"Don't talk to strangers, 'cause they're only there to do you harm" so starts the song Don't Talk to Strangers by Dio. Oddly enough, I think Ronnie James Dio is on to something. For there is something inherently dangerous about talking to strangers. Actually, there is something dangerous about talking to anyone. As soon as you do, you invite them into your world, and sometimes, they can become your world. Dio continues, singing, "Don't talk to strangers, they're only there to make you sad." When we reveal ourselves, we make ourselves vulnerable, and there is always a chance of harm, both for the other and for you.
"The communication of a name is the disclosure of one's self to the other, and thus the establishment - or at least the beginning - of a personal relation and communion." (Pg. 123) Here, Emil Brunner seems to be in agreement with Dio, or vice versa. When we reveal ourselves to another, we enter into a communion and relation with them, and we can never be sure if this is a safe call\invitation. Even by merely stating our names, we have possibly said too much. "We human beings have proper names, by which we present ourselves to each other as something that cannot be expressed in general terms." (pg. 123) By you knowing that my name is Daniel Jesse, you know something about me, something more than if you knew I was 5'10, 260lbs, and have curly blonde hair and a beard. For the first reveals my being, who am I, where the latter reveals facts about me. The former is who I am, the latter is what I am. There is a big difference here. The former is something which cannot be defined, and the latter is the definition.
Something more is going on here. There are many out there that fit the description of my height and weight, even my hair color and the fact that I have a beard. Knowing these things about me may say something about me, but they do not invite you into a relationship with me. My name, however, invites you to figure out the u mystery of who this "Daniel Jesse" is. When I give my name, I give myself to be known. "When one gives oneself to be known, one gives oneself away." (pg. 123) To know my name is a gift. I have given a part of myself away to you. You then have a certain power over me, to call me, to engage me, to understand me. This is the power of the name.
When asked by someone what are name is, we sometimes exercise the power to withhold from them what our names are. As a college professor, I am not Daniel Jesse to them. I give them another name, another entity to create communion and relation with. I keep them at bay, so I do not feel obligated towards them. By telling them to call by my title, and not my given name, I take a step back from them, and erect myself above them.
Thankfully, God does not reveal Himself to us as only a title or a rank. He reveals Himself to us as Yahweh and as Jesus. There is more given to us then a title could ever give. By telling us His name, He invites us into communion and relation with Him, and gives part of Himself to us. "He reveals Himself as the Lord. "I am the Lord, thy God."...He addresses us as One who is Himself, and this address which begins with "I" is in itself the revelation." (pg. 137) Brunner is stating that it is not in the title of Lord that God reveals the fullness of Himself to us. The fullness of revelation is in the calling Himself an I, a person to have relationship with. It is paramount that God does not reveal Himself to be an "It" but as a "Thou" (For more one the It-Thou relationship see Martin Buber's I And Thou). "This implies that God is Subject: addressing us, making Himself known to us." (pg. 139) "He is not an Ens, a "Substance", like the Godhead of metaphysical speculation; He is not an object of thought but the Subject who as I addresses us as "thou". God is the Personality who speaks, acts, disclosing to us Himself and His will." (pg. 139)
Now, this raises a question: By speaking of God as a Person, as having a Personality, are we not engaging in anthropomorphic language? Brunner's radical answer to this is an emphatic No! If we were able to put God into our categories, He would not be God. He would be an idol. The question, according to Brunner is wrong. "The question is not whether God is personality, but whether man is. It is not the personal being of God which is "anthropomorphic", but, conversely, the personal being of man is a "theomorphism." God alone is truly Person, man is only person in a symbolic way, as a reflection of God, as the Imago Dei."(Pg. 140)
Brunner, in the above passage is saying that we are only persons because God has deemed us worthy to enter into personhood with Him. God invites us to commune with Him in a way that no human can. Although some have tried, we cannot give or remove personhood. That designation is not ours, it is a gift of God. What we do with this gift is up to us. We can invite others to share in the communion of God, or we can follow Dio's advice, and not talk to strangers.