Is The Name of God Communicable?

Hello everyone. I bid you a welcome back to Deeper Waters and if this is your first time, I hope you enjoy it. Come on in. The water’s fine. As we’ve been diving in the ocean, we’ve been studying the doctrine of God and the thought of Thomas Aquinas has been our guide. We have been using his Summa Theologica. If you do not have one, you can read it online at Right now, we’re covering the names of God and we’re on the ninth article.

As I was reading over this, I was struck by how amazing it is that the objections that were raised in the days of Aquinas are still the objections that are raised today. There is nothing new under the sun. So as we go through this today, we are going to cover objections raised today that were addressed around 750 years or so ago.

To begin with, by communicable, we mean “Can the name of God be shared with others?” For our Arian friends, keep in mind that Aquinas, like all good Christians, is a Trinitarian and so he upholds the teachings that have been handed down throughout church history.

Now Aquinas does say in a certain sense, the name is communicable. This is in the sense that something that is a description of that nature in some way is passed on. For instance, when we say that someone is a lion of a man. We do not mean he is a hybrid beast. We rather mean that he is strong and courageous, much like when we speak of the lion of Judah.

An objection arises that it is said that we will become partakers of the divine nature in 2 Peter 1:4. Anyone who has dialogued with Arians before knows that they bring forward this verse. I have also seen Mormons use this verse in order to justify their doctrine of exaltation in which humans become gods.

However, the answer is readily apparent when one simply reads the verse. In what way do we become partakers of the divine nature? It is in relationship to a holy lifestyle as Peter says. It is not about having ontological equality with God as Aquinas has shown earlier would be impossible. It is saying that we will develop the character that we will live holy and godly lives.

But doesn’t Scripture elsewhere say that there are some who are gods? What about the Psalms that say this. Once again, the same problem is here. These are said to be gods in some likeness but not in the totality of the divine nature. What I believe is going on in Psalm 82 is that Jesus is referring to the rulers of Israel who were trying to claim special authority because they had the Torah and therefore they had all right to lord themselves over their brothers.

God is saying that while they are gods in the sense that they were given a position of rulership, they are not gods in reality. They will die like mere men because that is what they are. In essence, this verse is not lifting up the “gods” in it. Instead, it is mocking them. It is ironic that a verse used to mock is used by others to say that God is saying something really good about humanity.

Aquinas concludes that the name of God in its totality is not communicable and we agree. There can be only one.

We shall continue tomorrow.

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