What's in a Name?

God's glory awaits us in even the humblest of local bugs, birds, or bushes.

Are we neglecting our God-given mandate to name the creatures in our environment?

Yesterday, on her walk with her mom, our 2-year old granddaughter, Reagan, suddenly turned aside to inspect a rock protruding from the ground along the sidewalk. "Quartz," she announced. Because that's what it was.

From her high chair at the table Reagan will suddenly blurt out, "No, no, grackle!", insisting the bullying blackbird make room at the feeder for the little guys.

Reagan knows the names of at least a half-dozen songbirds, many different insects, and all the herbs in Susie's garden. And I have to tell you, I take real joy in this.

We're made to exercise care and rule over the creation, and that task begins with naming the creatures around us. If we don't know the names of the various trees, wildflowers, geographic formations, and so forth, how will we care for them? As Adelheid Fishcher wrote on the Design Observer website (6/9/11), "Names are the the alphabetic fragments with which we build a language of knowing. And knowing opens the possibility of caring, the root of which is the Old English cearu, which means to guard or watch, 'to trouble oneself.'"

We care about what we know, and we know the things - and people - we can name. Names matter. Adelheid Fischer sees it as "an ethical charge" and "a serious matter" to know the world and its creatures.

I think the Lord would agree.

Remember, God loved the world - the entire cosmos, the creation - so much that He sent His Son to die for it. He knows the name of every creature, even the nearly 8 million different creatures which have yet to be named by scientists.

Creational theology is the discipline that opens to us the glory of God which is being revealed in creation. And the knowledge of God's glory there begins with knowing the names of creatures, so that we actually begin to care about them. As we learn their names and take a real interest in knowing them better, we'll find that we care for them more, and that they will yield more of the glory of God, which He has hidden in them, for our enrichment.

God's glory awaits us in even the humblest of local bugs, birds, or bushes. Do we care enough to begin seeking Him there by learning the proper names of His creatures?

Additional related texts: Psalms 8, 145; Proverbs 25.2; Matthew 6.25-33

A conversation starter: "I think I should take more interested in learning the names of the different creatures in our local environment. Do you ever think about that?"

T. M. Moore, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore