Can God be Mother, as well as Father? The United Church of Christ apparently believes He can. Its General Synod recently voted overwhelmingly to strike the term “heavenly Father” from its constitution. And, reportedly some UCC pastors already are referring to God alternately as “Father and Mother.”
That God possesses both masculine and feminine characteristics is indisputable. In Isaiah, he’s likened to “a woman in travail” and even a “mother” who “comforts her child.” But, does possessing the characteristics of a mother equate with being a mother? And if so, then why does Jesus exclusively refer to God as Father – and never once as Mother?
Of course, liberal church leaders, like many within the UCC, argue that Jesus was simply a man of his times – “historically conditioned” by Jewish patriarchal society. But, to assert that Jesus was unable to transcend His culture denies His divinity. Perhaps, though, some argue, Jesus simply wanted to avoid shocking his listeners. But, practically everything Jesus did shocked his listeners – healing on the Sabbath, clearing the temple – and yes, referring to God intimately as His father or even “daddy.”
It’s fair, then, to conclude that Jesus, when teaching that God is Father, not Mother, was actually communicating a timeless truth. But why would God prefer that we relate to him in such a gender-specific way? As Catholic apologist Mark Brumley writes, it’s all about symbol. Inherent in the symbol of fatherhood – and even in masculinity itself – is initiation. Fathers, for example, initiate procreation; mothers, on the other hand, receive it. And, this is how God relates to His people: He initiates; we receive. This is why C.S. Lewis wrote, “What is above and beyond all things is so masculine that we are all feminine in relationship to it.”
Fatherhood also symbolizes God’s transcendence over creation, as opposed to immanence. Again, a father procreates outside and away from himself; but, a woman procreates inside and within herself. She symbolizes immanence; he symbolizes transcendence. Of course, because of the cross, God can dwell immanently with His people. But, in regards to His creation, God’s transcendence takes priority. This transcendence is what separates Christianity from a whole host of pantheistic religions. And, it’s yet another reason why God is Father, not Mother.
Jesus was not creating God in culture’s image when He called Him Father. Yet, that’s precisely what people who call God Mother are doing. They’re failing to recognize the symbolic purpose of gender. And, they’re remaking God in their all-inclusive, politically-correct image – something God never gave us liberty to do.