms along with traditional prayers. It has a Celtic cross on the cover and readings from the daily lectionary in the back, which I read in the Good News Bible or the NRSV. A new prayer book goes well with a new name for God.
I have a new practice too: yoga. I took part in a great yoga group at church over the summer, and now I am taking formal yoga classes downtown from a woman who has studied in India and calls the poses by their Sanskrit names. Yoga is teaching me to befriend my body, which weighs 70 pounds less than it did last fall. Yoga also helps me find what my teacher calls ‘spaciousness within.’ Maybe that spacious place is where el lives in me. Yoga poses remind me of the different postures of prayer the psalms place us in.
A new name, a new book, and a new practice. These are new seeds taking root in me now.
On his blog, Dr. Gene Edward Veith has this excellent, brief, response:
First of all, “El” is not a new name for God, simply a word for God in another language. If a person wants to pray in another language, fine. If in Biblical Hebrew, so much the better.
But I wouldn’t want to fool with the “name” of God. The name of God is a concept I suspect we don’t fully appreciate. In the Bible, God’s “name” is fraught with spiritual power and taboos, from the Commandment (“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain”) to the injunctions to glorify God’s name and Christ’s promises about praying and acting in His name (talk about a claim to divinity).
Of course, “God” isn’t the name of God–just a noun for who and what He is. The name of God is expressed in the Tetragrammaton, YHWH, and is connected to the verb “to be,” as in what He said to Moses, “I am who I am.” Now that Christ has come, we have a name by which we are to baptize and to worship: “In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
Coming up with different names for God, though, cuts us off from the historic and universal church that extends back through time and across the whole world. Making up your own individual name for God enshrines the individual–not YHWH, not the Trinity–as the locus of devotion.