Is God Man or Woman? The Answer Matters

Posted on September 16, 2014 in Theology by

God is a womanIn recent years blogger Rachel Held-Evans has amassed a following of sorts. Mostly for her neo-evangelical views that continue to move away from biblical theology and increasingly embrace a more liberal doctrine. She has publicly embraced homosexuality as compatible with Christian doctrine and appears to hold serious contempt for the Complementarian view of gender given in the Bible.

But the evidence that Evans is straying into a liberal theology rife with dangerous ideas can be seen in her “God as Mother” language used in an article that is now two years old. Like many people, I missed the article when it first came out but recent reviews of it by Owen Strachan and Karen Swallow Prior caught my eye. In the article Evans says:

Mary was not the first, nor the last, mother to hold the broken body of her child in her arms. … And, because of today, because of the cross, it is a pain that God Herself understands.”

Did you see the two little words that have very big implications?

The use of the phrase “God herself” reflects an idea that has been around for quite some time. The “God as Mother” theology has largely died out because of where advocates ended up theologically. It seems adherents to ‘God as Mother” theology often find themselves soon endorsing other non-biblical ideas such as homosexuality and radical feminism.

In his response to Evans Owen Strachan shares at least two reasons why the worn out “God as Mother” idea is biblically untenable.

Strachan first says that identifying “God as a woman is wrong in biblical and theological terms.” He writes:

“In the New Testament, when Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he began the model petition with the words “Our Father,” for example, guiding them in addressing the first person of the Godhead (Matthew 6:9). The intra-Trinitarian Father-Son relationship is of crucial significance both to high Christology and John’s argument in his Gospel, and the names of each signify much more than just what they would wear on a nametag (see John 10, 13-17). At no point did Jesus or any of the apostles address God the Father with a womanly name. At no point does anyone is Scripture do so.”

Strachan then cites Bruce Ware and James Kimel. Ware writes in his book “God Under Fire”:

“[T]he Bible never employs feminine metaphorical language to name God.  True, God is sometimes said to be or to act in ways like a mother (or some other feminine image), but never is God called ‘Mother’ as he is often called ‘Father.’  Respect for God’s self-portrayal in Scripture requires that we respect this distinction.  While we have every right (and responsibility) to employ feminine images of God, as is done often in Scripture itself, no biblical example or precedence would lead us to go further and to name God in ways he has not named himself (266-67).”

Kimel writes in his book “Speaking the Christian God”:

“Within Christian usage “Father” is not just one of many metaphors imported by fallen sinners onto the screen of eternity. It is a filial, denominating title of address revealed in the person of the eternal Son. “On the lips of Jesus,” Wolfhart Pannenberg states, “‘Father’ became a proper name for God. It thus ceased to be simply one designation among others” (204; Pannenberg, Systematic Theology 1:262).”

Karen Swallow Prior, in her response to Evans echoes the concern that “God as Mother” language often results in a low view of Scripture that will eventually lead to further unbiblical beliefs. Prior writes:

“We can know something about everyone, including God, by their names—but not everything. Yet, in our attempt to know and understand one another through language, it is not within our right to change anyone’s name, least of all God’s. A high view of Scripture, therefore, demands that we address God in the terms used by the inspired writers of his word. Whether their language reflects the gender of the Hebrew language or reflects the patriarchal views or both, God chose these writers in that time and place to record his word.”

Indeed, for me, the most concerning point regarding the “God as Mother” idea is that it inserts something into the biblical text that is not found. One can hardly read the Bible and get the idea that God is a woman from a plain-text understanding. But even an in-depth etymological analysis of Scripture doesn’t reveal any idea that God is a woman. Every page, every word of the Bible clearly reveals an image of God as a masculine, Father figure.

In seeking to insert something into the biblical text that is not there Evens, and others sharing her view, show their contempt for Scripture. They are so desperate to justify their feminist ideology that they willingly disregard the inerrancy of Scripture in favor of a man-made (or in this case woman-made) doctrine. Is God so inept that He is not capable of revealing ALL of Himself in Scripture? If God wanted us to think of Him as a woman would He not have revealed that clearly? It’s not as if God was opposed to radical ideas that were counter-cultural, just look at Jesus. So the fact that God did not reveal Himself as a woman but instead shows Himself in masculine terms in the Bible from start to finish should end the discussion.

Strachan’s second reason why the “God as Mother” idea is biblically untenable is that is “does not occur in a vacuum. The larger theological context of her remarks is the embrace of feminine God language among egalitarians and feminists.” Strachan shows how many of Evans predecessors began by espousing the “God as Mother” idea before going on to support homosexuality, transgenderism, feminism, and other unbiblical doctrines. Strachan cites Mary Kassian in her book “The Feminist Mistake”:

“Feminists took a quantum leap…when they moved from observing the feminine characteristics of God to the practice of addressing God with feminine pronouns. When feminists changed biblical language about God, they changed the biblical image of God.”

Therein lays the problem. Evans and those that have come before her wants to reshape God into their own image, a female image that they respect much more than any male image. But doing so destroys the image of God clearly presented in the Bible and makes Him impossible to know and have a relationship with; hence the logical veering from biblical theology into supporting what the Bible calls sin. Strachan points out the other unbiblical ideas Evens supports to further prove this:

“There is a radicalism in Evans’s sexual ethics that emerges when you connect the dots: like the feminist theologians of prior generations, Evans has used God-as-woman language, approved of homosexuality, and approved of transgender identity.  This is a disastrous trajectory, for these are not biblical views, and they are not historically Christian or evangelical views. Indeed, when one considers Evans’s sexual ethics, it is difficult to tell where queer theory ends and biblical doctrine begins. This sad sequence is not surprising, however, when you remember that Evans chafes at inerrancy, the exclusivity of Christ (“exclusivism”), and the apostolic rightness of Paul. If you reject the cardinal doctrines of evangelicalism, how long can you be considered and treated as an evangelical?”

I can’t help but feel bad for Rachel Held-Evans. She either seems to be wandering hopelessly away from her Christian faith by the allure of mystical and socially liberal ideas. Or, she is desperately searching for something. Maybe I’m wrong and she is just convinced that centuries of scholarship regarding the Person of God are flawed and she wants to try and correct it. Maybe she’s mad at God. I don’t know.

I certainly don’t claim to know everything, but, what I do know is that God reveals Himself in glorious splendor in the Bible. He gives us more information regarding Himself than a human mind can hope to comprehend. Even the most brilliant scholars reveal the more they know of God the more they realize they have only begun to know Him. But one thing is for sure, the only way to know God is to accept the image of God given in the Bible. Changing the image of God given to us in Scripture will only ensure that a person stays far from God.


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