Wednesday, May 25, 2005

God As Father

The New Testament occaisionally makes a big deal about people's reaction to Jesus' claim that God is his Father (e.g. John 5:18). It's quite obvious that there's something unique about Jesus' relationship to "the Father" and the writings of the New Testament ground our relationship with God in Jesus' relationship to his Father. We are children of God because he is the Son of God.

Nevertheless, the idea of God as Father was not a Christian innovation. It was not an idea unheard of before Jesus. The Old Testament speaks of God as a father, and by exploring that motif we can gain a deeper appreciation for what it means for God to be our Father and perhaps even start to see how the idea of God as Father helped inform the development of the doctrine of the Trinity.

As Father, God established Israel as a nation (Dt. 32:6). He brought the Israelites forth as a people and protected them as they grew (Hosea 11:1-4). In these and similar images, God's fatherhood is closely related to God's election of the Jewish people.

This idea is especially developed among the prophets who use the image of God as Father to convey the deep intimacy of God with his people. For example, Isaiah 63:16 says, "For you are our father, though Abraham does not know us and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O Lord, are our father; our Redeemer from of old is your name," and Jeremiah 3:19 says, "I thought how I would set you among my children, and give you a pleasant land, the most beautiful heritage of all the nations. And I thought you would call me, My Father, and would not turn from following me."

God's protection of the weak and helpless is seen as a special relationship of fatherhood (Psalm 68:5), but God is also imagined to have a special relationship to the kings of Judah, who are represented as his sons (see, for example Psalm 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14).

Yet in all of this God's fatherhood of the Israelites is envisioned in strictly non-biological terms. In the religions of Israel's neighbors goddesses were closely associated with fertility and this may be one of the reasons that the Bible uses so few images of God as a mother.

The image of God as Father definitely depicts relationship, but never biology. The transcendence of God simply does not allow such a view.


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2 Comments:

Anonymous Brett said...

"In the religions of Israel's neighbors goddesses were closely associated with fertility and this may be one of the reasons that the Bible uses so few images of God as a mother."

True enough. It should ALSO be remembered that the particular writings that were chosen to be included in the canon were chosen FOR A REASON; alternately, the writings that were excluded were excluded for a reason also—and it was the WINNERS in history who made these decisions. WINNING does not necessarily imply being "correct."

It is interesting to note that many of the documents NOT INCLUDED in the canon of Christian Scriptures, for example, *DID* INCLUDE FEMININE PERSONIFICATIONS of God. This is an important point—especially when one realizes that the earliest Christians were a FAR MORE DIVERSE bunch than we ever realized before.

It would not surprise me at all to discover incontrovertible proof someday that there was a diliberate attempt made by the so-called "orthodox" to eliminate any memory of this feminine face of Divinity.

12:42 PM  
Blogger Andy said...

Hi Brett. Thanks for stopping by.

You've read The DaVinci Code then, yes? ;-)

The first thing I would want to say is that the canonical scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, do contain feminine images for God. If the proto-orthodox fathers tried to eliminate them, they did a pretty shoddy job of it. My point here was simply to say why these images were less common than the images of God as Father in the Old Testament and, more to the point, to say what that tells us about the meaning of the masculine images.

I don't mean to argumentative, but I'm not entirely sold on the claims of the "suppressed" Christian documents being more "pro-feminine" than the canonical ones. Can you give examples?

2:12 PM  

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