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Knowing God

There are things within every religion that make an honest man appreciate why people are atheists. In the Hebrew Roots Movement we certainly have our share of incredibly stupid things but there is perhaps none more stupid than the Sacred Name Movement.

Briefly, so as not to waste anyone's time on the absurdity of this movement, the Sacred Namers believe that the name of God was hidden by various nefarious forces, the Illuminati and Jews for example, and that they and they alone know the name of God. Some of the more intense within this group then go on and preach that such a thing is a matter of salvation, and as is often the case with the more theologically absurd, Sacred Namers also dive head first into the lowest depths of the conspiracy theory rabbit hole where the light of truth does not shine.

For the rest of us, the name of God is an interesting topic. Whilst discussions on the name of Jesus have led to various other pronunciations, the name of God seems to evoke an alluring degree of mystery. This, I would argue, is because of the nature and essence of God. By definition, God is unreachable, an ever present mystery, and whilst we can feel His spirit, He nevertheless remains elusive no matter how hard we grasp. To name God, or to feel the need to name God is but one way we seek to know God, to bridge the void between our mortal selves and the unreachable supreme being of everything.

In Judaism, it is for this reason that mentioning the name of God is forbidden, and for this reason why metaphysical ruminations about the nature of God have generally been frowned upon. When we name something we personalise it, and in a sense bring it down to a level our faculties can then grasp. For Judaism, such a thing is idol worship. As the Bible teaches, we can never truly know God and we can never truly bridge the void between ourselves and God by our own intellectual or philosophical abilities.

This point was made by Leon Kass in his excellent study on Exodus, "Founding God's Nation". In this study, Kass examines God's statement, "I am that I am". It is a complicated matter from an interpretive perspective that I wont go into, but as Kass shows, God's response was not to tell Moses His name, but to tell Moses that he would come to know God through God's deeds, then and forever more.

God then did not provide Moses with His name. How could He? To think a mortal man could know the essence of the transcendent supreme being of all things is foolish, if not supremely arrogant. Gaining knowledge of God is not an intellectual or philosophical pursuit, but rather the result of observing God's actions in history, and as Kass noted in his work, obeying God's word.


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