I read this:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:37)

Then I read this:

After looking at an increasingly androgynous Rob Bell in this video, I’d say Bell doesn’t seem limited to a gender either. Any time the feminine side of God is touted by religious leaders, support for homosexuality is never far behind. After all, the thinking goes, if man is made in God’s image, why would he/she be limited to a gender either, right? The goddess, feminine theology, introduced here by Bell and also by the recent Shack novel, will go a long way to push this thinking forward.

Then I thought, “Hmm….I’m an educated man (did very well in college thank you very much). I read a lot. I read The Shack. Strange that when I finished reading it I didn’t come away with even the foggiest notion of goddess worship. Strange that when I finished reading the book I came away with a profound sense that perhaps, yes, God is still very real even when stories don’t have happy endings. Strange that while I was reading the book I had a profound sense of humility that more often than not I have tried to create God in my image instead of allowing the Scripture to control my imagination and, thus, allowing God to be God in his own image. Strange that when I finished reading The Shack, I didn’t feel inclined to worship Aphrodite or Diana or even my wife. However, it was equally strange that I didn’t feel like worshiping an old man with a long white beard, or Zeus, or even myself.

“Strange that I, an educated man who reads, writes, and preaches for a living was not at all uncomfortable with idea that God might look more like Aunt Jemima than Arnold S, more like The Oracle (from the Matrix) than Charlton Heston. Strange that someone might think God purposely goes further out of his way to avoid our stereotypes and pigeonholes than we give him credit for. Strange that when I finished reading The Shack I suddenly believed that God was more powerful, more compassionate, more wise than even I had imagined. Strange, this God who delights in ambiguity and mystery.”

Then I remembered:

“I guess here is my real question in all this…why couldn’t you have made things clear? People go to the Bible and find all these ways to disagree with each other, even or especially theologians. Everybody seems to want to acquire their little piece of doctrinal territory and put fences around it so only those with the secret handshake can get in. Some find support for Universal Reconciliation; some find proofs for eternal torment in hell, and some find it just easier to annihilate everyone who doesn’t make it.” Now I am ranting, but can’t seem to help myself. “The Calvinists find all their verses to debate the Armenians, who find their list. Then there are the ones who believe in eternal security fighting with the ones that don’t.  Every silly idea of eschatology finds its own proof texts and in the middle of all these debates it seems that love is all that gets left behind. We even find ways to fight about grace and love. Couldn’t you have just made it simple and clear; unambiguous?”

I look up and Papa has a big grin on her face, but I don’t return the smile. Without really understanding why, this question is suddenly important to me and I can sense that it has threads connecting many of my internal conflicts.

Papa simply let me tread water in my rant for a while, until some of the emotional residue subsides. “Do you think that all this has surprised me?” she asks gently? “Do you think that I thought, ‘There, they now have the scriptures; they will totally get this’?   Human beings are very creative. They have an incredible facility to take some of the simplest and most obvious truths and make them ambiguous. If I didn’t know better, it would surprise even me.”

“But,” I am struggling to keep my question from becoming an accusation, “Why couldn’t you have made it clearer? How hard would it have been to just have one of the writers put truth down in such a way that there would be no confusion?”

I look up and she is still grinning, obviously enjoying the conversation more than I am. “Like a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) at the back of the Bible?” I roll my eyes, even though part of me thinks that might have been a good idea. Papa pauses to take another sip of her steaming whatever. “Have you ever thought that ambiguity, that mystery, might have purpose?” she posed.

The question actually surprises me and I begin to feel the uneasiness that usually precedes my paradigms being challenged. “Nope. I’ve never thought about that at all. I’ve spent most of my life so focused on certainty, that ambiguity and mystery have always been, sort of…the enemy. Are you telling me that ambiguity is a good thing?”

I think the reason some are afraid of a ‘feminine’ [and there's a big difference between saying 'feminine God' and 'female God'] God is because we haven’t been properly instructed in Scripture. Truth be told, those who think God looks (or acts or is shaped) like a man have a woefully inadequate understanding of God who is Spirit. Truth be told, those who think God looks (or acts or is shaped) like a woman have a woefully inadequate understanding of God who is Spirit. Truth be told, those who cannot imagine God as either, both, and neither have a woefully inadequate picture of the Holy God who will not be limited by the imagination that he built within us in the beginning. Why is this so hard to understand?

I suppose those who think God is one or the other are perfectly satisfied with their understanding of God and, thus, have nothing more to search for, nothing more to seek, no more reason to open their bibles, no more reason to pray, no more reason to even hope. Those who reject ‘feminine’ metaphors have no need for a mother; those who reject ‘masculine’ metaphors have no need for a father. But is aren’t we incomplete without both? Can we even exist if one is absent? I don’t want a god who is limited by my ideas of ‘male’ and ‘female’. I don’t even want a god who is limited by my ideas of mere ‘god’ and ‘goddess.’ I want a God who is strong and sensitive, masculine and feminine, burly and beautiful, willing and wonderful, purposeful and passionate. I want a God who is perfectly masculine and perfectly feminine and creates both to His own glory. I want the God of the Scripture who is perfectly shown us in Jesus.

Ambiguity is a good thing because it keeps us from becoming content in our misconceptions. Ambiguity is good because it keeps us from becoming careless with our caricatures. Ambiguity is a good thing because it keeps us from becoming conceited about our wisdom. Ambiguity is good because it chops us down to size, turns us all around, and makes us rely on grace all over again. I reject out of hand the idea that we will be saved because we have all the right answers to all the wrong questions. Ambiguity is good because it strips us of pride and causes us to cry out all over again, “God have mercy on me, a sinner!” Ahh, grace.

Then it all came together:

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

Now I understand why God gave me a mother and a father. There is a subtle ambiguity in this verse if both man and woman can be created in the image of the same God. Thus, this sentence is just wrong: “Any time the feminine side of God is touted by religious leaders, support for homosexuality is never far behind.” Wrong! That sentence is so wrong it could not be more wrong. It is beyond wrong. It is abysmally wrong. When both sides of the coin are presented, when they are held in tension, when the ambiguity is unresolved, we have a complete picture of God in whose image man and woman were created. I reject the idea that because both ’sides’ of God are present that a teaching about homosexuality is, and must necessarily be, close behind. Rather it seems to me that when one side is neglected, and only one side is presented, then will homosexuality follow behind closely. I wonder how many male homosexuals didn’t have a father? I wonder how many female homosexuals didn’t have a mother? Not all, mind you; but I wonder how many. In other words it is the absence of correct theology of the ‘feminine’ side of God that creates the problems for the church, not its presence.

I’m troubled by all this talk not because I feel a personal need to defend The Shack (although I do) or because I think there is a glaring omission of ‘feminine’ theology in the church (although there is). I’m troubled because in all our talk about God we are missing the greater point: The only real image of God we have is Jesus. “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father,” Jesus said (John14:9).

And Jesus wasn’t afraid of feminine metaphors or masculine metaphors as images of God. Jesus was perfectly content, it seems to me, to allow that God would be the perfect standard of righteousness for both men and women. If God’s image is the image in which men and women are created, and God’s righteousness is the perfect standard for masculinity and femininity in the church (unless there is more than one God!), then it seems to me that exploring both ’sides’ should not only be encouraged, but it is also quite necessary for our understanding of ourselves and God. He gave us one image by which to explore ‘both sides’: Jesus.

Soli Deo Gloria!

PS-Joe, thanks for your post on this subject too!

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121 Comments(+Add)

1   Chad    http://www.chadholtz.wordpress.com
December 16th, 2008 at 7:45 pm

Beautiful, Jerry.

You are so right. It is insanity to think that only bad things happen when the feminine side of God is touted and for all the reasons you give.

The fact that God took on human flesh and decided that it would be male and yet is the savior of the world by assuming all humanity tells us that to God, gender is not the determinant factor in our humanity. Indeed, we make it incredibly important….but we are fallen creatures. That is what we do best. Make the unimportant infinitely important.

In Christ there is neither male or female. In Christ, we are called to be much more than our gender, our race, our nationhood.

Great post!

2   j    http://www.urgentprayers.com
December 16th, 2008 at 7:50 pm

to Rob Bell and this followers

I seem to remember in the bible that

God is called the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Nothing about a “She” in there.

3   iggy    http://wordofmouthministries.blogspot.com/
December 16th, 2008 at 7:56 pm

j,
Then you must have cut that out of the bible… in fact the bible refers to God as a mother hen as referenced above in the post… sooo… a hen is female. God is referred right there in the Female.

Try reading the post before you comment, it might make your argument stronger… or not… as in the case of some but at least you can say your read it.

I guess you have a type of Thomas Jefferson Bible where you cut out what your do not want and leave in it what you want.

I say all that as if you read the article no one stated God was a female… Jerry actually commented on that idea in the post… so it was obvious you have not even read it.

iggy

4   j    http://www.urgentprayers.com
December 16th, 2008 at 8:44 pm

okay, iggy

which bible verses say God is a “female”

5   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
December 16th, 2008 at 9:01 pm

which bible verses say God is a “female”

Dude, you don’t even have to read past the first page.

Gen 1:27

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

If both man and woman were created in God’s image, it pretty much mean there are both masculine and feminine traits within God’s nature. I fail to see the controversy…

It’s funny to me the things that people get stuck on with Bell and others. Seriously, after listening to many of his sermons, I feel challenged or compelled to change something in my life. I really think that the petty reactions that some people have is just a smokescreen they put up so don’t have to deal with the actual content of his books and sermons. It’s sad, because they’re just closing themselves off to hearing from a word from God.

6   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
December 16th, 2008 at 9:33 pm

to Rob Bell and this followers

Since Jerry, Phil and Iggs dealt with the meat of your misconception, I would just add that I don’t know that Bell has any followers, and I suspect he’d be uncomfortable if he did. As I understand Bell’s teaching, we are all to be followers of Jesus, not any other man…

7   Jerry    http://www.dangoldfinch.wordpress.com
December 16th, 2008 at 9:57 pm

j,

you wrote:

to Rob Bell and this followers

I seem to remember in the bible that

and

which bible verses say God is a “female”

To your first statement: I am not a ‘Rob Bell follower.’ I haven’t even read any of his books and I have listened to exactly 23 minutes of one of his sermons.

To your second point: You seem to remember the parts of the Bible you wish to remember.

To your third point: There are no verses in the bible that refer to God as a ‘female.’ However, neither are there any verses that refer to him as a ‘male.’ These are distinctly human constructs and are meaningless to God, a Spirit.

To be sure, and I pointed this out in the OP, there is a significant, huge, massive difference between saying there are ‘feminine’ metaphors about God in the Bible and that the God of the Bible is a ‘female.’ I affirm the former, and reject the latter. To be sure, this is simple grammar.

thanks for stopping by and proving once again that many things can be said when one reads a title and not a post.

jerry

8   Christian P    http://www.churchvoices.com
December 16th, 2008 at 9:57 pm

The sad irony for people who think that homosexual approval must follow an acceptance of God having feminine traits is that many ministries to homosexuals use the Genesis 1:27 passage to witness and to counsel. The only thing we do when we reject these scriptural truths is damage our ministry.

9   Mike    
December 16th, 2008 at 10:24 pm

You know funny thing. I have watched two Nooma videos and there are things in them that make me go “Huh?” There are also things in them that make me go “I’m not sure about that…”

But rather than say “I’m gonna check his theology and tear that heretic apart” I just say, “maybe I don’t get what he is saying” or “maybe that reference isn’t for me” or even “Bell and I must differ on that point.”

And then I move on to the points that do speak to me, because, bottom-line the differences are not in primary doctrine, the differences are in man’s interpretations of things that are secondary to the primary Gospel message.

I just can’t understand why some of our brothers and sisters in Christ can’t just realize that some people read things different.

Boy are they gonna be surprised when those baptists are in heaven with them…

-Mike

10   iggy    http://wordofmouthministries.blogspot.com/
December 16th, 2008 at 11:27 pm

J,

Sorry this took so long, I have a bit of a fever and have been out of it most the day.

Interestingly the Body of Christ, The Church is also call the Bride of Christ… I think right there is a strong verse that refers to not only the Church but the Body of Jesus now being referred to as female. Now that does not mean Jesus is female or has female genitals so please to even go there.

In Gen. 1:26-27 it is clear that we are created in the image of God. Again, this is not about likeness or resemblance rather that it took both a man and a woman to be the “image” of God… or it took two beings one male and one female to fulfill the vocation or being God’s representative on earth.

One already referenced a few times already is in the verse:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:37)

If you cannot see that Jesus refers to himself as not only female but a hen… but again this is not saying, nor am I stating God has a “sex”…

Isaiah 42 13-14 God refers to himself as a “woman in labor/childbirth”

Isaiah 42: 13. The LORD will march out like a mighty man, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies.14. “For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant.

Numbers 11:12 God states he gave birth and suckled at His breast the Hebrews.

Numbers 11:12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their forefathers?

Isa. 66:12-13 God states He is like a mother once again.

Isaiah 66:12. For this is what the LORD says: “I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees. 13. As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”

Isaiah 46:3-4 again has God referring to Himself as a “mother”…

Now again j, I do not see God as a literal “mother” that has “breasts” and “suckles” Zion or us… but the imagery is there in the bible. Sometimes God does refer to Himself as feminine. So if this offends you take it up with God who inspired Isaiah and Moses and even Jesus to speak of God in such a way.

iggy

11   John Hughes    
December 16th, 2008 at 11:47 pm

Jerry: more often than not I have tried to create God in my image instead of allowing the Scripture to control my imagination and, thus, allowing God to be God in his own image

.

No, Jerry you have got this backwards. It is in all these female protrayals of God that we are creating a God of our own imagination. Scripture is very, VERY clear in its portrayal of God. I will partially repeat my previous post:

Israel recognized God as masculine:

Isaiah 63:16 – For You are our Father, though Abraham does not know us And Israel does not recognize us You, O LORD, are our Father, Our Redeemer from of old is Your name.

God identified Himself as masculine:

Jer 3:19 – “Then I said, ‘How I would set you among My sons And give you a pleasant land, The most beautiful inheritance of the nations!’ And I said, ‘You shall call Me, My Father, And not turn away from following Me.’

Jesus only addressed God as Father in reference to gender:

Matthew 11:27 – ” All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

Jesus gave explicit instructions to address God as masculine:

Matthew 6:9 – ” Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.

The “hen” reference in the Gospels as proof of God’s feminine side misses the point that it is the (inarguably) male Jesus who is saying this about Himself. Not about His father. All males and females share some similar traits that are traditionally associated with the opposite gender. Also reference this Scripture:

Psa 103:13 Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.

Sounds like a father pretty in touch with his “feminine” side to me which in no way affects his gender. We have the same situation of the Holy Spirit “brooding” over the water with the same word used in Jer 23:9 which describes an eagle taking her young under its wing. OK. So we are going to base a whole theology of gender interchangeability for the Godhead on these two verses?

Being made in the image of God has nothing to do with gender as God the Father and God the Holy Spirit have no gender. It has everything to do with mind, self awareness, soul and spirit. My wife “creates” children in her image: both male and female. They are created as human beings that share the same order of being. This is not quite the same as man and God of course, but you can understand the correlation. The gender of the image is irrelevant, but there is a true distinction of gender.

This whole issue is a difficult concept to grasp because a spirit does not have a gender. So on one level the argument is meaningless. However, I must go back to unimpeachable fact that WHENEVER God’s, or the Spirit’s or the Son’s “gender” is addressed He is always, ALWAYS referred to as Father (by definition male), “He” “His” by pronoun. Further, I have provided just two of several Scriptures where we are COMMANDED to address God as Father (by definition male). I just have to trust that God has a reason for revealing himself thusly and trust HIM in this copious revelation. It’s obviously important to Him.

So, yes “The Shack’s” portrayal of members of the Trinity as women is problematic, troubling and IMO heretical.

12   John Hughes    
December 16th, 2008 at 11:51 pm

Jerry: Strange that someone might think God purposely goes further out of his way to avoid our stereotypes and pigeonholes than we give him credit for.

Jerry, Please! It is a human author who is going out of his way to shatter Biblical “sterotypes” and “pigeonholes”, not God. The Biblical mandate on God’s so called “gender” could not be clearer. You have elevated this author above Scripture.

13   John Hughes    
December 16th, 2008 at 11:59 pm

Iggy: Numbers 11:12 is Moses speaking of himself, not God.

14   John Hughes    
December 17th, 2008 at 12:01 am

Isaiah 66:12-13 refers to Zion, not God. Good grief! And you rag on PB.

15   iggy    http://wordofmouthministries.blogspot.com/
December 17th, 2008 at 12:26 am

John H…

I will give you Numbers 11:12, yet go and read the context and who is speaking in Isaiah 66… note these words:

12. For this is what the LORD says: “I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees. 13. As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”

So the feminine is a reference to God Himself and also to Zion… look at who is speaking… the phrase “THis is what the Lord God says” is a good indicator God is speaking. Then God speaks of Zion, yet after that God speaks of Himself…”As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you”… So it seems I am not off in as far as what God is referring to Himself as a “mother”.

Now cut me some slack I have had a temp of 101 today and still came out with many references that you seem to be trying to refute but are there. I will note that the difference between and PB since you brought it up, is that I acknowledged I may have one bad reference there PB would fight you till the end as if he never made a mistake! … but still the second one you questioned seems that you have not read the context yourself closely enough.

Now that one and the others I gave are still evidence enough that God does refer to Himself in the feminine at times.

iggy

16   Rick Frueh    http://http?//followingjudahslion.com
December 17th, 2008 at 7:10 am

The main problem with any issue of almost any importance is that some deal with these things with the same hysterical, atomic bomb mentality that they would if addressing Mormon Christology. I am happy to see men like John Hughes have a confrontational, but reasoned discourse which makes the merits of his thoughts much clearer and within the realm of actual consideration by reasonable Bible students.

Although we must be careful about how we represent the Lord, if we refuse to use any object lessons unless they are just quoted verses we must take inventory about a number of things. No puppets for children that project Jesus, no movies with human actors portraying Christ, no passion plays in church, no manger scene reinactments, and several other accepted ways to teach through object lessons. Additionally, since we can rest under God’s wings is He a bird?

Again, we must be careful and measured, and Rob Bell’s title was perhaps unneccessarily provocative, but was his intent to assign gender status to God, much less pave the way for the “jack booted storm troopers of the gay SS” ? I am now convinced that after the rapture the entire world will be gay, with Barney Frank as their leader. :roll:

17   Rick Frueh    http://http?//followingjudahslion.com
December 17th, 2008 at 7:20 am

And speaking of desecrating the real with the counterfeit and earthly, what about all the crosses made of metal and gold and silver and worn as jewelry or in a sanctuary or on a church building? To take the greatest event in human history, and the core of our faith, and reduce it to symbalism and a visual, bloodless depiction, is…well…just another example of the gay influence in the church! :cool:

18   Chad    http://www.chadholtz.wordpress.com
December 17th, 2008 at 8:27 am

The Biblical mandate on God’s so called “gender” could not be clearer.

John H or anyone else:

Does God the Father have a penis?

serioulsy.

19   Jerry    http://www.dangoldfinch.wordpress.com
December 17th, 2008 at 8:30 am

John,

In the first place, I seriously think that you have misunderstood what I am saying and, consequently, I think you miss the intent of the author of The Shack who, at the end of the book portrays ‘Papa’ as quite ‘male’. But here’s the problem: I think you are confusing notions of male/female with metaphors of masculine/feminine.

No one, not I, not Iggy, not the author of The Shack is saying God is a female or God is a woman. However, I don’t think any of us are, either, saying God is a male or God is a man. Scripture says God is a Spirit. If you want to trump Scripture by declaring God is one or the other, by all means take the liberty. But that is not what ‘we’ are saying at all. Yes there are metaphorical images in Scripture that describe God in terms of a ‘man.’ These are called anthropomorphisms and, in a patriarchal society such as theirs was, are quite understandable. That doesn’t mean we should think of God in terms of our own physical maleness. There are also, as Iggy pointed out, metaphorical images in Scripture that describe God in terms of a ‘woman.’ This doesn’t mean we should think of God as a woman. Terms like Father and pronouns like ‘him’, etc., are condescensions that create images for us to understand things we cannot otherwise understand.

And that is what I’m saying: Both images are necessary and it is wrong to trump one side by invoking the other.

On the other hand, you twice made my point ‘God is Spirit and has no gender.’ If this is true, and you seem to think so, then how on earth is it heretical to portray God as one or the other? No one is saying that we should alter the Lord’s prayer and start praying to ‘our mother in heaven;’ no one is saying that all of a sudden Jesus was ‘God’s only begotten daughter.’ However, I would point out that The Shack is a fictional book, the action takes place while a man is in a coma, and it is a the work of an imagination that is steeped in Scripture, believes in a trinitarian God, and affirms, the sacrificial work of Christ.

You commented on this: “Strange that someone might think God purposely goes further out of his way to avoid our stereotypes and pigeonholes than we give him credit for.” I was referring to Scripture, not the author of The Shack. God is described in many ways in Scripture: A Rock, a shield, a fortress, a warrior, a hen, a mother, a father, Bread, Light, Water, etc., etc. That, to me, sounds rather ambiguous.

Finally, as I said in my OP and as Phil also noted, tell me how men and women can both be created in the image of God if God is strictly ‘male.’

What is the ‘Biblical mandate’ on God’s ‘gender’? I don’t know what this sentence means. Should God also be neuter in gender since he is a Rock? Should Jesus be neuter because he says ‘I am the Bread of Life”? And if it is true that Jesus referred to himself the “Hen” doesn’t that make my case, not yours?

jerry

20   Chad    http://www.chadholtz.wordpress.com
December 17th, 2008 at 8:42 am

Well said, Jerry.

The anthropomophisms found throughout scripture are God’s way of descending (condescending) to our level so that we can hold a conversation about Someone who’s name is unpronounceable (YHWH). God meets us where we are so that we can communicate. Like Jerry said, it is not surprise in the cultures in which scripture came to be that male imagery was used – not ONLY because it was a patriarchy society but perhaps to also counter some of the fertility/goddess cults that existed in the day.

That does not mean we should bind God to those anthropomorphisms. He is not limited by them in the way we are limited by our language.

21   Jerry    http://www.dangoldfinch.wordpress.com
December 17th, 2008 at 8:54 am

Yes, and too, how have we come so far from understanding simple things like ‘metaphor’?

The portrayal of God as a ‘female’ in The Shack is a metaphor.

As is Jesus’ use of the word ‘hen’.

As is Moses’ use of the word ‘breast.’

As is Paul’s use of the word ‘bride’ and ‘body’ to describe the church which is Christ.

And, to top it all off, the point of my OP is to turn on its head the stupid idea that because we talk about the ‘feminine’ side of God-metaphors that we must necessarily all become homosexuals. When I finished reading The Shack, I wasn’t suddenly overcome by the urge to drive to a local ‘gay-bar.’ That sentence in the SOL post made the entire post meaningless.

jerry

22   Rick Frueh    http://http?//followingjudahslion.com
December 17th, 2008 at 8:57 am

Chad – the shock value of your comment is unnecessary and counter productive to any reasonable discourse. Was it necessary to choose that particular part of the male anatomy, or is that your method of providing verbiage that attracts attention to your communication rather than the subject itself.

I find it offensive and somewhat adolescent.

23   Chad    http://www.chadholtz.wordpress.com
December 17th, 2008 at 9:03 am

Chad – the shock value of your comment is unnecessary

I doubt it.

Before you even commented I was in the process of saying the following:

I have been in many conversations such as these. The theory and theology and philosophy and linguistic arguments are all presented and everyone is still usually unmoved and unconvinced.

At that point I will ask: Ok, does God the Father have a penis?

Once everyone gets over the shock that someone would ask such a profane and offensive question (i.e. Rick) they start to realize how offensive and ridiculous their entire argument that God is ‘male’ really is.

So, Rick, I am not sorry if that offended you. It should.

24   John Hughes    
December 17th, 2008 at 9:04 am

Iggy,

Hope you are feeling better today. My wife and I have the crud this week also.

25   John Hughes    
December 17th, 2008 at 9:12 am

Chad: The anthropomophisms found throughout scripture are God’s way of descending (condescending) to our level so that we can hold a conversation about Someone who’s name is unpronounceable (YHWH).

Chad, well said and agreed actually. However, for example, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs gave birth to the personal computer industry. Bill Graham gave birth to a ministry that has touched millions and millions. It’s a figure of speech! It does not give someone the license to portray Mr. Graham as a female in a work of fiction.

To Rick’s point about Christmas pagents, children’s puppet shows etc. It’s one thing to act out the Biblical narrative it’s another thing (as in The Shack) to portray God **and** add (or take away) words from the mouth of God. All moving narratives aside such words are the IMAGINATION of a man who is not exegeting by allegory but is putting words in the mouth of God and using “God” as a spokesperson for his own throughts and agenda. Selah.

26   iggy    http://wordofmouthministries.blogspot.com/
December 17th, 2008 at 9:14 am

John H,

Thanks… feeling a bit better today as the fever broke… and I want to second what Rick stated about how you are more reasoned than many that come here even in disagreement.

And I also want to make it clear that I am in no way saying God is male or female… I was trying very hard to point out only that there are times God speaks in reference to Himself (notice I always state male?) in the feminine.

I see that God is beyond male/female and that as stated in Genesis, it takes both male/female to be the “image” of God… God is both just and compassionate which I believe at the time He revealed Himself to Moses was unheard of. I see that in a sense Just is the male while Compassionate is the female.

But I would never state of God that we as humans look like God in any way… unless you take into account the Glorified Christ Jesus.

iggy

27   Chad    http://www.chadholtz.wordpress.com
December 17th, 2008 at 9:17 am

Chad, well said and agreed actually. However, for example, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs gave birth to the personal computer industry. Bill Graham gave birth to a ministry that has touched millions and millions. It’s a figure of speech! It does not give someone the license to portray Mr. Graham as a female in a work of fiction.

John – how can you “agree” and then “disagree” to the same point? You have created a paradox to which I do not have enough coffee this morning to endure.

Mr. Graham is not God, John. To depict Mr. Graham as a female in any literature would not be literay licencse – it would just be stupid. Mr. Graham has not said: I am neither male nor female or that “he” is Spirit.

So that doesn’t make any sense.

I am still interested to know whether or not God the Father has a penis.

28   Rick Frueh    http://http?//followingjudahslion.com
December 17th, 2008 at 9:18 am

Chad – I believe that any productive discourse designed to produce reasonable understanding between two opposing views must have enough maturity and sensitivity on both sides so that each attempts to communicate in such a way that takes into consideration the weaknesses and the verbiage that will lend itself to offenses rather than taking a more charitable route, especially when it can accomplish the same result.

I realize you are not sorry that I am offended, and that is revelatory in and of itself. You can, as others, ignore the segments of Scripture that seem to hinder your methodology since the end always justifies the means.

But as we identify the spiritual and Biblical ignorances in others, let us not ignore the planks in our own eyes as well.

29   chris    
December 17th, 2008 at 9:20 am

However, for example, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs gave birth to the personal computer industry. Bill Graham gave birth to a ministry that has touched millions and millions. It’s a figure of speech! It does not give someone the license to portray Mr. Graham as a female in a work of fiction.

That’s because we can definitely “see” that they are male! They have a penis! Which makes them male.

Maybe I’ve battled a little to much about this recently but this is such a stupid little argument; that we constantly have. God is neither male nor female, God embodies both attributes, and so much more. Why is this so difficult to understand?

30   Chad    http://www.chadholtz.wordpress.com
December 17th, 2008 at 9:22 am

Rick, that is all fluff. Sorry.

If someone is going to argue that God is ‘male’ and not ‘female’ than they have to be willing to take their argument to its logical conclusion. The fact that you or anyone is offended by that statement only tells me that we are no longer dancing around the issue and holding speech of God at arm’s length but actually in the nerve center.

Sometimes it takes being offended to move beyond the theological masturbation that we so often get caught up in.

31   John Hughes    
December 17th, 2008 at 9:22 am

Chad,

Does God have a penis? Well, I assume Jesus does in whom the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form. God chose to exegete Himself to humanity as a male. Jesus (a male) is the ultimate exegesis of the Father. God could have chosen to exegete Himself as a female. He did not and we must assume the form he did take was premeditated and has meaning. Does God demonstrate both male and female attributes? Yes, of course. But that does not give us the licence to willy nilly portray God as a female when **ALL** overt (i.e., non similie or metaphor) references to Him in Scripture are masculine.

32   Rick Frueh    http://http?//followingjudahslion.com
December 17th, 2008 at 9:25 am

I see no actual danger in some imagery that incorperates female characteristics, however we must be careful since that kind of temporary departure from the mainstream of Biblical revelation can evolve into a journey that cannot find its way back and follows paths of it own human making that misrepresents God completely.

33   John Hughes    
December 17th, 2008 at 9:27 am

Chad it is a paradox. God is spirit and is neither male or female and yet He consistantly portrays Himself as a Father (i.e. male) figure throughout Scripture. I trust Him there is a reason for it.

34   Rick Frueh    http://http?//followingjudahslion.com
December 17th, 2008 at 9:29 am

Chad – I will receive your response in the spirit in which it is given and suspend direct communication between you and me since I can also be tempted to descend into self serving dialogue that is condescending and dismissive of others, which you have in past threads objected to when you seemed to be the recipient.

35   John Hughes    
December 17th, 2008 at 9:30 am

Chad: “Theological masterbation”. That’s a new one on me dude!

. . .

I probably **won’t** be using that metaphor come to think of it.

36   nc    
December 17th, 2008 at 9:30 am

Or…instead of “premeditated meaning” could the male of gender of the Second Person be an act of accomodation to the brokenness of a patriarchal society?

If there is a “meaning” to it…then I’d be interested to hear what is the “meaning” of God’s “self-exegesis” as a male then?

John Hughes, what do you think God is communicating in Jesus being male?

37   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
December 17th, 2008 at 9:31 am

John,
Unless I’m misunderstanding you, it almost sounds like you’re saying two self-contradictory things at the same time. It sounds like you’re saying God doesn’t have a gender, but He does want us to think of Him as a certain gender.

I think part of what we’re getting hung up on is the whole physicality of how we look at gender. We can’t really imagine a truly genderless being for the most part (unless you’re talking of the It’s Pat skits on SNL…), so I think when we start talking about the feminine attributes of God’s nature it naturally grates with us.

Personally, I think part of the reason God chose to use masculine language to refer to Himself in tho OT was give the Israelites a true picture of what masculinity meant in contrast to the caricatures that were prevalent in the surrounding cultures.

In any case, I still can’t say that I’ve ever heard anyone refer to God as “she” in common usage, even the most “emergent”. I’ve heard a few people say things meant to be provocative, but I think this whole idea that everyone is turning to godess worship is the typical hyperbole.

38   Chad    http://www.chadholtz.wordpress.com
December 17th, 2008 at 9:32 am

God could have chosen to exegete Himself as a female.

God could have. And we would have no more reason to think God is a female anymore than we have reason to think God is a male.

As several have already pointed out: male AND female were created to reflect the image of God. You can’t get around that. For every bit that you want to say God is male you must go the same distance to insist God is female. But even that all falls apart when you square all that with the fact God is Spirit and that in Christ there is “no male or female.”

Why do you suppose God took on the form of a male in Jesus? How well, in the 1st century, do you think a female prophet would have been received? Do you think God is so ignorant of his creatures and their culture that God does not know how to best communicate to us?

It is a vestige of our fallen nature (sin) that makes us as men want to insist that God is more male than female. Not saying that this is you, but it is exactly this sort of thinking and argument that has made the subjugation of women a “Christian” virtue.

Gregory of Nazianzus said that God could not redeem that which God has not assumed. If Gregory is right (and I think he is) then by your logic, since God took on the form of a male then only men are saved and women are still damned.

UNLESS….unless God does not see our gender as something that defines our humanity. Unless God is able to see past our maleness and femaleness and see us as much more. Quite unlike we humans in our fallen state look at (or objectify) others and restrict them to the roles we have created for gender, race and so forth.

39   John Hughes    
December 17th, 2008 at 9:36 am

Phil: but I think this whole idea that everyone is turning to godess worship is the typical hyperbole.

Agreed.

40   Rick Frueh    http://http?//followingjudahslion.com
December 17th, 2008 at 9:37 am

God’s revealing of Himself in the masculine must have had a communicative purpose. It is a learing conduit, not an actual reality, however if we assume all gender prisms will produce the same accurate revelations of the Divine we run the risk of unintentially maring the image. Teaching the feminine qualities of God gives some perspective, as long as we do not remove the main gender conduit that God has chosen to reveal Himself.

41   Chad    http://www.chadholtz.wordpress.com
December 17th, 2008 at 9:37 am

Chad – I will receive your response in the spirit in which it is given and suspend direct communication between you and me since I can also be tempted to descend into self serving dialogue that is condescending and dismissive of others, which you have in past threads objected to when you seemed to be the recipient.

That’s your call, Rick. What I find “self serving” is when people argue God is ‘male’ and then get all “offended” when you ask them direct questions related to their egocentric, patriarchal theology. It is like they don’t want to face up to their own warped thinking on the matter.

42   John Hughes    
December 17th, 2008 at 9:38 am

NC: John Hughes, what do you think God is communicating in Jesus being male?

That of the two choices (male and female) the male best represents His basic nature.

43   nc    
December 17th, 2008 at 9:38 am

Actually, God’s depiction as “Father” is only 1 of many self-depictions and…if we look at historical work done…the ancient Hebrews were actually quite ambivalent about portraying Yahweh as explicitly gendered.

That’s part of the theological concern/pushback with the historic insistence on the part of some of the henotheistic impulses in hebrew culture to give Yahweh a “wife”…Asherah, etc. etc.

It wasn’t just some idea of pure “idolatry” and “monotheism”. The jewish literature in the OT really shows a neutral or multi-form depiction.

In the minor prophets God refers to himself as husband because it assists in communicating the “point” of concern: Namely, the offensive metaphor of adultery to bring the spiritual condition of Israel into high relief…not to absolutize a “gender” for even the pre-incarnate Deity…

Furthermore, in those same minor prophets, the rhetoric blurs the gender lines by not just deploying the image (”image”, remember) of “husband”, but then also puts in the mouth of God imagery of God nurturing Israel at God’s breasts and birthing imagery (”cords”–specifically).

44   John Hughes    
December 17th, 2008 at 9:39 am

Phil: John, Unless I’m misunderstanding you, it almost sounds like you’re saying two self-contradictory things at the same time. It sounds like you’re saying God doesn’t have a gender, but He does want us to think of Him as a certain gender.

Yep, that’s pretty much it.

45   nc    
December 17th, 2008 at 9:40 am

John Hughes,

Yikes!

Well, thanks for being open about your assessment.

What does that say to you ultimately then about “being male” in general and “being female” in general?

46   John Hughes    
December 17th, 2008 at 9:40 am

Chad: As several have already pointed out: male AND female were created to reflect the image of God. You can’t get around that.

Except that **image** has to do with being (self awarness, soul, spirit) and not gender.

47   Chad    http://www.chadholtz.wordpress.com
December 17th, 2008 at 9:41 am

That of the two choices (male and female) the male best represents His basic nature.

Welcome to the world of barefoot and pregnant.

John, this is precisely the reason works like The Shack and Bell’s Nooma “She” are vitally important in this day and age.

Nothing could be further from the truth than to insist that “maleness” is closer to God-ness than a female is.

48   nc    
December 17th, 2008 at 9:43 am

God doesn’t have a gender, but the power of devotionally inflecting God with different images of gender or and also without it really only serves to illustrate the profound and infinite range of meaning that God can give and speaks to in us.

49   nc    
December 17th, 2008 at 9:44 am

ARe you saying that “female” is essentially about “spirit”/feelings/ etc.?

50   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
December 17th, 2008 at 9:45 am

Except that **image** has to do with being (self awarness, soul, spirit) and not gender.

I have a hard time accepting that. For most people, gender is probably the thing that is strongest in their self-awareness. So I think that it’s much easier to say that God engenders (no pun intended) all aspects of maleness and femaleness.

In your earlier example, you used the example of your wife having children. Well the whole problem with that is that your wife could not “create” them on her own. It took both male and female to create another being in their image. So to me, it make perfect sense to see how a God that encompasses all genders could create single gender beings and have them both be created in His image.

51   John Hughes    
December 17th, 2008 at 9:46 am

“Does God have a penis?”

Yes, I saw it in the shower yesterday. You can read all about it in my new book, “The Dormatory”.

:-)

52   John Hughes    
December 17th, 2008 at 9:48 am

Phil: So to me, it make perfect sense to see how a God that encompasses all genders could create single gender beings and have them both be created in His image.

Phil, I can really see that. But on the other hand I can’t get past the copious revelation of God as Father. Paradox (for me at least) indeed.

53   Chad    http://www.chadholtz.wordpress.com
December 17th, 2008 at 9:48 am

John, your statement is a prime example of how our theology can deeply wound people.

Is it possible for you to imagine what it must be like to be a woman who hears that a man more closely resembles the “basic nature of God” than a female?

How do you think that affects someone pyschologically?

Surely the God we worship and is revealed to us in Jesus is not a God who wishes to wound us even deeper. This is the God who wishes to free us from this sort of bondage that historically, men have constructed.

Essentially, what statements like yours say to a woman is that in order to be more like God they have to be more like a man – an act they can never pull off and therefore they are forever wounded and always feel “less than.”

Is that God’s intention for you or anyone?

54   nc    
December 17th, 2008 at 9:53 am

I still don’t know how you can perceive a “copious” amount of revelation as “Father” in the Scripture?

55   Rick Frueh    http://http?//followingjudahslion.com
December 17th, 2008 at 9:55 am

This conversation has left the core issue and degenerated into baseness and inappropriate “humor”. And it showcases the fact that just as the ODMs use careless and verbiage and are inconsiderate of others, so it is with their detracters. Christianity is all about us and must ignore others, especially when the others do not agree with us.

I would not encourage my daughter to read this thread, to say nothing of how the Holy Spirit must view it. I know, I am a dinosaur and have a different perspective on both verbiage and the consideration of everyone at the table.

56   Chad    http://www.chadholtz.wordpress.com
December 17th, 2008 at 9:59 am

Rick. We are adults having a grown-up conversation. The word “penis” is not a bad word.

Seriously, you should lighten up. No one is forcing you to read or be part of a conversation that is discussing gender as it relates to God.
But if you are going to be part of it, you should expect that the questions asked will be asked.

57   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
December 17th, 2008 at 10:02 am

I would not encourage my daughter to read this thread, to say nothing of how the Holy Spirit must view it. I know, I am a dinosaur and have a different perspective on both verbiage and the consideration of everyone at the table.

How old is your daughter?

I don’t know. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using the word “penis”, really. Perhaps we should go the OT route and refer to it as a “foot” instead.

58   Chad    http://www.chadholtz.wordpress.com
December 17th, 2008 at 10:05 am

Why is it assumed that being a Christian means you must be a prude?

If I were arguing that God is a woman with the same intensity and conviction that some here are arguing that God is a man I would expect (and hope!) someone would stop and ask me: Does God have breasts and a woo hoo?

Sorry – it is rare that I get the chance to insert the word “woo hoo” into a theological conversation

59   John Hughes    
December 17th, 2008 at 10:07 am

Chad: Nothing could be further from the truth than to insist that “maleness” is closer to God-ness than a female is.

You have a point there. I don’t believe that either. I will have to ponder that.

60   John Hughes    
December 17th, 2008 at 10:10 am

NC: I still don’t know how you can perceive a “copious” amount of revelation as “Father” in the Scripture?

NC are you being serious?

61   Chad    http://www.chadholtz.wordpress.com
December 17th, 2008 at 10:13 am

You have a point there. I don’t believe that either. I will have to ponder that.

Cool. And for the record, I didn’t really think you did believe that. Most people don’t. However, we rarely think through these things or consider how our talk of God can be damaging to people not like us.

It is why I find it useful (despite Rick’s objections) to jar us out of the normal discourse we tend to get caught up in by asking the obvious question that is the elephant in the room.

62   Rick Frueh    http://http?//followingjudahslion.com
December 17th, 2008 at 10:14 am

Thank you all for your kind consideration for a weaker brother. And you may springboard again from this comment as well in the same sense of brotherhood as before.

I am sorry I have disappointed you.

63   Chad    http://www.chadholtz.wordpress.com
December 17th, 2008 at 10:17 am

And Rick, not to belabor the point but I do not want you thinking that my dismissal of your objections is out of arrogance. When I take the pulpit to preach I do not make it a habit of editing my sermon so as to not offend anyone. Sometimes people need to be offended. We worship a God who is in the business of jarring our sensibilities and upsetting the status-quo. IMO, a sermon that serves only to validate what you already think about yourself and God is a pointless sermon. If that spills over into my blogging and commenting, well, all the better.

64   Chad    http://www.chadholtz.wordpress.com
December 17th, 2008 at 10:21 am

Rick – we cross-posted. You didn’t disappoint me.

peace.

65   nc    
December 17th, 2008 at 10:21 am

Yes.

I am.

66   nc    
December 17th, 2008 at 10:23 am

Rick,

You disappoint me everyday.
I’m still waiting for you to become a piece of crap like me.

Just trying to add a little levity to the thread….

;)

67   Chad    http://www.chadholtz.wordpress.com
December 17th, 2008 at 10:27 am

I’m still waiting for you to become a piece of crap like me.

This made me laugh and think of my 3 yr old son who is FINALLY potty trained. Yesterday he came to get me to show me what he “did” in his potty. He said, “Look, dada, it’s my poo poo wrapped up in an eggplant.”

eggplant? Where do they come up with this stuff??

68   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
December 17th, 2008 at 10:34 am

eggplant? Where do they come up with this stuff??

Moe: Aw, it ain’t no mystery. The whole modern world’s got a swishifying effect on kids today. And their MTVs and their diet sodas ain’t gonna set ’em straight, neither. You gotta do it yourself, Homer, and you gotta do it fast.

69   John Hughes    
December 17th, 2008 at 10:35 am

NC. Come on, come on. Just do a word search on “Father”. I’m not going there.

70   Chad    http://www.chadholtz.wordpress.com
December 17th, 2008 at 10:46 am

NC. Come on, come on. Just do a word search on “Father”. I’m not going there.

I don’t think it matters how “copious” the Father references may or may not be.

If you admit that there is even just one reference to God as a female (which there are several) than it does not matter how many references there are to Father. It is not like there is some scale from 1 to infinity that “maleness” or “femaleness” is calculated.

That is to say, if “Father” were mentioned 100 times in scripture but “Mother” were mentioned only 7 times, that does not mean God is further up the “male” scale than the “female” scale. It does not mean we ignore the female references because there are more male ones.

This made more sense in my head than when I typed it out.

71   nc    
December 17th, 2008 at 10:49 am

I’m serious.

It’s not about “prooftexting” by virtue of an argument of “how many times” the word gets used…

I mean, my last post offers some serious historical arguments about “gendering” God within the OT setting.

Your thoughts on it?

72   nc    
December 17th, 2008 at 10:51 am

Chad,

If you also take into account that other names aren’t necessarily “male” in their connotation either…

then you see a kind of blurring…

off to work for me…

73   John Hughes    
December 17th, 2008 at 11:09 am

Chad name one biblical reference where God is **addressed** as Mother. There are none. The references to God as a mother are just that – similies not salutations.

“As a hen” – similie.
“As an eagle” – similie.

etc., etc. Not the same.

74   Jerry    http://www.dangoldfinch.wordpress.com
December 17th, 2008 at 11:10 am

Well, I’m glad we are having this discussion.

And, to further along the point of the OP, after having this discussion, do any of you heterosexuals suddenly feel the urge to change teams? After all, that was the suggestion. You know, all this ‘feminine’ talk might make us all gay or something.

Imagine Rick wearing a dress… :) (no, on second thought, don’t imagine that.)

75   Chad    http://www.chadholtz.wordpress.com
December 17th, 2008 at 11:19 am

John,

There is a body of work out there that argues El Shaddai is “The Breasted One” and is a name attributing to God fertility and blessing.

From Wikipedia:

An alternative view proposed by Albright is that the name is connected to shadayim which means “breasts” in Hebrew. It may thus be connected to the notion of God’s fertility and blessings of the human race. In several instances it is connected with fruitfulness: “May God Almighty [El Shaddai] bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers…” (Gen. 28:3). “I am God Almighty [El Shaddai]: be fruitful and increase in number” (Gen. 35:11). “By the Almighty [El Shaddai] who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies beneath, blessings of the breasts [shadayim] and of the womb [racham]” (Gen. 49:25).

But a simple google will show you plenty.

Click on this link to see numerous references to God as a mother…

http://www.pngoc.com/content.php?r=&c=57

76   Neil    
December 17th, 2008 at 11:32 am

I have not read The Shack and I’m not all that familiar with the plot. So I am playing catch-up on this one.

It seems the primary objection is that it portrays an incarnation of God as a female – is that the issue?

Neil

77   Chad    http://www.chadholtz.wordpress.com
December 17th, 2008 at 11:38 am

John -
My point, however, is that language is always accomodating. As soon as we open our mouths or lay pen to paper to speak about God we are already stuttering. We have no means for speaking about that which is really, unspeakable. All language fails us in the end to accurately and fully depict God.

God is no more “Father” in the male sense than God is “Mother” in the female sense. God is not limited to our language or our genders. God transcends all that.

Neil-

More or less, yes. At the beginning you have Mack, the main character, meeting “Papa” (Father) who is a large black woman. It is purposefully designed to disrupt our normal patterns of thinking about God and is wonderfully, artistically done.

78   nc    
December 17th, 2008 at 11:40 am

What about God’s own self-description or the fact that most other names for God are gender neutral?

What about my earlier post about the historical research that shows an ambivalence about explicitly “gendering” God….?

79   nc    
December 17th, 2008 at 11:41 am

granted…

‘as a hen’ is simile.

But when God, in God’s own mouth says: I suckled you…

hmmm….

80   John Hughes    
December 17th, 2008 at 11:57 am

Chad: http://www.pngoc.com/content.php?r=&c=57

99.9% of these feminine references are similies: “Like a” “As a”. No one is saying God the Father (or any human male for that matter) cannot demonstrate traditionally feminine characteristics.

Obama squeeled like a little school girl upon hearing of his electorial victory.

So now its ok to address him as Miss Obama?

I know. I know. God does not have a gender, but still . . .

The exegesis of Hosea 11 proffered is problematic and arguably biased IMO.

“El Shaddai” as “the many breasted one” is but one of several theories on the origin of the word and creates more problems than it supposidly solves identifying God with pagan fertility goddesses.

81   Pastorboy    http://crninfo.wordpress.com
December 17th, 2008 at 12:01 pm

Imagine Rick wearing a dress…

I think Im going to Barth.

82   nc    
December 17th, 2008 at 12:01 pm

So.

John, you’re saying that Father is the dominant name for God throughout the whole of Scripture?

83   John Hughes    
December 17th, 2008 at 12:09 pm

NC: But when God, in God’s own mouth says: I suckled you…

Which scripture specifically?

84   Jerry    http://www.dangoldfinch.wordpress.com
December 17th, 2008 at 12:11 pm

John,

You wrote:

Obama squeeled like a little school girl upon hearing of his electorial victory.

So now its ok to address him as Miss Obama?

I know. I know. God does not have a gender, but still . . .

Hyperbole aside, I think you are thoroughly missing the point. God and Obama are not the same (despite the appellations of messiah applied to Mr Obama). I don’t really believe you are trying to think this through for as much as you claim to know about similes and metaphors. You are missing the point.

85   nc    
December 17th, 2008 at 12:21 pm

Actually Hosea 11 is particularly important…

“raising to the cheeks”, if I remember correctly, is not an idiom about “getting a hug” but is about suckling for milk.

I know, I know, you’ve said it’s already arguable, etc.

My point is that it’s just not this big betrayal or scripturally out of bounds to marshal female imagery when talking about God.

I’m not trying to argue for a “female” God over a “male” God…I think all of us are just trying to show you that the accusations that have been flown around that such discourse is a “bad theology” is just groundless.

86   nc    
December 17th, 2008 at 12:22 pm

My other point throughout this thread has been that “maleness” gets freighted into a lot of other names that have nothing to do with Male gender.

And the historical ambivalence about gendering Yahweh still stands.

87   Neil    
December 17th, 2008 at 12:23 pm

Obama squeeled like a little school girl upon hearing of his electorial victory.

So now its ok to address him as Miss Obama?

More caricature creation… NO ONE here is advocating addressing the Godhead as Mother – not that I have seen.

The issue is the ADM’s inability to discern (ironically) between acknowledging God’s feminine characteristics and calling him female.

Here you are failing to make this distinction as well.

88   nc    
December 17th, 2008 at 12:29 pm

Saying God is female is just as bad as saying God is male.

nobody advocates for that here.

89   nc    
December 17th, 2008 at 12:30 pm

Another thing…

why the Obama comment?

How is that apropos to the conversation?

I’m confused…

90   John Hughes    
December 17th, 2008 at 12:58 pm

Neil: NO ONE here is advocating addressing the Godhead as Mother – not that I have seen.

The rub is with “The Shack” not commenters here, where God is indeed addressed/portrayed in the feminine.

My argument is that this allegorical use of a female persona for God is inappropriate and actually heretical.

91   John Hughes    
December 17th, 2008 at 1:00 pm

If a male calculus teacher tells a class “I have fed you the answers to this test like a mother nurses her young and yet you have still failed” — does this give someone the right to write an allagory protraying the teacher as a female? It’s a comparision, not a statement of sexual identity.

92   John Hughes    
December 17th, 2008 at 1:02 pm

NC – why the Obama comment.

Umm. Humor, example from current events. Humor. Other than that I got no other explanation.

93   John Hughes    
December 17th, 2008 at 1:04 pm

The issue is the ADM’s inability to discern (ironically) between acknowledging God’s feminine characteristics and calling him female.

Here you are failing to make this distinction as well.

Well has not Mr. Young done just exactly that?

94   nc    
December 17th, 2008 at 1:13 pm

But no one is saying that…

by your example you are saying that God then is essentially “male”.

There’s the difference. The male teacher IS male.

God is beyond gender.

95   Jerry    http://www.dangoldfinch.wordpress.com
December 17th, 2008 at 1:26 pm

John,

To your point, no that is not what Young has done. I can’t answer fully now because I’m on blackberry, but I think I answered part of your objection in an earlier comment or in the OP.

96   John Hughes    
December 17th, 2008 at 1:28 pm

God is beyond gender.

I will have to agree with that. But Mr. Young has applied a gender and yet you applaud. I don’t get that.

OK. Thinking on the fly here. Michaelangelo’s portrayal of God as a male with Adam is inaccurate at best and idolatry at worst as God is Spirit and has no gender.

This is a difficult concept. I agree with a lot of what you are saying. God does not have a gender and yet expresses himself with overwhelmingly masculine references. This is especially true in the New Testiment. Can you name ANY even oblique references to a feminine charasteristic of God the Father there? (The mother Hen is a reference to the Son, not the Father).

Bottom line. If it is wrong for us to attribute male or female gender to God the Father then it is doubly wrong for Mr. Young to create an entire female persona. I guess that is my bottom argument.

97   Neil    
December 17th, 2008 at 1:33 pm

The rub is with “The Shack” not commenters here, where God is indeed addressed/portrayed in the feminine.

My argument is that this allegorical use of a female persona for God is inappropriate and actually heretical.

OK –

I have not read it so I don’t know how far they push it. I understand how God incarnated as a woman could seem odd or even might cause some discomfort… not sure how it’s heretical.

98   Neil    
December 17th, 2008 at 1:36 pm

Bottom line. If it is wrong for us to attribute male or female gender to God the Father then it is doubly wrong for Mr. Young to create an entire female persona. I guess that is my bottom argument

Again, not having read the book I can only guess based on what I’ve seen…

Is there not a difference between portraying God himself as a man – as in the Sistine Chapel and The Far Side and portraying an incarnation of God in fiction? Any incarnation is by definition limiting…

99   Jerry    http://www.dangoldfinch.wordpress.com
December 17th, 2008 at 1:42 pm

At the end of the book he created a male persona for God. Do you object to that too?

100   John Hughes    
December 17th, 2008 at 2:13 pm

Jerry: At the end of the book he created a male persona for God. Do you object to that too?

Yes. I object in general to the use of allegorical representations of God that place **additional** words or thoughts not explicity previously expressed in Scripture in the mouth of the Deity because in the ultimate analysis they are but the musings of a man who, by default, is expressing his or her own personal biases.

Ezekiel 13 comes to mind:

2 “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy, and say to those who prophesy from their own inspiration, Listen to the word of the LORD! 3 ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Woe to the foolish prophets who are following their own spirit and have seen nothing.

Putting words into the mouth of God is a serious thing in my understanding.

101   John Hughes    
December 17th, 2008 at 2:19 pm

God’s Far Side appearance – i.e., God on the Jeopardy game show and the utter indignation of the other contestants?

No, that must be OK. It moved me and made me laugh and that’s all that matters, right?

Funnest Far Side **Ever**– (Noting saucer and aliens shaped like walking hands landing at a farm) Caption: “Farmer Jones inadvertantly doomed the earth to total anniliation when he grapped the alien leader by the head and shook vigorously”.

102   nc    
December 17th, 2008 at 2:41 pm

With the Shack, I see that as a piece of creative fiction that wrestles with explicitly religious themes.

I didn’t “applaud” anything about it.

It merely seemed like a rhetorical device to make the point that “God is beyond gender”.

103   nc    
December 17th, 2008 at 2:42 pm

Far more important to me…

I LOVE Far Side.

You named one my favorites too with the farmer and aliens.

good memories

:)

104   Chad    http://www.chadholtz.wordpress.com
December 17th, 2008 at 2:44 pm

Yes. I object in general to the use of allegorical representations of God

Then, John, you object to all of scripture.

I think the point made by others is a fair one. If Young had all three cast members of the Trinity properly “male” than it never would have come up on the radar for most of the people smearing it.

105   John Hughes    
December 17th, 2008 at 3:56 pm

Chad, allegory (**where** it appears in Scripture) is divinely inspired. The Shack or any other man-made allegorical story is not.

BTW You view **all** Scripture as allegory? What’s up with that?

106   Chad    http://www.chadholtz.wordpress.com
December 17th, 2008 at 4:00 pm

I view all representations of God as “Father” or whatever/whomever as allegory, yes. Why? Because God is neither male nor female, father or mother. Neither is God like your earthly father only infinitely better. God is not us. Nor is God the best of us thrown into a pot, shaken up, and out comes God.

107   John Hughes    
December 17th, 2008 at 4:02 pm

I think the point made by others is a fair one. If Young had all three cast members of the Trinity properly “male” than it never would have come up on the radar for most of the people smearing it.

I think the theology espoused therein is seen to be problematic by many notwithstanding the gender issue.

108   Jerry    http://www.dangoldfinch.wordpress.com
December 17th, 2008 at 4:17 pm

John,

If you object, then I think you must, at some level, object to Jesus too.

“The second person of the Trinity himself is a sermon, the Word of God, the Logos.John says the Son is a word spoken to the world by the Father. God’s sermon took flesh and off he went, preaching the Kingdom, healing with his voice, calling forth the dead and crying out in anguish in his dying moments.”–Paul Gregory Alms, Touchstone, March 2008, pa 14-15

109   John Hughes    
December 17th, 2008 at 4:30 pm

I view all representations of God as “Father” or whatever/whomever as allegory, yes.

Thanks for the clarification. That is a far cry from saying “all Scripture” is allegory as you did in #105.

But seriously can we see allegory in these passages:

John 20:17 – Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’”

If “Father” is allegory, why not “God”?

1 Corinthians 8:6 -yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.

Is “One God, the Father” allegory here?

Galatians 4:6 – Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ” Abba! Father!”

Are you prepared to say that is allegory and not literal?

110   John Hughes    
December 17th, 2008 at 4:32 pm

Jerry, If you object, then I think you must, at some level, object to Jesus too.

I’m not following your statement. Please explain.

111   John Hughes    
December 17th, 2008 at 4:34 pm

God is not us.

Thank God! :-)

112   John Hughes    
December 17th, 2008 at 4:38 pm

If the reference to God as Father is always an analogy is the converse also just an analogy?

1 John 3:1 – See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.
2 – Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.

Are we just an analogy too?

113   Rick Frueh    http://http?//followingjudahslion.com
December 18th, 2008 at 6:11 am

John – the answer is yes. We are not children in the same sense children are made physically by humans, but the term aptly illustrates our relationship with the Father. All the terms we use are enlightening but limited. Since God has wings is He a bird? Does He cast a shadow? Does God repent (that He made man)? Does God have a mouth?

I completely understand the concern over the “goddess” issue, however from everything I have heard that was not Bell’s direction.

114   Chad    http://www.chadholtz.wordpress.com
December 18th, 2008 at 8:32 am

Well said, Rick.

I think Bell also says it well in the benediction for “She”:

So may you embrace the God who’s bigger than any of our language. May you celebrate all of the images and pictures and metaphors that help us better understand who God is and what God is like. And may you be comforted as a mother comforts a child.

115   John Hughes    
December 18th, 2008 at 8:42 am

Chad/Rick

I stand corrected. In my study last night on this issue I confirmed your position regarding allegory. In a nut shell, eventhough God is infinate and trancendant and untimately incomprehensible by His finite creatures were are created in His image, i.e., He has made us was intellect, self awareness and a finite spiritual component. And although God is pure Spirit and therefore genderless, He expresses Himself to us allogorically in terms (such as Father) which we can relate and comprehend. And although it is perfectly acceptable to recognize the several feminine characteristics of God as described in the Bible, the exclusive use of the allogory of Father and exclusive use of the masculine pronouns “He, Him, His” etc., in the Biblical narrative — and the example of Jesus’ exclusive use of the same to address God –would make the approbation of “Mother, She, Her” in reference to God inappropriate.

I realize no one on this site has done this and have never argued they have. My argument has also never been with Bell on this issue. My beef has been with The Shack and I remain unmoved in that I view Young’s portrayal of the Trinity as predominately female is inappropriate at best and that putting the words and theology of a man in the mouth of “God” borders on blasphemy.

P.S. Rick. Sorry to disappoint, but I had to resort to my tomes on systematic theology. I’m sure, for example, you got your understanding that El Shaddai could mean “many breasted” from just your study of the Bible and the Holy Spirit. But I had to resort to the study of commentaries of other men. :-)

116   John Hughes    
December 18th, 2008 at 8:45 am

Chad: So may you embrace the God who’s bigger than any of our language. May you celebrate all of the images and pictures and metaphors that help us better understand who God is and what God is like. And may you be comforted as a mother comforts a child.

Sounds pretty orthodox to me!

117   Rick Frueh    http://http?//followingjudahslion.com
December 18th, 2008 at 8:48 am

John – I believe the Hebrew word “shad” is translated “breast”.

BTW – I am a Far Side enthusiast as well. I even came up with one of my own.

(Two snakes, husband and wife, are in bed during the night. The husband seems to be in pain and the wife snake asks him why. The husband snake says “I got up to get a drink of water and stubbed my tongue”!)

118   Chad    http://www.chadholtz.wordpress.com
December 18th, 2008 at 9:06 am

Love Far Side as well. That was a good one, Rick.

I believe the Hebrew word “shad” is translated “breast”.

I forgive you for the typo on my name. It’s a common mistake.

John H-

You are one of the few people I know in blog-o-world who is humble enough to say “I was mistaken.” It is an attitude becoming of the Christ we serve. Thank you.

There was this one time I remember that I thought I was wrong. I later realized I was mistaken. :)

119   Jerry    http://www.dangoldfinch.wordpress.com
December 18th, 2008 at 9:19 am

Ahh, isn’t it nice when we all get along? It makes a conversation thread so much the better to read.

Shad=breast?

Shaq=beast?

120   John Hughes    
December 18th, 2008 at 9:26 am

“Bummer of a birthmark, Hal.”

121   Rick Frueh    http://http?//followingjudahslion.com
December 18th, 2008 at 9:30 am

A haggardly looking man is in a deteriorating lifeboat surrounded by sharks, when one shark pops his head out of the ocean and says:

Hey, why don’t you just jump in because in a minute this is going to turn into a frenzy and no one wahts that!

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