My wife and I listened to a talk last night about the Trinity as family. It caused me to once again contemplate the realities of Masculinity and Femininity as they relate to God, human beings and our understanding of God's self-revelation of Himself.
As an emergent Christian I was prone to think of God in gender-neutral and feminine terms rather that masculine, almost in defiance/rebellion against the traditional Masculine imagery, but I've really been challenged as a Catholic to abandon that approach as unbiblical (and even theologically and philosophically incompatible with Christianity).
Peter Kreeft makes a point, in a talk about why woman cannot become priests/priestesses, that God has revealed himself as Masculine, and that in comparison to God all human beings are Feminine (even the male ones). C.S. Lewis, in an essay on women’s ordination in Anglicanism, says:
Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) made a similar point in The Ratzinger Report:
I'm finding this exploration quite fruitful in helping me gain more insight into God, the Trinity, human beings, masculinity & femininity, and all their relationships to each other.
For example, from the talk last night, the point was made that while the Trinity is a family, it is a Father-Son familial relationship in the bond of Love, which is the Holy Spirit. The Male-Female relationship is not the model God wants to use to self-identify the reality of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit is not God's wife. So too in our own families the Trinity is not imaged primarily through our marriages, but rather through our Parent-child relationships.
That said, I would note that Marriage does image the God-Human relationship, since God is Masculine and, by comparison, Humans are feminine.
I suppose that is why God the Father has a Son, but the Son of God has a human mother (female/feminine) - His Divinity is from His Father, His humanity is from His mother. Mary is an image of the Church, the Bride of God, the human side of the God-human relationship.
Coming back to the issue of woman's ordination, especially in the Catholic Church, when we try to change the established revelation of God as Male, Christ as Male, Priests as Male, and insert an image of God as female, the "priestess", we are in effect changing the very nature of God's Self Revelation and the way in which He relates within the Trinity and towards creation, and towards us.
The Priest is first and foremost an image of God, an image of Christ, that is before he even begins to perform a function of leadership. When we place function above image, and argue that anybody can functionally serve as Priest, we distort the image and thereby distort the Self-Revelation of the Creator and Father God. It is the same problem when we allow homosexual couples to raise kids, it distorts the image of male-female relationships, regardless of whether the parents can functionally raise the child.
Here is a link to a longer reflection on God as Father, rather than Mother, if you'd like to take a look.
I think this also accounts for the confusion in Eastern Religions and Mysticism in which the feminine is as much an image of God as the Masculine. These religions often end up pantheistic because they assume that all sides of the equation equal God. But in the Christian Revelation God is only one side of the Masculine Feminine divide.
Now some may say that God is genderless and thus both male and female or neither male nor female. That is true in the sense that God is pure Spirit and without gender in the biological sense...but the Bible consistently reveals God as Masculine and Father in the Spiritual sense.
Interesting reflections, Jacques.
Just some quick thoughts - it might be said that the Christian revelation was given to a patriarchal culture, and that any revelation of a feminine side to God would have been (may actually have been) instantly suppressed. This doesn't mean that the masculine revelation is incomplete, or lacking, but that it has to be considered in a certain context, taken as universally relevant but culturally specific, and not fundamentally unmalleable.
There are plenty of hints in scripture, too, that God has feminine attributes, which are more than metaphorical but suggest a divinely feminine nature (Holy Spirit giving birth, Christ as Mother Hen etc.) So if Christ as male can display female attributes, and the Holy Spirit as a person in the trinity is female, why shouldn't women represent God as priestesses, displaying male attributes and symbolising God as Mother?
At any rate, does the set up have to be so exactingly literal, especially given the practical problems facing the Church today? High minded theological principles don't mean much if they can't be met practically. To my mind priests representing God at the altar is ultimately symbolic and as such is completely adaptable, and in truth, priesthood is essentially universal anyway. We are all priests and kings.
Really, the Father revelation is an expression of God and not God in essence. I wonder too at the logic of a God who is infinite only being Father and not Mother also. Isn't that limitation?
Recall that it was Jesus who emphasized God as "Father" and himself as "Son," with the "Spirit" being given for our own sanctification. The Hebrew conception of God as Yahweh was not Trinitarian and did include both paternal and maternal attributes.
Also, Jesus's "Father" was really "Abba," which is much less formal -- more like "Daddy" -- and more intimate and caring as well. His parabolic analogies ("just as you . . . so your heavenly Father") indicate a conception of "Father" that is generous, nurturing, compassionate, etc. There's a bit of "yin" in "Abba."
Technically, as Stephen noted, we cannot ascribe limitation to any of the Persons of the Trinity, including gender-like attributes. Nevertheless, they do play different roles in the "economy of salvation" -- the Father being the Creator, the Son the Redeemer, the Spirit the Sanctifier. The Father as Creator is a yangish (male energy) kind of role, to which (mythologically) the female principle (yin) is more passive and earthish.
Re. the arguments against women and Orders: they obviously haven't held up in C. S. Lewis's Anglicanism. The reason is that the spousal metaphor (Christ as groom, Church as bride) isn't the only one used to speak of Christ and the Church. Paul also speaks of the Church as the Body of Christ, with different "parts" contributing differently. Theologians would point out, too, as Stephen noted, that Baptism also constitutes Christians as priests, prophets and kings in Christ; Orders would be a further development of the priestly role. It is difficult to establish why gender alone should disqualify one from the Sacrament, a point that many theologians have made.
- see http://www.elca.org/What-We-Be...t-of-the-Gospel.aspx for a Lutheran reflection on this issue that explains how they came to ordain women.
"First Things" online also has an excellent pro and con article.
I hear you gentlemen, but I don't think I buy the argument that the Masculinity of God was patriarchally influenced.
God is masculine in the Old Testament. He is Masculine in the pre-history part of Genesis, He is Masculine when He calls Abraham. Abraham comes out of a polytheistic culture that would have had male and female gods, he would have had no problem accepting a female image of God, or even an androgynous our male/female synthesis.
The biblical Revelation of God could have come in any form and it would have had to be accepted, that is the nature of Judeo-Christian revelation, we don't get to choose how it comes and we don't get to bend it to our cultural norms.
I'm not arguing that God has no feminine or maternal qualities, neither does the article I linked to, but the point is that God in His Self-Revelation has made it pointedly clear that He wants to be understood in Masculine categories and that those Masculine categories are an important part of His Self-Revelation.
Thus to take the (by comparison) few feminine references and say, "See God also reveals Himself as feminine", is grasping a little in my opinion. In order for this to be true the scale would have to be tipped at least partly towards an equal representation of masculinity and femininity...but this is the exact opposite of what the Bible reveals...the Bible reveals a predominantly and purposefully Masculine God who also uses feminine metaphors on occasion.
I'm enjoying the first part of the 'First Things' article - will comment more when I'm done.
I think the trouble here is that the first few books of the Bible were written years later, when that patriarchal culture had been firmly established, when the nation of Israel was ruled by kings and a line of male prophets, and so lean heavily towards presenting God as masculine. Then the law was reinforced by Ezra and Nehemiah after captivity, who both wanted to ground and re-establish the nation under a masculine deity. The earliest archaeological evidence suggests Jehovah had a consort, a Queen of Heaven, who disappeared after the return from exile. Again, it was about re-establishing the nation under a powerful male deity.
The problem, as I see it, is that revelation, especially Old Testament Judaic revelation, is only categorical and definitive with hindsight. In reality, it was more of an ongoing process, moulded by history, culture, the development of language, writing and thought, and ruling political systems. In other words, revelation is a two way street, sometimes a rather long one, where God indeed chooses to reveal himself, but what emerges is heavily influenced by those who do the seeking, and any agenda they might have.
All this isn't to downplay the revelation, through the development of Christian theology, of a Fatherly God. It's our tradition, and I'm much happier saying Our Father than Our Mother. It's a complete and holistic tradition, the highest revelation, which deserves to be understood properly, rather than through a narrow lens that doesn't fully comprehend its nature or development.
Yes. The redaction of the Pentateuch we now have may date from as late as the 5th century B.C. (its source materials being much older, of course).
There is some evidence that, until the 7th century B.C., Yahweh had a female consort named Asherah.
Keep going on that "First Things" article, Jacques. The second part is equally good.
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asherah for a fuller discussion. This would have been a gross violation of the Covenant of Sinai.
I think the term "wants" is a bit strong here, Jacques. It really is theologically difficult to affirm that God is trans-gender but wants us to be known primarily in terms of male categories. Where is the evidence for this in Scripture or Tradition?
Fact is, we're not talking about revelation, ontology, theology or the divine attributes, here, but the pronouns we use in reference to God. As personal pronouns referring to individuals fall into male and female categories, we pick one or the other depending on the gender of the person, or social convention (e.g., "man" referring to the race, including females). Patriarchical cultures generally do bias in the direction of male pronouns, and I'm not seeing any reason why Hebrew or Christian God-language should be excused from the feminist critique concerning the biases implied (e.g., maleness being more representative of the race than femaleness).
Well, okay, but the point is that the Deuteronomist school gave the Pentateuch its present form only in the 6th and 5th centuries B.C.
How much of the Moses/Sinai story actually dates back to the 13th century B.C. is a matter for debate.
The Deuteronomist author of 2 Kings 21 clearly disapproves of Manasseh and his worship of Asherah.
But equally clearly, there can have been no consensus monotheism among the Hebrews at that time (7th century B.C.).
Taking it to the extreme: it's quite possible that Manasseh in the 7th century B.C. didn't know he was breaking the Covenant of Sinai because the Covenant of Sinai hadn't been invented yet!
I'm wondering if the Covenant of Sinai wouldn't have been fully delineated till much later as well, perhaps as a development from earlier representations of Yahweh and Asherah, with a view to establishing law after exile. Not sure about this, but it seems plausible if the Pentateuch is so late. It seems the revelation was worked out over time to me, rather than being fully established with Moses.
We crossed posted, Derek, with the same idea, I think.
I don't think a drastically different written tradition can be foisted onto a deeply entrenched oral one. Besides, there's all the other literature to consider, like the psalms and prophetic writings. You can't disregard them.
I'm sorry, I have very little time to write, though I do try to keep up with the replies and the flow of the conversation.
To be quite honest the idea of trying to debate/refute an approach to the scriptures that uses the kind of higher criticism you gentlemen, (Derek and Samson) are suggesting is quite frankly just exhausting to contemplate. I don't understand how one uses higher criticism in the way you are suggesting without completely decimating the Christian revelation and turning Christianity into a completely human approach to the divine.
The Judeo-Christian religion rests on an authority that many modern Christians find completely uncomfortable because it cannot be bent and shaped to serve their individual thoughts, desires and aspirations. But without that kind of Authority, which God specifically vests in human beings He chooses for the ministry, you simply cannot have the kind of religion that Christianity is. Without authority you simply have chaos. Without authority we wouldn't even have the Bible.
I was reading a catholic article on higher criticism that captures some of my concern:
Regarding my opening post, I must concede that perhaps I took too strong a line. Indeed God can be described in feminine and motherly images, metaphors and theology. I still stand however on the fact that the Paternal imagery is given a kind of preference in the Bible that indicates something about God in his very being. Now I admit that even as I say that I know we cannot actually know anything about God in His being...but I say what I do in the same way we would say that we know that God is Trinity in His being...though what that actually means is a mystery.
I believe that God's Paternity has a kind of prima facie priority in terms of God's revelation of Himself in the Trinity - Father is the Father, not the Mother. Christ the Son calls Him Abba, not Amma.
I don't think Yahweh is an androgynous deity in the Old Testament. I think He is revealed as more masculine than feminine, but containing within His masculinity all that femininity is as well. Perhaps that is part of the meaning of Eve coming out of Adam and not the other way around.
The way I understand it at the moment is that God's Fatherhood is an image of His transcendence. His transcendence maintains his proper relationship above and beyond all that He creates. God's motherhood is an image of 'His' immanence, an immanence that is always held in relationship to His transcendence and thus it is proper to call Him Father in an absolute sense, but not mother.
And here is the reason why God chose only men to serve Him as priests...only men can maintain this image of Paternity as the source of all reality, even ultimately of the divine and human maternity.
Phil I did read the second part of the 'First Things' article. I enjoyed it, and I think the issues she raises are important and valid in as far as she is addressing specific concerns in the way the argument is generally put forward. I did ultimately disagree with her conclusions though. I think that in the end she makes far too little of ontology and doesn't specifically address the issue in the way I am thinking about it here.
There's no agenda here, no thought or desire to bend truth to suit. The same accusation could be made about those who want to hold on to an absolutist, fundamentalist view of scripture in the face of opposing archeological evidence.
I'm no historian, but from what I gather these are the the facts. If I'm wrong and evidence changes, so be it.
An oral tradition often gets added to or embellished along the centuries, so what eventually gets written down may not be what started out.
Any authority which can't adapt to scientific or historical evidence isn't much of an authority. The Christian revelation is strong and true enough to adapt, but then my understanding of that revelation seems to be very different from yours.
As an example, the God Elijah pits against the prophets of Baal seems very different from the God of St Paul. The Elijah story suggests competing cultures trying to establish which god is more powerful. It's very much of its time. Powerful propaganda for an exiled people, as well as revelation in process. Paul's God is more theologically complete, thanks to his great intellect and the revelation of Jesus Christ. Both Paul and Elijah provide different perspectives on the revelation from their point in history and their cultural context. This to me suggests a revelation growing around time and place and character.
The Documentary Hypothesis, created on the faulty foundations of liberal and/or atheistic scholarship dating from the enlightenment and built on sand ever since is not the secure and established reality you seem to think it is.
The best Catholic, Orthodox and Evangelical minds in the world have rejected the bulk of what DH tries to advance as scientific study of the biblical texts. That is not to say that we cannot envision some editorial work of a document written primarily by Moses, but certainly the radical theories have been shown to be pure fiction...something you seem to be unaware of given your last few posts.
See this powerpoint presentation that clearly demonstrates the rise and fall of the documentary hypothesis (Evangelical View)
See here for a collection of Catholic, Protestant and Jewish articles (a few of the links are broken).
Here's mud in yer eye, fella.
Did God have a Wife?
Seems unlikely that Moses could have written the Pentateuch given the paucity of writing technology, and an unstable, newly forming Hebrew alphabet. Who knows for sure? You call your bias, I'll call mine. We'll both end up bent. None of it impacts on my inner life.
And I'm not implying holy smoking mountains are necessarily fictitious. I just don't believe God goes bang and that's what we all have to believe about him unchanging through the centuries. Ok my agenda, but who can escape agenda? Even complete surrender is an "agender" of sorts.
Who's got the time, Jacques? The heart has the answer. I do like bits of your Father/Mother idea here however, although it sounds a bit Siva/Sakti , and why can't immanence be absolute. There's nothing without something:
On further inspection, that Evangelical Power Point seems a bit off. Moses wrote scripture because scripture says Moses wrote scripture? Sheesh! Your best minds?
I don't think that is biased at all. Tradition specifically tells us that there are certain things we cannot know but through divine revelation. The Trinity is a good example, without scripture telling us that God is a Trinity we would not know that God is a Trinity. Am I biased for believing in the Trinity just because scripture says God is a Trinity?
As for your example of Elijah...I just don't follow that it is clearly a "primitive" example of progressive religious thought clearly influenced by exile propaganda...God is the same yesterday, today and forever...I suppose the account of Annanias and Sapphira was snuck into the New Testament by the same sneaky compilar of the pentatuach
I haven't had a chance to look at your previous link, will let you know once I have.
Well the doctrine of the Trinity isn't explicit in scripture, but was obviously drawn from it and formed as doctrine a little later, a prime example of revelation in process over time and processed by human beings.
As for A & S, scripture is always dropping little legends into the mix. The way perhaps Herodotus does in his Histories. It's a way of understanding and looking at the world which we've largely lost in our literal, scientific age. It's one of the reasons I love the Bible. History and legend unashamedly woven together. Think of Lot's wife. A woman turned into a pillar of salt? What a story! And if you visit the Dead Sea region where it's set, it's pretty obvious how the legend grew.
It just seems naive to accept it all as history and absolute. Sorry. We need a little spiritualised common sense, and a little knowledge of how material was compiled in the ancient world. That history/mythology cross over. There are so many parallels. Homer's epics (who knows if Homer actually wrote them). Sumerian legends. Mesopotamian mythology. The Bible is unique because it involves man's spiritual search and divine revelation, but only in the form and context of the times.This message has been edited. Last edited by: samson,
Stephen, I'm on part 3 of the BBC clips...none of this is new to me, we explored many of these issues at undergraduate level at theological college. The presenter isn't presenting secrets that Jewish and Christian scholars are unfamiliar with, but she certainly chooses to read the evidence in a very specific way. I'm not trying to be cocky, but I don't think her 'so-called' evidence is very strong at all. She makes giant leaps in her arguments with very little to back up her claims. It is no secret that Israel was constantly embroiled in the worship of the false gods of Canaan, but to make it seem as though this was the natural order of the day and that monotheism is a late development is simply reading an interpretation into the texts that contradicts the actual evidence provided in the texts themselves...I couldn't help slapping my forehead evry time the presenter took a mighty leap from a pepple of speculative information to a rock of what she imagines is CLEAR Evidence!!! I am not even a little convinced.
No, I wasn't convinced either, but nor am I convinced that what we have dates from the time of Moses and that monotheism was the absolute standard of the Hebrews. I choose to apply a little of that hopefully spiritualised common sense and interpret revelation as an ongoing process, hard won over centuries of struggle and debate.
Look, I'm actually sympathetic to some of what you said two posts up. I do spiritualize some of the Old Testament, Creation, the Flood...so I'm not an absolute literalist. But where I probably differ from you is that I do consider the entire bible divinely inspired, with every part being intended for my spiritual good. I am thus not inclined to ignore, overlook, or attempt to trivialize or rationalize something as simply cultural, primitive, or an indiscernable mix of the human and the divine. I take the whole bible as divinely inspired and authoritative...I believe to do otherwise is to head out onto an ocean of uncertainty and confusion...I've been there and I have far more peace now.
Hey, I believe the whole of scripture is divinely inspired too. But what does that mean? Does it mean it's ALL entirely relevant to us? Not at all. I don't see you having to take care of your slaves. Does it mean it's entirely without cultural or human input? Doubt it. Every author had his style. There is divine inspiration in simply seeking.
And isn't it funny how I used to think like you but feel more peaceful and utterly liberated having lost some of my attachment. I love oceans of uncertainty. They allow me to be creative.
Gonna say goodnight for now, chat more tomorrow
Goodnight, Jacques .
You guys might recall that ancient teaching on the four senses of Scripture.
- see http://brotherandre.stblogs.co...senses-of-scripture/
The Catholic Catechism has a section on it as well.
Good to see you two trying to clarify some important issues. I'll just speak to one -- Moses writing the Pentateuch. I've always understood that in the sense of his teaching and authority being behind what came to be written down. Evangelicals do take him to be literally the author.
- e.g., http://www.equip.org/perspecti...ses-write-the-torah/
Wikipedia gives a pretty good summary of what I've read from a number of scripture scholars.
As I noted above, a number of psalms reference Moses and the Law. The Exodus is also stamped deeply into the Hebrew identity. Clearly something happened that (re-) constituted them as a people, and Moses was in the thick of it. There must have been a very strong oral tradition surrounding such a formative period in their history, including events, teachers, teachings, laws, etc. Oral traditions are actually just as robust as written ones. In fact, it is always oral tradition that validates or refutes the written text. Tribal communities, in particular, know the stories of their tribes, as this is what helps to define them. I sincerely doubt that the written texts that have come down to us are at odds with the oral traditions about Moses, covenant, law, etc. that preceded them. So it's not like some people wrote things down in the 5th/6th C. B.C. and the community said, "aha, so THAT'S what we believe."
This doesn't speak to the thread topic of "God as Father . . . " but it does address an important sidebar that's been carried along.
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