Grammar of God talk

“The God I worship would never …”

How many times have you heard a sentence start that way?

When we say such things we are in danger of casting a golden calf.

The way that noun phrase is constructed “The God [that] I worship” makes my worship of God essential to the definition of who God is. God’s identity is determined by my act of worship. Without me, the word “God” is ambiguous and undetermined. It could be just any god.

If we are identifying God as God because it is the god that we find worthy of worship, then aren’t we putting ourselves in the seat of judgment over God? It says the highest authority we recognize when it comes to describing God is ourselves. It places our ego above the throne of God.

We have a simple fix for this problem, though. If we need to differentiate the God we worship from all the pseudo-gods out there, we can refer to God in ways that make it clear that God is God and we are not.

“The God revealed in Scripture …”

“The Triune God …”

“The God attested to in the ecumenical creeds …”

You can probably think of better phrases than these, but all of these at least remove the descriptor of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that suggests my personal approval is a part of God’s identity.

If we still wish to make it clear that we are among those who worship God, we can put that in a non-essential relative clause:

“The God revealed in Scripture, who I worship, would never …”

Here God is a specific God whose identity is independent of my worship. God’s identity does not require our worship. We could drop the clause about ourselves, and God would remain the same God.

If you find this all getting too worked up about words and grammar, please forgive me. I’m an English major and writing teacher. I find words important. (Even when my posts are plagued with typos.)


5 thoughts on “Grammar of God talk

    1. Thanks for the comment. FYI the last email I sent you sent back a Msg saying it could not be delivered.

  1. John,
    Excellent post. Further, if we say the God revealed in scripture has certain attributes, we had best know where in scripture we find evidence of those attributes and the reasons that other scripture passages that appear to contradict those attributes are not relevant to the discussion. This discipline would do much to ground our discussions in scripture rather than personal preference. It would also check the tendency that we all have to recreate God in our own image.

  2. Being a English major and writing teacher, the internet must drive you mad!
    When I am treading in the apologist side of Christianity and someone questions why I believe what I believe I usually say. “Let’s go see what God has to say.” and you know what?…most people don’t have a clue. In or outside the church.

  3. I usually hear the term right after I have preached and suggested that the Scripture I have dealt with may well be true!!! Then the individual confronts me with “The god I worship would never do this or that….” It usually is a sign that he/she considers god in his/her image rather than the God revealed in Scripture in whose image we are created in and are suppose to reflect!!!

Comments are closed.