Women's Issues

36 ARTICLES IN THIS TOPIC


June 9, 2015

“Our Father” or Fairy God Mother?

The Church of England’s undermining of the scriptures continues, as the Transformations Steering Group, an entity that monitors the impact of women in ministry in the Church of England, seeks to overhaul the official liturgy so that it addresses God as a female.

Hilary Cotton of the Women and the Church, a group that spearheaded the initiative to get women ordained as bishops, also argued for this position:

Until we shift considerably towards a more gender-full expression in our worship about God then we are failing God and we are missing something…We are [also] going to miss some of the opportunities that otherwise particularly women might feel themselves called to….[T]here is recognition from the Church of England that men and women are made in the image of God and therefore it is entirely appropriate to express our worship toward God as a female presence…having women bishops makes it particularly obvious that…to continue to refer to God purely as male is just unhelpful to many people now.

Summarizing the controversy, Cotton noted that these ideas have provoked a wide range of reactions, “The response you often get at one end is ‘why does it matter because God is beyond all this?’ At the other end the reaction is ‘you mustn’t because Jesus calls God father.’”

Unfortunately for Cotton, her ideas are not only unsupported by the scriptures, they are in conflict with them. While God occasionally compares His actions to that of a woman, He always chose to identify Himself in a masculine context. God called himself a father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5), Jesus was incarnated as a man and referred to God as “Father” (John 10:30), and Paul says that we cry “Abba Father” through the Holy Spirit upon our adoption into God’s family (Romans 8:15). It is therefore a leap of logic to assert that we are “failing God and…missing something” by simply addressing God in the manner He outlined.

Cotton’s second argument is obstructed by the fact there is no scriptural record of God’s masculine identity obstructing the callings of women in the Church. Simply addressing God as a “she” or “mother” will do nothing to change one’s calling or God’s plan for their life.

It is true that both men and women are made in God’s image, but that simply highlights the fact that men and women reflect God’s nature in different ways. God said through the Apostle Paul that the male and female marriage relationship is supposed to mimic that of Christ and the Church. The man is to mimic Christ’s loving headship and the woman is to mimic the Church’s godly submission (Eph. 5:23-33). This implies that God’s masculine identity is meant to be illustrative of His headship authority and his love for the Church. To compromise this identity would destroy God’s illustration of authority and love. It would create two feminine figures: the female god and the Church. This disrupts the unique manner in which men and women display the image of God. Under this distorted model, no one is unique and therefore no one is to be celebrated.

Finally, Cotton’s argument that the use of feminine language for God is the only way to be “helpful” to people in an age of female bishops is as vague as it is misguided. Putting aside the questionable concept of female ordination (I Tim 2: 12-15), how exactly do female bishops render God’s instructions regarding His identity unhelpful? More importantly, the doctrinal accuracy of a position is not measured by its usefulness to man, but whether or not it conforms to the character of God.

Ultimately, this is an attempt by some in the Church of England to allow human beings to define God as they see fit. This is an inversion of the creation formula itself. God is the potter and we are the clay (Isaiah 64:8), not vice versa (Isaiah 29:16). One can only pray that this initiative to have the liturgy address God in a manner contrary to His will fails to receive the approval of the General Synod. Should they succeed, God’s name will be denigrated and women will be robbed of an image of a loving father.


17 Responses to “Our Father” or Fairy God Mother?

  1. Mark Brooks says:

    “This is the book of the genealogy of Adam. In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them Mankind in the day they were created.”
    Genesis 5:1-2

    “For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.”
    1 Corinthians 11:7

    Relevant scriptures were not cited in the article, so let’s be cautious here. Man was made in God’s image, and the man that was made was male. Every incarnation of God has been a man, that is, a male human. Jesus was a man.

    Woman was made from Man. So yes, Woman also partakes of the image of God, through her creation from Man. Eve was human because she was made from the rib of Adam, the first human. All things go back to the beginning. Paul understood the creation account literally and so should we, since it was the Holy Spirit, God, writing through him. Otherwise God’s teachings through Paul regarding the right relation between men and women make no sense.

    So the complementary position of woman relative to man was made explicit in what God has said in His word. Gender equality is anti-Christian. So, what is happening here is that, as one would expect, you have a group of professing Christians trying to change the teachings of their “church” from what God has said to what they want God to have said. Having done so, in this specific case, it becomes much easier for them to argue for female bishops.

  2. Sordello De Goit says:

    Perhaps God embodies perfect femininity as well as perfect masculinity, but God is masculine (not male) because the masculine has headship.You assert that women too are made in the image of God and “reflect God’s nature” but then argue that women reflect the nature of the Church while men reflect the nature of Christ (God).
    I think it would be much more healthy to understand that their are feminine traits to God’s nature, he begets, he nurtures, etc. Not being bound by sex (or gender), however, God is able to embody both the feminine and masculine and both men and women are able to find their identity in him. Again, we say him, because the masculine by nature exhibits headship.

    • brookspj says:

      “…because the masculine has headship.” Not in my house growing up. Mom called the shots. And if you think that’s backwards or unbiblical, I dare you to come to my parent’s house and say that to her. Then you’ll know a terror not unlike God’s wrath. My mother votes Republican by the way. Feminism and women’s ministry are not liberal issues.

  3. Dan Horsley says:

    If the women of England are staying away from church because of all that horrid “patriarchal” language, we can expect a stampede of women into church once the language is corrected, right?

    I hope nobody’s holding their breath on this one. The “inclusive-language” churches in the US seem to be going down the drain.

  4. Mikey R says:

    Scripture says there are times God says he is like a mother, but he never says he is one. He calls himself father as does Jesus. Jesus never refers to God as his mother, but only as his father. I’ll go with the Son of God on this one.

  5. Sordello De Goit says:

    It would also have been helpful to point out that headship does not mean inequality. God the Father has headship over Christ the Son, but they are completely equal in dignity, glory, power, and majesty.

  6. Paul Zesewitz says:

    Let me get this straight. The Church of England is just now toying with the idea of a feminine God? They must not be as liberal as I originally thought they were! Several congregations of the United Church of Christ already worship a female God, they’ve done so since the early 80’s. I once was in a school play with my high school’s Drama Club. I believe it was GODSPELL, of all plays. The year was 1985. The invocation was given by the MALE minister of the local UCC Church. He began his prayer, “Almighty God, Father and Mother of us all………..” Sounds like the COE has lots of catching up to do when it comes to feminist theology!!!

  7. Ron Richardson says:

    Is it not true that God is a Spirit and is to be worshiped in spirit and truth? In actuality, what gender would best describe God? Assigning a human attribute to God is defined as anthropomorphism.Therefor attempting to attach a gender attribute is really a meaningless.

    • Mark Brooks says:

      But assigning that gender to God that God has assigned himself relative to us, that is, the fact that God refers to himself in scripture as a “he”, is not meaningless.

      • Ron says:

        Was the Scripture Divinely DICTATED or was it Divinely INSPIRED? If dictated, then I feel that your point is well taken, but if it was inspired, then wouldn’t a matriarchal society possibly have made a different gender assignment?

        • Mark Brooks says:

          “Well in those days Peter stood up in the middle of the disciples (the number of people assembled there was about 120) and said: ‘Men, brothers: It was necessary that this Scripture be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by David’s mouth concerning Judas, who was guide to those who arrested Jesus; in that he was numbered with us and obtained his share in this ministry.'”
          –Acts of the Apostles, 1:15-17

          In other words, dictation. I’m a bit mystified why some people find this hard, based upon mere differences in modes of speech among the various speakers. Man is made in God’s image, and of His human image God has said:

          “O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
          You know my sitting down and my rising up;
          You understand my thought afar off.
          You comprehend my path and my lying down,
          And are acquainted with all my ways.
          For there is not a word on my tongue,
          But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.”

          and:

          “A man’s heart plans his way,
          But the Lord directs his steps.”

          So there is nothing very remarkable about the Lord dictating through his chosen messengers what they will speak, any more than any thing else God directs. God knows everything about us, including how to express His thoughts using our own words and manners of speech. The Bible is LITERALLY God’s word to us. We have the fax from heaven.

          • Ron says:

            Mark,

            If you are still around?

            In the Tanakh (OT) there were times when God talked directly to the prophets and others (Divinely Dictated), but in the NT, I believe that Divine Inspiration was the mode of communication.

            SO: Gender is a physical characteristic and God is not a created physical being with flesh and blood but a spirit outside of time and space (John 4:24, Luke 24:39).

            Nevertheless, even though God does not have a gender as such the conversation continues as a factor of human language and a description of relationship. Since God really has no gender, some have concluded that it really doesn’t matter what pronouns or gender specific language one might use in identifying God, and being traditionalists we retain the definitions of the first century patriarchal society.

            The fact that God is spirit means that God the Father does not have a human body. God the Son came to earth in human form (John 1:1), but God the Father did not. Jesus is unique as Emmanuel, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). Numbers 23:19
            emphasizes God’s truthfulness by contrasting Him with mortal men: “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind.”

            Some question why the Bible sometimes speaks of God as if He has a body. For example, Isaiah 59:1 mentions God’s “hand” and “ear.” Second Chronicles 16:9 speaks of God’s “eyes.” Matthew 4:4 puts words in God’s “mouth.” In Deuteronomy 33:27 God has “arms.” All of these verses are examples of anthropomorphism—a way of describing God with anatomical or emotional terms so that HUMANS CAN BETTER UNDERSTAND HIM. The use of anthropomorphism, a form of figurative language, does not imply that God has an actual body or gender.

            To say that God is spirit is to say that God the Father is invisible. Colossians 1:15 calls God the “invisible God.” First Timothy 1:17 praises God, saying, “To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever.”

            FYI. I also pray to God the Father out of pure tradition.

          • Mark Brooks says:

            What basis do you have for asserting that the Hebrew scriptures were dictated by God but the Greek are not? Are you saying that Jesus wasn’t God? Wasn’t He God talking? Are you saying that Paul was lying when he said he was speaking from God, or Peter was lying when he said Paul’s writings were scripture? In fact, all scripture is “God-breathed”. That’s what theopneustos means. I reiterate, there is no difference between dictation and “inspiration” in terms of what the Bible teaches. For God to “inspire” scripture means that it is God speaking through men. That’s dictation. Always has been. When God speaks through a man, there’s no daylight between them, no wiggle room for denial.

            The New Testament is God talking every bit as much as the Old Testament. In fact, the concept of an “Old Testament” and a “New Testament” is a fairly new one. You won’t find that division of the scriptures in scripture. It is the product of English Bible publishing.

            As for the rest, you are arguing around the point. This isn’t a discussion about spirit bodies or anthropomorphism. God the Father doesn’t have hands, but he doesn’t have a mouth to talk either. It is the Son who does the will of the Father, because the Father is spirit. God came to Earth as a man, a human male, and has done so every time He has incarnated. Jesus had testicles and a penis. Do you have a problem with this? Because when Jesus rose from the dead He was still a man. When He ascended, he was still a man. Nothing in scripture says otherwise, and indeed, it goes to some trouble to make it clear that the Jesus who rose was the Jesus who died. The scriptures don’t teach that our glorified bodies won’t have gender as to form; the teaching is that there is no sexuality, no marriage, like the angels in heaven. By the way, the messengers God has sent appear to always have been male as well.

            God is God. Three persons, sure, but God, and God is One. There is only one voice when God is talking, whomever He speaks through. Anything else smacks of Tritheism or Unitarianism. No daylight between God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. One. One voice. One teaching. One truth.

            I can’t figure out where you are coming from with some of this Ron, but I suggest that you don’t read your own desires back into the scriptures. Accept them for what they are.

          • Ron says:

            Mark,

            I am not sure what you are referring
            to when you differentiate between the Hebrew and the Greek. Are you referring to the difference between the Tanakh and the New Testament,
            or the Hebrew and the Greek (Septugint) Tanakh , which are essentially the same text?

            I did not imply that the Tanakh was Divinely Dictated, I said that the Scriptures were Divinely
            Inspired; even though, God did speak directly, in effect , Face to Face (anthropomorphic expression) with humans.

            Going on your assumption that all scripture is Dictated directly by God, how do you reconcile this: Colossians 1:15 calls God the “invisible God.” First Timothy 1:17 praises God, saying, “To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever”, AND, Isaiah 59:1 mentions God’s “hand” and “ear.” Second Chronicles 16:9 speaks of God’s “eyes.” Matthew 4:4 puts words in God’s “mouth.” In Deuteronomy 33:27 God has “arms.”

            Why did He direct the authors to refer to His hands and mouth and others that He was Spirit with no mouth or hands?

            You stated: “It is the Son who does the will of the Father, because the Father is spirit.” However,
            Jesus was not in human form until His incarnation on earth. Prior to that Jesus was in spirit form without a mouth or body to do the physical work of the Father.

            If the Old Testament and the New Testament is God’s direct instruction to us, why do we break the
            Commandments by not observing the Sabbath or not stoning disrespectful sons? If you have broken one, you have broken them all.

            You also said: “In fact, all scripture is God-breathed”.” In context, Timothy was referring to the Tanakh because New Testament had not yet been written.

            As a final comment, you admit, “God the Father doesn’t have hands, but he doesn’t have a mouth to talk either” and “It is the Son who does the will of the Father, because the Father is spirit”, ; therefore, I think you have actually verified my original premise.

            God bless, Mark,
            Ron

  8. buzzdixon says:

    If God is male, how big is His penis?

    I mean, seriously, if we’re going down that path, by all means let’s go all the way. Does God has testicles? Does He produce holy sperm? I’d ask if He has a beard but I know a few ladies with facial hair so we can’t use that as a signifier of gender.

    Does God have an actual physical body that has genitalia and / or XY chromosomes? Or is His masculinity just an abstract concept He has? If the latter is the case, they we’re pretty much obliged to sign off on human beings who feel they were assigned the wrong gender at birth, no? Because if thinking makes a thing so…

    You don’t suppose the reason God appears as a masculine character in the OT and Jewish tradition might be that the ancient Hebrews were a patriarchal society in which women were regarded as lesser beings, that according to the Bible the chief rival of Yahweh worship in ancient Israel was the worship of the pagan goddess Ishtar, and then as now if a human male doesn’t know something he’ll “mansplain” it to his own advantage?

    You want to argue going back and changing pronouns is a bit of an overreach, fine, there’s a point to be made there. But you can’t argue it’s because God has manifested Himself as a macho man. He is beyond human limitations; stop trying to put a blue diaper on him.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *