The Early Church and God's Gender

I said in the last post that there was one article on a Christian News website that bothered me enough to remove the link to that website.  But then I re-added the link, and decided to simply write about the bothersome article here.

The article is entitled "What The Early Church Thought About God's Gender."  In this article, the author is trying to make a case for God/Jesus being feminine, more feminine than the Word really portrays them.  

I have no problem with saying that God/Jesus has a feminine side - a gentle, loving, nurturing side, like all people do to some degree.  Or with saying that since God created man and woman in His image then it must mean that feminine and masculine characteristics come from Him and are evident in His nature.  It's just that men got the more masculine traits and women got the more feminine, and that men and women together in marriage give us a more complete picture of the total nature of God.

That's all fine.  But what I do have a problem with is trying to say that Jesus and God are really gender-neutral or are more female than the Bible says.  

What a desperate attempt to appear relevant and hip and part of the "in crowd"!  Selling out the Bible's Truth to please society has become far too common.  And that's a terrible, embarrassing thing!  

Why can't Christians worry more about pleasing God than pleasing men!?!  

Why can't they stand firmly on the Truth of the Gospel, instead of standing on the fence trying to please both sides!?!  

Why can't they care more about being faithful than about being popular!?!?

Where are the faithful Christians?  

So here are the problems I have with this article.

1.  Has this author no understanding of what a metaphor is?  Just because Jesus uses metaphors of female things to explain what He is thinking/feeling (such as comparing Himself to a hen) DOES NOT mean He is calling Himself a female.  A metaphor is a metaphor - a comparison that's used to make a point, not to represent reality.  If that were so, then Jesus would not just be female, but He would be a female chicken.

Feminine imagery is just that: imagery!  It's not meant to be taken as reality!  I think it can tell us something about the softer side of God's character and personality, but it does not tell us about His gender.

2.  The sources this author cites or considers authoritative are biased, unchristian, or extra-biblical ("outside the Bible"): a prayer book written in the 16th century by one faction of the Christian community, the encyclopedia, feminist theologians (You can bet that feminist theologians are going to want to turn God into a woman!), a bishop of Alexandria in the 2nd-3rd century, Augustine and Gregory in the 4th century.

Of course, the article itself is about what the early church thought about God's gender.  But this author seems to suggest that we should take the words and opinions of men and women who came well after Christ as authoritative.  That we should let what they thought influence our view of God.  That we should read the Bible in light of what they taught.  

Nope!  We can read about what they think God is like, but we should filter it all through Scripture - through what God Himself says He is really like!    

3.  He gives wisdom a name (Sophia) not used in the Bible, but used in extra-biblical books and by certain scholars.  Wisdom is a concept.  But when you personify it as "Sophia" - making it sound as if it's an actual female being - you turn it into something it was never meant to be.  

Wisdom is not a woman who was with God in the beginning.  God did not create Sophia.  Man created Sophia.  And then man said, "See!  God - embodied in 'Sophia' - is feminine, a woman."  But wisdom was never a woman.  The book of Proverbs is simply anthropomorphizing "wisdom," poetically letting it speak as if it was a woman in order to make a point.  It's not saying that it is a living female being!  

It's more like when we call a ship "she" - saying "She's a beauty, isn't she?  She's been through a lot of turbulent waters and is getting tired, but she's still strong and dependable."  

Are we really saying the boat is a female?  And that she's really tired?  No!  It's poetic!  It's a metaphor.  And poetry and metaphors do not represent reality exactly as it is.  They are not meant to be taken as "Gospel truth."  They are meant to illustrate a point.

4.  The author ignores any verse that talks about God as male, as a Father, and instead highlights only the verses that make his point, that refer to God as female.  Once again, all those verses are metaphors.  He is letting minor, insignificant metaphors take the place of more authoritative, "in reality" verses.  

5.  He is simply trying too hard to bend the Bible to fit what the world wants to hear.  Feminizing everything or gender-neutralizing everything is a fad.  It's popular nowadays because of the radical feminists running loose and changing everything ... and this sounds like he is trying to please them.  He has taken a wishy-washy stance on God's Word - a "let's only look at the parts that fit what I want to hear" stance, while ignoring what it really says.  And that is disturbing.  

And to me, when someone tries too hard to please society and to be popular, they can't be trusted anymore to uphold the Word of God as it is written.  (See also "Why I Don't Trust Women-led Churches.")  And when a Christian news site publishes the article, it also loses some respectability and reliability, which is why I removed the site at first.  (But I put it back on again because they have many other good articles and because I believe Christians should be able to read these things for themselves, to learn to be discerning and to think critically.  This is why I wrote about it.) 

Maybe the question shouldn't be "What did the early church think about God's gender?"

Maybe the question should be "What did the earliest church think of God's gender?  What does Jesus and God Himself think of His gender?"

So what if early church people and feminist theologians refer think of God as "she"!  

Time and time again in the Bible, God is referred to as "He" and as "Father," far more than the few times He's metaphorically referred to as feminine.

And I choose to trust what God Himself actually says through His Word, not what some feminist theologian or 4th-century scholar metaphorically says.

Near the end of this completely-biased, flimsily-reasoned article, the author basically says that modern Christians risk turning people off to God and ruining their "religious experiences" by only referring to God in masculine terms.

So ... we should alter God's truth because people might be turned off by God's truth!?!  Is that what he's saying?  

Yes, he is!  

He's essentially saying, "Tell the people what they want to hear because they don't want to hear what the Bible actually says."

And he also uses a tactic that I have heard others use when they're trying to manipulate people into agreeing with them or into at least not vocally disagreeing with them - the old "You can't really understand God anyway" tactic (he words it differently).  

When he points out the idea that claiming to understand God means you don't understand God, what he's essentially trying to say is "Those of you who disagree with me can't act like you can understand God because He can't be understood by us anyway.  You can't claim you know what God is like because we can never really know what He's like.  So therefore, my view of God (as a woman) is just as valid as your view of God.  If you take any firm stands on God then you show that you don't really understand God."  

This "God can't really be understood" reasoning is a tactic meant to change all black-and-white issues into gray, making it sound like every view is valid, like you can't take a firm stand on anything.  And if you do take a firm stand or come to a strong conclusion, then you show how unhumble you are, acting like you can understand a God who can't be understood.  "Shame on you for acting like you can understand God!"  

I have heard this argument many times before with different issues.  And it's meant to shut up any opposition, to "shame" people into not taking any firm stand on theological issues and doctrines.

But I will take a firm stand!  Not on some sort of self-serving, self-satisfying, imaginative opinions about God ... but on what the Bible says about God.  

We can stand firmly on the Truth of Scripture.  

We must stand firmly on the Truth of Scripture!    

If not, then anything goes!

Mr. Wheeler-Reed thinks it's harmful to stick by our "male imagery" of God, which he seems to present as something we made up, that we "imagined" God to be male.  Why else would he call it "imagery"?  

(But what he calls "imagery," I call Biblical Truth.  We didn't choose to imagine God as male.  The Bible refers to God as male.  Notice his tactics of essentially calling Biblical Truth "imagery" while presenting female imagery as "Biblical Truth.")  

I, however, think that the greater risk and damage comes when we define God according to our own made-up images of God, when we use metaphors and biased opinions to determine the truth about who He is, and when we reinterpret Scripture according to our opinions and desires.

Sticking to what the Bible says is far more accurate and reliable.  

If God says He is male, a Father, then why can't we just accept it?  Why do we fight so hard to reinterpret Him and His Word?  (And it's not just about this issue, but about many others, too.)

It's not because we are searching for truth; it's because we want to redefine truth according to what society wants to hear and according to what we want to believe!  

And when we do this, we are not really "finding God" anyway.  We are only creating our own version of God for our pleasure, which will only lead us farther and farther from the Truth.   

[Interesting note about the author of this article:  He (David Wheeler-Reed) apparently is part of a "religious socialist" group, founded by "Democratic Socialists of America."  One goal of this "religious socialist" group is to reach the "wider religious left."  And according to this page, his areas of study in school included "queer theory and queer theology."  

Does this sound like someone you want teaching you about the Bible?  Be careful who you get your "truth" from!

And here is another blog post I just found from someone else who is thinking critically about what David Wheeler-Reed wrote.]

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