In response to Doug

23 Sep
Tanya and others at Synod 2013

Tanya Wittwer (fourth from the left)

Tanya Wittwer writes in reply to Doug, in the last post.

In a comment on a previous posting, Doug asked Karin, “Karen what do you mean God Him/Herself . Where do you get that idea from God is a she (sic). Yes you would like that wouldn’t you.”

None of the names and words we have for God can describe the totality of God, and perhaps none accurately describe any of the characteristics of God. The love of God is surely of a totally different dimension than love we can know as human beings.  The strength of God bears no relation to human strength. So all we have are metaphors.

Just a week or two back, the lectionary Gospel for the day included one of Jesus’ images for a searching God: the woman searching for the lost coin.  The church has had no difficulty in the images either side of this one (Luke 15:3-10 the caring shepherd, Luke 15:11-23 the waiting father), but the image of Luke 15:8-10 is rarely found in artwork, prayer or language for God.

The Hebrew Scripture reinforces the idea that God is beyond gender, with the words for the Holy Spirit (Ruach Hakodesh) and for God’s visible presence (Shekinah) being feminine terms. It is unfortunate that the English language does not make it easy for us to talk about God in language that avoids gendering.

One strong biblical feminine image is that of God the birthing creator.  In Isaiah 42:14, God says, “like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant,” and in Deuteronomy 32:18b “You forgot the God who gave you birth.” Often feminine and masculine images of God are found side by side, as in Job 38:28,29. Other passages portray God as the mother feeding her young, caring for her young children, cleaning us, clothing us, wiping away our tears (Isaiah 66:13). Matthew and Luke report Jesus’ longing to gather God’s people, as a hen gathering her chickens under her wings.

The incarnation was into a male body. But Jesus’ gender does not limit the Word to male embodiment.  The Word became human to save all humanity, and call all humanity into the reality of God’s reign, where we are united as one in Christ regardless of gender (Galatians 3:28).

One of the difficulties of the church having used only male language for God is that it seems many forget that our words reflect only images of God, and instead fall into the idolatry of creating God in the image of man.  Male naming and identification becomes part of legitimating the oppression of women.  Scripture tells us that “God created the earth creature [adam] in God’s own image, in the image of God they were created: male and female God created them.” (Genesis 1:27 – my translation). An important aspect of my pastoral work is inviting women to know clearly that they, too, are created in God’s image.


Posted by on September 23, 2013 in Hermeneutics, theology, women's ordination


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 responses to “In response to Doug

  1. Tapman

    September 24, 2013 at 10:57 am

    I too would like to make a comment on Dougs reply – Doud said this: “We understand and are told that He anyway is going to be the one who decides the outcome HE wants”

    Please understand I am not having a go at you – I believe it true to say that the church is constantly one step behind good social change – (eg slavery) The church believes in an unchanging God so any change is resisted. But what is it that we are resisting?

    I think as we pray “thy kingdom come” and then continue to resist it coming in our lives – we as church are the biggest anchor and hindrance to God working in the world.

    The younger generation has no problem with Gay marriage and womens ordination, the change will happen and the church will change – twenty
    years down the track we will “remember” the church as being instrumental in these good changes instead of the obstinate anchor it is and has always been.

    • Katie and Martin

      September 24, 2013 at 7:23 pm

      Indeed! Social change is inevitable and is a part of the evolution of any society. To insist on sticking with first century Middle Eastern culture is a blinkered, monochromatic way of looking at faith and Scripture.

  2. lotharson

    September 29, 2013 at 8:49 am


    The problem is that it cannot be denied that the Biblical writers of the OT had a worldview profoundly marked by a belief in female inferiority.

    The main problem is seeing the Bible as something more than other religious books, as I explain here:

    Lovely greetings from Europe.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: