Named in Relation…
Why name God? Naming in general is a way of expressing our relationship to the phenomena in our lives. Things named somehow belong to us. When giving name, we regard things as a part of our lives and the “universe” perceived. Labeling them with names tells what they mean to us and how we understand them. That is why the names we give to phenomena not only describe these phenomena, but they also tell a lot about those who name them. Since God is experienced in his revelation, He is also a phenomenon in a sense. God appears in history and in our lives in a way that we may feel his presence, we may experience his acts and thus we are invited to name the One revealed.
We are invited to name God in order to show what He means to us, to express our relationship. As professor Soskice said: “The names of God are names not of what God is in Godself, but confessions who God is for us.” YHWH, I am who I am, I was, I am and I will be with you. God names himself, he made himself known to Moses, but yet he remained unknown as clear knowing of God is not in human powers. If God reveals his name and yet remains the wholly different, unknown, hidden mystery, it is a call, an inspiration, an invitation to name God and express who God is for us, who we are and what is our relationship to Him.
It corresponds with what Jesus asks his disciples in Caesarea Philippi: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is (Matthew 16, 13)?” He asks how people name him. Why he asks that? Because he knows that people call upon him. And the disciples answer: “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets (Matthew 16, 14).” Now, perhaps, they suppose him to tell them who he is, but he strikes them with a very personal question. “Who do you say that I am (Matthew 16, 15; Mark 8, 29; Luke 9, 20)?” The only one who dared to answer is Simon Peter. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16, 16).” What Jesus replies to Peter is in consonance with the story of Moses. “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven (Matthew 16, 17).”
Peter is able to name Jesus as God not because of his own powers, but because he received the right words to name God. Human beings are invited to name God – to do what they can and cannot do at the same time. Human beings are even entitled to name God but their naming of God depends on how God names himself. Human persons are in relation with personal (for Christians Triune) God. Each personal relationship should have courage to name another person, yet it must be attentive and listen how this person names him/herself. A proper, personal relationship corresponds to who the person is from own perspective as well as from the perspective of the other. In theological terms, we may conclude that revelation is when God shares his name with human beings, and faith represents human attempts to name God.