Sunday, May 29, 2005

Hello and Welcome

Yes, I have cheered up, so no more depressing blogs for a while. Phew, I hear you breathe a sigh of relief. Yes, I am relieved too.

Who has read the Da Vinci Code? Yeah, I know, it's very controversial. It says... ooh no I better not ruin it for those of you who want to read it. Needless to say, it is very controversial. I think it is important to bear in mind that it is a work of fiction, and not in any way intended to contain historical fact. Which is good, because Dan Brown has taken great liberties with historical fact... as the all knowing Wikipedia points out here (I love the Wikipedia). The point I am making is actually not about the book, which in my opinion, does not live up to its excessive hype. The thing on my mind is what the book kind of points to - that we as Christians have lost sight of the sacred feminine.

Now, before you go accusing me of heresy, my thoughts are not as controversial as all that. What I have been thinking is that as Christians (and particlarly as woman) we, in church, ignore the fact that if God is Masculine, he (she?) is equally Feminine. The best we can do, when thinking about God, is come up with metaphors. The way we talk about God, the names of God, these are just shadows and mirages of Who God Actually Is. God's name is "I am Who I am". How awe-fully cryptic, and yet so perfectly correct. God is who He is. God is who She is. Neither is more true, both are metaphors, pictures and images. I think the reality is that God is not neither, but both. God is not a man. God is not a woman. God is not bound by gender, as we are. We must not define God so simply. But, our minds are simple and metaphors are useful. The key thing here is not to be caught up in metaphors, to bear in mind they are just that.

They are useful though, and for me, thinking about the feminine God, the mother heart of God is very helpful. I have issues with men, especially powerful men. I am working through them, but they remain for now. So, at times, my anger at powerful men extends to God, if I refer to Him too often. Sometimes, it is special for me to come to God as Woman. This is because I relate better, and because through it my own specialness as a woman is confirmed. Sometimes the father heart of God is less important to me than the mother heart. Furthermore, I find love from men hard to accept. I find it difficult to see how a man could love me, or respect me. Again, this is just baggage from my past, but when I need love it is special for me to remember that God is a Woman too, and she loves me. Love from women, for me, is easier to accept.

Anyway, these are my thoughts. God as my mother, God as my friend. God loving me with care and compassion, God fiercely defensive of me, as only a woman can be.

She loves me, she does.


Lynne said...

I love the feminine images of God we can find in Scripture (mother hen, breastfeeding mother, etc), and agree that if God is masculine s/he is equally feminine.
And sensible given that we are created in God's image; male and female.

Sharyn said...

Yes exactly! "Let us make 'humans' in our image...male and female God created them..." (loose translation)

Anonymous said...

I always enjoy using Rembrandt's art of the prodigal son, and pointing out to people the hands of the "Father" - one is more male, the other is more female.


Iain said...

Of course then you get some people in history who are so desperate not to shake the purely masculine images of God that they end up mixing metaphors, e.g. saying that the Son was "begotten of the womb of the Father."

Womb of the Father? Er, sure.

Andrew said...

I know it wasn't the main point of the post, but I did a tour through Europe last year, and there were some people on the tour who were crazy about the DaVinci Code.

We were wandering around the Louvre (as you do) and in the particular group I was wandering with, I was the only male.

These women forced me to go into this one particular male toilet where this character in the novel (the main one I think) supposedly saw/did something with/escaped through, a window or something.

Hey, it's a Novel. So is Wizard of Oz, you don't see me looking for the Yellow Brick Road do ya?

Elizabeth said...

We dont? Come to think of it didn't we see you ..........
why does the word 'tin' spring to mind.
But I digress.

A. J. Chesswas said...

It makes me uncomfortable to consider The Lord as a female. He is one of the only truly masculine role models I have in my life.

Sharyn said...

Well, it's not bad to be uncomfortable. He is truly masculine and simultaneously truly feminine. So tough luck!

Lynne said...

Sharyn... you are sooo pastoral!

Iain said...

I've recently concluded - though would never use it - that the terms THEY & THEIR are better words for God then HE & HIS.

Allow me this heretical indulgence before you burn me at the stake.

Case example: I go to a friends house, have fun, and return to speak to you. You ask me what I just did and I reply, "I went to a friend's house and had fun. They are so cool, I love going to their house."

If I'm being gender inspecific I can use the term THEY instead of HIM or HER.

Not to mention the other capacity of the word THEY... the singular use versus the plural use. Clearly, there is an element of numeral mystery associated with the Trinity (3 in 1, 1 in 3). Speaking of God as THEY meaning gender inspecific 3 Persons works just as equally well as meaning gender inspecific 1 God.

So, perhaps its not so crazy after all. Isn't that what language is about: using words to best express meaning? In "they" we have an ambiguity never before available that actually incorporates the mystery of the trinity as well as the dual potential for God to express both masculinity and femininity.

Chez, I can only say that God is the source of everything. God is the foundation of the creative process. God is the one who lovingly maintains the universe. God is the ideal rolemodel for every Father. God is the ideal rolemodel for every Mother.

I personally would never use the conjoint term 'Father-Mother' for God, as that is getting a little over the top for my tastes. But, having said that, if I experience a twinge of discomfort at hearing a purely feminine term to express God then I reckon its good for me.
Imagine being a female and only every hearing people talking about 'Sons of God' and our 'Father in heaven'... would that not be as potentially alienating as if YOU only heard your church use phrases like, 'Daughters of God' and 'Mother in heaven'. Imagine if you questioned it and they then told you, "That is the way it is and we can't really change that, we really actually mean you too," yet, somehow, you can't connect properly to Our Mother who art in Heaven. (I'm not denying the bible uses gender specific masculine imagery possibly the majority of the time, though why do you think that is?)

Iain said...


p.s. when I talk about this, I'm (hopefully) clearly talking about the Male- and Femaleness sourced in God.

You used the term "The Lord" I imagine to mean 'YHWH' or 'God'?

I wasn't trying to suggest that Jesus was female.

...although, why do you think that is? :P

Sharyn said...

Yes, obviously Jesus was a man. I mean, He had to pick a gender right? (and who in their right mind would choose to be a woman, especially in the year 0 BC).

Further to your point Iain, I found it fascinating that in the Genesis account God is refered to as our and we. "Let US make man in OUR image". That kind of backs up what you're saying eh...especially since its in the CREATION part.

And, it's so awesome to hear a man recognise that it's frustrating to always hear masculine references to God in church, as a woman. Thank you, for thinking outside the box.

A. J. Chesswas said...

Most aspects of Jesus' earthly persona were highly irrelevant and undignified in the eyes of his people - i.e. he came from Nazareth, Galilee; he was born out of wedlock; there was nothing of his appearance that was attractive (according to Isaiah), tradition has him born on the coldest, bleakest, darkest day of the year. In his incarnation he emptied himself of his glory, and humbled himself as a servant.

The only glamorous aspect of his persona was that he was of the House of David, and was actually quite possibly heir to the throne. This was important because it qualified him for his ministry as the messiah and son of God. I would think there are more grounds to suggest Jesus' incarnation as a man was not to be "relevant", but to qualify in accordance with the biblical requirements.

Masculinity is symbolic of sovereignty, while femininity is more symbolic of grace. These seem to me to be the most essential aspects of The Lord's character to ensure his Yahwehness. But consider this - his grace would be meaningless if it were not for his sovereignty.

I will need more convincing to consider that The Lord is as equally feminine as he is masculine. We are a kingdom of priests, yes, but a biblical ecclesiology (both before and after Christ) considers the man the priest and head of the family and, while it seems sexist, his relationship with the Lord is prima.

By the way, I don't think I would use the term "they" in the way you do Iain, I do like to be sex-specific whenever I can (like the French). Frankly, I believe sex is more than a biological phenomenon - it is an indication of The Lord's call on our life. If we do not accept this calling we openly rebel against The Lord. The amount of this sort of rebellion I see deeply disturbs me, and I do all I can to try to help turn the tide. Being sex-specific is part of this, as is being conservative in my views of theology and ecclesiology. Language is the carrier of culture.

Sharyn said...

Well, why don't I just give up on my relationship with God altogether then, if it is secondary to the man's. What is the point? May as well just marry a Christian man and sail into heaven on his apron strings...

Seriously though, I need MUCH more convincing before I accept God is a man.

Iain said...

Again, I presume that when you say "The Lord," you mean YHWH?

Your statement, "I will need more convincing to consider that The Lord is as equally feminine as he is masculine," confuses me.

If you mean Christ, the second person of the Trinity, well, of course Jesus is/was male.

If you mean The Father, the first person on the Trinity, well, the masculine hebrew nouns and pronouns that Christ uses in prayer is good enough for me.

The Spirit, the third person of the trinity, I'm not willing to apply gender as I believe the best gender pronouns are not specified well enough.

But YHWH, El, Adonai... the God we serve and 'The One' of "three-in-one", I'm certainly not suggesting is male, nor do I think that anyone can suggest that and remain biblical. 'Male', that is, to the exclusion of not also being 'Female'.

Some quick replies:

· Masculinity symbolises sovereignty and femininity symbolises grace. I feel that this statement "reads in" presuppositions into the image of God drawn in the Bible. It seems you must conclude that males are generally leaders while females are generally compassionate, therefore reverse-suppose this into the symbolism of masculinity, meaning that the only image of a Sovereign God could be a male one. I don't think that you could draw this edict from the Bible itself (i.e. that X symbolises Y etc).

· From what I understand of Scripture, there is nowhere that tells us that the male relationship with God takes priority over the female one. Jesus is our High Priest (not husbands) and I think that passages such as Galatians chapter 3 & 4 tell us that we are all heirs to the promise, qualifying that we are ALL 'sons' (3:28) - even females - and synonymously are 'heirs according to the promise'(3:29). The first century inheritance through sonship applies to all: all jews, all gentiles, all slaves and all free - and we are neither male nor female in Christ (3:28). Even females receive the 'adoption as sons,' (4:5) and I don't see ANYTHING prima about it in males.

· Again, I don't use the term THEY nor will I ever probably, I was simply pointing out a cute ambiguity in our language. Apologies if I wasn't clear here, I don't want to sound any more heretical than I can help it.

Iain said...

Chez again ;)

consider this - his grace [femininity symbol] would be meaningless if it were not for his sovereignty [masculinity symbol]

Initial thoughts are that it seems possible that somebody might use your statement to make the unfair conclusion, "A woman is no good without a man." That doesn't sound very supportive of our single and celibate Sisters in Christ.

But if we were to run with that, thinking further, I'd also flip your comment on its head and add that God's sovereignty wouldn't be worthy of worship without his grace.

A graceless yet infinitely sovereign ruler would be cruel and to be feared, not loving and worthy to be praised.

Tensions often work both ways with God.

A. J. Chesswas said...

Ephesians 5:22, 23

"Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For THE HUSBAND IS THE HEAD OF THE WIFE as Christ is the head of the church..."

man = sovereignty - God created Adam to ruler over the Earth
woman = grace - God created Eve to HELP him

The Lord would still be worthy of our praise had he not given us his grace. There is nothing he needs to do to qualify for our feeble worship.

The Lord = Jesus Christ, but also = YHWH, as Christ sits at his right hand. I undertsand YHWH to be The Father rather than the entire trinity, although when you refer to one you are referring to all three anyway!

As for The Holy Spirit, I am happy to accept he is more feminine than YHWH and Christ, as his role is encourager, comforter, convicter and reminderer - all roles that are very motherly! Even so, if the Holy Spirit were entirely feminine, there is a 2-1 male majority within the trinity!

Sharyn, I do not give up on my relationship with my grandfather just because it is secondary to his relationship with my mother. I still have many opportunities to spend time with him and learn from him, but I accept that my mother's relationship with him is more important, and she can pass on to me the things she learns that I don't.

I know I can hardly compare my grandfather to The Lord, nor my mother to my hypothetical husband (in the hypothetical situation I was a woman). Nonetheless, I can never resist the opportunity to try to explain and shed light on biblical truth/possibility.

A. J. Chesswas said...

Just to clarify, I refer to The Holy Spirit as "he" - not "it", not "they" and certainly not "she". While he may have more feminine charcateristics than the remainder of the trinity, because they are one I must refer to them all in the same sex. I mean c'mon, adrogyny is not particularly attractive.

Iain said...

Thanks, Chez, that clarified your position nicely :)
We'll have to agree to disagree, I'm afraid, due both to the exact nature of this forum as well as my fear of the longest post in history soon happening should we continue.

That Genesis passage has certainly held fascination for me, especially since I read the term "WE" in the Qu'ran. How deliciously un-monotheistic of them. This point of mine is possibly a bit off topic, though!
And thanks, I'm pleased to bring a smile to your dial - I can't say I've had a proper conversation on this general topic for a long while let alone been appreciated by anyone for saying it ;)

Sharyn said...

Allan: No I just cannot believe it. Surely you do not actually think that a man's relationship with God is more important than a woman's. SURELY you cannot think that. I cannot believe it.

I cannot possible express how extremely and utterly offended I am if that is so. Or how utterly and extremely amused! Yes, you have much to learn young grasshopper, if that is what you think. I think heaven will be something of a shock to you.

Simona said...

Mr Chesswas...tell me you are joking... I don't know if you meant that to sound how it did but surely you don't mean that you honestly think your relationship with God is any more important than ANYONE elses... Let alone one half of the human race purely on the basis of their gender? I would suggest that if you do then put down your Old King James for ten minutes and ask God what he thinks about it. I think it is pretty clear that the days of slavery and superiority are over, God wants a woman to love him as much as a man. We ALL stand alone on judgement day and to be honest it would be a relief to find out that only my husbands sins counted. But it is not like that, it never will be. Any person's relationship with God is the most important thing in their life, or at least it should be. And as for the analogy, your mother was above are in no way superior to me or any other woman. i understand your discomfort at this concept, at first sight it sets me back a bit too. But when I think it through,I know that it is only the society into which we have been socialised that has caused this. Its not correct, its not logical and we need to challenge it even if it is scary. I think its scary too but so is grace.

A. J. Chesswas said...

Hopefully my comments on the "DELIGHTFUL Daughters of SIS (whatever that is...)" post, and the comments I just posted under "Ladies & Gentlemen" at my own blog will bring some clarification.

A. J. Chesswas said...

'I understand your discomfort at this concept, at first sight it sets me back a bit too. But when I think it through, I know that it is only the society into which we have been socialised that has caused this. Its not correct, its not logical and we need to challenge it even if it is scary. I think its scary too but so is grace.'

I don't think it comes down to logic, or to socialisation. both the conservative and the feminist view can be justified logically, and require socialisation to be successful. I have come to realise that most of what I know isn't arrived at via general observation and logical reasoning. I sense it first, and then use observation and logic to ensure it makes sense. It is the same for everyone, especially with theological things, cos logic can never prove something - everything takes faith to accept.

what I do know is that Jesus said, 'My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me'. I have realised I believe the bible not because its the bible, but because in it I hear the voice of Christ. That is, in it is knowledge that gives me true peace. Yes, I may doubt it at times, but if I became a feminist, a Marxist, or a Moslem I am sure my doubts about those things would be greater. The Bible, the voice of Christ, is a voice I know I can trust.

I would suggest that the discomfort you feel is not just the result of socialisation, but is actually the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ himself.

Simona said...

I am well aware of what it sounds like when Jesus talks to me and that is not it. People need to be cautious about how much of what they believe doesn't come from God at all. The discomfort I feel is purely due to the fact that my whole life God has been referred to as father,he, king and other equally masculine terms. That is why I feel discomfort. But I feel other things too, and these things are from, gentleness, kindness, nurturing...qualities often considered feminine. The fact is God has no gender, he is not trapped in a human body. He is perfect, therefore he must encompass all good qualities both masculine and feminine. Physically he is neither, spiritually he can be neither or both depending on how you want to see it. I don't see how anybody can say anything else. anyway so that is my last post on this's not fair to hijack Sharyn's blog with a conversation she has had enough of (I think everyone has). You can reply if you like but this is why I am ceasing to comment here.