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Fri, Jul. 16th, 2004, 04:30 pm

Let's see. There still aren't many members here yet, so let me post a topic!

It seems like liberal Christians in particular are very fond of using the name "Yahweh." Certainly it was the rage when I was in seminary, and I find very many books that use it. (I read one book recently that refused to; I think it was Bruggeman.)

I don't understand why people insist on using the Name. It is supposed to be sacred. The Bible forbids people from using it, and the Name is translated LORD God in every translation. Many Jews don't even use the word "God." They say "G-d."

So why would liberal Christians be so big on saying Yahweh? Especially since Yahweh is no more accurate than the medieval Jehovah. YHWH would be more accurate, but I still don't see the benefit of using it. We know that names are a way of having power over something, so the modern fad of using the Name looks to me like an attempt to gain power over God.

The Harry Potter books give an excellent illustration of this. Everyone calls the bad guy "He Who Must Not Be Named." But only certain of the good guys: Dumbledore, Lupin, Harry himself, insist on using Voldemort's real name because they believe they shouldn't ascribe so much fear and power to him. In essence, the wizarding community has made a false idol out of Voldemort, and for Dumbledore et al, it becomes an important act of "unmasking the power" for them to use Voldemort's name.

Going back to Christianity, then -- what is behind the insistence in using "Yahweh"? It seems to me the height of arrogance, maybe even idolatry -- idolizing our own power by insisting on using the Name. Who do we think we are to use God's name? God isn't a false idol. God is real, therefore we should show respect by not using the Name.

(You see how I have such an incredibly conservative streak in me?) I'm interested to know what others think. Do any of you choose to use the Name, and if so, why? I've never seen anyone give a theological defense for using the Name. If anything, that disturbs me even more. I mean, if you're going to use the Name, then I think you should have a reason for doing so. Otherwise, you really are taking the Lord's name in vain.

Sat, Jul. 17th, 2004 09:56 am (UTC)

My boyfriend, Brian, is Jewish, and he says that it is higly offensive to say the name YHWH when speaking with a Jewish person (though quite a few Eden faculty use it with great abandon in their classes); an acceptable (in fact, the usual substitute) in Jewish culture is to say Adonai instead, which out of respect to Brian and all other Jews, I now do.

I find it most fascinating that the faculty member who uses it most at Eden is John Bracke - the protege of Walter Brueggeman.

Personally? God is Adonai is YHWH - or, a rose is a rose is a rose. This summer I'm going through huge transformations in how I perceive God, and am in many ways on a course that is not at all charted by orthodoxy in any form. I believe that divinity resides within each and all - that our experiences on earth are proof of God wanting to earth in human form. When I say 'divinity within,' I am not saying that one person is God, but that we all have little sparks of God within us, and in acknowledging that everyone has a bit of God in themself, one takes responsibility for one's own free will.

I'm having a hard time, therefore, with all of the rules, with the Bible being The Definitive and Only Book of Christianity. Perhaps it is time for people to really go within, to begin again to trust intuition - because for too long we have looked to books to define who we are and why we are here. I've noticed that for a long time I would rather trust what someone else says than myself. And indeed, one of the reasons why we are here on earth in community is to work out these becomings with each other - but I think that in giving a book or person power over oneself is to attempt to absolve onself of personal responsibility. The Bible, the pastor - both of these things are accepted authorities - but they let people off the hook when it comes to making real decisions - because "the Bible tells me the right way to live and so does pastor." So what happened to free will?

Wow, the question of naming God has really unleashed some thoughts. :-) I'm really in a place right now of "why are we on earth?" and "appearances can go hang. I'm going in for realities!" (The Blue Castle, L.M. Montgomery - page # unremembered) - I'm getting to a point in life where I don't want to hide what I'm really thinking and feeling about things any longer. It's a challenge for me to deal with some of these questions as a student in a Christian seminary, but well worth the effort, it seems.

So what have you learned about questions like these as an ordained minister?

Mon, Jul. 19th, 2004 11:32 am (UTC)

Since my church is very liberal/progressive, we wrestle with those questions all the time. But we decided from the beginning (this is a new church) that we would be Christian. So we wrestle with what that means.

For me personally (and I think for my church) we see Christianity as an ongoing community through time and space. Sounds new-agey, don't it? :P But I mean to say that people for two thousand years have been responding to God's presence in and through Jesus. They have understood that presence in many, many different ways. Yet certain overarching themes emerge. For me, the bible is the record of that community's relationship with God over the centuries (and of course back even further to the origins of Judaism.) It's not like God stopped speaking after Revelation. But the canon did close. Whether that's good or bad, I don't know, but it's what we have. That book has shaped the Christian story for the last 1700 years -- and that is why I'm not in favor of reopening the canon. Because whatever books you would add have *not* shaped and been shaped by the community for 1700 years. I am, however, all in favor of reading non-canonical books. But as a community we just don't have the same relationship with them.

And I do see it as a relationship, not a situation of authority. Bear in mind that the concept of the Bible as the inerrant word of God is only abut 100 years old. In Augustine's day, the literal meaning of the Bible was seen as the most shallow meaning.

So the Bible for me tells the story of a community, and we continue to live that story today, because the community continues to exist. We go back to that story over and over again not because it's the only one that's true, but because it is *our* story in a way that others are not.

That's why Spong goes too far for me when he wants to just toss out things that don't make sense from a modern scientific viewpoint. Because the modern scientific viewpoint is only one way of understanding. Who knows how future generations will see things? So we shouldn't throw out the Virgin birth -- not because it's literally true, but because it's part of our story. It has given us a lot of meaning, some of it good and some bad. But if we throw it out now, future generations will no longer have that story. I say we keep it and wrestle with it, and individuals can reject it if they feel the need to. But the tradition should not reject it, because it's part of our heritage.