An Androgynous God?

on August 13, 2013

In this recent Christianity Today piece a Singapore theologian, Simon Chan, succinctly argues against feminine names for God or avoiding personal pronouns to describe Him.

As Chan puts it:

The quest for gender-inclusive language has been a preoccupation of many mainline Protestants and liberal Catholics for decades. Some evangelicals also make compromises to accommodate these concerns. But before we jump onto the theological bandwagon, we need to reexamine the reasons for the use of masculine terms for God in Scripture and throughout the Christian tradition.

Chan notes that the Hebrew God was uniquely a Father when the surrounding cultures were rife with feminine deities. Modern liberals claim the Hebrew God was the imposition of patriarchy. But the goddess cultures were themselves patriarchal and then, as now, treated women with less dignity than the Jewish and Christian tradition. Had the ancient Hebrews succumbed to surrounding culture they would have worshipped gods and goddesses. Instead, they yielded to all demanding Creator God who reveals Himself as having some maternal qualities but who is still the eternal Father.

Goddess cultures imagined deities procreating and pantheistically birthing the created order, Chan writes. Judaism worshipped a non-sexual God who created by fiat through His Word, presiding over creation, but distinct from it. Of course, this concept of God the Father develops further with the Trinity, as the Heavenly Father relates to His only Begotten Son. Christians uniquely worship Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Thankfully, the radical feminist theology of the 1990s that derided God the Father and insisted on feminine and sexualized deities has mostly and mercifully faded from the scene. IRD reported and critiqued the “Re-Imagining” movement of that era, which touted ancient goddesses like Astarte and Isis, or urged worship of “Sophia” as the feminine embodiment of God. Re-Imagining mocked Christian beliefs about Christ’s atonement on the cross as “divine child abuse.” And predictably it espoused alternative sexualities, as heresies often do, even including an eroticized Eucharist.

I recall at the 1996 United Methodist General Conference attending a Methodist Federation for Social Action awards banquet. Garrett Seminary’s Barbara Troxell placed her hands on retiring Christian Unity Commission official Jeanne Audrey Powers while screaming: “I bless you now in the name of S-O-P-H-I-A!!!!” They both shook while the crowd squealed with delight. Powers later asked me if I had felt the Holy Spirit. I said I definitely had sensed A spirit. So long ago!

Radical feminist theology, which rejected Father, Son and Holy Spirit in favor of Mother/Father or other variants, like Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, mostly has receded to marginal segments of academia. The latest, more benign fad, growing even among some “conservative Protestants,” as Chan notes, permits traditional references to the Trinity but otherwise refuses direct personal pronouns for God.

Chan warns: “Avoiding the use of personal pronouns for God unwittingly downplays God’s personal nature.” This trend simply repeats God, God, God, performing verbal acrobatics to avoid pronouns. It’s theologically and linguistically ridiculous, somewhat similar to referring to a friend as Dawn, Dawn, Dawn, or Bob, Bob, Bob, instead of him or her.

It’s a unique Jewish/Christian insight that God is in fact a friend, and a person, not an abstract force, or an unknowable spirit. Chan says this point is especially important in Asia, where God is traditionally impersonal. In contrast, the Jewish and Christian God has revealed Himself wonderfully so that we might know and love Him as our eternal Father. The faddish alternatives profess to be more inclusive, but they only make God more remote and less caring, ultimately little more than a projection of ourselves.

IRD’s traditional focus has been the churches’ social witness. Over 20 years ago IRD challenged the Re-Imagining movement by noting that churches not faithful to their historic doctrines cannot helpfully witness to society. Churches unsure about God’s identity will not offer helpful counsel about how society should order itself. A healthy and robust public witness for the churches requires their vigorous affirmation of Christian orthodoxy as transmitted by the global church across history and culture.

  1. Comment by Gabe on August 13, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    Somewhere, Rob Bell’s head is exploding.

  2. Comment by Ray Bannister on August 13, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    The various Upper Room publications long ago banned any use of “Father” or other male references to God, unless they’re contained in Bible quotes, and these are kept to a minimum. The result is, as the article points out, a tedious use of God, God, God. The policy has never been announced to readers, many of whom would probably object if they were aware of it. Several writers for the UR magazines have noticed that references to “Father” or “Him” in their original drafts get de-sexed in the printed versions. In case any readers weren’t aware of this, the Upper Room is operated by the United Methodists, so it’s not the readers who set the rules, but the UM bureaucrats, who, to a man (oops!) oppose the “sexist” God.

    The problem with “God” is that, by itself, it has no content. Which god is God? The Old Testament is rich with names that give some content to the colorless term “God” – Yahweh, El Shaddai, the living God, the Lord of hosts – and in the NT we get Jesus’ constant references to “Father.”

  3. Comment by William Steele on August 13, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    Yes God must be called Father. The Father, however, is not male. The Son is not male until He takes on human flesh in the womb of the virgin Mary. “Father does address God as personal, but so does Mother. God is neither male nor female. Painting such as Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam reinforce the heresy that God is male, the Father is male, in the popular mind. We know that God is not a goddess. So we need to teach that not only is the Father not male, She is not female either.

  4. Comment by Bart Gingerich on August 14, 2013 at 9:38 am

    There is a difference between male and masculine.

  5. Comment by Ken Cohen on August 14, 2013 at 9:20 am

    We need to be grateful to the feminist movement for reminding us of the limitations of language and the propensity toword anthropomorphism in our conceptions and depictions of Diety. At the same time, we need to remember that if God isn’t male, God isn’t female, either.

    The Bible is rich in its use of metaphor — but the problem with metaphor is that there are always people who will take it literally. That was never the intention. God isn’t male, female, not a king nor a queen nor does God have human emotions, such as love and hate not does God exhibit jealousy — although that language is used.

  6. Comment by Eric Lytle on August 14, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    Be grateful to the feminist movement if you want to, I’m not exactly grateful for any movement that has been so effective in destroying relations between husbands and wives, teaching women to be suspicious of all men, including their pastors. I don’t think the two religions, feminism and Christianity, can really coexist, since the feminists have zero interest in salvation, they’re sitting on pins and needles just waiting for evidence that some “injustice” has occurred. Doesn’t make for a good fellowship, does it?

  7. Comment by Philip Brooks on August 14, 2013 at 9:29 am

    It would seem that you’re suggesting any association of God or the Trinity with feminine imagery will lead to some kind of idolatry where God’s place is usurped by someone or something else and that their rationale will always be supra scriptura, but I know for a fact this is not the case. I know plenty of people who think of God as “Mother” or “She” without equating God with some other figure and they use Biblical texts to make their case. I myself can’t read Judges with thinking of God as a mother. We’re given all kind of names and images of God in the Bible and anytime we say anything about God or address God anyway we are selecting the images that resonate most with us. I seem to remember a Pslam where god’s compared to a lioness. Wonder why that one doesn’t come up more. The problem is that like it or not, the image of God as Father does not resonate with everyone. In fact I would say that for the countless children today who grow up without a father or who were abused by a male parental figure, the insistence on seeing God as Father can be quite traumatic and unhelpful. For many people a father is someone who’s absent from their life or is too busy or distracted to be with them. For many their mother is the primary source of authority and unconditional love in their life. For some it might be a grandmother or a sibling. The Hebrews chose the word father because it carried a powerful meaning in their cultural context that they thought did God justice. We have to do God justice in our cultural context now. Now I say all of this as someone who did grow up with a loving and supportive father in his life, but I know many for whom that was not the case. I’m not asking you or anyone else to stop calling God “Father” or stop using paternal images. All I’m asking is for a merciful allowance for those whose paternal relationships have not been as blessed. For those who need to call God something else in order to feel close to Her.

  8. Comment by Kay Glines on August 14, 2013 at 10:36 am

    I have several female friends (or ex-friends – their choice, not mine) who fell into feminism and decided they could no longer refer to God as “He.” Inevitably they point out that there are a handful – barely – of verses in the Bible that refer to God in feminine terms. That is overlooking the obvious: the lion’s share of verses do refer to God in male terms. To reject such terms means we are putting ourselves on a higher spiritual plane than Jesus himself, who used “Father” more than any other name for God. I have no objection to Wiccans and other religious devotees who are free to call God whatever they like. However, I don’t think there’s any question that God as Father as part of the “baggage” of Christianity, and those who regard it as baggage are teaching some other religion.

    I know women who had terrible relationships with their own fathers and use that as an excuse for discarding male images of God. To them I would say this: The Bible gives you a Father who is NOT abusive or unkind.

  9. Comment by Philip Brooks on August 14, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    The lion’s share of verses were written by men in a male-dominated society. It would have been quite shocking to refer to the one and supreme ruler of the universe as female in those times when everything was under male authority in the society. Tooley’s right that other patriarchal societies had goddesses, but he fails to mention the fact that almost universally in all these various ancient pantheons, the central or supreme deity to these societies was male. In fact most of these cultures believed an initial feminine creator who was destroyed or defeated by a male deity that assumed rule then. Male domination surrounded the other faiths of the day, but not’s besides the point. The point is that all that makes the “few” instances of female imagery in the texts that more significant. The Hebrews were careful to remind us that all human beings (both female and male) share the imago deo and thus reflect the nature of God. God is not masculine or feminine, but rather masculine and feminine are both reflections of God’s nature. The relationship of a father to a child is a reflection of God’s love for all human beings. Can we not safely say this to be true for the love of the mother for a child? Surely we can and readily do! If feminine imagery does appear in scripture then why shouldn’t use it in our liturgy and private prayer? The Father is one of many names and no where in scripture does Jesus say its the only one we can call God by.

    Here’s where I see the danger. Father is not the true name of God nor can it in itself fully account for the mystery of God’s nature and love for us, or even the inner-relatedness of the Trinity. It like other terms in Christian theology, is one way in which we try to perceive God as best we can. In other words the title is one God assumes in order to help us comprehend God. It does not mean God is a father in the same way yours or my father is. Don’t confuse the thing for the thing it points to. It’s meant to be theomorphic rather than anthropomorphic. And again, I’m not saying you can’t use paternal images to refer to God, only that you not demand everyone be as comfortable with thinking of “their dad” when they pray to God. The important think people need to know is that God is in control and involved in the world and that God loves them unconditionally with more passion and endurance than they can ever imagine. If that sounds more like a mother to them, then let them call God “Mother.” She’ll know what they mean and be pleased just the same.

  10. Comment by Eric Lytle on August 14, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    So in other words, the male images of God are bad because they were written down by males in a patriarchal society, but when NOW cows push for feminine images of God, that’s perfectly OK. Isaiah, Moses, David, Jesus, and Paul were evil patriarchal men trying to oppress women, while 21st-century femagogues know exactly what God/dess is really like.

    Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Since the evil patriarchs who wrote the Bible aren’t around to whine and nag the bureaucrats in the declining mainline churches, then I guess that means that the whining, nagging feminists win by virtue of nagging.

    Great way to do theology… Don’t base it on revelation, base it on who can whine the loudest. That’s what God/dess wants, right?

  11. Comment by Philip Brooks on August 14, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    What comments are you reading? I’m not going to humor you if you’re not going to respond to what I actually wrote.

  12. Comment by Philip Brooks on August 14, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    “I know women who had terrible relationships with their own fathers and use that as an excuse for discarding male images of God. To them I would say this: The Bible gives you a Father who is NOT abusive or unkind.”

    Unless you’ve been abused yourself, I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss this concern. Such experiences carry with them sizeable trauma. Be sensitive.

  13. Comment by Kay Glines on August 14, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    In other words, let the church’s worship and theology be dictated by whoever wishes to be identified as “abused.” So those of us who are not abused and who are happy to pray to Our Father – our opinions don’t count? It all counts down to “be sensitive” to whoever has a grudge against men and takes pleasure in pressuring the church to join her in her grudge?
    I appreciate your numerous comments, they reveal how the liberal mind works.

  14. Comment by Philip Brooks on August 14, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    I believe in both/and on male and female images, not either/or as my comments have attested. I’m not going to answer accusations against your strawman.

  15. Comment by Kevin Spencer on August 14, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    Regarding the word “he,” most people seem not to realize that it doesn’t necessarily imply the male sex, even when we’re talking about humans. I quote from Strunk and White’s THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE, 3rd edition:

    “The use of ‘he’ as a pronoun for nouns embracing both genders is a simple, practical convention rooted in the beginnings of the English language. ‘He’ has lost all suggestion of maleness in these circumstances…. It has no pejorative connotations; it is never incorrect. Substituting ‘he’ or ‘she’ in its place is the logical thing to do if it works. But it often doesn’t work, if only because repetition makes it sound boring or silly. Consider the following unexceptional sentences from THE SUMMING UP, by W. Somerset Maugham:”

    ‘Another cause of obscurity is that the writer is himself not quite sure of his meaning. He has a vague impression of what he wants to say, but has not, either from lack of mental power or from laziness, exactly formulated it in his mind, and it is natural enough that he should not find a precise expression for a confused idea.’

    “Rewritten to affirm equality of the sexes, the same statement verges on nonsense:”

    ‘Another cause of obscurity is that the writer is herself or himself not quite sure of her or his meaning. He or she has a vague impression of what he or she wants to say, but has not, either from lack of mental power or from laziness, exactly formulated it in her or his mind, and it is natural enough that he or she should a precise expression for a confused idea.’

    “No one need fear to use ‘he’ if common sense supports it. The furor recently raised about ‘he’ would be more impressive if there were a handy substitute for the word. Unfortunately, there isn’t….”

  16. Comment by Kevin Spencer on August 14, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary (1963) defines “he” as “that one whose sex is unknown or immaterial” (definition 2).

  17. Comment by gary on August 14, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    hmm, Jesus referred to God as Father, never Mother or Sophia or she. Of course what does He know – feminists hadn’t started their uproar yet.

  18. Comment by Eric Lytle on August 14, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    Also, Gary, Jesus had a spine, and the “men” in charge of the mainline churches do not. They are cowards, and the feminists have made good use of that cowardice – all the while talking about how “entrenched” patriarchy is. It isn’t entrenched at all, the typical male church bureaucrat will lay down like a doormat once a feminist caucus starts screeching.

  19. Comment by Philip Brooks on August 14, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    It’s not a question of feminism vs. patriarchy. It’s a question of whether you believe the nature and character of God should be associated with one gender of humanity over the other. I do not. We all carry the full Imago Deo. The Holy Spirit is pleased to dwell within each of us regardless. If you’re trying to say that feminine images have the potential to become as exclusionary as masculine ones I agree. If Tooley had stopped there I would have no objections, but he didn’t and attacked the idea of using feminine images in general.

  20. Comment by Philip Brooks on August 14, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    Jesus called God father because it was one of the titles emperors gave themselves during their time. Jews began using it as a way of declaring that God and not Caesar reigned supreme. Jesus called God father because it to their father that a person’s first allegiance went to back then and their father held their lives in his hands. I agree with you that the word is an appropriate title. I’m not going to let you suck me into this game of masculine vs. feminine god. Both masculinity and femininity are reflections of God’s nature. I don’t see anything in scripture that denies that.

  21. Comment by Vince Talley on August 14, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    Read the Bible. God is presented in male terms.

  22. Comment by Elisabeth Oldaker on August 14, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    A very interesting article! And I enjoy the various comments which suggest a lot about the commenters.

    I think radical feminism is a waste of time as it seems to be more concerned with style than with substance. It doesn’t matter about the pronouns; it matters how we relate to God. When we dwell on what we are “getting” from our religious experience, we forget that it is more important for us to bring ourselves to God who, in my view, is neither male nor female but “all of the above.”

    It’s too bad the Battle of the Sexes has to intrude into our relationships with God.

  23. Comment by evelyne on August 14, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    I love discussions where I learn something! Thanks phil brooks, from a theol student with feminist inclinations

  24. Comment by Adrian Croft on August 14, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    Given that the churches “with feminist inclinations” are losing members by the thousands, I suggest you have a Plan B for your future career.
    Other than feminism and gay activism, what do the seminaries teach you folks, anyway?

  25. Comment by evelyne on August 15, 2013 at 5:00 am

    i’ve learned also to not attack other peoples thoughts and make them feel like idiots before giving their opinion some consideration. actually my seminary is not strong on contextual theology of any kind. also i doubt that the churches’ gay activism is what drives members out by the thousands, considering the catholics are not exactly growing either.

  26. Comment by Adrian Croft on August 15, 2013 at 7:54 am

    By all means check the numbers on the United Church of Christ and the Episcopalians, who have been ramming feminism and gay rights down their members throats for 5 decades now – concurrent with steady loss of members. The pattern is true for the other mainlines. I’m guessing that is not the sort of data that your seminary professors would share with students, as I can’t imagine them saying “Go out there and put my liberalism into practice in the parishes, folks, because it’s guaranteed to shrink your congregations!” As I said, since you’re big on feminism, it might be wise to have a Plan B careerwise. Consider academia, where a professor of women’s studies need never fear losing her job.

  27. Comment by Greg Paley on August 14, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    The UCC voted at their General Synod in 2011 to drop “God the Father” from the church’s statement of beliefs, in favor of “the triune God,” which I guess could be defined as Winkin, Blinkin, and Nod, or Flora, Fauna, and Merrywether, and if you think that sounds silly, you haven’t been following the UCC the past few decades. Whatever they do, the other mainlines will do eventually, they all march to that ditty “We Are Trendy.”

    Here’s a thought: Maybe throwing away God the Father is just a stealthy way to throw away God, period.

  28. Comment by Vince Talley on August 14, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    My pastor has a theory that feminism is, at the root, and anti-God movement. Atheism has always been a tough sell in America, so feminism began as an attack on men, then on maleness, and ends up just where we are, “offended” at God being called Father, even though that is how he chose to reveal himself to Jews and Christians. I think he’s onto something. I don’t think anyone really, seriously prays to “God our Mother,” because that person knows that that god doesn’t even exist. The point of changing liturgy and hymns to be “inclusive” is to exercise power over traditionalists. In other words, people who don’t believe get pleasure from manipulating people who do believe. Feminists see everything in terms of a power struggle, so they see the church not as a fellowship of love, but as just another example of men dominating women, so they feel they’ve scored a victory over men when they can wheedle the milksop pastor into calling God “mother” or at least in ceasing to call him “father.” Maybe the proper response of the pastor would be “Get a life.” Unfortunately, there are so many he-hen types in the ministry that they gladly play along with this hogwash. For the pastor who takes a firm stand for the faith, I say that if the disruptive women want to find another church, great, let them go.

  29. Comment by Philip Brooks on August 14, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    Once again I’m not going to answer for your straw man. I say both the men and women carry the full Imago Deo and this allows for us to use both male and female images to talk about God as long as we don’t confuse the thing with the thing it points to. I did not learn anything during my years attending my family’s conservative Methodist congregation that leads me to believe any of what I’ve said above is unbiblical or heretical. If you want to argue with any of what I say then argue against what I’ve “actually” said. I’m not answering for your strawman.

  30. Comment by Adrian Croft on August 15, 2013 at 7:57 am

    Sounds like our “shame on you” friend is in high dudgeon once again.
    I’m waiting for the familiar “immoral and irrational” line to pop up again.

  31. Comment by Marco Bell on August 18, 2013 at 11:15 am

    It sounds like Philip Brooks and Evelyne are the only voices of reason in this thread.
    And some folks are still working out some parental and/or sexual/domination issues. Get on with your lives people! Gender shouldn’t be an issue at all, unless you’re confounded on which pronoun to use in conversation. It truly doesn’t matter in the end!

  32. Comment by Ray Bannister on August 19, 2013 at 10:54 am

    If it doesn’t matter, why are you ranting? If you think people who call God “Father” have “sexual issues,” well, then, Jesus Christ had “sexual issues,” because he constantly called God “Father,” something the article points out. I wish the leftwingers would stop trying to play amateur psychologists with everyone they disagree with, because frankly you’re not qualified to do that. That works both ways, doesn’t it? Maybe liberals have some issues with the own fathers, or maybe they’re insecure about their own masculinity, right? It’s a cheap tactic to say to the opposition “you must have issues,” not exactly a sign of good debating skills, nor common courtesy, for that matter. The rudeness of the left toward Christians is abominable.

    I don’t care if a church wishes to call God “Big Bertha,” but it can’t drop the language of the Bible and remain Christian.

  33. Comment by Josh on August 22, 2013 at 1:16 am

    Hey y’all. Just couple thoughts:
    – People leaving a denomination should not be grounds to call it’s teachings untruth. That would mean truth is tied to popularity. Less people = less true. More people = more true? Not “taking sides” but I’m not sure numbers alone are safe grounds for saying something is right or wrong.
    – No one in this thread has respondedto the fact that there are female allusions to God. The lioness one (which I did not know), and the one about which I’m curious is when Jesus likens himself to a mother hen.

    Thanks to those who are debating. I’m bummed that the issue is so raw for some that it leads to hurtful and disparaging language. Name calling is not “of Love”.

  34. Comment by Kevin Spencer on August 22, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    The simile of the hen is in Luke 13:34. Does that prove that Jesus was a woman, or a chicken?

  35. Comment by Greg Paley on August 24, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    What exactly is unloving about pointing out the obvious, that God is always referred to as “He” in the Bible, and that Jesus and the early Christians called him “Father,” which is why the classic creeds always say “I believe in God the Father”? That’s just the way it is, and it’s been upsetting the feminists for several decades now, but so what? They’re certainly free to form a Wicca or Gaia group if they want to.

  36. Comment by Jeremy Long on August 25, 2013 at 9:58 am

    When some issue like this comes up, it’s always good to consult the original Greek text. Matthew 23:37 (and the parallel verse, Luke 13:34) use the Greek word ornis, which is literally “bird” (as in “ornithology”). Literally, it translates “as a bird gathers its young under its wings,” with no reference to the bird’s gender, nor to what type of bird. It’s fairly certain that Jesus had in mind an ordinary barnyard hen, so “hen” in the English is OK as translation goes. As some of the other posts pointed out, one saying of Jesus is hardly the grounds for de-sexing God.

  37. Comment by Kevin Spencer on August 22, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    Jesus also likened himself unto a door (John 10:9) and a vine (John 15:5). That doesn’t mean he was made out of wood.

  38. Comment by Philip Brooks on August 23, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    It means the love of God can be conveyed and described in feminine as well as masculine forms. Jesus was not ashamed or scandalized for using feminine images to describe his love for humanity, so why should you be scandalized when others do? That’s all any of us have said here and instead of addressing these points, you’ve just kept arguing with straw men.

  39. Comment by Greg Paley on August 24, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    Does your church recite a creed that says “I believe in God the Hen”?

    Our ancestors in the faith had the good sense to see that you don’t build a solid theology around one or two isolated references in the Bible. Take a look at the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) and notice something that will be obvious to the most casual reader (unless he is saddled with a trendy ideology): God is Father. Some of the goofball churches have played around with both Father and Mother together, but that poses the problem that no one has any experience of one Person being both, and Father and Hen sounds quite ludicrous, ditto for Father and Lioness. Father, King, Lord, and (in Hosea) Husband. Notice any pattern there? You don’t have to like it, just acknowledge that it’s there. If you just can’t accept it, America is a vast marketplace of religion, something for every taste, even the Goddess devotees.

  40. Comment by Philip Brooks on August 25, 2013 at 12:53 am

    I acknowledge that they are all there, but not your right to determine which ones get remembered. If the writers of the Bible wanted only one name or title or image of God then they would have stopped at one, but they didn’t. If offering God a name that meant something powerful to anyone of us, where blasphemous, then you wouldn’t read about God letting a lowly female Egyptian slave (Hagar) be the first person in the Bible to give a name to God. As to your point of using both father and mother at once to address God when no one experiences mother and father as one person is confusing, I agree. I also believe the title Father and the affectionate yet respectful feeling it is supposed to convey gets lost when forced out of the mouth of someone for their father is neither. That’s why I say use “Father” if you believe you honor God with it, but don’t stop someone who can only associate unconditional love and parental authority with a mother from honor God as best they can. Father and Mother are just words by themselves. What matters is the meaning and intent we put behind them. If any use the title Father as a means to deny that both men and women share equal the Imago Deo or to reject the belief that the love of both parents equally and beautifully reflects the even more perfect love of God, then I say they do not honor God with their address and it is they who are heretical in doing so.

  41. Comment by Greg Paley on August 26, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    What on earth are you blathering on about? No one is denying that woman are made in the image of God, you brought up the issue of Imago Dei (not “Deo” – check your Latin) but it has nothing to do with the discussion of God and how we address Him. If someone had a bad relationship with his earthly father, so what? All the more reason to embrace a divine Father. What is it about the left that they turn EVERYTHING into a melodrama where someone is getting victimized or abused or disrespected? There is no patriarchal conspiracy here, God revealed himself this way, not as Mother-Father or Divine Hen. The Christian view is that the biblical references to God are not “just words,” or we might as well call him Big Rhinoceros. The term “Father” is there for a reason. Telling us we’re “heretical” is just plain silly. It’s no heresy to turn a deaf ear to whiny feminists who are on some weird power trip. I never found that verse in the Bible that says “Thou shalt pander to every group of grievance-mongers.”

  42. Comment by Kevin Spencer on August 25, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    It’s not a straw man. Although no one in this forum has suggested that Jesus was a woman, other feminists HAVE DONE SO. (See the blog “Defending Heresy” at .

  43. Comment by Philip Brooks on August 26, 2013 at 9:17 am

    But, I’m not speaking for them, Kevin. I’ve been to plenty of progressive, reconciling, post-modern (whatever keeps you up at night) churches and never heard them try to make the case that Jesus was a woman or said prayers to an ancient fertility goddess, etc. If occasionally starting a prayer with “Mother” means I have to answer for everything anyone who starts a prayer that way does, then it would mean you would have to answer for everything anyone does who starts a prayer with “Father”. I say it’s a straw man argument because instead of responding to my actual points you’ve lifted up an imaginary debate partner in this arena.

  44. Comment by Philip Brooks on August 26, 2013 at 6:55 pm


    What’s this reason you keep referring to? You’re so dead set on insuring that we never call God anything else, but I’m not seeing a clear reason here. Practically every characteristic associated with fatherhood in Jesus’ time can also be associated with motherhood in our own contemporary culture (provider, exampler, authority figure, disciplinary, etc.) Let me be clear. I’m not saying a father can’t be all these, but I believe a mother can and in cases for many people is also all these things. Unless you want to make the case that God has to be male, I don’t see why mother can’t be an appropriate title in an age where many people grow up with a mother that does all the things a father in Biblical times would have done.

  45. Comment by Gingerika on October 11, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    A perfectly made point, which I shall now gratefully carry with me forever… and share with others. Thank you 🙂

  46. Comment by Kimberly Pellot on October 30, 2015 at 3:34 am

    Yes he was made out of wood. He’s Pinocchio, the rapper Eminem.

  47. Comment by Kimberly Pellot on October 30, 2015 at 11:25 pm

    yes, he was… hes Pinocchio…

  48. Comment by John on January 22, 2020 at 10:56 am

    Do some research on how the Christ referred to His ‘parents’ or the Greek word Theous, which is both male and female, yet singular! Christ said he came from His parents and if you understand the basic function of each essence you may comprehend GOD better! Male is mind or thought, female; the heart, emotion, feeling and creation! Without both in the God head nothing would exist! Creation was by GOD’S word, but the mechanics of creation are FEMALE!

  49. Comment by Robin M. on August 11, 2022 at 3:53 pm

    This conversation is predicated on the idea that there are only 2 legitimate genders when sociologically there are at least 11 currently acknowledge. And those 2 legitimate genders are predicated on the assumption that there are only 2 biological sexes, which scientists have known not to be true for a long time now. There isn’t just XX or XY, there are actually 6 biologically differentiated sexes.


    Current researchers have found themselves surprised at how varied one person can be. It’s possible for body parts to have different X/Y designations. Sometimes that’s a result of one twin merging with the other in the womb.

    Rather than reject what we’re finding out via empirical evidence, why not consider the first lines of Genesis. We are created in God’s image. Male and female created He them. If you go back to the Greek translations of this, it’s known that the pronouns ascribed to God fluctuate between male, female, and other. Our interpretation of God is limited, as it is restricted by our human inability to consider that truth may not be currently comprehensible. I mean, we say we understand that–on a philosophical level. But then we go about shoving new information into our present understanding. Of course we’re going to be at least partly wrong. We don’t know what we don’t know, and we certainly don’t know how to categorize what we don’t know regardless of how much we’d like to do so. I mean, even now I refer to God in the masculine because it’s easier and more comfortable. It’s not a strictly wrong way of thinking. It’s just limited. I’m limited in my understand. God is not restricted by my limits, though.

    We’re told repeated that we can’t know the mind of God, and we assume that only means that we don’t know His thoughts or motivations all the time. But this is a being that exists outside of what we know of as time & space–that’s how it’s explained that He can know everything that will happen without forcing or predestining our thoughts and actions. He made us in his image and for a long long time we thought we understood what that meant. Now that we’re finding out that we are far more complicated creatures than we once assumed, we’re struggling to fit that into the way we prefer to think out ourselves & others. And some of us are trying to disregard that new information because it makes us uncomfortable.

    Science and religion don’t have to be at odds unless there’s an agenda behind it. Be amazed at how much we know, how much we’re finding out, and how much we have left to learn.

    Is God androgynous? Yes and no. No and yes. We don’t have to understand that about Him to accept him. Because above and beyond God is anything else, He is Love.

    If we live in the Holy Spirit of God, we won’t be unintentionally trying to limit Him. We won’t be trying to find ways to disapprove of each other under the guise of trying to get it right. If we live in the Spirit, none of these should be concerns. Jesus satisfied the judgement of the Law so that we could live in the fruits of the Spirit–agape/love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against all of which there is no Law.

    I guess it sounds like I’ve gotten away from the point, but this is always the point. We make things too difficult for ourselves and thus make ourselves unapproachable to others–who may need us.

    I don’t understand God. His nature blows my mind when I think about it. But he makes me happy, even when the things around me are painful. I don’t understand that either.

    What does it hurt for our sexes/genders are complicated? God says it doesn’t matter if we’re male nor female, so who are we to care?

    It doesn’t matter what we call God, as long as we call Him.

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