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Called by Name

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December 19, 2010 Tags: Worship & Arts

Today's entry was written by Mark Sprinkle. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of BioLogos. You can read more about what we believe here.

Just as the Lord gave Adam the task of naming the animals in the Garden, naming remains a central part of the scientific exploration of the world, for we designate relatedness in the tree of life by giving creatures names, even as we try to understand and classify them according to their morphological or genetic character. But what does it mean to be “called by name”? The phrase speaks of our biological identity, but also of intimacy—of being known for who we are as individuals (our given names) and for who we are as part of a community (our family names). Names are not something that we merely possess, then, but something we live: to be called by our name is to be invited into a relationship.

This relational aspect is all the more true when we accept the name of another as our own, or when another’s name is bestowed upon us. Marriage and adoption are the examples of this “identification with another” that spring to mind in our contemporary context, and, indeed, the Scriptures use both of these to speak of the way we are invited by the Lord to Himself. In both cases, it means that we take on the identity of another who is different from us—to know them by being part of them. Naming does not just recognize the current state of affairs, but brings into the world a new state of being. As poets know, naming is a kind of creation, and by being named as God’s own, we begin to bear His likeness.

In this season of Advent, though, we prepare to celebrate not so much how we are called by God’s name, but how He chose to be called by ours—how in addition to the powerful names by which Israel had known their God through the ages, we would now use humble ones, too: child, lamb. Those are the names William Blake used in his poem The Lamb, to set before us the intimate kinship Jesus wrought by taking our names and giving us His, in terms that also connect us with the rest of the natural world He created and which we have been called to cultivate. In addition to reading the original words below, listen as contemporary British composer John Tavener (here through the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge) gives voice to those names, to those likenesses which we are blessed to share.

The Lamb (1793)

Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed,
By the stream and o'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?

Little Lamb, I'll tell thee,
Little Lamb, I'll tell thee.
He is called by thy name,
For He calls Himself a Lamb.
He is meek, and He is mild;
He became a little child.
I a child, and thou a lamb,
We are called by His name.
Little Lamb, God bless thee! 

Little Lamb, God bless thee!

Mark Sprinkle is an artist and cultural historian, and was formerly Senior Web Editor and Senior Fellow of Arts and Humanities for The BioLogos Foundation. A phi beta kappa graduate of Georgetown University, he received his M.A. and Ph.D. in American Studies from the College of William and Mary, where he studied how artworks embody complex relationships in different cultural contexts. Since 1996 he has been an independent artist and frame-maker, also regularly writing and speaking on the role of creative practices in cultural mediation and renewal, especially in the area of science and Christian faith. Mark and his wife Beth home-schooled their three boys, and are active in the local home-school community in Richmond, Virginia.

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Jon Garvey - #44360

December 19th 2010

“As poets know, naming is a kind of creation, and by being named as God’s own, we begin to bear His likeness.”

A very profound consideration. It reminds us that the understanding of being “in the image of God” is not to be found in the evolution of human attributes like intelligence, altruism, spiritual awareness etc, but in when God first began to call men to himself by name.

sy - #44364

December 19th 2010

There is an ancient magical relation of people toward names. The basic idea is that knowing the name of a person or thing is a powerful force. In many cultures one’s true name is kept secret. Nick was a “nick"name for the devil, and the word nickname, meant a name you could use without the devil hearing your real name. There are many examples of this throughout history, and all over the world including of course, the unspeakable name of God in the OT.

What does it mean? where does it come from? Why is naming something so powerful? Genesis gives us a clue. The very first thing that the new creature Adam, the man, actually does, is give names to the animals as they are created by God. God leaves this task to Man. God creates, Man names. Perhaps this is a metaphor. As Mark says, naming is an integral part of science, and so while God creates the world, it is left to us to make sense of it, and we start by doing what we do so well - naming.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #44518

December 20th 2010

Part 2

YHWH revealed God’s Name to be I AM WHO I AM.  This means that YHWH is Who God chooses to be and does whatever God chooses to do.  YHWH chooses to be a Person.  YHWH chooses to create human beings as persons in God’s own image.  If YHWH chooses to create human beings through the process of evolution, YHWH is able to do so.

“YHWH so loved the world that God sent the only Begotten Son so that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting Life.”

Robert Byers - #44547

December 21st 2010

The bible says there was kinds. So naming kinds is all that was done. No reason to suspect there were many kinds. Rather just a few that all creatures now come from upon post fall and post flood adaptation.
For example i insist marsupials are just placentals with pouches. nOt other kinds. likewise dogs and bears are of the same kind. Water mammals are from land kinds and so on.
The bible hints aDam didn’t have a big job cut out for him.

Jon Garvey - #44559

December 21st 2010

@Robert Byers - #44547

I’m old enough to remember that the emphasis on “kinds” by Creationsist was adopted in order to prove that the Bible left no room for evolution. A “kind” bred true, and so the idea that one specied changed into another was an anti-Biblical lie.

Now it seems that kinds are less stable than evolution’s species, because you can get from an otter to a blue whale, or a grizzly bear to a chihuahua, in 6000 years of feverish change.Or indeed far less than 6000 years, because the species we have now are often recorded in the earliest historical documents we have. The Mesopotamians named bears around the time of their great flood in 2900BC, and had pictures of dogs by 900 years later.

With respect, the idea is bunk.

beaglelady - #44561

December 21st 2010

For example i insist marsupials are just placentals with pouches.


Jon Garvey - #44633

December 22nd 2010

“For example i insist marsupials are just placentals with pouches”

... and without placentas, of course. Just like platypi are just lizards with fluff.

Gregory - #44691

December 22nd 2010

“With respect, the idea is bunk.” - Jon

Hi Jon, Sorry, but it’s not exactly clear to me which ‘idea’ you were referring to here. The ‘kind’ vs. ‘degree’ distinction? I don’t think it ‘belongs’ to ‘creationists’ & do make the argument myself in its proper place.

Making opposites is not always needed. But drawing a line ‘somewhere’ is required, in each & every ‘scientific’ field. ‘Narrowing the variables’ is a common feature of ‘doing science.’

People need to be asking more regularly what the Names anthro, Adam & human being mean, in contrast to zoological or biological meanings of homo sapiens sapiens. In my experience, many people are much more interested in human beings than in biological man.

If one can cleanse their vocabulary to see evolution as a natural-physical scientific theory, which shuts down ideologically once it gets to human beings, i.e. our physical ‘changes’ as ‘species’ in past 1000s yrs is small compared to our cultural, intellectual, psychological changes.

I really appreciate this ‘Called by Name’ message. It validates the teachings of ‘real, historical’ Adam & Eve.

Taking names seriously is in short supply in NPSs, & HSSs are not loud or clear enough about it.

Gregory - #44693

December 22nd 2010

If human beings are special, then why would God *not* call us by name?

Names come in kinds, not degrees. One doesn’t have an incomplete name or give a half-name to their children - they have a full name & give a full name.

This is a great weakness in the TE/EC position: it is a No-Name brand blend of Science, Philosophy & Religion, that discounts the possibility that a ‘first human’ *can* be Named & that God *could* possibly have Named that ‘first human’ as Adam.

It seems the TE/EC/BioLogos view may take more seriously the palaeontological ‘evidence’ than the cultural or linguistic evidence.

But the cultural & linguistic evidence is where Names come from, not from palaeontology.  This means that having a dialogue btw Science, Philosophy & Religion allows for Philosophical & Religious evidence that on occasion trumps scientific evidence. In other words, since genomic evidence *cannot* disprove the ‘real, historical’ existence of two persons, Named directly by God (who is not a mute!) & in Covenant with God.

The momentous decision-making requirement involved in Naming is non-gradualist, though it often involves a process. One doesn’t ‘evolve’ into being Knighted - Sir William!

Jon Garvey - #44699

December 22nd 2010

@Gregory - #44691

I was only commenting on the concept of unchangeable Genesis “kinds” being altered to that of a hyper-accelerated evolution over historic time, and yet unobserved in history.

As for the thoughts you develop, I completely agree. There is a great danger for YECs and TEs (as well as OECs, ID persons and pretty well everyone else) singing from different sides of the same origins hymn sheet. It would seem possible that a lot of it has to do with the fact that Adam and Eve are in the very next chapter to the creation story: it gets read as “In-the-beginning-the-world-and-the-people-and-it-all-went-wrong-and-got-flooded.”

So everyone uses their favourite tool - miracle, evolution, myth - to explain all. I wonder how different the debate would be if “The Book of Eden” was placed between Job and Psalms.

“God *could* possibly have Named that ‘first human’ as Adam.” Until God named an individual as “man/Adam”, could man be said to exist at all in relation to God?

nedbrek - #44704

December 22nd 2010

Actually, the is significant evidence that microevolution happens very quickly.  Several breeds of dogs have come about just in the last hundred years.  I read a summary of an experiment where fruit flies began sex selection after one generation (due to differences in their bacteria mix).

Jon Garvey - #44724

December 23rd 2010

@nedbrek - #44704

Yes, but are you expecting them to become bears in the the next 100 years?

nedbrek - #44734

December 23rd 2010

No, that’s actually my point.  Don’t think of the gene pool as clay that can be built up into anything.  Think of it like marble that is sculpted into shape (and there is no going back).

What we are seeing is not evolution, but devolution.

Robert Byers - #44830

December 24th 2010

Jon Garvey
All the bible says is that there were kinds. It said no more about their definition. It matters not what was said in the past about kinds in creationist circles. The bible is king. not mens opinions.
My favorite example is the snake. The snake stayed in kind yet lost its legs and much else about its anatomy. Likewise this did or could happen to all creatures just as fast at the fall or after the flood. No reason to not see rapid changing after the flood to the kinds from the ark. Remember the bible teaches men lived hundreds of years and so biology of men and animals was powerful and different.
Indeed i see all adaptation occurring within a few centuries after the flood. Nothing since I think.
The bible gives boundaries only. Human intelligence, imagination, and investigation can discover the glory of potential in biology.
And yes surely marsupial wolves, bears, lions, tapirs, moles, mice, etc are just the same creatures as their name sakes elsewhere on the planet. The anomaly of Australian marsupials from a Ark origin is simply explained by this adaptative processes.

Jon Garvey - #44832

December 24th 2010

@Robert Byers - #44830

Robert, what the Bible actually says is simply that each animal reproduced after its kind. Which is to say they replenished the earth. The Darwinists say their offspring gradually changed - you say they changed quickly. So you’re both in agreement against Morris and Whitcombe who said they didn’t change at all. None of those positions has any backing whatsoever from the Bible, which simply means “animals were fruitful.” All the rest is elaborate bunk added presumptuously to God’s sacred text.

As for the snake, the Bible says nothing about any change of anatomy: it’s simply an inference from the God’s curse that it would go on its belly - which can be said of every other reptile. But supposing you’re right, and that in Genesis it had legs and none of the specialisations snakes show. In what way, then, was it a snake? Why wasn’t it a lizard, to which snakes are at least as close as tigers are to marsupial tigers?

“The bible is king. not mens opinions.” “Indeed i see all adaptation occurring within a few centuries after the flood. Nothing since I think.” You don’t see a contradiction here?

Robert Byers - #45226

December 29th 2010

Jon Garvey.
Nope. not in agreement with evolution by mutation/selection/time.
Yes adaptation is fine with creationism. As long as kinds are maintained.
Kinds went on the ark.
Kinds means kinds. not a minor detail about fruitfulness.

The snake is a great example. The snake kind had a original anatomical body that upon the fall was changed. it went now on its belly implying it first had legs. In fact non believers would say the audience was expected to understand this by the author.
Snakes today , amongst the few creatures, show in their bodies that they once had legs.
Investigation and genesis agree.
yet despite great changes in the snake it still counts as only a kind. Not a legless lizard.
likewise this equation can be used in all of nature.
All creatures changed at the fall and can change in quite great ways as needed. yet still within the few kinds originally created by God.
genesis makes the best case foe anatomy of biology.

Jon Garvey - #45253

December 29th 2010

@Robert Byers - #45226

“genesis makes the best case foe anatomy of biology.”

Not the biology I trained in.

Jon Garvey - #45257

December 29th 2010

@Robert Byers - #45226

OK Robert, your idea is that God originally created a limited number of generalised “kinds”, which is a technical term with this specific meaning. You say it is broad enough that, for example, all the whales and their terrestrial forbears are in one “kind”. On the other hand, the snake is differentiated from all other reptiles even once its leglessness and other adaptations are taken into account as later adaptations. Dogs and bears are just one kind, as are marsupial tigers and placental tigers, and you also seem to suggest that marsupial wolves and placental wolves are related, whereas tigers and wolves of both kinds are of different kinds. With this diversification, clearly no original “kind” corresponds with a single modern species, yes?

Let’s test this Biblically. We’ll have to take your word on the content of the “kinds” because Genesis 1 doesn’t detail it.: on land, for example, there are onlt 3: livestock, creeping things and wild animals: no discussion of bears, dogs or marsupials. We’ll have to assume your authority is as great as the Bible’s on that - I’d appreciate an explanation of why, though.

Jon Garvey - #45258

December 29th 2010

We’ll ignore the creation of “great whales”  in Gen 1.20 since you say they didn’t develop for centuries. The word “tannin” can mean any large sea monster - so maybe there was a giant squid kind (which later swallowed Job, since the same word is used). I assume small squids are a separate kind, since they aren’t “sea monsters”.

But how do you explain, far more than “a few centuries” of the flood, the use in Leviticus 11 of separate “kinds” (“min”) for eagle, vulture, black vulture, red kite, black kite (several kinds), raven (several kinds), horned owl, screech owl, gull, hawk (several kinds), little owl, , cormorant, great owl, white owl, desert owl, osprey, stork, heron (several kinds), hoopoe and bat? And later locust, bald locust, beetle, grasshopper, mouse and tortoise?

Are you saying that the whole whale/pre-whale family is one kind, yet every separate bird species is a kind? Are you saying that the kinds themselves become new kinds, so the bird “kind” became thousands of individual “kinds” - which would mean the term means nothing special in Genesis? Or are you, as I suppose, reading the Bible through a pair of dark glasses that blind you to what it actually says?

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