American Unitarian Conference

Promoting Monotheism in the American Unitarian Tradition


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Mary Dana on the Terms "God" and "Lord
(an excerpt)

The words God and Lord do not, I suppose, necessarily denote absolute supremacy, although they do denote dominion and power. In studying the Scriptures, we ought to bear in mind the common sense in which certain terms were used by the common people of the time.

Words do very much change their signification. In the Bible, we have the term God applied in various ways. In regard to its use among the Greek and Roman philosophers and poets, who lived about the time our Saviour, we are informed by the history of that period; we know that the term was used with very extensive latitude; and it is natural to suppose that the writers of the New Testament, who were chosen from the people, used their terms as they were used by the people, and intended to give a meaning which would be readily understood by the people. The early Christians used the word God in relation to different degrees of superiority or power, and not as it is now used, in an absolute sense. And I wish these facts to be born in mind while you now peruse my letter.

I am free to confess that, as a general thing, the term should not now be applied any but the Supreme Being, because now it has an absolute and definite meaning; though, in considering those passages of Scripture where it is applied to subordinate beings, it must still be used, but always with the fact of its different use in another age of the world, kept steadily in view. In this sense, I do admit that the Saviour of the world, the Messiah, may be called God; and I know that he is constantly called Lord; and why should he not be when his Father made him both Lord and Christ. But it is concerning the term God that I wish to write. It is then, I think, a relative term, a name for a being who has dominion.

Now, we are expressly told that the Supreme Being gave Christ all power in Heaven and on earth. Likewise, because the Father loved the Son, he gave "all things into his hand." He crowned him with glory and honor, and did set him over the works of his hands. And, "in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him." Thus, it appears to me, in the sense which I have before explained, a sense which was well understood when the Scriptures were written, our Heavenly Father made his well beloved Son a God over us, and over all the works of his hands; as he made Moses a God to Pharaoh--and as he called them Gods to whom the word of God came--and as he commanded his people not to revile the Gods.

Thus, truly, there are Gods many and Lords many; yet, to us there is, in an absolute sense, but one God, the Father, of whom are all things. Christ is then made a God to us, under Him, who is "the blessed and only Potentate--the only wise God--who only hath immortality."

2003 American Unitarian Conference