What’s in a name?


“Nomen est omen,” said the Roman. His meaning? Our name is an omen of our future. Today we use the rather less poetic “nominative determinism” to express the same idea, and get large research grants from government agencies to do scientific studies to answer whether our name really does determine our destiny. According to some studies, a name can dramatically influence the course of our lives. 

Our name isn’t an impediment to success—it’s a mark of global excellence.

I hope they are wrong. 

I hope so, because my name is James. When I first looked up the meaning of my name as a youngster I was surprised to find James is a derivation of Jacob. That was OK. Until I read on to find out that Jacob means “dark supplanter”. 

Still, I suppose if our name is our destiny, it isn’t just our first names that need analysis. My last name, Standish, means a pen and ink stand. So was I born to write? A Roman might think so. 

But there’s another name that has been on my mind of late—my other family name, the Seventh-day Adventist name. It’s a family name I’m very proud of. I’ve seen firsthand the exceptional work Adventists do around the globe—whether it’s bringing basic healthcare to remote communities in the Pacific, education to poor children in India, setting up micro-businesses with the disadvantaged hill tribes of northern Thailand, and so much more. The Adventist community is a remarkably diverse and dynamic force for good. 

But more than good works—the Adventist message provides a wonderful picture of the love of God. To think the majority of Christians believe God will torture people for eternity is tragic. Many Protestants believe God preselects those who will burn forever. What a terribly distorted view of God! Add the Adventist understanding of the love of God, the grace of Christ, the wholistic view of spirituality, the Sabbath and the hope of Christ’s soon second coming, and we have a beautifully complete and coherent message. 

I’ve always been proud to identify myself as a Seventh-day Adventist Christian—no matter where I am or who I’m talking to. When I met President Obama in the White House, the first words out of my mouth were: “I’m from the Seventh-day Adventist Church.” I began thousands of other meetings in halls of the US Capitol and at the UN in New York and Geneva in a very similar manner. We all should be just as confident to call ourselves Adventists. Ellen White put it this way: “We are Seventh-day Adventists. Are we ashamed of our name? We answer, ‘No, no! We are not. It is the name the Lord has given us. It points out the truth . . .’” 

It’s sometimes argued that hiding our name increases our marketability. Yet Adventist hospitals from Sydney to Bangkok, from Washington to Karachi, have served their communities for generations while proudly using the Adventist name. The same can be said for the vast majority of Adventist schools that educate well over a million students around the globe every year. Today the Seventh-day Adventist Church is the fastest growing major Christian denomination in the United States, Australia and New Zealand. Our name isn’t an impediment to success—it’s a mark of global excellence.

When we drop the name from our schools, campgrounds, book centres or even our local churches, we compromise our witness and dilute our identity. It’s time to stand up and be counted. It’s time to wear the Adventist name with pride. It’s time to come to our senses and realise that together we are strong, divided we are weak. And if we’ve taken it out, it’s time to put the Adventist name right back in where it belongs.

You may have noticed something just a little bit different about Record this year—we’ve brought the Adventist name back to the masthead. That isn’t a mistake or a coincidence. We have done it deliberately because we want to express who we are, what we stand for, and we want every reader who picks up the magazine to know up-front that this isn’t just any record, this is Adventist Record. We’re proud of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, we’re thankful to be a small part of it and we’re grateful for all God has done through this Church. We’re Seventh-day Adventist Christians and we’re not ashamed to say so.

How about you?

James Standish is editor of RECORD.