Naming a baby can sometimes be quite controversial. Sometimes when I read the spelling of some baby names, I wonder whether the parents can actually spell the name they have selected! Then there are unfortunate names. Recently for example it was discussed on the radio the plight of some parent have named a daughter after an Egyptian god called Isis – and now they are regretting it in view of current events. Your writer, for example, was named ‘Denis’ after a near neighbour who lived in a home which conducted an illegal SP bookie business (for whom my mother occasionally worked) – I didn’t mind as a child as he used to give me a ten shilling note every birthday!
But if you think some of our names today are weird, then history provides us with some amusing and almost unbelievable accounts of the naming of children. During the Puritan period in England, for example, names with a message were frequently given. In volume one of Wilson’s History and Antiquities of Dissenting Churches we read of the garrulous individual after whom the Barebones Parliament was named – his name was “Praise-God Barebones“. Wait until you hear the names of his two brothers! One was “Christ-came-into-the-world-to-save Barebones” and the other was called “if-Christ-had-not-died-then-thou-hast-been-damned Barebones“! It is said that the latter’s name was shortened on occasions to “Damned Barebones“! Some of the jurors in a jury in Sussex at that time were graced with the following names: “Accepted Trevor“, “Faint-not Howet“, “Earth Adams“, “Kill-Sin Temple“, “Fly-Debate Robert“, “Hope-For Bending“, “Meek Brewer“, and so on. Incredible, but true. And in their zeal for the glory of God one can almost see they encouraged with some of their names a breach of the third commandment by those who would use some of their names lightly!
Today we can find magazine articles which have been written by appropriately named doctors, plumbers, and others. Even the telephone directory provides some interesting examples (but the reader may research them individually). My first wife worked with a Dr. Death in the hospital system – pronounced it “Deeth”. The mission field provides with some naming sidelights – there was one couple in Papua New Guinea who were impressed with the Salvation Army band and called their latest offspring “Solo Cornet”! Then some years ago when the Pope visited Africa there were a whole lot of babies born who were called “Pope”.
But when we come down to thinking of names seriously, we realise that names can convey meaning and are important for identification. It is becoming a fad in some churches today where they are eschewing a distinctly denominational name whether Anglican, Presbyterian, or Baptist and are instead heading for some general title like Fellowship, Community church, New Life etc – imagining somehow that people will now come flocking in the doors instead of being put off by so-called sectarian names.
Then there is the idealist who needs no other name other than “Christian” today! While this is certainly Biblical and commendable in one way, but with no more specific designation he is linked by and large with all who are not (for example) Hindu, Muslim. Jewish, atheist and therefore is in the same category as Roman Catholic, Orthodox Church, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons and many other groups and cults who claim some Christian association.
But of course there is a Name which is above every name (Philippians 2:9, 10) – the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. We realise that all other names may have the place and meanings yet are temporary in nature but what a wonderful Day that will be when every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess Him to the glory of God for it is by faith in His holy name and atoning work on the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ that our sins are forgiven and we rebels may draw near to a Holy sin-hating God. On that day all other names will be overshadowed by that Name of Jesus for He is our Emmanuel and it is He alone that saves His people from their sins. (Matthew 1: 21- 23).