Reconstruction and feminization of God

To use gender-neutral language in the bible is one thing, but to completely feminize God is another thing. A sector of feminism has tried to neuter and feminize God’s male gender in Father God, not just from the bible, but also from our everyday speech. If there are any feminists out, please don’t take this the wrong way. Theological conservatives are not against feminism per se. I must say that feminism has made some positive contributions for more equitable treatment of the marginalized; and I think many conservatives would agree with this. However, our conservatism prevents us from agreeing with some of the ideas in Christian feminism, specifically, regarding the feminization of God. It is an uncomfortable image and I must try not to be reactionary about this myself. But before we begin blaming feminism for “taking society backwards,” we should “remove the log from our own eyes”, then we may critique some of the points we may disagree with in Christian feminism.

No one can dispute Jesus’ gender, but we can dispute our depictions of his color or race. Throughout the history of the Christian Church, we have tried to racialize Jesus as a black Jesus…an Asian Jesus…and a white Jesus. Christians from the first century likely would have been appalled at how we have painted the face of Jesus in many colors. Perhaps the early church would have felt scandalized by our false depictions of Jesus, whom they knew as a Mediterranean man. How many of us have been shown pictures of a white Jesus in Sunday School and thought nothing of it? While growing up, I actually thought Jesus was a white guy. It likely never occurred to many of us that the pictures of Jesus we saw were not accurate depictions of the real Jesus in history. Christians like to conveniently make Jesus into what we want him to be to us. Will the real Jesus please stand up?

Just as there has been a deliberate agenda to repaint the face of Jesus into the color of our choice, we cannot deny that there is also a feminist agenda that wishes to neuter God the Father. Some feminists do want to reconstruct or re-image Father God into a female motherly figure. A book where one can learn more about this might be The Feminist Mistake: The Radical Impact of Feminism by Mary A. Kassian (Crossway). If it was so easy to paint Jesus as a white Jesus, a black Jesus, or an Asian Jesus, just think… how much easier will it be to neuter and feminize God the Father who is invisible and unseen to us? If this were to happen, what would this sound like? One might begin the Lord’s Prayer with “Our Mother, who art in heaven.” This does sound kind of hokey to theological conservatives and even to theological liberals. However convenient and necessary to be able to relate to a comforting and loving God, feminism ought to recognize the limits of how far they should go? Where should Christian feminism stop? Some think that it has gone way too far, but some think that it hasn’t gone far enough. Let me ask: If Jesus recognized God as his Father, who are we to change Father God’s gender? (Luke 10:21-22; 23:34). Didn’t Jesus also teach us how to pray to our “Heavenly Father” (Matt. 6:8-9)? As children of God, aren’t we also encouraged to call to “Abba Father”? (3rd picture: Jesus the Guru; the link above is a speculative depiction of what some think Jesus might have looked like, based on a reconstruction of an ancient skull).

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Author: Kevin S.

A follower of Jesus, a husband and a father. Hobbies include biking, keeping fish if they don't die on me, blogging when I can, theologizing and ministry, and pondering about world affairs.

9 thoughts on “Reconstruction and feminization of God”

  1. Hey Kevin, this is something I’ve also thought about recently. But what I’m wondering about is how much have the people of that region changed since Jesus’ day? Have the Arab people intermingled more with the Jewish people, making a darker-skinned people? Or were the Jews just as dark? Has the intermingling of the Jews with Europeans since then made them lighter than they used to be? Can we assume that the people of that region of the earth looked very much then as they do today?

    I wonder if anybody has done any serious research on this. Obviously changes must take place, since we all come from a common ancestor.

    Thought-provoking entry, Kevin!

    Gary

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  2. Gary, I would imagine that after the Jews returned from exile from Babylon, they may have intermingled somewhat with Middle Eastern people. I once saw a picture of what Jesus might have looked like… and he didn’t look white. Certainly the modern Jews of today have a lighter complexion because they would have intermingled with Europeans during the more recent exilic periods. Exiled Jews have lived all over the world including Ethiopia, Africa and China.

    Someone probably has done some research on the face of Jesus but it’s purely speculative. Take a look at this article at http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/research/1282186.html
    That was the face I was talking about. It’s an interesting article too. Someone tried to reconstruct the face of Jesus using a computer imaging on the Shroud of Turin.

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  3. http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/research/1282186.html

    Interesting article and picture. This wasn’t from the Shroud, although they may have considered that image. They called this “forensic anthropology”, They used the ancient skull of a man from that region who died around that time, and reconstructed what he looked like, in the same manner as they do with crime victims. So what they have is a picture of what Jesus may have looked like; at least it’s probably a pretty fair picture of what some guy back then and there looked like. (Personally, I think it looks more like Simon Peter!) 😉

    Fascinating story. I remember watching it on TV a couple years ago.

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  4. Hmmm. Sorry, Kevin. It doesn’t want to post the whole url, and I’m not sure how to make it work that way. Anyway, I went to the Popular Mechanics website you gave and typed in “Face of Jesus” in the search box, and it gave me the article.

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  5. Gary, sorry blogger doesn’t seem to accept really long urls in comments very well. Next time, I’ll have to manually type in the whole url.

    You’re right, it is from an ancient skull of a man… Anyways, that’s how I felt about the picture too. Peter was a rough and tumble fisherman-type so I think that’s a better depiction of Peter than it is of Jesus. This face looks too intimidating for Jesus. That’s why everyone likes the gentle Jesus pictures.

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  6. Yeah, gentle…and handsome!

    That doesn’t fit with what it says in Isaiah 53, does it?

    Isaiah 53:2b NLTse
    “There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance,
    nothing to attract us to him.”

    While in my mind the guy in the picture looks like I would picture Peter, I have no real problem imagining Jesus to look like that. Jesus was a man’s man, tough and strong. He wasn’t that effeminate guy with the beautiful, long flowing hair we’ve all seen in so many pictures.

    Really, his appearance isn’t important. It was his words, his gentleness and kindness, and his miracles of healing that attracted people to him. I think just about any man, no matter his appearance, if he were to speak that way, act that way, and single-handedly almost wipe out disease in the whole country as Jesus did, would attract people to himself from far and wide.

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  7. Gary, according to Isa.53:2b, yes, Jesus could have looked less attractive than what we’ve depicted him as. It must have been his kindness and love, wisdom in teaching, working of miracles, and charismatic leadership that drew crowds to follow him. I would tend to think that someone who could draw crowds due to only his good looks might actually be just an empty shell outside without substance on the inside. Who would want to follow a hollow shell of a man?

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  8. It doesn’t seem right to me to think of God as having a sex. It’s perhaps less inaccurate to see God as having a gender, but even that seems a bit more than what I’d want to say. God certainly chose to reveal himself in largely masculine language, but it’s logically incoherent to suppose that the male and female God created (both in his image) reflect him to different degrees, with the male reflecting him more.

    It’s more likely that the male reflects him in one way and the female in another, and God’s choice to reveal himself in male language is like God’s choice to reveal himself in temporal and spatial metaphors despite not having such limitations. It reveals something about him. Temporal and spatial language communicates personal attributes in ways we can understand. Perhaps the male language does something similar. Complementarians generally believe it’s to illustrate how God wanted male and female to interact, each representing an aspect of God that the other one turns out not to represent as fully.

    Egalitarians have to conceive of it differently, perhaps just an accommodation to how society has viewed gender differences. It’s going to take some work to show that such a view doesn’t reduce to the feminist view that God should eventually be represented as being female as much as male, however.

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  9. Jeremy, I can see how God can have both masculine traits and feminine traits. I like your point about God choosing to reveal himself using male language as a temporal and spatial means to communicate to us limited and imperfect human beings. This is a very reasonable and rational argument. As egalitarians, I admit it is difficult how to properly view God because we tend to anthropomorphize God. Once we do this, we are forced into a dilemma. Do we address God as “Father God” or as “Mother God”?

    I have to admit that, as a theological conservative, I have been cemented in how I view God as “Father God”. Although I am trying to be open to the alternative way of thinking about God. I have heard some reconstructionist feminist sermons and I still can’t seem to get my head around the idea of a “Mother God”.

    Another thing is that our English language does not seem to have the capacity to truly express God’s true reality. This shows how limited our English language is. It is not as sophisticated as, perhaps, the Greek language, which can describe the gender more fully or accurately than the English language. Perhaps, what we need is an advancement in our linguistic capacity so that we do not confine ourselves from being able to accurately express God’s true reality.

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