Tuesday, September 30, 2008

How Shall We Speak of God? 7 Reasons We Can't Call God Mother

The fall 2008 issue of the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is now available at their websited. In this issue you will find an article by Randy Stinson and Christopher Cowan entitled How Shall We Speak of God? Seven Reasons We Can't Call God Mother. The article is short and compelling, I strongly encourage you to read it in its entirety, but I have posted some of the highlites below.

1. There is no biblical precedent for referring to God with feminine terms such as "Mother" or "she."

2. Biblical, masculine language for God is not culture-dependent, but rather is God's chosen self-revelation of his identity.

Some have argued that the patriarchal culture of ancient Israel dictated the biblical use of masculine terminology for God. However, other ancient Near Eastern cultures, though no less patriarchal than ancient Israel, worshipped masculine and feminine deities (See Jdgs 3:7; Acts 19:34) and even referred to one and the same God as both "Father" and "Mother." Thus, ancient Israel's culture did not of necessity require masculine language for God.3

3. The use of "feminine imagery" for God in the Bible does not demand or even imply that we may refer to God with feminine terms such as "Mother" or "she."

On rare occasions, Scripture describes God's actions using feminine figures of speech —
metaphors and similes (see, e.g., Deut 32:18; Job 38:29; Ps 123:2; Isa 42:13-14; 46:3; 66:13; Hos 13:8). However, the Bible also uses similar figurative language to speak of the actions of male human beings. In 2 Sam 17:8, Hushai says that David and his men "are mighty men, and they are enraged, like a bear robbed of her cubs."4 The Lord announces that Israel will one day "nurse at the breast of kings" (Isa 60:16). Paul tells the Galatians that he is "in the anguish of childbirth" until Christ is formed in them (Gal 4:19), and he claims that he and his colaborers treated the Thessalonians "like a nursing mother taking care of her own children" (1 Thess 2:7). Do these statements imply that we are to refer to any of these men as "mother" or "she"? Of course not. Such language is simply a literary device that makes for a vivid description. If, then, this figurative language does not result in feminine terminology for human beings, neither does it imply the same for God.

4. All feminine metaphors for God in the Bible are verbal — none are names or titles for God (like "Father").

5. "Father" is a name or title that communicates something real about God's nature.

6. Calling God "Mother" may require an unbiblical revision regarding how God relates to the world.

It is difficult to show a direct causal connection between feminine God language and doctrinal revisions regarding how God relates to the world. In the past, most non-evangelical feminists who have argued for feminine or neutral language for God, have done so at least partially because of their presupposition that masculine language (Father, Lord, King) indicates God's unilateral rule over the earth and leads to abusive relationships where men unilaterally rule over women and nature. In other words, for them, the "masculinity" of God and its connection to the classical understanding of the sovereign rule of God has been at the root of ecological destruction and the domination of women.

7. Calling God "Mother" calls into question the sufficiency of the biblical revelation.

Stinson and Cowan conclude with the following words:

Although there are only a few evangelical feminists who have opened the door for feminine language for God, many churches in mainline denominations have been doing so for years. There are new hymns being sung to "Mother God" and even books designed to teach our children how to pray to "her." We fear that this practice may become even more common among evangelicals, as the pressure to accept egalitarian teachings on manhood and womanhood grows. We hope that evangelical believers, pastors, and churches will prayerfully consider the seriousness of this issue and hold fast to the authority and sufficiency of the Scriptures for the glory of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Add to Technorati Favorites

No comments: