You wouldn't think a vanity license plate would inspire a blog post, but it has. I'll explain why, and I hope my fellow believers can follow along with my thinking here.
I have been involved in ministry dealing with cults and false religions for much of my adult life. I've seen it all, from pseudo-Christian cults such as the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (Jehovah's Witnesses) and Mormonism, to more occultic stuff such as witchcraft and Satanism, which uses symbols like pentagrams and baphomets. I have friends in law enforcement who have told me of encountering evidence of Satanic worship here and there, especially in rural areas.
In addition to these things, we can read our biblical history and read of false gods worshipped by the pagan nations around Israel. Gods such as Molech, Baal, the Greek or Roman pantheons etc. The other day, I happened to see a license plate with "BAAL" on it. I happened to make a comment about it on my Facebook page, and found out that it was someone's last name. And that interested me from a biblical perspective. Where various families got their names, the etymology behind it, and whether or not the origins of those family names had something to do with a false god or idol, or perhaps something more innocent. And yes, that is possible. But would someone today purposefully name their child after a false god, and if a family name was linked to a false god or idol, would the Christian thing to do be changing the name? It's an interesting question of conscience.
We have women these days named Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. There were individuals mentioned in the Bible—people who grew up in a pagan culture and became Christians later. Remember Epaphras, an associate of the Apostle Paul. This was a shortened form of Epaphroditus, and the name was based on that of Aphrodite. He couldn't help what his parents named him, now could he? He became a believer and having such a name didn't keep him out of heaven. He was washed in the blood. So in his case or in those of men or women in similar circumstances, not a big deal. No doubt some might have changed their names later. But today, I am pondering a bit of a different question. What about believers today, and what are we naming our children?
I would be saddened to find out that a professed Christian would purposefully name their child after a false god. Perhaps some would wonder why I'd think such a thing would even be possible. They would have to be pretty biblically illiterate to do such a thing, given the attitude of the Lord Himself about false gods. After all, our names are meant to mean something. How many parents name babies after doing research on baby names, popular, rare, obscure etc? The meaning is often important to Christian parents. Biblical names are common among Christian parents, which is entirely appropriate.
But I have to be honest with you. I am concerned about the growing apostasy in the church, and as I reflect on this seemingly minor issue, I find that I wouldn't be surprised to see a professing Christian choose such a name for their baby because "it sounds cool" or some such tommyrot. And if you raise an objection, you just might get called a legalist or worse. We know what Scripture says about last days apostasy and false brethren. Not a day goes by when I don't thank the Lord for my own church and the desire of our people to remain faithful. But the watch must remain vigilant. The enemy has plenty of subtle ways to undermine biblical truth in a body of believers.
I am someone who has a high view of Scripture and am very strict on biblical orthodoxy and doctrine. By God's grace and mercy, I won't budge on it. I believe that things are in Scripture for a reason. The New Testament says that the record of God's dealings with Israel are there for us as examples, that we would not make the same mistakes the people of Israel made. The Law is our tutor to lead us to Christ. We are to be biblical in our thinking, words, deeds, witness, worldview etc. We are not to adopt the worldview of the fallen world, if you'll forgive the play on words.
Names. Seemingly a minor issue. But for the Christian, it isn't minor. We have been bought with a price and we are no longer our own. May we always be sure to identify with our Father's name, and that of our Lord and Savior. We are being watched and may be the only Bible some people read.