Forgive me, I'm not totally sure what the purpose of this site is. I'm assuming it works the same as the others though. So I'll just expect quality and won't bother explaining the pained effort behind the metaphor I intend to use below.


Imagine everyone alive is a different species; some other creature like a hyper intelligent fish... or something. There is only one human being in all of existence and, for obvious reasons, he is still proportionally more intelligent than us. All of us fish know of the human because he told us he is responsible for all of reality, and also he told us his name is Yahweh. We believed him and now we worship him. Sometimes we even discuss his majesty among ourselves. Alright, metaphor complete.

When we discuss him though, for some reason we call him 'Person', rather than 'Yahweh'. This is strange, confusing and seemingly grammatically incorrect. We would never say 'Friend and I are starting a bowling team. Would you like to join?' We would say 'Tom and I' assuming the 3rd party is familiar with our friend, and if they weren't we would say 'My friend and I'.

The reason we would never do that is because 'Friend' is the kind of thing 'Tom' is... To you at least. Stated more broadly: 'Fish' is the kind of thing 'Tom' is. Likewise, 'Person', is the kind of thing 'Yahweh' is. So if we as fish, should be forbidden to use the name 'Yahweh' for some reason involving an antiquated definition of vanity, then we should instead say, 'Hey Tom, I was wondering if you are familiar with the word of my person...', rather than 'Hey Tom, I was wondering you are familiar with the word of Person...'.

And finally, I understand that the idea behind a mono-theistic religion is that there is only ONE GOD, if for no other reason than that this is typically the response given to answer this question, but it seems to be an inadequate reason to forgo the grammar. So lastly, why then does this seem to be the go to answer anyway? It almost appears that many Christians fear saying 'My God' equates to a concession that other gods do exist, while they only worship Yahweh. Is that an accurate assessment of the situation? If not, then what is the correct assessment?

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    Welcome. This question may prove to be too broad for this site, since it invites answers from all traditions that associate themselves with Christianity. Some Christians do make a point of calling God "Jehovah" or "Yahweh," while others don't. Some might follow the Jewish reluctance to use God's name, while others don't for other reasons. But there are too many different kinds of "Christians" for an answer here. When you get a chance, I hope you'll take a minute to take the tour and learn how this site is different from others. Jul 13 '16 at 15:38
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    Downvoting because this is based on a complete misgeneralisation.
    – curiousdannii
    Jul 13 '16 at 21:26
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    @curiousdannii HA! literally the only people in the world I have ever heard refer to the judeo-christian god as anything other than God are scholar theologians in debates on YouTube. With the exception of them, and some of the minorities pointed out by the answers, everyone else calls him god like it's his name. I'll admit I might not be as savvy as some of you. That's why I came here in the first place. But I did not generalize, and I certainly didn't mis-generalize. Jul 14 '16 at 0:41
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    There is a difference between "secular space" and "sacred space" - when Theists interact with non-Theists, they will very frequently just use "God" to describe what they are talking about because they are aware that the non-Theists don't know God personally but are only aware of "God" as an idea. When they seek to interact with God directly or discuss him with fellow believers, there is very frequently no inhibition to refer to Him by a vast array of different names and titles that reflect their knowledge of his character or attributes. Jul 14 '16 at 2:23
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    At this point, I think this question would be better on english.stackexchange.com
    – fгedsbend
    Jul 14 '16 at 12:49

Some Christians regularly do use the "name" of God. Notably, the Jehovah's Witnesses call God "Jehovah", which is the name God gave himself on the Mountain when talking to Moses. I've also met plenty of non-denominational Christians that regularly call God "Yahweh", and it is in some of their music too; they certainly don't shy away from it.

Also, most Christians believe Jesus is God, and they can't get enough of that name. In this context, they would ask "Are you familiar with Jesus"? Saying "Jesus" is saying God's name. Often they feel the need to be far more poetic than a simple name, however, saying things like "Are you leaning on the everlasting arms"? In prayer, and in conversation, "My Father" is probably the most common name, likely because it is natural feeling, God is referred to as our heavenly father in many places in the Bible, and it highlights a intimate relationship. Further, though most Christians would identify God as "a person" they certainly would not equate God with personhood as you've done in your example. God is not human, nor is he even made of the same substance as people. So your contention seems one more or grammar rather than theology. On that point, the answer is simple: God, at least in monotheism, is a proper noun because there is only one God.

  • It's a good answer. A really good answer. But I want a lot more. Give me some time to figure out how I should refine my question. Jul 13 '16 at 18:00
  • @Musixauce3000 Let me know when you edit, and I'll see what I can do to answer further.
    – fгedsbend
    Jul 13 '16 at 18:47
  • I'm still going to revise my question, but as a side note before I get around to that: There is only one universe. As far as I know it doesn't have a name but if we gave it one for the sake of argument; Pano perhaps --We would still follow the rules of grammar despite there being only one. If ever one person were to express to another how he felt about the size of the universe, using the universes name, he would say... 'Pano is so freakin huge'. He would not say 'Universe is so freakin huge'. Jul 14 '16 at 11:40
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    @Musix Certainly now, you're on the wrong site. Ask on english.stackexchange.com why this is and how it came to be.
    – fгedsbend
    Jul 15 '16 at 0:43
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    lol yeah I think I would agree now. I didn't at first but these answers and comments have helped put it into context for me. Jul 15 '16 at 2:43

It became Jewish practice to substitute Addonai (which means "lord") for the proper name of Yahweh. They generally did this because they felt at the time that the proper name of God was too sacred to actually use, the practice of which became known as the Ineffable Name Doctrine (more info here )

They also felt that since there was only one true God, the name Elohim (which means God), is sufficient. It should be noted that "Elohim" is originally a plural word, but in the context of the use of the Hebrew people, was intended to be representative of a singular God.

Addonai (Lord) and Elohim (God), translated, become our standard naming references in Christianity today, although Yahweh is also used, particularly in song.

But perhaps most importantly, Christians believe that God judges our hearts, not our grammar, and knows whether or not we seek him, specifically:

"I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds." - Jeremiah 17:10 ESV

  • To give every man what -according to is ways, according to the fruit of his deeds? Jul 13 '16 at 18:46
  • @Musixauce3000, Punishment, if you cross reference Jeremiah 21:14. Jul 13 '16 at 20:46
  • @Musixauce3000 This isn't a forum, it is a Q&A site on the SE model. To give every man what? is a separate question regarding that particular extract from scripture. (Which Jon kindly explained to you). Please take the tour to understand what this site is and isn't. Jul 14 '16 at 14:48

I don't disagree with any of the other answers here, but let's also look at your metaphor.

When [the fish] discuss [the one Person they worship] though, for some reason [they] call him 'Person', rather than 'Yahweh'. This is strange, confusing and seemingly grammatically incorrect.

No it's not. It's perrfectly grammatical and not confusing at all, since there is only one Person.

Looking at a real world example, British people usually refer to "The Queen" rather than "Elizabeth" or even "Elizabeth II". It's generally considered more respectful. It's also less likely to be misunderstood. Americans often say "The President" in formal circumstances and when they intend to be respectful, rather than use his name. There are lots of other cases. Christians are simply following normal practice.

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    Right, but they say "The Queen", or "Queen Elizabeth". I imagine informally they may have said "Queen's got that foreign policy summit in a week", but that's extremely informal and not an example of how the bible refers to 'God'. Americans sometimes say "Mr. President", "The President" or "President Obama", but again, never just "President" Jul 13 '16 at 19:39

The metaphor fails because, for classical theists, God is not just another being, that even though infinitely perfect, powerful, wise, etc., is, in the end, in the same plane as created, limited beings. Rather, God is the absolute fullness of Being, Subsistent Being Itself. Thus, God is not an individual within a species, but is infinitely above the categories of contingent beings in a category of his own, in which He is the only one (Deut 6:4) not because it just happens to be that way, but because it is intrinsically impossible that there be another.

So, using your terms, the case is definitely not that "'God' is the kind of thing 'Yahweh' is." This was expressed in the Old Testament by the fact that YHWH was usually not referred as just "God" (El) but as

  • El Shaddai, God Almighty,
  • El Elyon, God Most High, and most often as:
  • Elohim, literally "the gods", meaning that the only true God concentrates all the power, wisdom, etc. that polytheistic religion distributed among several gods.
  • Suggestion: in your first sentence, use the term "Christians" rather than "Theists" as this is not "theism.SE". Jul 14 '16 at 14:50
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    "Christians" instead of "classical theists" would not be correct in my answer, because the statements in it are proper of classical theism, not exclusive of Christianity. Moreover, not all Christians are classical theists, as some of them hold "theistic personalism". There has been a recent exchange on the subject between William Lane Craig on one side and David Bentley Hart & Edward Feser on the other. Of course, I think that theistic personalists are wrong, but I would not label them non-Christians.
    – Johannes
    Jul 14 '16 at 18:18
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    Classical Christians versus classical "theists" is what I meant, but never mind, and thank you. We are drifting off topic. Jul 14 '16 at 18:22

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