Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters. I hope that by tomorrow night I will have the blog site more updated. We’ve been going through the doctrine of God and right now we’re covering the names of God. The guide for this study has been the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas which can be found at Newadvent.org if you don’t own your own copy. We’ll start our first night on this with, of course, the first article.
Now in a sense, this is an obvious answer. Of course names can be given to God. We have many names for him, including just calling him God. However, what is meant more is can names be given of him in a truly descriptive sense. This might sound like a strange question, but it is one that the early church dealt with as well.
Can God be given a name truly? The real answer in that sense is no. Names are given by another and they are names given by one who is greater. There is no one greater than God to give him a name and since God does not change, he does not give himself a name either. What we see in the name of YHWH in the OT is that God is the one who exists by necessity of his nature.
But there are ways in which we can give God names. However, these names do not define God but they rather describe him. Words are things that signify something beyond themselves. Each word you see on this blog is not an end in itself. It is an idea meant to point to something beyond itself. This is one of the amazing things about language.
We can use that language to name God based on what we do understand about him and nothing totally captures who he is. If we call him Almighty, then we have not captured his omniscience. Saying he is holy does not capture his power. Saying he is Lord does not speak entirely of his love. All of these give us glimpses simply into who God is. The best name for him is still the one that he used to describe himself to Moses.
Interestingly then, for Aquinas, God is not really Lord in himself. Lord is something that describes God’s relationship to the creation. In this way, he is not really creator in himself. He is the creator of the universe and he is the Lord of the universe but saying such things do not add anything to God. After all, God cannot be added to.
By the use of the name however, we make a statement about who God is in relation to the creation. God is Lord in that he is sovereign over his creation for if there had been no creation, there would have been no one for him to be sovereign over. God is creator in that he is the one who is the efficient cause of the creation. Had there been no creation, he would not be creator.
What more can be found out about the names of God? We shall find out as we continue tomorrow.