A Rose By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet


After a Dutch Catholic bishop suggested that Christians should start calling God "Allah", I see that Hal Lindsey has written a response. To be honest, I didn't even know that Hal Lindsey was still alive. I thus had no idea that he was out there in Christian circles peddling more of his usual nonsense. You'd think he'd be hanging his head in shame over all the confident predictions that he made for the end of the world in his now badly outdated 1970's books; those predictions were based on rather fanciful interpretations of Biblical prophecies, about the imminent rapture and the battle of Armageddon, and, well, they were so rooted in the geopolitics of the time that they proved to be completely wrong. But no, right there on that web site where his article is posted, there is even a reference to one of the books from that era. The man really knows no shame. As the Wikipedia article on the rapture points out in describing his 1970's predictions:

Lindsey proclaimed that the rapture was imminent, an idea that he based on world conditions at the time. The Cold War and the European Economic Community figured prominently in his predictions of impending Armageddon. Other aspects of 1970s global politics were seen as having been predicted in the Bible. Lindsey suggested, for example, that the seven-headed beast with ten horns, cited in Revelation, was the European Economic Community, a forebear of the European Union, which at the time aspired to ten nations; it now has 27 member states.
Oh well, 10, 27, what's the difference? As comedian Pat Paulson used to say, "picky, picky, picky."

Personally, I think the idea of Christians in non-Arabic nations calling God "Allah" seems rather ridiculous, since Allah is just another name for God--the Arabic name for God. Muslims refer to God as having 99 names, an allusion to the fact that God is essentially ineffable, infinite, and impossible to truly capture with a single name. Muslims realize that a name is just a name. The name doesn't really matter. Different languages have different names--in English, we say "God", in French, they say "Dieu", and in Arabic, they say "Allah". The Dutch word for "God", as it turns out, is "God". Who knew? Anyway, what matters is the concept that the name refers to. It's sort of like in Algebra, when you use any old letter, like x, to describe a number.

But Lindsey, Allah bless him, thinks that the name you use really does matter. I am not making this up. He writes, for example:
God has many names; most of them are names of praise and worship, rather than names in the sense of a personal name. They include Elohim, El Shaddai, Adonai, Jehovah (YHWH), Shepherd, Judge, Father, Counselor, Comforter, Advocate, or simply "Lord" or "Almighty God." One name that has never been ascribed to Him in Scripture is "Allah."
Funnily enough, another name that has never been ascribed to him in the Bible, which was written in various non-English languages like Hebrew and Greek, is the English word "God". Amazingly, this concept seems to be completely over Hal Lindsey's head.

According to the Wikipedia article on Allah,
Arabic-speakers of all faiths, including Christians and Jews, use the word "Allah" to mean "God". The Muslim and Christian Arabs of today have no other word for 'God' than 'Allah'.
So, according to Lindsey's impeccable logic, Christian Arabs should not refer to God as "Allah" as they have been doing for centuries, since "Allah" doesn't appear in the Bible. What name he thinks they should use isn't exactly clear.

In deference to certain forms of Judaism, I suppose that Christians could refer to God as G_d. I see that word in print a lot, but to be honest, I am not sure how you pronounce that. Do people who write "G_d" still say "God"? Whenever switching to an unpronounceable name, it would be counterproductive to resort to the Prince phenomenon, and refer to the Holy One as "the Deity formally known as God."

Most of the time, when I am in communication with the Sacred, I usually don't address God by name anyway. She knows who I am talking to. At least I think she does.


Andrew said...

Heh! Great points. I realize Lindsey has a right to his opinion, but I think we could have a reasonable expectation that the opinion make sense.

Heather said...

Lindsey reminds me of a saying of "With friends like these, who needs enemies?" REally, sometimes a Christian's worst enemy is another Christian.

As you said, if the Bible were translated into Arabic, you'd start seeing the word "Allah" for "God."

And, Andrew, I love your comment: "We could have a reasonable expectation that the opinion make sense."

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Heather W. Reichgott said...

A witty person once said: "If English was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for us."

Eileen said...

All I can say is oy.

If you want to call God God, do so. If you want to call God Allah, do so.

But, let's not mandate it.

And Hal Lindsey should STFU - particularly since he has nothing useful to say.