Willimon and the (Christian) Power of Naming God

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Willimon posits:

The whole doctrine of the Trinity is our attempt to name the God who has met us in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was not just an aspect of God or a good indicator of God; he was God. In him the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, all of the glory of God in him. (p13)

First – Willimon allows that the formulated doctrine of the Trinity is an ‘attempt.’ I’m fine with that, I guess. More fine than I would be if it was in a certain biblical studies book which I shall not mention. After all, Willimon is a theologian.

But, I digress and will move on through clenched teeth.

On page 15, Willimon goes on to state that “the most important decision in Christian theology is to decide whether you will speak of God as a person or as a concept, as a name or as an idea.” He further rails against ]]’s use of the term “ultimate reality” and instead demands that we name the Father and the Son (and the Spirit) which causes us to draw near to the movement of God upon the world. For Willimon, then, the idea of a personal Savior, which I myself find detestable, is feasible, but only in the corporate sense – that God wants to be personal, wants to be close to His creation. I can agree to that, I think, for the most part. The Greeks saw God as so transcendent that It needed an mediator (generally, the Logos). This was brought to us by the Hellenist philosophers who converted, such as Justin. In reading the Hebrew bible, I do not see a God so transcendent that He is unable to meet His creation or involve Himself in even the basest of material things. I see a God from the Hebrew tradition which walks, talks, and dwells with His people – that is until tradition required mediators.

In naming, there is a certain familiarity between the Christian and the Creator, and it is one which I think we often times surrender with a focus on the theological Trinity. An absentee Father is presented but that relationship is maintained by a Loving Son. Is this really how the Godhead works?

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3 Replies to “Willimon and the (Christian) Power of Naming God”

  1. These last two posts raise some great questions. I hope HaShem will let me interact post to post some day. My own close reading of the Writings is making me both belligerent and inarticulate – or maybe I was both already and they are just emerging – Ya Jonah! Anyway – closeness is what God is about – it is not long distance – no absentee Father. Personal in that our person and personality are created – can they be redeemed? Corporate in that we must get along together – but how? Note the differing uses of the name of God in the 7th section of Jonah concerning the tender plant.

  2. The great trap, though, is to think that in “naming” God, we are exposing reality instead of creating it. The Trinity is indeed an “attempt” and we must continually ensure that it is not a facade that is limiting our thinking rather than clarifying it. Having a close, personal savior – a live-in Father as it were – is such a psychologically desirable thing that we are constantly in danger of importing such a creator to satisfy our own longings and needs instead of allowing reality and logical necessity to speak for themselves.

    I am no theologian but watching theological goings-on is a bit of hobby. Each camp struggles to match what they have been taught about God with their experiences and observations of the world. Each response seems so personal and none seem to have a lock on it. Living with a certain amount of uncertainty (as advocated by he-whose-book-must-not-be-named) seems to me the great task before Christians and other god-seekers.

    1. sorry for not responding soon, y’all. I’ve been busy with the YEC crowd. They don’t like me much.

      I appreciate both of the comments here. I’ll start chapter two soon!

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