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June 22, 2004



So many excellent, thought-provoking ideas in this post. Thank you Hugo. I look forward to the conversation on this one. You said, "as we in the church work to bring women in from the margins, to hear their voices, and yes, to capture the feminine nature of God, we cannot lose sight of the nature of God as loving father. I need that image as a Christian, but I also need it as a man.
I find that, as a woman, I also need the image of God as Father.

Ralph Luker

Hugo, I'm glad to know that you also still refer to your father as "daddy". It strikes me as a quite healthy thing to do.
(btw: this is my only means of communicating with you until my sick desktop is returned from the repair shop. Would you please cross-post your post about Clinton at Cliopatria?)


Sure, Ralph -- 'tis done.

Renee in Ohio

This hadn't occurred to me until a minister or priest (I forget which) pointed it out, but for some people the word "father" has terribly painful baggage attached to it. For them, substituting another word for God might be a way of removing one of the roadblocks that stands between the person and a meaningful, healing relationship with God.


Hugo, I think you summed something important up when you said that you view God as Father because you "need it as a man." That's great for you, but how about for those of us who aren't male? What about those of us who need to see God as mother but who are told that isn't possible becuase God is Father, not mother, He not She.

I can say "Our Father" without flinching, and have also had good relationships with my fathers. But I need some acknowlegement that it's okay to see God as mother in more than just a casual nod to the "oh, well, whatever you need to do in your own prayers is fine." That's what I hear in my head when I hear "I need it as a man" -- as if my needs aren't important. And most of religious belief has been established and continued by men, so where does that leave me?

I like "Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer" because they represent active roles, not static ones. It describes what the members of the trinity "do" rather than just who they are. Your discomfort for use of those terms probably mirrors somewhat what some women feel when they hear "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" -- divorced from identification and marginalized by action.


That's a good point, Mumcat. But I think there is a huge difference between saying "God is Father" and "God is male". I think we often ignore that difference. Textually, there is plenty of support for the former, not much for the latter. Just because human fathers are invariably male, doesn't mean that God shares that limitation.

I have learned that the job of the church is not to make me comfortable, but to challenge me. Perhaps I rely too much on the cozy relationality of "father, son" language -- I just wish that "Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer" had more life to them as words -- God for me (still an evangelical in my heart) all about personal relationship, and I need relationship language.


The problem with Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer is that it ignores the fact that the Holy Spirit creates, the Father redeems, and the Son sustains. Or mix it around as well as you like. Each person of the Trinity does not have a specific job. This reflects an old heresy called Sabellism or modalism, I think. There's nothing new under the sun, huh? But dividing up the Trinity like that, even to make it active, ignores the fact that the Trinity is an active communion of Persons. Putting a dichtomy of being vs. action into the Trinity is making a problem out of something that isn't. Doing and being are united in the Trinity.

Though I think Mumcat is right to point out that saying you need it as a man is just as valid as saying what she needs as a woman. My two cents is, both women and men need the Father, Son and Holy Spirit language because The use of the word "Father" in the Trinitarian formula does not refer to some father god of patriarchy. In fact, because God's inner life is one of mutual love, equality and cooperation, it is a refutation of patriarchy. Speaking of the Trinity as Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one way we affirm our culture of mutual love, equality and cooperation.

Joy Paul

This is an interesting subject. I have learned to speak of God as he or she, as God the Father or God the Mother. Now I will admit that is a huge step for a conservative person like myself. In my case, when I came to understand that God loved me as a gay man, I attended a church where many lesbians were "very sensitive" about the gender terms. Because I had come to understand that God's love goes farther than we can comprehend, I made a leap beyond my comprehension and began trying to be "gender" conscious when referring to God. I do this in songs, prayer, and normal conversation.

I refer to God "the Father" usually as "Loving God." That is imensely meaningful to me. I refer to Jesus in the masculine because he was a human man. I usually refer to the Holy Spirit in the feminine. I am not against and sometimes say God the Mother. Believe me that is "stretching" for me.

I agree that God is above female or male characteristics, so I believe we can interchange those terms for God.


Again, it comes down to how one sees the word "Father." Ask almost anyone and they will say "father" is a male parent. Male as in having male characteristics. God is usually pictured or imagined as a guy (male) on a white throne with a long white beard (male) acting as king (male position), judge (in the culture of the time of writing -- male), warrior (male), -- get the picture? It feels like for sops, women are tossed the occasional hen and chicks imagery.

But it boils down to if God is above male or female characteristics, why do people insist that it has to be God the Father just because a patriarchal society 5,000 years ago could only imagine a male god? Or because someone else's comfort level dictates that only "Father " will do?

Sorry, but this is one of my "issues". i should probably just shut up and be dutiful.


If "father" is not simply "parent who happens to be male," then what makes fatherhood different from motherhood? What makes God specifically a father, rather than a parent?

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