Pastor, why don’t you capitalize pronouns referring to God (i.e., “his” vs. “His”)?

Pastor, why don’t you capitalize pronouns referring to God (i.e., “his” vs. “His”)?

Categories: Education,Pastor's Thoughts

Actually, nobody has asked the question, but I thought you might wonder!  I follow the practice of the wider church, religious publishers, and general publishers that all began to adopt a lowercase or “down style” mid 20th century.

Lutherans began using the “down style” in the 1958 Service Book and Hymnal (SBH), and the 1978 Lutheran Book of Worship (LBW) continued.  From a 1978 LBW Note on Orthography:  “In line with modern practice, capitalization has been reduced in the LBW.  The SBH like the Book of Common Prayer, no longer capitalized pronouns which referred to God – a nineteenth century innovation.  The practice was not entirely consistent in any case; ‘he,’ ‘his,’ and ‘who’ were regularly capitalized but ‘own’ (grammatically an adjective) was not.”

From the Zondervan Style Manual:  “Many religious publishers and most general publishers have adopted the lowercase style, in large part to conform to the styles of the commonly used versions of the Bible. It is the style recognized as contemporary by the greatest number of readers and writers both inside and outside the church.  Because capitalizing the deity pronoun, as well as a vast number of other religious terms, was the predominant style in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century publishing, it gives a book, at best, a dated, Victorian feel, and at worst, an aura of complete irrelevance to modern readers.  Contrary to popular opinion, capitalization is not used in English as a way to confer respect (we capitalize both God and Satan, Churchill and Hitler) . . . Capitalization is largely used in English to distinguish specific things from general.”


In 2011, even the Evangelical Press Association, associated with the Evangelicalism movement that widely continues to follow the 19th century convention of capitalizing pronouns, noted, “…the lack of capitalized pronouns doesn’t necessarily need to be seen as a sign of disrespect. The King James Version, which celebrates its 400th anniversary this year, does not capitalize pronouns that refer to God. Neither do several other historic English Bible translations, including those by Wycliff (1380) and Tyndale (1534). And, of course, the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts on which our translations are based do not capitalize pronouns that refer to God.”


I follow the down style that Lutherans began to use after World War II for a number of reasons; as a way to differentiate Lutherans from the Evangelical movement (as we ARE different!), but most importantly, to make the gospel feel modern and not separated from the rest of the world or Victorian.  The gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ remains the same through all time; that is, almighty God passionately loves and unconditionally forgives us.  However, the way in which we communicate the gospel, including grammar, has changed through generations, eras and cultures, and will continue to change, so that the message can be heard as really being “for you” and me, right here and right now.                                                              Pastor Ingrid Wengert




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