Bavinck on God's Names

The name of God in Scripture does not describe God as he exists within himself but God in his revelation and multiple relations to his creatures. This name, however, is not arbitrary: God reveals himself in the way he does because he is who he is. Summed up in his name, therefore, is his honor, his fame, his excellencies, his entire revelation, his very being. Upon those to whom it is revealed, therefore, the name confers special privileges and imposes unique obligations. The name of God implies that, having revealed himself in it, God expects to be called by it. The "divulged" name becomes the name "called upon." In Scripture, "to be" and "to be called" are two sides of the same thing. God is what he calls himself and calls himself what he is. What God reveals of himself is expressed and conveyed in specific names. To his creatures he grants the privilege of naming and addressing him on the basis of, and in keeping with, his revelation. The one name of God, which is inclusive of his entire revelation both in nature and in grace, is divisible for us in a great many names. Only in that way do we obtain a full view of the riches of his revelation and the profound meaning of his name. We call him and indeed may call him by all that has become known of his being in creation and re-creation. But all those names, as designations of God, impose on us the obligation to consecrate and glorify them. It is the one name, the full revelation and to that extent the very being of God himself, with which we are dealing in all those names. By his name God puts himself in a certain relation to us, and the relation we assume to him must be congruent with it.
Herman Bavinck, | Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 2: God and Creation | Edited by John Bolt. Translated by John Vriend. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2004.

This article was updated on October 23, 2023

Christopher Drew

I'm the pastor in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church serving Faith Presbyterian Church in Grand Forks, North Dakota.