Name of God

In my second year of seminary, CDSP did not have a theology professor. It is in the second year that systematic theology is taught. Since this position was not yet filled, they hired a Lutheran pastor from Moraga who had seminary teaching experience to fill in that year. He also filled in at the Lutheran school (PLTS) during Ted Peters sabbatical. Ted Peters is a nationally respected theologian.

The first semester was a bad experience for everybody. He was trying to teach general Christian theology, with an Anglican slant, using the texts that the previous incumbent used. CDSP’s previous theology professor was a Baptist. And our sub had never taught at a non-Lutheran school before.

My classmates and I fled his class in the second semester. I had heard that there were only three left in the class. Ironically, one of my classmates and I went to PLTS for our second semester of systematic theology. Ted Peters was back from sabbatical. I chose PLTS because we Anglicans had an affinity for Lutherans. And I thought it would be better than one of the Roman Catholic seminaries that most of my classmates went to. The text books were Lutheran, of course.

The co-author of the main text, a two-volume work, was Robert Jenson. In a separate work, appropriately titled Systematic Theology, Jenson wrote, “God is whoever raised Jesus from the dead, having before raised Israel from Egypt.” Sometimes a single sentence can be deeply profound. Jenson goes on to use a whole lot of words to explain what he means by that statement.

Our Saviour recently had a two-part parish forum on the names of God. Those who participated learned that the names for God that we find in the Bible are ways for people to describe God. In fact, it is usually the case that the name used for God is due to an outcome of a particular person’s encounter with God.

The God we know is the one who raised Jesus and is the same one that had a long relationship with the Hebrews, and the Jews that succeeded them, before Jesus’ resurrection. This is a God of power. This is a God who has chosen to intervene into human history at specific, key points. Following Jewish tradition, we have generally decided to not bother with God’s name. God is God. A name is superfluous.

The only name we need to know is Jesus. Jesus is God incarnate. Jesus gave God a face. Jesus gives us our marching orders, empowered by the Holy Spirit. This is all we need to change the world, bringing about God’s kingdom.

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