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Source: (consider it) Thread: God called Father
Unum Solum
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I hope this is the right board for this.

Why does Jesus call God, Father? To do so from this distance of time, appears limiting. I don’t want to say inaccurate as God is Father, but also Mother, and Other and many other terms that can be used I guess to convey some aspect of that which cannot be fully described.

Do we have to have a Father because we have a Son?

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I will not say do not weep for not all tears are an evil. - Gandalf

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Golden Key
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Hi. If you'd like to skim some of our previous discussions on this topic:

--Go to the top of this page. Right under the Ship's name, there are links to click on. Click on "Search".

--Choose the "Oblivion" board from the pull-down menu.

--In the search field, put "god feminine" (without the quotes).

--Click on the button at the bottom.

This will bring up a list of links to various threads, most of which have something to do with God and gender, the feminine aspect of God, etc.

I'm NOT trying to shut you down. Just giving you an opportunity to get some background.

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Unum Solum
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Thanks Golden Key.

I wasn’t interested in the gender question, it is not about the gender aspect but the human aspect. Why use a term that limits understanding, expectation, mystery.

Then again that doesn’t make much sense either, it’s hard to articulate.

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I will not say do not weep for not all tears are an evil. - Gandalf

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Nigel M
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I think the terms ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ should be seen in the context of Ancient Near Eastern relationships operating within a covenant worldview. The expectation was that everyone was (or definitely should be) in a hierarchical relation to someone else. The Father’s House was the basic unit, with the senior male – or in the absence of one the eldest female as a proxy – was responsible for all the humans, animals, and goods in his domain. The humans in that domain owed service / allegiance to that Father and he in turn owed protection and stability to them.

That worked its way up the chain. The basic unit Father owed service / allegiance to the clan head, who in turn served the tribal head, who in turn served the King. The King, in turn, may be in the same service/protection relationship to an Emperor (or ‘High King’). Ultimately all were in a relationship to the national god.

When a relationship was formed and formalised, the senior was termed the ‘Father’ and the junior ‘Son’. Relationships between people of equal rank carried the term ‘Brother’.

That’s a basic outline, but just because someone called someone else a ‘Father’ did not mean there was necessarily any biological relationship. It could be a political or other social covenantal relationship.

Partly as an aside, the fact that Jesus called God ‘Father’ does not of itself, therefore, provide support for any trinitarian doctrine. The terminology was common enough to describe any link between unequal partners to a covenant, where the junior was commissioned to do work on behalf of the senior.

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Martin60
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I find ecumenical orthodoxy very useful, good to have behind your back.

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Love wins

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Martin60
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@Nigel M

I'm a all but 100% natural, automatic postmodernist now. I love your anthropological deconstruction, which is MOST pertinent for all the other infinite worlds where father and son and therefore Father and Son in the immanent Trinity can have no meaning.

But here, they do. They are, have been REVEALED.

Perhaps I'm fully postmodernist. And fully neo-orthodox.

[ 26. January 2018, 09:26: Message edited by: Martin60 ]

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Love wins

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by Unum Solum:
Why use a term that limits understanding, expectation, mystery.

Isn't the Trinity enough of a mystery as it is?
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no prophet's flag is set so...

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There's a "she" in there somewhere. And more than Mary, God's handmaid. The young people are telling us that scripture and tradition not enough. And they know the traditions are specific to nations, cultures and historical times. God in the age of Google.

[ 26. January 2018, 12:10: Message edited by: no prophet's flag is set so... ]

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\_(ツ)_/

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Martin60
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They are not not enough enough to abandon. Especially the ecumenical.

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Love wins

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stonespring
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I don't know if Keryg is the place for this but one of the biggest obstacles I have with Christianity is that, in terms of orthodox, mainstream theology (rather than mysticism or devotion) God is Father but only "like" a mother. I am not convinced about the femininity of the Holy Spirit or Holy Wisdom as making up for that - and I am not wholly convinced that God was ever seen as feminine by church leaders until recently in a way that was on an equal footing to the way in which God was seen as masculine. If God was, why wasn't God ever called "She" or "Mother" in official Liturgy, creeds, councils, doctrinal rulings, etc., by the very same people who waxed poetic about a mystical feminine Spirit, Wisdom, Wife, Mother, Lover, etc., in other writings?
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sharkshooter

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quote:
Originally posted by stonespring:
...one of the biggest obstacles I have with Christianity is that, in terms of orthodox, mainstream theology (rather than mysticism or devotion) God is Father ...

God is neither male nor female, therefore, neither Father nor Mother as we normally understand those terms. Language is imperfect when describing God.

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Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. [Psalm 19:14]

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Nick Tamen

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quote:
Originally posted by stonespring:
I don't know if Keryg is the place for this but one of the biggest obstacles I have with Christianity is that, in terms of orthodox, mainstream theology (rather than mysticism or devotion) God is Father but only "like" a mother. I am not convinced about the femininity of the Holy Spirit or Holy Wisdom as making up for that - and I am not wholly convinced that God was ever seen as feminine by church leaders until recently in a way that was on an equal footing to the way in which God was seen as masculine. If God was, why wasn't God ever called "She" or "Mother" in official Liturgy, creeds, councils, doctrinal rulings, etc., by the very same people who waxed poetic about a mystical feminine Spirit, Wisdom, Wife, Mother, Lover, etc., in other writings?

The Brief Statement of Faith of the PC(USA) refers to the fatherhood/motherhood of God in two places, one at the beginning and one at the end of the section on the First Person of the Trinity:
quote:
We trust in God,
Whom Jesus called Abba, Father . . . .

Like a mother who will not forsake her nursing child,
like a father who runs to welcome the prodigal home,
God is faithful still.

So there, at least, "like" is used both of God as Mother and of God as Father.

As for why God is never called “She” or “Mother” in traditional liturgy, creeds or the like, I think the answer is, at least partially, in the first part of what I quoted—Jesus used “Father,” and the church followed that example. And it seems likely that Jesus's use was influenced by Jewish use generally, which may have preferred “He” for God because “She” would have had associations with cults of fertility goddesses or the like. The ancients may have dealt with a different set of assumptions and implications regarding gendered use of language about God than many contemporary folk do.

[ 29. January 2018, 17:59: Message edited by: Nick Tamen ]

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The first thing God says to Moses is, "Take off your shoes." We are on holy ground. Hard to believe, but the truest thing I know. — Anne Lamott

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Jengie jon

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Actually orthodoxy says God is both male and female and both genders find their true expression within God. God is both male and female.

Let's look at genders within human society. They are conceived as having different roles. However what pertains to one gender in one society does not always pertain to that gender in another. In some ways the OP of this thread is based on the changes that over time has come to the meaning of 'father' or being a parent of the male gender. We can ask when we say 'God is father' what do we mean? and I suspect our reply today would be very different to that of medieval theologians or first century Christian apostles. This is not because we are being perverse but because our society understands the role of 'father' differently.

My take is within the trinity of the Godhead is such a community that there are aspects of it that reflect both the male and female genders as seen currently in human society. Indeed such is the richness of that community that all possible roles for the two genders are reflect in the Godhead. We need to see God not as idealised 'man' or 'woman' but as idealised 'community'.

Thus it is not wrong to refer to God as father, nor is it wrong to refer to God as mother. God has both those aspects whatever those aspects are. They are however held within a right relationship.

We need a better theology of cultural power within the Godhead than we have at present. The strong alliance of the 'male' gender with dominance within many human societies is a bad reflection of the community within the Godhead.

Jengie

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stonespring
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quote:
Originally posted by Nick Tamen:
quote:
Originally posted by stonespring:
I don't know if Keryg is the place for this but one of the biggest obstacles I have with Christianity is that, in terms of orthodox, mainstream theology (rather than mysticism or devotion) God is Father but only "like" a mother. I am not convinced about the femininity of the Holy Spirit or Holy Wisdom as making up for that - and I am not wholly convinced that God was ever seen as feminine by church leaders until recently in a way that was on an equal footing to the way in which God was seen as masculine. If God was, why wasn't God ever called "She" or "Mother" in official Liturgy, creeds, councils, doctrinal rulings, etc., by the very same people who waxed poetic about a mystical feminine Spirit, Wisdom, Wife, Mother, Lover, etc., in other writings?

The Brief Statement of Faith of the PC(USA) refers to the fatherhood/motherhood of God in two places, one at the beginning and one at the end of the section on the First Person of the Trinity:
quote:
We trust in God,
Whom Jesus called Abba, Father . . . .

Like a mother who will not forsake her nursing child,
like a father who runs to welcome the prodigal home,
God is faithful still.

So there, at least, "like" is used both of God as Mother and of God as Father.

As for why God is never called “She” or “Mother” in traditional liturgy, creeds or the like, I think the answer is, at least partially, in the first part of what I quoted—Jesus used “Father,” and the church followed that example. And it seems likely that Jesus's use was influenced by Jewish use generally, which may have preferred “He” for God because “She” would have had associations with cults of fertility goddesses or the like. The ancients may have dealt with a different set of assumptions and implications regarding gendered use of language about God than many contemporary folk do.

In Mainline Protestantism there has been a movement for some time to incorporate language identifying God as "She" and "Mother" in doctrinal statements and Liturgy rather than merely comparing God to a woman or a mother. But, as I said with the qualifying statement "until recently" above, this has not been the case for most of the Church and for most of Christian history - all mystical and devotional historical Christian reference to God as female aside.

Addressing God as "Mother" or referring to God (in general, not just specifically to the Holy Spirit or Holy Wisdom) as "She" in official Liturgy or doctrinal writings - especially outside of Mainline and Progressive Protestantism - is still likely to result in punishment or schism. Even within Mainline Protestantism, it is controversial because people do not want to alienate conservatives within denominations or weaken Ecumenical ties.

I am grateful for the more progressive corners of Christianity, but I often ask myself whether or not we are fooling ourselves in thinking that we can paper over a religion that - no matter how radical and egalitarian Jesus was for his time, and no matter how radical and egalitarian early Christians were for their time - is inseparable, in my opinion, from the Patriarchy in which it originated. The issue of God as Father and male pronouns as the official ones for God drives that home for me.

Gender neutral language and pronouns in enlightened (and declining) corners of the Church will not fix that unless they become as universal as the Church's rejection of slavery succeeded became by the 20th century. I am deeply pessimistic that this will happen, even in several lifetimes, and I wonder if it will happen ever. That is why this issue, among others, makes me struggle with being a Christian.

But this isn't really a discussion about Scripture so I'm not sure if it belongs in Keryg! Sorry if I am derailing the thread.

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Mamacita

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Right, since we're not focusing only on how God is addressed in Scripture, it's more of a Purgatory thread.

Off you go -- hang on to your colored ribbon markers.

Mamacita, Keryg Host

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Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

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Tortuf
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quote:
Originally posted by sharkshooter:
God is neither male nor female, therefore, neither Father nor Mother as we normally understand those terms. Language is imperfect when describing God.

Agreed. Plus according to the same scripture that calls God father God was there before there was a male or a female human. Or any other male or female for that matter. So was Jesus. Think about the implications of that.

I also agree with those folks who pointed out customs at the time the Bible was written tended to be male centric.

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by stonespring:

Gender neutral language and pronouns in enlightened (and declining) corners of the Church will not fix that unless they become as universal as the Church's rejection of slavery succeeded became by the 20th century. I am deeply pessimistic that this will happen, even in several lifetimes, and I wonder if it will happen ever. That is why this issue, among others, makes me struggle with being a Christian.

There's no reason why it couldn't happen in a church that was founded specifically to reject anything patriarchal. I imagine that there are a few such churches here and there.

And what about the American Episcopalians? I hear that some of them are very liberal, and there are surely some congregations that have gone down a firmly anti-patriarchal route.

But I suspect that sociology and psychology can offer some good indications as to why the gender-neutral church is highly unlikely to become normative throughout Christendom.

[ 30. January 2018, 01:06: Message edited by: SvitlanaV2 ]

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Galilit
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quote:
Originally posted by stonespring:
- and I am not wholly convinced that God was ever seen as feminine by church leaders until recently

Julian of Norwich. (c.1343 - c.1416)
(The language has been "tidied up")

"Jesus Christ therefore, who himself overcame evil with good, is our true Mother. We received our ‘Being’ from Him ­ and this is where His Maternity starts ­ And with it comes the gentle Protection and Guard of Love which will never ceases to surround us.

Just as God is our Father, so God is also our Mother. "

and many similar mentions throught her writings.

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She who does Her Son's will in all things can rely on me to do Hers.

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Unum Solum
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This is interesting reading. I guess one of the things that was in the back of my mind when I started this thread was that I have never felt comfortable with calling God, Father. Nothing to do with my upbringing as I loved my Dad, but just it seemed for me a step to far in respect to intimacy.

I understand the context that it comes out of, and sure no drama with Jesus using the term, for him it must have seemed entirely appropriate?

I guess I am maybe oversensitive, but terms like Father, or even Lord to me have connotations/meanings that I have struggled with internally and yet in Christian company I have felt a strange sense of guilt at avoiding such terms. Never overt, and probably self-inflicted, but real.

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I will not say do not weep for not all tears are an evil. - Gandalf

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stonespring
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quote:
Originally posted by Jengie jon:
Actually orthodoxy says God is both male and female and both genders find their true expression within God. God is both male and female.

Yes, but why isn't God ever officially addressed as "She" or "Mother" by the vast majority of Christian churches? The same churches that say that God is both male and female are squeamish at best and hostile at worst about such language in official Liturgy and Doctrine.

quote:

We can ask when we say 'God is father' what do we mean? and I suspect our reply today would be very different to that of medieval theologians or first century Christian apostles. This is not because we are being perverse but because our society understands the role of 'father' differently.

It seems too convenient to say that the Apostles, if they spoke in the context of contemporary understandings of fatherhood and motherhood, would have no problem in addressing God officially as "Mother" and officially referring to God as "She".

It's hard not to see the whole theological architecture of Christianity as being inseparable from the Patriarchy in which it originated. Obviously, I hope that it can be, but I do not know if I have the intellectual capacity to do it, I'm not so sure if those attempting to do it are succeeding, and even if a convincing argument that succeeds in doing exists, I'm not so sure that it will ever become mainstream in the Church. I worry that in a few hundred years gender-egalitarian official use of language for God will not be much of a blip on the Church's radar.

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Baptist Trainfan
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Might God/Jesus have deliberately avoided the use of female imagery to differentiate Judeo-Christianity from pagan fertility religions?

Only an idea ...

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by stonespring:

It's hard not to see the whole theological architecture of Christianity as being inseparable from the Patriarchy in which it originated. Obviously, I hope that it can be, but I do not know if I have the intellectual capacity to do it, I'm not so sure if those attempting to do it are succeeding, and even if a convincing argument that succeeds in doing exists, I'm not so sure that it will ever become mainstream in the Church. I worry that in a few hundred years gender-egalitarian official use of language for God will not be much of a blip on the Church's radar.

I think a preponderance of women in the church ironically stands in the way of gender-egalitarian language in the church.

Women in the pews are frequently more 'traditional' than women in the wider society. Some of them may take comfort in the notion of the 'masculine' strength of God, especially if 'real' men are difficult, absent or disappointing for them.

It should also be noted that patriarchy isn't the same as masculinity. Some commentators remark that although Christianity may be patriarchal, it does in fact have quite a 'feminine' sensibility. The emphasis on caring, serving, loving, forgiving, sexual restraint, humility, etc., may be gender-neutral in religious terms, but in cultural terms these qualities are emphasised and/or praised in women rather than in men. Children are now seen as belonging to their mothers rather than their fathers, which stresses the importance of feminine over masculine caring.

Some might say therefore that the 'masculinity' of God is a necessary corrective in a church where both the pews and the theology (as well as the wider culture, arguably) have a 'feminine' cast.

Whatever the case may be, I certainly think the church would be even less attractive to men than it is now if emphasised gender-neutrality. The long term health of the religion is already challenged by the growing unwillingness and inability of more and more men to raise their children in the faith.

OTOH, the likely collapse of organised Christianity in Europe, along with the increasing 'feminisation' of the culture (fewer men at uni, less manufacturing, family breakdown, etc.), may provide an opportunity for liberal Christian leaders to re-invent the religion. The take-up will be tiny, but the constituencies for orthodox and evangelical Christianity will also be tiny.

By the time this occurs, there could well be more practising Muslims than Christians in Britain anyway, so the problem of patriarchal Christianity really could be irrelevant here, except to a few sophisticated specialists.

[ 30. January 2018, 21:06: Message edited by: SvitlanaV2 ]

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LutheranChik
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It don’t know if it’s come up already in this thread, but when Christian theologians talk about the Incarnation, they will use the term “ particularity.” It means that when God became human, it wasn’t in some generic way, but in the context of a particular baby born to a particular family in a particular cultural and historical context. That means, among other things, is that Jesus of Nazareth spoke and taught in the voice of a Palestinian Jew of his time, and that to understand his religious religious worldview we must understand the history and worldview of the Hebrew Scriptures.. So we are dealing with a patriarchal society, and moreover one that had struggled culturally for centuries to differentiate itself from the polytheistic societies around it And to Goddess worshipresist being assimilated into them. Worship of pagan goddesses like Ashtoreth (so?) , popular among many Jews, was a constant sore point with the Jewish prophets There was at least one colony of Jews in Egypt who even affirmed a female consort of Yahweh. So the aggressive patriarchy and male- default language in the OT needs to be understood in that context,
whether or not we agree with it.

I also agree that women can be some of the most vigorous defenders of patriarchal language, for the reasons stated in the previous post. I also once had a woman tell me, in a different context, that affirming egalitarianism made her feel like she was being “ disloyal” to her son and husband...not logical to me, but a lot of women internalize patriarchal ideas, like the one that their best interests must always be subordinated to those of men.

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Jengie jon

Semper Reformanda
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The problem is not really whether God is male or female but the fact that in the majority of human society the 'male' gender has become associated with power and authority to the detriment of women.

It felt wrong to address God as she because it suggested God was less powerful than someone you addressed as he. So society has chosen to use 'he' for God.

What I want to suggest is that it is an indication of the failure of our culture rather than a sign of the gender of the Godhead.

Jengie

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SvitlanaV2
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In fact, societies have frequently recognised aspects of both male and female power. The giving of life, for example, could be seen as an aspect of female power. And there have been many religions with goddesses.

Regarding gender neutrality, to what extent has any religion developed gender neutral gods? I think there are ancient religions where a god or gods changed from male to female (or vice versa), but otherwise, I suspect that gender-neutralism is psychologically difficult for most of us, and hence for our religious perspectives. It's not something our distant ancestors evolved to value or promote.

At some point in the future science might make the physiological and psychological differences between men and women obsolete. For example, there might be several different ways in which to gestate a child, not all of them involving a female womb. Gendered personal pronouns might disappear. When this kind of scientific and cultural shift has taken place then religion might itself become more gender neutral.

Going back to the OP, though, the idea that calling God Father is too 'intimate' is strange to me. The intimacy that Christianity offers is arguably one of its selling points. The idea that God wants to get really close to us is obviously attractive to a lot of people, and I'm sure it's a factor in the worldwide appeal of Pentecostalism.

I understand that Muslims don't address God as Father, which is interesting.

[ 01. February 2018, 23:12: Message edited by: SvitlanaV2 ]

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bib
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I don't tend to think of God belonging to any particular gender at all. However, because our language uses gendered pronouns, I tend to say Father as I really can't refer to God as it. Also seeing that Jesus is referred to as the Son of God with Mary as his mother, then it seems logical to me to see God as the Father. Then again, does it really matter in the long run how we refer to God?

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rolyn
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The gender of God only matters if we think of it in the way it impacts on us humans, that being in terms of how male and female causes difference and separation. The reason for this is largely cultural, and unfortunately this cultural taint was projected even onto the Beginning story of Adam and Eve then subsequently became embedded in the Christian Faith.

One of the few intriguing things I have found from IT debating forums such as this one is that it is almost impossible to tell if a poster is female or male. That is unless she or he specifically states it, or it becomes apparent when discussing gender sensitive topics.
This is how I like to think of God-- as in it not being possible to distinguish gender, nor having it be an issue and therefore a stumbling block to Faith.
The Him's and He's of Liturgy are mere points of reference, if not clumsy ones in today's fast changing cultural environment.

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Change is the only certainty of existence

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Martin60
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quote:
Originally posted by bib:
I don't tend to think of God belonging to any particular gender at all. However, because our language uses gendered pronouns, I tend to say Father as I really can't refer to God as it. Also seeing that Jesus is referred to as the Son of God with Mary as his mother, then it seems logical to me to see God as the Father. Then again, does it really matter in the long run how we refer to God?

As long as we're ecumenically creedal, from that base, so economically Trinitarian. We are a species that has fathers and sons but for those that don't those concepts will be meaningless when used metaphorically. How God could be immanently triune for all sapient life forms would be for us to extrapolate.

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Love wins

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