Can God be referred to in the feminine?
The post-modern/emergent method of interpreting scripture makes a number of incorrect postmodern assumptions and therefore leads people astray into all kinds of error. The latest example of this I found in the 'South African Emerging Church conversation' is referring to God in the feminine. Not that all emergents do this, but it is another example of how the movement leads people into error and tolerance of it.
Postmodernism and the Emerging Church assume amongst other things:
* The scripture is unclear on all sorts of issues where it is in fact clear. This leaves us free to doubt, question and speculate endlessly about even the fundamentals of theology.
* Belief is a personal and subjective opinion (rather certain truths being absolute) and we should respect eachothers opinions.
* We should refrain from saying that anyone else's opinion is wrong - meaning that errrant beliefs are not corrected.
Tim writes: "I've adopted "Godde" as it is comfortably spoken as "God" - fitting easier into language - and a suitable amalgamation of God and Goddess and being much less clumsy in writing than "God/Goddess" or "God/-ess". I retain "S/He" where it fits and also make use of both "He" and "She" in other places, according to context."
Now to respond briefly to the various arguments raised on the blog links above:
* God has revealed himself as Father (not mother) and Jesus revealed himself in human form as a man (not a woman).
* Yes, I accept the argument that the image of God is shown in both male and female as a unity (as in Genesis 1-2) and not man alone. Nevertheless, I don't believe this permits us to refer to God equally as masculine and feminine. Had this been God's intention one would have found interchangable male and female references in the Bible (which one does not).
* Yes, I accept that prior to the incarnation of Christ taking on human form, God did not have a human physical body and in that sense cannot be male. Nevertheless, this is not an excuse to refer to him in the feminine. Rather the earthly concept of gender revealed in creation is a reflection of the mysterious relationship between men (human beings male and female) and God - in which God always takes the masculine (leadership role) and we take the following feminine role (or sometimes the childl following the father role). That is the pattern of the images of God and Israel and the images of the Church (Ephesians 5).
* The feminists would probably protest that assumption of human gender roles, but that is probably why they attack the gender references to God. Nevertheless, I understand the above quoted writer says he does not base his argument on feminism.
* To respond to the argument that gender ceases in heaven because there is no marriage in heaven: Yes, true, there is no marriage between people in heaven, but there is the macro scale marriage between the people of God (the bride of Christ - female) and Christ (male). Earthly marriages are just a shadow of this great mysterious cosmic marriage. So from this perspective, the gender references to God and Christ continue to be relevant.
* To respond to the argument that Christ ceases to be male, but becomes somehow both genders after his resurrection. I don't know where you get this idea from the Bible? Jesus physical body was the same physical body he had before his resurrection. It could still eat food, talk and be touched. There was no physical body left behind in the grave. It was the same body, but now glorified. Jesus in Revelation is referred to as a king - not a queen. This idea should be dismissed.
* To respond to the argument about references to feminine characterists of God in scripture. These are all in the poetic form of a simile i.e. 'God is like'. They do not say 'God is'. As a generalisation, women are better nurturers than men and tend to be more caring etc. Nevertheless, if a man happens to have such characteristics it does not then make him female.
* All God's names in the Bible are masculine.
Nevertheless, this is only one example of an errant Emerging Church belief. There are thousands of others. But if one starts with the wrong assumptions, then one will end up with a variety of wrong conclusions. Therefore I argue that postmodernism is dangerous when used as a lens to interpret scriptural doctrine and ethics.