God as Father

It always bothers me when super liberal denominations in Christianity try to change the language we use to relate to God. God as Mother, or Goddess. Phew….But, I totally get why they do. Because Patriarchy. Calling God Mother is a purely emotional response to the church being largely ruled by Patriarchal cultural attitudes. As if God as Father is the sole reason human cultures turned away from more Egalitarian or Matriarchal structures for Patriarchal heirarchies. (It’s not…)

I think it’s important to look at how God has been addressed throughout the 4,000 year history of Judeo-Christian thought (or, 3,000, years depending upon how you determine its origins). But, you know… That’s just me. 

The concept of God as Father is introduced by Jesus Christ though His earthly  ministry. And suffice it to say, 1st century Judaism largely viewed the idea as blasphemous. (It is blasphemous if Jesus wasn’t who He said He was, but, I digress)

But you know what? Jesus introduced that concept at a time when human reproduction was understood to be akin to a man planting his ‘seed’ in the fertile ground of a woman. And it makes total sense for largely agrarian cultures to understand it this way. In fact, it wasn’t until the 17th century that physicians started to understand the woman’s contribution to reproduction. Isn’t that insane?!
Keeping this in mind, God as Father was the perfect metaphor for pre-enlightenment humans and their understanding of spirituality. However, as our knowledge of the physical world increases, is it our duty to reframe our idea of God as Father? Are we justified in rejecting it? Or, is there more to this metaphor than meets the post-modern eye? 

I think it’s safe to say that Patriarchy has nearly destroyed our ability to think clearly on the matter. Interestingly enough, in both the Old and New Testaments, metaphors for the Divine Creator are exclusively male. The metaphors for the Holy Spirit, however, (Wisdom/Hagai Sophia) are female. The Nation of Israel/The Ekklesia, are addressed as female as well, and represented as wife/bride. Instead of rejecting this imagery as being unduly gendereded, I think it would be wise to ponder the truth hidden within.

For example, is it mere coincidence that two of the three synoptic Gospels proclaim Jesus Christ as having a physical mother but a spiritual father? Or, is this a profound metaphor for us as human beings and children of God?

There is so much we as human beings do not understand about God. But the kind of intellectual hubris that leads us to reject Scriptural concepts of God as being mere cultural bias is dangerous. Whatever it is that we currently believe about gender and human sexuality, is fleeting. Several years down the road, we may just happen to understand things quite differently. 

Maybe… Just, maybe… We ought to put aside our own cultural bias as we approach sacred texts, and seek out what God is trying to tell us about God’s nature.

Just. Sayin’.


2 thoughts on “God as Father

  1. Honestly this is why I have a problem with a lot of recent biblical interpretations, like The Message. The Bible is not written to me, or you, though it has application through the Holy Spirit to each of us. The original author wrote each book to a specific people group, and it is VITAL that we attempt to understand how they would have taken the message, the language, the context of the piece. We can’t interpret the Bible in a vacuum.

    So attempting to put those original words written 2-4000 years ago into a post-modern context, or remove gender specific pronouns, or translate “slave” as “worker” are just muddying the waters.

    I think it’s great that every person has access to the Bible, but that doesn’t mean they correctly interpret the more difficult passages. Understanding God as our Father or King doesn’t mean that we use OUR understanding of those archetypes and apply them to Scripture; we attempt to recreate a picture of how the original audience perceived a Father or a King, and apply that to our understanding of God.

    Really good post.

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