Monday, December 5, 2016

Should the Christian God be called, "Mother"?

David,

When I think about God or pray to Him, the word I use is "Father" or "Heavenly Father." The reason I do that is that Jesus used "Father" when talking about, or to, God.

However, in the two church communities with which I have relationships, First Methodist and St. Luke's Methodist, the image of God as also our mother seems to be creeping in. A couple of examples are below:

(In a prayer) "God, who is both our father and mother..."

(In a course book) "When we say that God is "creator" rather than "Father" (yes, Mother would work, too)...

Frankly, I'm bothered by this for a number of reasons, not the least of which has to do with the radical feminist movement. So, I ask you this question.

Is there a Biblical basis, especially in the New Testament, for referring to God as our Mother?

What say you?

In Christ (and still in my prayers),

Byrom


Hi Byrom,

Thanks for your question.

It’s interesting to me: considering the thousands of times God is spoken of, rarely is God described as Father or Mother. But, it happens a few times. And it happens when a simile, metaphor, or analogy is being employed.

Sometimes, other people describe God as a Father. For example, Moses is reported to have said, “Is this how you repay the LORD, you foolish, unwise people? Is he not your father, your creator? He has made you and established you.” (Deut. 32:6 NET)

Only a few times in the entire Bible is God said to refer to God’s Self as a “Father” or the like. For example, Jeremiah, speaking on God’s behalf, says, “They will come back shedding tears of contrition. I will bring them back praying prayers of repentance. I will lead them besides streams of water, along smooth paths where they will never stumble. I will do this because I am Israel's father; Ephraim is my firstborn son.'" (Jer. 31:9 NET; cf. 2 Sam. 7:14)

Other times, other people describe God in Mother-like language, like in Deuteronomy 32:11: “Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that hovers over its young, so the LORD spread out his wings and took him, he lifted him up on his pinions.” (Deut. 32:11 NET)

Other times, God describes God’s self in Mother-like language, only in Hosea and Isaiah (Hosea 13:8; Isaiah 42:14; 49:15; 66:13).

Of course, Jews (and Christians) were, and are, adamant that God is not a creature, and thus, does not have a particular sex. The prophet Balaam said it like this: “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a human being, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not make it happen?” (Num. 23:19 NET) Jesus said that God is “Spirit” (i.e., does not have a body, John 4:24). Only God-kind can create, judge, answer prayers, perform “miracles,” etc.. Thus, only God-kind should be worshipped. (BTW: This is exactly the opposite of what Mormons (falsely) teach. They teach that God is, in fact, a creature. For more, see http://www.bible.ca/mor-adam-god.htm)

It’s not clear why the Jews didn’t use sexual language much. Yet, it’s probably for two main reasons: (1) their non-Israelites neighbors typically believed that their gods were biologically related, and the Jews did not; (2) God wasn’t human-kind, and thus, didn’t have a particular sex.

What’s amazing is the overwhelming amount that Jesus speaks of God as “Father.” It’s Jesus’s chief way of addressing Him (only once is God spoken of as Mother, in Matt 23:37//Luke 13:34). Moreover, it’s the chief way the earliest Christians spoke of God.

So, following the example of Jesus and the early church, it’s “Christian” to refer to God chiefly as “Father.” We shouldn’t avoid using “Father” language because of an attempt to be more inclusive of women. I appreciate how Robert Stein said it:

Yet to avoid the metaphor of father as a description and designation for God is to lose sight of the fact that Jesus chose this as his metaphor to address God and that he taught this as the metaphor by which his disciples should address God. It also loses sight of the continuity established by the use of this metaphor with those who have called God "Father" over the centuries. These include the disciples; the earliest congregations (Rom 8:15Gal 4:6); the earliest church councils ("I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth"); and Christian churches all over the globe who over the centuries have prayed together "Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed by thy name."

ἐν χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν,

David

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