How do we bless God?

We know that God blesses us.  But the Bible also speaks of us blessing God.  How does that work?  How can mere human beings “bless the LORD”? What can we do to benefit Him, the One who needs nothing?

I learned in Bible class recently that there is a blessing from greater to lesser, when God gives gifts to mortals, but also when kings bestow gifts to their subjects, etc.  But there is also a blessing from lesser to greater.  This kind of blessing–when the subject blesses the king or the mortal blesses God–consists mainly of thanksgiving. [Read more...]

God as merely an explanation

The “low voltage atheist” George Will defends public prayer, and in doing so offers an interesting definition of Deism, one that might apply to many people who consider themselves Christians.  He says that for the Deist, God is just an explanation, on the order of believing in the Big Bang, which is not the same as being truly religious. [Read more...]

A God who doesn’t act like a God

Our pastor on Palm Sunday said that people’s confusion over Jesus–so that they hailed Him with palms and soon thereafter demanded His crucifixion–was because they wondered, “Can a king who doesn’t act like a king be a king?  Can a God who doesn’t act like a God be a God?”

It occurred to me that the same confusions are rampant today, and that this is precisely what the events we commemorate during Passion Week are all about.  God is supposed to be an abstract philosophical proposition; here is a God who made Himself a tangible, material human being.  God is supposed to be  transcendent and glorious; here is a God who descends down into the depths, subjecting Himself to humiliation and suffering.  God is supposed to punish sin; here is a God who forgives sin, atoning for it by taking into Himself the sins of the world and punishing Himself for them.  God demands sacrifices from human beings; here is a God who sacrifices Himself for human beings.  God is supposed to be far above the world of suffering, looking down upon it all; here is a God who bears the world’s evil and the world’s griefs.  God is supposed to either exist or not exist; here is a God who died and rose again.

 

Is God different than we are?: The ontological controversy

Consider this quote from Timothy George, in our recent Christianity without the Atonement post:

The problem comes when we use an anthropopathic term like “wrath” and apply it univocally to the God of eternity. Before long, we have constructed “a god who looks like me,” to use the title of a recent book of feminist theology.  Then caricatures of divine wrath proliferate:  God having a temper tantrum or acting like a big bully who needs to be “appeased” before he can forgive or, as is often alleged with reference to the atonement, practicing cosmic child abuse.

Note the word “univocally.”  This alludes to a historically important theological issue having to do with ontology, or the nature of being, as it applies to God.  The “univocal” position is that God is a being in the same way we are beings.  The “analogy of being” position is that only God has being in its fullness, while we and the whole creation exist in a related but qualitatively lesser way than He does.

Now this may seem like an arcane issue, but–as I will try to explain,with some help, after the jump–it is extraordinarily important, having to do with the Catholic critique of Protestantism, the nature of the Sacraments, the relationship between Christianity and science, the rise of secularism, and the very way we think about God.  [Read more...]

The God whom Christians worship

Yesterday was Trinity Sunday, in which we reflect on the One true God who consists of three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  That God is a unity of distinct persons means that we can accurately say that He is love, love being at the very essence of God, since love–even human love–can be defined as a unity of distinct persons.  Christians worship the Triune God, a very different kind of deity from that of all other religions.

On Trinity Sunday, churches that follow the classic liturgy recite The Athanasian Creed[Read more...]

A new name for God?

From Methodist minister Chris Brundage at Christian Century:

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.

via A new name for God | The Christian Century.

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.


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