What’s In a Name?

by Mike Halpin

Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. Genesis 2:19

When the Lord God set his representative on the newly created earth he invested Adam with authority to subdue and exercise dominion over that creation, Genesis 1:28. 

The exercise of that authority is seen in part by Adam naming the animals, Genesis 2:19-20, and then later naming Eve, 2:23 and 3:20. Eve’s authority to name as God’s co-representative is seen when she names her son Seth, Genesis 4:25. 

To name a person or a thing is to exercise authority over it. Naming includes at least elements of defining a thing, limiting it, describing what it is and what it is not. Parents name children, inventors name inventions, authors name books, explorers name lands, and in our day, we name ourselves and rename other things in a hegemonistic attempt to remake our world as we see fit. 

Carl Trueman’s June 1st, 2022 opinion piece in World Magazine notes that by claiming June as “pride month” the LGBTQ community seeks to regulate our culture. “It is a basic fact of history that if you control time and space, you also control the culture” writes Trueman. 

While I agree with Trueman’s thesis, I think the inference of naming and claiming a month of the year goes beyond the point he makes directly. By naming a month, by renaming sin as virtue, and by redefining human sexuality, the LGBTQ community and their supporters are attempting to take to themselves the authority to redefine God’s creation and his representatives. This renaming and redefining is an attempt at creating an autonomous status, creatures as self-creators. This is of course an ontological impossibility; a creature cannot by definition be its own creator, but such are the days in which we live. The words of the prophet Isaiah ring true in this attempt to recreate through renaming—

He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?” Isaiah 44:20

In this grasping for authority to redefine life the use of language, and particularly renaming, has led the way. “Pro-choice” is the euphemism for the authority to kill unborn children. Homosexuals are “gay”, a renaming an aunt of mine lamented, wondering what possible association “gay” could have with homosexuality. Those who mutilate their bodies in a rejection of their God-given identity as male or female are named “trans-gender”. But of course, chromosomes can’t lie, and though expressions of the self may change, our sex doesn’t and can’t, renaming aside. 

Courtesy usually requires calling a person by the name of their choosing, which I support, though I might come across a situation in which I couldn’t comply. But calling a woman “him”, or a man “her” isn’t truth telling and a commitment to truth and reality would trump the call to courtesy in those situations. College professors have been fired over refusing to comply with this renaming attempt, but that’s a nod to the outsized significance those small pronouns carry in the desire to recreate ourselves and our world. 

God is the ultimate authority, and all other authority is derived from him, John 19:11. Derived authority is  faithful in calling a thing what God calls it, in defining a thing as God defines it. Efforts to defy God’s calling and naming find their ultimate fulfillment in Satan’s great revolt, led on earth by the man of his choosing, one God calls, anti-Christ. Meanwhile, the One named by God the Father, Matthew 1:21, continues to use even mankind’s rebellion for his own, sovereign purposes, in bringing all things back into subjection, Psalm 2 and Ephesians 1:10, and then submitting that reclaimed creation to the Father, 1st Corinthians 15:28. 

I’m looking forward to the day, and I hope you are as well, when we see our Creator and Redeemer face to face, 1st John 3:2. Jesus, our Maker and Savior calls those who follow him, friends, John 15:15. In benevolent blessing and grace he gives his faithful ones new names, unique to each, Revelation 2:17. The One who made us and named us in creation, restores us, and more, in new creation, Revelation 21:5. 

What’s in a name? Truth. Reality. Faithfulness. 

See also, “Same Sex ‘Marriage’–Why Does it Matter? (https://appliedheart.com/2013/04/19/same-sex-marriage-why-does-it-matter/) ; “And Man Created God” (https://www.lionandlambchurch.com/mediaPlayer/#/sermonaudio/20). 

Photo credit: https://wellcomecollection.org/works/w2g9454v

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