bloody enough, okay?

as my blog seems to have been taken up with an inordinate amount of space discussing the gender of God, I have decided to have a little paddy about it. It consists of me gritting my teeth, going gnnnh a bit, oh and stamping around.

there, that's that then.

my my, that feels better. you know sometimes I wonder why I do this to myself, it can't be good for me.

this all might be brought on, of course, due to the fact that I have to do an essay on whether we should continue to name the Trinity as Father, Son and Spirit, in light of the way the masculine language has been used to oppress women.

my basic answer to this is that the Name of God is Father, Son, Spirit and as such we have no right to change it - the caveat to that is that this is a Name, not a denotation of gender. however, in light of the fact that there are those out there who are trying to make God's maleness a valid theological option, I'm having a rethink.

it's not to say that I don't think Father, Son, Spirit is the valid, right and proper name to call God, we have overheard a conversation and, as said before, we have no rights over the Name. but sometimes it is important to shake the foundations in order to remind ourselves and others what those foundations are. biblical theology and christian doctrine have, fairly universally, denied calling God male, but perhaps we need a reminder.

my tutor says that occasionally he uses the phrase, 'Father, she'

I wonder what would happen to the sunday congregation if we did that?


Revd John P Richardson said...

Your tutor clearly feels the same way about God's name as Juliet did about Romeo's:

"That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet; So 'Father' would, were he not 'Father' call'd, Retain that dear perfection which he owes Without that title:- 'Father', doff thy name; And for that name, which is no part of thee, Take all myself."

An alternative viewpoint would be that of CS Lewis, arguing against the 'common sense' view of gender, priesthood and God:

"Goddesses have, of course, been worshipped: many religions have had priestesses. But they are religions quite different in character from Christianity. Common sense, disregarding the discomfort, or even the horror, which the idea of turning all our theological language into the feminine gender arouses in most Christians, will ask 'Why not? Since God is in fact not a biological being and has no sex, what can it matter whether we say He or She, Father or Mother, Son or Daughter!'

But Christians think that God Himself has taught us how to speak of Him. To say that it does not matter is to say either that all the masculine imagery is not inspired, is merely human in origin, or else that, though inspired, it is quite arbitrary and unessential. And this is surely intolerable: or, if tolerable, it is an argument not in favour of Christian priestesses but against Christianity. It is also surely based on a shallow view of imagery. Without drawing upon religion, we know from our poetical experience that image and apprehension cleave doser together than common sense is here prepared to admit; that a child who had been taught to pray to a Mother in Heaven would have a religious life radically different from that of a Christian child." ('Priestesses in the Church' in God in the Dock, Glasgow: Collins, 1979, 90-91)

Do, please, let us see the essay when it is done - and your tutor's comments when it is marked. The subject is important.

jody said...

Hi John

yes, I think that theologically I am in agreement with most of the best feminist theologians who do not wish to see inclusivist language for the Trinity.

However, as I have said, it is worrying for me that to retain this language is to give space to the notion of God's maleness.

What would be really great for me is if you would email me your thesis on God's maleness that you gave on the fulcrum thread (do you have it in word format or some such?) I am planning on mentioning it and wondered how I was going to cite you....

I agree that it is important to have the conversation and as cheeky as I might get, I think that conversational blogs are quite a good way of doing it.

jody said...

oh, by the way, John (Tutor) does not feel that way about the Name, it is the pronoun that has changed.

Revd John P Richardson said...

Your tutor calls the Father 'she'? Surely the complete deconstruction of language! The problem is, as has long been recognised by feminists, our view of the world is constructed by our verbal world. Your tutor has moved quite a long way - and arrived in a very strange place, occupied only by herself and a few others, I would think.

jody said...

the point is made that 'Father' is a name and not a denotation of gender - language in itself can be used to deconstruct mindset.

also, as I mentioned in my last post, my tutor's name is John, and thus, he is a man.

davewilliams said...

"the point is made that 'Father' is a name and not a denotation of gender"

And that in itself is an important and far reaching position. To degenderise "Father" has implications for human relationships. The removal of the idea of father and mother being man and woman. It can be man and man or woman and woman -or even the woman as father and the man as mother.

Be careful what you deconstruct. There again if you want to align yourself with Foucault, Barthes and Descartes!

jody said...

what I would be interested in Dave, if you would be kind enough to do this for me, is how many of your lecturers at Oak Hill think that God is male and that Father is a denotation of gender?

I would be interested, because I was under the impression that most theologians think that the idea that God is male is a bit way out there.

dave williams said...


I don't know -its not a hot topic of debate at Oak Hill! You will notice that I haven't said that God is male!

jody said...

I would just be interested to know how many thought it was a valid theological premise?

davewilliams said...


You could write and ask them I guess! I'm not on site until mid August now!

Revd John P Richardson said...

"'Father' is a name and not a denotation of gender - language in itself can be used to deconstruct mindset."

"my tutor's name is John, and thus, he is a man."

Surely some confusion? John is a name, and therefore my calling John 'she' is a deliberate deconstruction of the mindset behind the statement "thus, he is a man".

dave williams said...


To give a bit more of a response

1. Father is a gendered term just as mother is. We know that it is a male role that compliments the female mother role. To say that it is ungendered is a highly political statement in terms of those who want to present different models of family.

2. Is God male? I think there is a big problem with saying that. It makes us think in terms of is he like men -and all the negative aspects of fallen man. CS Lewis distinguished maleness from masculinity. I don't know if that is more helpful. What we do know is that God defines himself in masculine terms, Father, Son, husband, King, Prince, He...etc. Theologians need to ask and answer why he does that. It isn't simply the arbitrary naming of things. Again why does he define those he relates with in feminine terms (though not exclusively) so that Israel and the Church are his bride and when they rebel it is harlotry