Today at theStory we talked about naming God. The thing that stole most of the discussion was “what dangers, if any, are there in misnaming God.” So this post will sort of be my answer to that questions and trying to flesh it out.
First what I think is important to realize is that the question already assumes that we can misname God. There is right and wrong terms that we can attribute to God. I do understand and agree with the underlying assumption that we can misname God. I don’t think God is whatever we want him to be or whatever we call him.
Are their dangers in misnaming him? I don’t think there is danger in misnaming God. I think that misnaming God is part of what it means to be human and part of the process of discovering who God is. One lady spoke up in church today and said that for a while she thought that God was a jerk and she called him that and that it took getting to that point with God before she could call him something else. With that said, I don’t think God is afraid of what we can call him. He won’t be upset if I swear at him or call him the Almighty Smiter (reference to Bruce Almighty). I think God understands that in our limited human knowledge and struggle to understand who God is, it is inevitable that we will at time land on wrong understandings of him. So while they are inaccurate, I think that they are necessary to discovering who he really is.
John spoke up and reminded us that it was extremely important to remember though that the point needs to be progress and growing in our relationship with God. If we were to misname/name God and then stop because we think we have figured it out then that becomes an issue. No one can grasp or fully comprehend God they are always going to be going through the names to try to put a finger on it. The one who says that they are right and others are wrong, is the one that limits God to his own understanding. Growth is the key, and if misnaming happens in the midst of it then it is ok.
It also comes up that the Scriptures are our only accurate understanding of who God is and that all of our experience needs to be matched up against them to see if they are validated or not. It really puts a damper in the whole naming God thing because really none of the names we give him hold any weight unless they are found or alluded to in the Scriptures. This means that the Scriptures have a perfect and finished view of who God is and there is nothing that the last two thousands years or so has done to add to the image of God. I realize many hold that view, but it just seems to cancel out any importance of the lives of people who have interacted with God over the last twenty centuries. A experience that someone has with God today can hold as much weight and be used to strengthen someone just as much as any story told in the Bible.
This being said; I think that the Bible gives us a direction to head in to find out who God is but not a set of sold answers. Relationships, experience and worship all add to this foundation to help us be shaped into discovering God in all sorts of places. There is no danger in misnaming God if it is in the context of relationship and searching. Because of this, I think God can be named and misnamed over and over again because I believe that as long as we are heading in the direction that Jesus’ story is going that we can’t go wrong in journeying with him, whether we land at wrong rest stops along the way.