When I was a PhD student in England I got to know some of the faculty members in my department fairly well. And being a laid back North American, I quickly took the liberty of moving to a first name basis with these esteemed professors. I developed a collegial relationship with one professor in particular, based upon which I took the liberty of addressing him by his given appellation on countless occasions. After all, we were buddies, right?
After I had successfully defended my thesis (aka dissertation), I received a congratulatory email from this professor (let’s call him “David”). At the end of the message he added, “Now you can call me David.”
I quickly got the shadow implication of that statement, viz, “All those times you previously took the liberty of referring to me by my first name whilst still a lowly PhD student you were flouting social protocol and causing untold offense.”
Apparently there is such a thing as being overly familiar, and it is a unique danger of our hyper-egalitarian and casual culture. I remember walking into Home Depot with my dad. The greeter, who was no older than 17, welcomed us with a “Hey guys!” A 17 year old addressing a seventy year old as “guy”?! Wha? And friends of mine have lamented the fact that their friend’s pre-teen children regularly take the liberty of calling them by their first name. Yo!
It brings to mind the following passage from Donald McCullough’s book The Trivialization of God:
“Visit a church on Sunday morning—almost any will do—and you will likely find a congregation comfortably relating to a deity who fits nicely within precise doctrinal positions, or who lends almighty support to social crusades, or who conforms to individual spiritual experiences. But you will not likely find much awe or sense of mystery. The only sweaty palms will be those of the preacher unsure whether the sermon will go over; the only shaking knees will be those of the soloist about to sing the offertory.”
Some day we will be resurrected and ushered into the presence of God the Father. On that day I wouldn’t be surprised if he gives us a warm welcome and then adds, “Now you can call me Yahweh.”