Dabar [theme]

He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou find refuge: His truth is a shield and buckler
Psalms 91:4

Be it ours,when we cannot see the face of God, to trust under the shadow of His wings. C.H. Spugeon

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father-God

Today is Father's Day!!

As we pass through this life there are many operatives which exist forming, defining, shaping who it is that we become.

It is a point of contention that we are specific in our gender classification of God as a 'Father', hence being 'male'.

Many are offended by this gender specification.

"I believe in God, the Father ..."

[God speaking to his people:] “As a mother comforts her child so I will comfort you.” (Isaiah 66:13)




[God comparing his love for his people with a mother’s love for her child:] “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has born?” (Isaiah 49:15)



[Jesus comparing his love for the people of Jerusalem to the protective behavior of a mother hen:] “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…how I have often longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…” (Luke 13:34)

[God comparing his love for his people to a parent teaching her child to walk:] “When Israel was a child, I loved him…it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them in my arms.” (Hosea 11:1,3)

Although there are 'other' parental metaphors used to express the love of God for His people, the most common, accepted belief is that God is male, hence a Father. This is understandable as the paternal metaphors outnumber the maternal metaphors occurring in the Bible. I do not have a problem with the 'maternal' metaphors, I am a father and I know that within me is a nurturing aspect, quite possibly stronger than that of my wife. However, I will add that the direction of my maternal emphasis is different than that of my wife, but no less important or influential in my children's lives. I believe that is a true possibility within all paternal relationships, although in this real world not fully realized or implemented. Notwithstanding, (there always has to be a notwithstanding clause, after all I am Canadian) a father-figure is the most influential element in a child's life. I use the word 'is' to place the context of this influence in present tense, meaning regardless of the activity or involvement of a father in a child's life, it is that predominant influence. In defining the paternal influence this way there is created an accountability as well as an explanation, as opposed to an excuse, for the reactions and responses to God as Father, a specific male distinction. This is where the issue of a paternal God gains full flight. Many struggle with the idea of God as Father as a result of the relationship they personally had with there biological or surrogate fathers.

Yesterday I was involved in a Ride-for-Dad (motorcycle, 600 kms) and as circumstances would have it it was a very wet day, lots of drizzle frequented by downpours and heavy winds. As I am travelling I was thinking Would my Dad have weathered (pun intended) these circumstances to raise money and awareness of Prostate Cancer? Would he have made this insignificant sacrifice of time and discomfort for me? I would like to believe he would, but my life experience has taught me through my relationship with him, that the possibility is not a reality. Note: My Dad passed away a number of years ago from bone cancer.

As I have come to faith in God through His Son, Jesus Christ, I have struggled with God as Father. I can relate and associate with those who wish God were not male. (Although I do not believe God is male as we understand maleness) " ... the gendering of God creates problems for those who struggle with their fathers. That is, "father" is a relational schema that might be happy and healthy or unhappy and unhealthy. Consequently, when we deploy relational anthropomorphisms we can create emotional obstacles for those who have toxic associations with those metaphors. For many people "God as Father" is like sand in the mouth. Too much hurt and abuse is packaged into the notion of "father." True, God might function as an adopted Father for these persons, but we should be sensitive to their initial and possibly lasting distaste for the metaphor found in the first line of the Creed."

I find it interesting, that in my life journey of faith, as real as the previous statement is in my life, I cannot, not believe God as Father or male. What a perplexing theological and relational dichotomy is created. Maybe we all live with some logical fallacy, some ad hominem ("to the man"), argumentum ad hominem, as an attempt to link the truth of our claim that 'Father' is a negative characteristic of the male gender or belief about how our Fathers expressed love and care as an absolute of all Fathers. Every Father had opportunity and choice to determine his relationship with his children. It is not the fault of a child that these relationship's were flawed. The truth is that God the Father is not lacking in His love and sacrifice for us.

The truest of impacts upon man as relating to God as Father, may come with the call to depend on faith in a reality of Fatherhood existing in God which transcends this life, especially with those who have suffered abuse at the hands of their Fathers. After all Christianity is about the absurdity of God sacrificing His only begotten Son for sins we have committed. As a Father I would never do that!!

The trouble with faith in God is that He asks of each person to believe first and foremost, in Him, regardless, of any or all preconceived notions of Who He is.

"When I think of the Father, I think of the essence, meaning and being of God. I think of the infinity of God present in everything, yet somehow personal enough to give particular attention (love) to individuals. I think the parental metaphor is important because it helps us understand some sense of likeness (we’re made in God’s image) and also some sense of distinction (we are children not parents – there is a “generational” boundary between us). Less politically correct, I also think that it is important that the primary metaphor is that of Fatherhood with a secondary metaphor of God being also maternal. Normally, I’m for inclusive language, but I believe there is a strong psychological argument for why God as Father works better for us (and therefore why God chose to reveal himself to us more often through a paternal metaphor, perhaps?). Ancient cultures were quite capable of considering a female god – in spite of obvious patriarchal tendencies – but I believe the psychological effect of relating to a female god is developmentally regressive (appeals too much to our unconscious desires to be mothered like infants) and tends to be sexualised in religious practices and imagery. Ideally it might be preferable to consider the gender-neutral term “Parent,” but to make something gender-neutral is to make it artificial and un-personal. Metaphors have power because they relate to experience and we have no experience of a gender-neutral parent."


"One axiom that generally holds true is that if you’ve been stuck for quite a while, your usual way of coping with the original problem is probably a part of what is keeping you stuck







I think the same is often true when we get stuck in our relationship with God. Certain kinds of doubts or fears or questions or frustrations with God (or the world) come up. Then our usual way of coping with those doubts, questions or frustrations keep us from overcoming them – and we stay stuck. Consider what we often do in response: 1) get afraid and bury the thought, 2) get overwhelmed and give up, 3) get angry and passive-aggressively withdraw, 4) assume we must be wrong and don’t do the work to figure out how or whether we are partly right, etc. I suspect all of these frequent kinds of responses do a pretty good job of shutting down our relationship with God."

If God as Father is a recourse for your rejection of His love, I would suggest the problem is not in God as Father, but quite possibly your fears and doubts creating opportunity for you to revert and cope.

Stepping out in faith is an immense and disconcerting aspect of a relationship with God, don't be dismayed by its overwhelming request in your life.

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