Is God Father – and Mother?

By Julie Roys
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            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.  

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3 thoughts on “Is God Father – and Mother?”

  1. What are you smoking, Julie? OMG! How can A WOMAN write “a father procreates outside and away from himself; but, a woman procreates inside and within herself” as a way to justify the ridiculous male-centric nature of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic religious tradition? You are aware that long before humans INVENTED your particular god that deities were usually feminine, aren’t you? You need to get out more, maybe read something other than the bible every now and then

  2. Hard to believe there is controversy surrounding this topic, BUT, this is the best explanation as to why it should NOT be a controversy I’ve read to date. Nicely done, as usual.

    Lin

  3. Anonymous,
    Obviously, we view the world very differently. The Bible isn’t male-centric; it simply teaches that each gender has different, but equally important, functions. I love being a woman and truly value the unique feminine contribution women bring to the world. I think the feminist push today for women to be – as Gloria Steinem put it, “the men we wanted to marry” – is actually a form of misogyny. Why would we want to be just like men, except that we devalue our own femininity?
    I know the prevailing view regards all male authority as oppression. And, I can understand that – especially if that’s how one’s experienced it. But, God expressed his masculinity – his initiative and leadership – by taking the form of a servant and dying for humanity. Similarly, the Bible instructs husbands to love their wives “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Is that really so oppressive? Would the world really be a horrible place if all men adopted this pattern of love towards women and women respected men as servant-leaders? I don’t think so.
    Contrary to your belief, I have been out quite a bit; I actually was born in Africa where my parents served as missionaries for 10 years. What I’ve noticed is that women in countries with a Judeo-Christian tradition are treated the best of any women in the world. For example, in many African countries, the indigenous people practice female genital mutilation. It’s the Christians there who are decrying the practice.

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