The Forum

The Forum

This department is provided for the free and courteous discussion of biblical and spiritual problems which may be considered edifying to the people of God. Letters concerning such matters are requested.

Comments on How to Address God

Dear Brother in Christ,

Just a few lines to say that my heart greatly rejoiced and really overflowed as I read The Forum, December issue of Food for the Flock.

My heartfelt thanks to Brother McClurkin, who, I think, answered the question that had been raised, and, to you also, dear brother, for your additional comments (Christ, Creator or Creature).

When our beloved Lord Jesus Christ is given His rightful place, words fail. I cannot begin to tell you of the thrill and deep joy that was mine as led by such ministry into God’s thoughts concerning His dear Son.

Also the lovely poem by E.M.G. touched me deeply.

This copy of Food for the Flock was read and meditated upon while spending some weeks in a hospital after a major coronary attack.

Much love in Christ,
W. D. Sr.

Dear Brother,

Many thanks for the warning in regard to the method of discrimination between the Father and the Son adopted by some of the modern translations. Those who thus dishonour the Son likewise dishonour the Father.

T. N. K.

Dear Mr. G,

I was very interested in your answer to the question on “How to address God” in the last issue of “Food for the Flock.” While I personally agree with the final conclusion that the use of the personal pronoun “Thou” and its objective form, “Thee,” are seemly in addressing God, it is for precisely the opposite reasons you brought forward.

“Thou” is the nominative second personal pronoun, singular, and was formerly used in familiar, not reverential, address. It is now replaced by “You,” as current English no longer employs the familiar form, certain British dialects and “Quakers” excepted. The formal “You” is employed, even in a singular sense.

Three hundred and fifty years ago the familiar form “Thou” was chosen instead of the formal, reverential “You,” when both forms of address had very definite meaning. The same distinction may be observed in Protestant French Scriptures to this day, where the ordinary, familiar form “Tu”‘ is used in addressing God, rather than the formal or reverential “Vous.”

To suggest, then, that “the language that man would use in addressing his fellows, is unbecoming before the Lord,” is in this instance exactly opposite to the meaning of the word “Thou,” and to the intentions of the English translators who in a bygone age used the word in a familiar sense.

To insist that “Thou” and “Thee” are more fitting spiritually than “you” would be to create a Shibboleth, and make Jacobean English the language of the Holy Spirit. We must be careful not to invest words with meanings or overtones, especially of a spiritual or reverential nature, which they do not in fact merit.

The child of God may truly delight in the informal, familiar form “Thou,” and its cognates “Thee,” “Thy,” “Thine,” and “Thyself,” for they bespeak the delightful intimacy that is ours, and imply no lack of reverence whatever.

However, if anyone is unfamiliar with these now-archaic forms, except, perhaps, as a “religious” form of address, and is not able to use them according to their true meaning, he would do better by far to employ such words as are meaningful to him, even though they may at times fall a trifle harshly on the ears of those steeped in a language of former centuries.

Reverence is present (or absent) in the demeanour and sentiments of the speaker, not in his choice of Jacobean rather than current English words.

May I be permitted to express my keen appreciation of the ministry of “Food for the Flock,” and I trust you will accept the above corrections in the gracious ‘spirit in which they are made.

Yours very sincerely,
Dr. E. J. R.

Dear Mr. G.:

I’m writing you with a few comments on your letter in the January Food for the Flock with reference to addressing God in the second person plural. I, like you, find it distasteful to hear God addressed in this person, but after having given it a great deal of thought in the past, I have not been able to come to the conclusion that it is anything more than the result of tradition, much as I would like to justify my feelings by something more authoritative.

The second person singular is the person used for God in other languages such as French and Spanish where it is still used in common speech, so that it is not reserved for Deity even today in these languages… but we wouldn’t want to say that they are less reverential than we. In connection with this point, I think it is interesting to note that the person used for Deity is the person which is used for family, close friend and servant relationships… it would be insulting to use it to a dignitary. I have never looked into the question of its usage in English in a bygone day, but I would not be surprised if it was the same, because the phrase “Your Majesty” has come down from old times, and signifies that the second person plural was used in addressing royalty in English at all times. It is not “Thy Majesty.” Is it not strange that the person that is used for addressing God in Spanish and French is one that would be an insult if used to any official person or even an unknown stranger? I have thought a lot on why this is the form used for God, and I have wondered if it goes back to apostolic times when the early Christians were instructed in their new relationship with God…He was no longer the Jehovah whose name they even feared to write in full… but Abba Father, and they had the relationship of little children to a father… hence the “tu” relationship.

In spite of the foregoing I still find the plural person irritating when used … but, if I’m honest, I think I must admit it is because of the tradition of my background.

Yours in the Lord,
R. W.