Sunday, June 18, 2006

Absentee Father?


Were you ever embarrassed of your father?

Some are embarrassed that God, in Scripture, is called “Father” and referred to throughout both Old and New Testaments as "He." In fact, Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code reveals a biting anger at the Bible’s insistence on God’s masculinity. So some would therefore ask today, Isn’t such masculine language a vestige of ancient patriarchy, something to be reformed rather than embraced in our advanced day and age?

First of all, it should be kept in mind that God is not called “Father” and “He” because He is a great big male in the sky. God is neither male nor female, but transcendent above these categories. Male and female were both created in the image of God (Genesis 1). On occasion there are even metaphors of God in Scripture that compare Him to a mother – for example, in Isaiah 66:13 God declares, “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you.” (Though note that in the next verse He says, “The hand of the LORD shall be known to his servants, and he shall show his indignation against his enemies.”)

However – and this is an important however! – He is rightly referred to as “Father” and “He” because God’s relationship to humankind is overwhelmingly masculine. C.S. Lewis once wrote that God reveals Himself with masculine imagery and pronouns because, before his mighty presence, everything is feminine to him! In other words, if masculinity is generally speaking defined in terms of strength (of body, of character, of will) – there is nothing more masculine than God. Or, if masculinity is defined (as in marriage) in terms of headship, there is no one who is in charge of God.

And that’s why you have to look hard for the references that compare God to a mother, but you can open the Bible to any page and find scores of references to God as “He,” “Father,” “Husband,” “King,” and so forth.

We lose something important if we are embarrassed that the Bible speaks of a masculine, patriarchal God. In fact, we lose a Father. And hasn’t that happened in our culture enough already?

1 comment:

Joseph Adrian said...

Ken,
These are the best comments I have ever read on this subject.