Because Christianity is bigger than Biblical manhood or Biblical womanhood (Blog of Retha Faurie)

Maria came from a rural sheep farming community. As a child, she was molested for years by a shepherd. For years, she hated to go to church, with the pulpit cloth in her church proclaiming: “I am the good shepherd.” To make it worse, her preacher liked to call God a shepherd in his sermons. Maria had to escape from that. As an adult, she started attending a church which does not have any reference to God as the shepherd on the pulpit cloth, and started immersing herself in other images of God: God the Father, the Groom, the Bread of Life, the Living Water. She even found help in images like the Great Physician or the Rock of Ages, terms not in scripture.

Would you say that Maria is denying an important Bible truth, being unwilling to admit God is the Good Shepherd? Or that her theology is driven by her emotions?

Of course not. We assume she intellectually understands why God is called a shepherd. It is simply not the image she needs to focus on, in order to understand God better. Anthropomorphic (humanized) images of God are all well and good when it helps you to understand God better, and a lie the moment it gives you a false image of God. God is “the Mighty Warrior” (Zephaniah 3:17), but if that causes you to see God as a powerful enemy, the image is taken too far.

What about this one:

As a child, Maria was molested for years by her father. For years, she hated to go to church, as her preacher liked to call God “the Father” in his sermons. Maria had to escape from that. As an adult, she started attending a church where God is seldom referred to that way. She started immersing herself in other images of God: The shepherd, the groom, the bread of life, the living water. She even found help in images like the Great Physician, or God as a mother, terms not in scripture.

mother501

In this case, a lot of people will claim Maria is denying an important Bible truth, being unwilling to admit God is a Father, and allege that her theology is driven by her emotions.

But for all we know, she still intellectually understands why God is called a Father. You may now want to remind me: “Mother” contradicts “Father”.

In humans, that makes sense: There will probably never be someone who biologically fathers and mothers children. God is not our biological father/ mother, though. We are God’s adopted children, not biological. How is an adoptive father different from an adoptive mother, in a being with no physical body?

And God is called a lot of things which, taken literally, contradict each other:

> He is a rock and living water. Jesus is the door, and the bread of life, and a pearl of great price. – those are different substances, something can’t be water and rock at the same time.

> God is the vine (John 15) and the owner of the vineyard. (Mat. 20)

> God is the Father, and also the groom to his bride. In the material world, the same man being both father and groom to the same woman is very wrong indeed!

We sometimes call God things that seem to contradict one another. These things, which cannot literally be true at the same time, add to our understanding of God.

Or you may want to say: “God never taught us to call him ‘Mother’!”

True, God did not. But how far does that bring you? God never taught anyone to call Him the Rock of Ages either, yet by Isaiah 26:4 we find the term meaningful. Not everyone even agrees that Song of Songs indirectly speaks of God, much less are the terms in it names God calls us to use for Him, yet we do not regard it as heresy to call God the “Lily of the valley” or “the Rose of Sharon.”(Songs 2:1) We are not offended to hear of God being called the Great Physician, even though neither that term nor that image is from the Bible.

You may now say: “But there are at least Bible texts which describe God in terms of an everlasting rock, a healer, or (maybe, if God is in view) the Lily of the valley. Where are texts where God is described in motherly terms?”

> God is like a mother eagle (Deut. 32:11-12)

> God gives birth (Deut. 32:18)

> God is as a comforting mother (Isa. 66:13)

> God is as a woman in labor (Isa. 42:14)

> God is like a mother to a weaned child. (Psalm 131:2)

> God taught Ephraim to walk, was like those who lift infants to their cheeks, God bent down to feed them. (Hos. 11:3-4)

> God is like a bear robbed of her cubs. (Hos. 13:8)

> “El Shaddai”, usually translated as the all-sufficient God, could mean “the many-breasted” one. What do breasts have to do with being sufficient? Think of a nursing mother for one possible answer. (48 appearances in the OT)

> God is as a Mother Hen (Mat. 23:37 and Luk. 13:34)

(If female images of God interest you, here are some more.)

We have way more Biblical examples of God as a mother than of God as the Rock of Ages, the Lion of Judah, or the Lamb of God. I am, therefore, shocked when I see how people – the latest example being Jory Micah – are attacked as heretics for suggesting that God could, among other terms, be called a mother. By God’s images for Godself, God could be called a mother. Don’t get me wrong: I am completely against denying the Fatherhood of God. Motherhood images of God, like any other images, should add to our understanding of God, not subtract from it.

I think this text gives a relevant principle for this issue too:

Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath. (Mrk 2:27)

God seemingly gave us anthropomorphic (humanized) images of the Divine to help us understand him. Anthropomorphic images of God was probably also “made for people, not people made for the images.” Does it help your understanding of God to imagine God as a Father/ Mother? Then look at God that way. Does it hinder you? Then do not deny the truth that is present in the image, but focus on images that do help.

I suspect that most of the people who react strongly to God being called a woman/ mother have as much an emotional reaction as the hypothetical Maria above. The gut reaction of shouting “heresy” and “blasphemy” comes from a place of seeing womanhood itself as lower than manhood, and females as less than males. Seeing womanhood as an insult should be confessed to God, and needs to be changed deep inside.

—————–

Note: The traditional Christian view of God is that God does not have a sex, as God is Spirit, and because male and female both reflect his image. And God says He is “not a man.” (Numbers 23:19 uses a word that should rightly be translated “man” as in “male”, not as in “human.”)
The exception is Jesus in his earthly incarnation, which was male. God uses both male and female images for Godself. However, “Father” is a very major way in which God is revealed in the text, while motherly revelations in scripture are a lot rarer.

 

Comments on: "Is it heresy to describe God as a mother?" (13)

  1. Your explanation from Scripture and the lives of God’s people is a welcome change from most of what I’ve see recently on social media about God’s attributes. Or perhaps I should say this is a welcome return to the discussion I used to see about how the Bible uses female metaphors for God in both the Old and New Testaments.

    The way you laid it out here is also much better for serious thinkers than a line that asserts I’m made in the image of God and I’m a woman so God the father must also be God the mother. It’s not only not how Scripture guides us in understanding the attributes and nature of God; it’s just plain bad logic.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This article is fabulous! Thank you.

    Like

  3. Very very helpful!! I am not sure “go with whatever image feels helpful to you” is sufficient guidance, at least for me, but to say that it is absolutely necessary to acknowledge God’s description of Himself as woman is spot on!

    Like

    • Thanks, Veronika. But “go with whatever image feels helpful to you” is not my word choice. You see, something can feel right and give a wrong image of God. If it helps to give an accurate image, it is good. If it feels good, but gives a wrong image, it is not.

      And it is hard to get guidance in this regard, for me too.

      Like

  4. Joanne L mushlit-Krom said:

    No thanks, ill let God tell me with his own lips truth, yes he is in all and through all. But he is to be head! The wife is the helper. Im not gonna jump in front of my husband and say, ME not you! (Unless maybe saving his life)Like ive seen so many spoiled woman do.They got butt hurt somehow and feel they need to punish the man, change the order and decide if shes gonna kill her child. No thanks. Biblically, i have never read, Gods gonna change his order. I care that hes happy and well. I dont care for people who try to change what God staright forward said. If he said” wife, walk all over your husband cause he deserves it, i may (if i held a grudge) understand. But forgiveness must be first and foremost. Christ died for me so im his, to be kind towards others, even when they hurt me.(sure, ive said” that man should be kinder to his wife”) Its up to GOD to stop them from hurting others. The holy spirits expertise! I cannot do what God can. I call my mother for scriptural advise. On how to endure. She sets me straight to honor. Even in the face of satan. My obedience to God, is going to make life like Thanksgiving everyday. Like Christmas all the time. If God refers to himself as “He” then thats what “He is” if he honors the woman,i do agree, and i would know it. Humbly and quietly. Not pushing the wife in front of trouble, to say shes going to be his defender.Even tho we can be pretty good at it!:) God is the defender of us all. I dont deney God in any form, but being a wife and a mother. Putting” God first” is the safest, healthiest life for my family. “Men” have hurt me, countless times. Christ forgave, so must i.He is my leader. My defense. The order is God, mAn, wife, children. Sure love is felt equally. But we ASK God, a wife doesnt say,” im going to give a baby to these humans”. God does. Sperm doesnt come from the wife. Where do you get the idea, of changing Gods order? Does a child give birth to parents? Did you have a relationship with your parents? Honestly i read enough of your writings, only to get confused. God is the first””” and the last”””” Adam(man) was created FIRST, not Eve. Lets keep it straight!:)literally. God is spiritually in woman, yes. Not just humans. You know whats beautiful? When a husband, shows his wife she is first, in his life. Makes her not feel so small. But lets not go overboard. 🙂

    Like

    • Emily Strength said:

      Hi Joanne,

      It sounds like you’ve been through some quite difficult struggles, and it is comforting to you to know that ultimately God is in control. He is amazing, and he can work miracles in even the most awful people!

      But he created Adam and Eve to be One. In Hebrew, that is the word Echad. It is the same word used in Duet. 6 where it says “The Lord our God, the Lord is One.” We are to be in the same type of unified relationship with each other, as God is with himself.

      I found that so amazing when I learned that!

      Husband and wife should be a team, using their strengths to protect, encourage and lift each other up, and they should both be listening to God’s leading for their family. He won’t lead them in two different directions.

      At the point that one party is abusing that and grabbing for authority (whether it’s the man or the woman), echad or unity is broken.

      I pray that you are safe. Please know that God loves and cherishes you, and does not want to see you be hurt. Emotional and spiritual abuse can be just as damaging, and are just as sinful, as physical abuse.

      I suggest reading the book Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend. It is Biblical and loving to put boundaries around yourself to protect yourself, while letting God deal with other people.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Anne-Cecile Baer Porter said:

    It is sad to read that for some people a woman must be either a sacrificial helper or a bitch walking all over her husband. No other role allowed. She only exists in reference to men. What about a human, beautifully made, with talents and flaws, living her life and loving God?

    Liked by 4 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: