Book: What Language Shall I Borrow?

Brian Wren. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1989,264 pp., $18.95.

Brian Wren (see interview on pp. 28-32)—hymn writer, theologian, worship consultant, and regular visitor to American forums— has summarized the intent of this work in the subtitle "God-Talk in Worship: A Male Response to Feminist Theology." It was only a decade ago that many in both church and society began to discover that the terms man and men no longer worked as generic words for both women and men. Wren encourages the church, especially males, to come to grips with the power and privilege that come with being male, and to embrace the maleness of Jesus which seeks to serve rather than control.

The heart of this volume is the premise that the church needs to find within Scripture a wide range of personal and nonpersonal titles for God. It is time, asserts Wren, to move beyond language which is exclusively that of male-kingship, which he dubs KINGFP (King-God-Almighty-Father-Protector).

Reformed Christians will be particularly interested in Wren's dialogue with Donald Bloesch, who he describes as being indicative of the present stance of evangelical theology. While Bloesch would argue that some names for God are definitive and have their origin in divine revelation, Wren insists that God-talk is not linguistically different than non-God-talk and that the church needs to search Scripture for a multitude of images which more fully reveal God to us. No one image is adequate, asserts Wren, and thus to select one and to bow down to it is idolatrous. Wren also maintains that to move from observing that Jesus called God "Father" to claiming that Jesus has given the church a binding rule that God can only be spoken to as Father is unwarranted.

As one might guess, this book struggles with issues that touch the very core of who God is and how God is addressed in our worship. Wren intersperses pages of theology and linguistic analysis with delightful hymns which he has written in the past few years. In so doing, he provides a multitude of examples of both personal and nonpersonal terms for God which begin to fill out our image of God. However, on occasion, Wren wanders outside his areas of expertise, and in so doing, weakens his primary focus on God-talk in the church.

The title, What Language Shall I Borrow? implies that the church has some crucial choices to make. This book provides a good introduction to questions that can suggest new and creative options for the language of our worship.

Gregg A. Mast is Minister of Social Witness for the Reformed Church in America.