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“There’s a ghetto up in Heaven and it’s ours, Black Power is what we scream as we dream in a paranoid state And our fate, is a lifetime of hate Dear Mama, can you save me?”- 2Pac, “Only God can judge me.”
“If the Trinity is a community, then what corresponds to it is the true human community of men and women. A certain de-patriarchalization of the picture of God results in a de-patriarchalization and de-hierarchalization of the church too. […]Like Israel’s prophets, Christianity actually replaced the patriarchal and matriarchal powers of origin by the messianism of the Child, as the bearer of hope and the beginning of the future [ala Paul Tillich].”- Jurgen Moltmann, The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation, 160.
Optimistic Chad’s latest tweet inspired this post. It reminded me of Suzanne McCarthy’s series a couple of years ago on the book, Fire From Heaven: Studies in Syriac Theology and Liturgy: see here. In the Syriac Christian tradition, because the term for spirit is translated from the feminine noun ruha, there was a tradition to refer to God as “Compassionate Mother.” Suzanne explains,
“That is, the Godhead is in reality neither gendered nor hierarchical, but we use these images to communicate something about God. The trinity can be talked about both as an all masculine cohort of Father, Son and Spirit; and as Father, Mother and Son. The image is not the reality.”
For those that will now come with the weapon we know as Sola Scriptura, I proffer this image from my work on the Gospel of John and the Fatherhood of YHWH. With the exception of the Judeans who claim that God is their father (8:41), Jesus is the lone character in the Fourth Gospel who asserts that God is his parent. Jesus and the Jewish Christians in the Johannine community, while referring to God as Father, would also be aware of the references to God as mother in the Jewish scriptures such as Isaiah 66:13 which compare YHWH to a mother who nurses her child. Systematic theologian Daniel Migliore, in a report to the Presbyterian Church USA on the nature of the Trinity, (see HERE) talks about John Calvin as the God who gives Godself just as mothers give themselves to their children. We must understand that we, as the faithful, are not free to name God anything that we please, for that is the unfreedom and gift sent to us by God’s self-disclosure. However, God, who is beyond our ideas of gender constructs, who is spirit, as Jesus tells us in John 4, has made space for both males and females to speak of God. Therefore, I would say that any attempt to limit God’s being based on gender is adding to Scripture (contrary to sola scriptura), which is prohibited by the author/s of Revelation.
God as a Parent is a metaphor founded upon biblical images; revelation is God naming Godself, while our response is our calling upon God in worship. The recognition of God as Compassionate Mother, therefore, just like the Creeds, is a petition that should be directing us all in the direction of YHWH, who has made women and men in God’s own image.