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Letters to the Editor: Thee and Thou

Letters to the Editor

Welcome to the first Letters to the Editor post. This is a way to provide a moderated feedback loop on the articles I am posting here on Oversight Today. I intend to post both supporting and opposing viewpoints.

Let me just say that to date, I have been so deeply thankful to all of you who have reacted to the launching of this site with encouragement and words of support. Many have offered to pray for this work and I deeply value that as well. Pray for grace for me, please, and for wisdom. My flesh loves to get out in front with harshness and I can easily fall into a dismissive spirit where I quickly write off other perspectives. However, I want to model grace as much as I am attempting to teach it and for this I am incredibly in need of the Holy Spirit’s help.

Letters on The Use of “Thee” and “Thou” in Prayer

Thank you for your excellent, and well thought out article. I have been an advocate for a Romans 14 approach to this issue for many years, decades in fact. I would like to add a few points that add weight to your position:

1. This controversy exists only in English. That alone should tell us we are on dangerous ground to insist on a particular personal pronoun. I fellowship in an assembly that is bilingual – our Spanish brothers read the word of God where the more familiar, personal pronoun is used of God. Likewise in French that I was taught growing up and Slovak in which I am fluent. It is the familiar term that is used of God, not the more reverential plural.

2. The KJV translators showed that they considered the “You” pronoun appropriate of use with royalty – the letter to King James at the beginning of the KJV proves this several times by referring to King James as “You” and “Your”. Even today it would be poor form to address the Queen of England “Thy Majesty”.

3. The word of God does not discriminate – it uses “thee” and “thou” of everyone, including Satan in Job 1. The Bible teaches us no “special” pronoun for God. If we are to use “thee” and “thou” for God then, to be consistent to the example of the KJV, we ought to use it for each other as well.

This whole matter has gone from a matter of intolerance by some to subjugation – calling into question the Christian testimony of some based on such a trivial issue. To those, scripture records the appropriate rebuke:

Romans 14:10a
“But why do you judge your brother?…For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” (NKJV)

For us who recognize this issue as a matter of personal persuasion the other clause is very needful:

Romans 14:10b
“Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.”

Let it go brothers!

Romans 14:19
“Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.”
–Rob Bednarik, Iowa, USA

I thought much effort and research went into your piece on the use of pronouns in prayer. I agree with you that there is no scriptural precedent. By the same token, language is and has always evolved and will continue to do so. In this respect, where it was once rooted in irreverent, it presently shows and promotes a unique form of address by the essence of it being distinct from the vernacular in modern English usage. From this perspective, I think this is a good tradition to continue with.

On an unrelated matter…..just curious as to whether you’ve ever been on the oversight.
–Chris Lee, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Chris: you are correct. “Thee” and “thou” are a unique and distinct form of address. If you conclude that this is a sufficient basis to support your personal conviction to pray in this way, that is perfectly reasonable. To your other question, I have served as an overseers in two assemblies. Currently I am on the oversight of the assembly that meets in the Glen Ewen Gospel Hall. Maybe check out the About Caleb page if you’d like more backstory. –Caleb

My question is, is there a danger in taking the reverence=’feeling of awe’ principle too far and some coming to meeting in beach clothing while but claiming “inward reverence”?
–Jonathan Seed, Guadalajara, Mexico

Great question! Grace always has risk associated with it. The only way to create certainty is to create rules. Per Hebrews 12:28, if reverence is felt in the heart I think it will likely be expressed in demeanour. My point is just that it is not our place to regulate that expression. If someone does show up in beach clothing, an overseer can approach the believer with curiosity about what the clothing may be a symptom of.  –Caleb

About the author

Caleb Simonyi-Gindele

An overseer himself, Caleb's mission is to help other elders lead their local assembly through some of the unique challenges of the 21st century: both doctrinal and shepherding. More about Caleb.