Picking the Perfect Lutheran Name
By Vanessa Rasanen
The job of naming someone is quite daunting, isn’t it? Sometimes I think Adam sure had it easy. You know, aside from that whole plunging the entire world and all of creation into sin…
But really, he gave names to all the creatures and to his wife, and I’m guessing he didn’t have quite the same issue we have today where every other name considered is tainted by some person we’ve met, character we hate, or abominable figure in history. He didn’t have to worry about what initials spelled or whether they rhymed with swear words or embarrassing bodily functions.
He just picked a name, and there it was.
Now, though, we’re left bestowing names to our children — and yes, even our pets — while trying to avoid accidentally naming them after some past dictator, spelling a dirty word with their initials, or setting them up for years of torment on the playground or at the office.
Finding inspiration for names can be challenging, but many of us turn to God’s Word and to our church history for help. This can make things decidedly easier… or not.
You really can’t go wrong with the classics from Holy Scripture, can you? Plus, there are so many to choose from.
From the classics like Matthew, John, Isaac, Michael, Thomas, Lydia, Rachel, Rebekah, Hannah — which never go out of style, and no matter how many irritatingly annoying people there are with these names, there are likely tons more who are nice, friendly, semi-decent human beings.
To the up-and-comers like Noah, Josiah, Elijah, Nehemiah, and Esther. (Just search the SSA Rankings.)
For those wanting something a bit different — say, out of the top 500… or even the top 1,000, there’s Deborah, Manasseh, Hezekiah, Zipporah, Dorcas, and so many more.
But if you’ve exhausted all the Biblical names (unlikely), or you simply don’t like them (shhh, don’t tell anyone), we have plenty within our church history to pull from.
Here you can always go with the trusted and classic Martin or Katie (and her variants — Katharina or Katharine). But these probably won’t turn many heads out on the street nor earn you the “now-there’s-a-hard-core-Lutheran” badge of honor.
For this we might select a Wilhelm (after either Walther or Loehe), or maybe a Perpetua. There’s aways Frederick or Helena. And of course, Lucas or Johannes. Maybe a Robert Barnes. And who could forget Athanasius or Nicholas?
Due around a feast or festival day? Bingo! Instant name. Woohoo!
Don’t think you have to stick with first names, of course. I mean, how else are folks going to know your dog, Johann, is after Gerhard and not Bach? Or which Martin did you name your son after? Luther or Chemnitz?
Okay, so maybe these wouldn’t make great first names for children — but if a celebrity can name their kids Blue or Apple or Banjo, then we Lutherans should be completely fine naming our kid Bugenhagen.
We should probably still try to avoid anything embarrassing like P.M.S. or B.R.A. or K.K.K, but beyond that, let C.F.W. Walther inspire a bit and give your kids (or pets) some fun initial combinations.
Having two middle names probably isn’t a hassle at all when filling out paper work later on. Right? Maybe?
And if you’re going to dole out double middle names anyway, perhaps consider making those a title! I’m sure Frederick the Wise and Gregory the Great weren’t given those titles as legal names — or were they? — but nothing says we can’t do that now.
Have a bonded pair of pooches or kitties? There’s Law and Gospel. Or maybe Donall and Conall — I’m sure Rev. Fiene won’t mind if you borrow those.
Having twin boys? Try Wayne and Louis. Or David and Jonathan. For twin girls you have Mary and Martha. Just maybe avoid Martin and Katie if you’re having one of each — that could be awkward.
Whatever names you choose, though, no one will give you grief or consider you any less a Lutheran for it.
Unless, of course, you go with Osteen.
Then we might.
Rev. Paul T. McCain
I think it is fairly obvious that the “perfect” Lutheran name is: Paul.
Rev. Paul T. McCain
By the way, when I turned thirty, my father finally told he had been kidding me for nearly three decades about almost naming me “Boaz.”
Dad was quite the kidder.