I remember ever since I was young, the capitalization of the word God and especially the pronouns Him and Himself bothered me. I remember getting marked down on an essay once for not capitalizing “him” in a sentence that was referring to Jesus. Now, I understand what they (whoever came up with this scheme) is trying to do, but I think they were going about it the wrong way. I’ve always felt this was an unnecessary tweaking of grammar, that the meaning was ALWAYS explained the context anyway. The fact that their use is rather spotty between different Bible translations and authors aggravates the problem. In fact, I do it myself all the time!
Why use these code words? It’s like when you are talking about the President of the U.S., you say “him*” with an asterix. And if you are talking about a “him” that is a father, then the word should be underlined. And if “him” is a animal, like you pet doggy, circle the letter “m”. Also, if you like the person you are talking about, use a blue marker. If you think they have a silly hairdo, use a red maker.
I’m sure whoever originated this practice had good intentions, but at the end of the day I think it serves more to muddle grammar and weaken language than to glorify the one true god and reduce confusion.
Frankly though, I’d never thought about this much. I just found it annoying.
In the preface to his huge work on the New Testament, N.T. Wright takes several paragraphs to sort out why he doesn’t like the capital “G” god either.
There are … matters of linguistic usage on which I must comment, and either apologize for or, perhaps, explain why apology should be unnecesary.
I have frequently used ‘god’ instead of ‘God’. This is not a printer’s error, not is it a deliberate irreverence; rather the opposte in face. The modern usage, without the article and with a capital, seems to me actually dangerous. This usage, which sometimes amounts to regarding ‘God’ as the proper name of the Deity, rather than essentially a common noun, implies that all users of te word are monotheists and, whithin that, that all monotheists believe in the same god. Both these propositions seem to me self-evidently untrue. It may or may not be true that any worship of any god is translated by some mysterious grace ito worship of one god who actually exists, and who happents to be the only god. That is believed by some students of religion. It is not, however, believed by very many practitioners of the mainline monothestic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) or of the non-monotheistic ones (Hinduism, Buddhism and their cognates). Certainly the Jesus and Christians of the first century did not beieve it. they believed that pagans worshipped idols, or even demons.
It seem to me therefore, simply misleading to use ‘God’ throughout this work. I have often preferred either to refer to Israel’s god by the biblical name, YHWH (nonwithstanding debates about the use of this name within second-temple Judaism), or, in phrases designed to remind us of what or who we are talking about, to speak of ‘the creator’ or ‘Israel’s god’. The early Christians use the phrase ‘the god’ (ho theos) of this god, and this was (I believe) somewhat polemical, making an essentially Jewish-monotheistic point over against polytheism. In a world where there were many suns, one would not say ‘the sun’. Furthermore, the early Christians regulrly felt the need to make clear which god they were talking about by glossing the phrase, as Paul so oftem does, with a reference to the revelation of this god in and through Jesus of Nazareth. Since in fact, the present project presents a case, among other things, for a fresh understanding of the meaning of content of the word ‘god’, and ultimately ‘God’, in the light of Jesus, the Spirit and the New Testament, it would be begging the question to follow a usage which seemed to imply that the answer was known in advance. I think it quite likely that many of those who come to a book like this with the firm conviction that ‘Jesus is God’, and equally wel man of those who come with the firm conviction that he is not, may hold views on the meaning of ‘god’, or ‘God’, which ought to be challenged in the light of the New Testament. The christological question, as to whether the staement ‘Jesus is God’ is true, and if so in what sense, is often asked though ‘God’ were the known and ‘Jesus’ the unknown; this I suggest, is manifestly mistaken. If anything, the matter stands the other way around.
-N.T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, p.xvii
That very last statement is the most interesting:
The christological question, as to whether the staement ‘Jesus is God’ is true, and if so in what sense, is often asked though ‘God’ were the known and ‘Jesus’ the unknown; this I suggest, is manifestly mistaken. If anything, the matter stands the other way around.
We assume that we know God – that if we met him walking down the street, we would recognize him. That’s the given. We’re all over that. But Jesus? Who knows, that was so long ago and all we have are some stuff some guys wrote about him. Really? Do you see how odd that is?
In the next section he talks about how he always says “Jesus” and not “Christ”, since in the context of the New Testament, Jesus’ Messiaship was very much in question. Even amongst his followers. That’s a more specific case though.