A Critique of Rob Bell’s Feminine God Language

In his latest NOOMA video, Pastor Rob Bell argues that the Biblical depiction of God is often a feminine one:

There is this maternal impulse, this ancient nurturing instinct. And it transcends time; it transcends culture; it transcends economics. There is an ancient mothering impulse, and it’s also a divine impulse. Throughout the Bible, God is described as compassionate. In Hebrew, the original language of the Scriptures, it’s the word “raham.” It’s also the word for “womb.” So, God is compassionate. God is “womb-like”? This is a feminine image for God.

Now see a lot of people are very comfortable with male imagery for God. So God is the Father; God is the Warrior; God is the Judge; God is the Lawgiver. But feminine images for God?

Well there’s this great line in the book of Job. God is pointing out all the complexity and creativity of creation and essentially saying to Job, “Who do you think made all of this?” And at one point, God ask Job, “From whose womb came the ice? Who gave birth to the frost from the heavens?” God’s answer to Job is “God.” God’s womb? God gave birth? Obviously it’s poetry here, so you can’t take it too literally. But this is feminine imagery for God.

Now these images can be very helpful in describing the divine. But Jesus said that God is Spirit. And Spirit has no shape; it has no form; it has no physical essence. I mean, God is, in essence, beyond male and female. Or perhaps you could say it more accurately: God transcends and yet includes what we know as male and female. [see video below]

Chris Cowan at CBMW has written a two-part critique of Bell’s video and shows the fallacious exegesis undergirding Bell’s use of feminine God language. Cowan concludes:

These analogies are not intended to tell us about God’s “feminine side.” Instead, they are a demonstration of God’s abundant mercy to us. God employs various metaphors and pictures, using simple concepts that we can understand, so that he might explain what he is like. As one whom his mother comforts, so God comforts his children. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. The love of Christ for wretched sinners is so glorious that it “surpasses knowledge” (Eph 3:19). What a demonstration of amazing grace, then, for God to point to a mother’s (or a father’s) compassion and say, “This is what I am like—only far better.”

Biblical metaphors and similes are meant to bring clarity to our understanding of God. Unfortunately, Rob Bell’s teaching only serves to muddy the waters.

You definitely need to read the rest of Cowan’s essay:

“Rob Bell, NOOMA, and ‘Feminine Images’ of God, Part 1” – by Chris Cowan (CBMW blog)

“Rob Bell, NOOMA, and ‘Feminine Images’ of God, Part 2” – by Chris Cowan (CBMW blog)

68 Responses to A Critique of Rob Bell’s Feminine God Language

  1. brian September 24, 2008 at 1:11 am #

    Thanks Denny. Great post. I cant wait to see the feminists flare up on this one…

  2. Joel Patrick September 24, 2008 at 3:56 am #

    I read the two posts by Cowen. His first few critiques in the second post (on the Bell’s use of Hebrew) seem legitimate (the root-fallacy, etc.). However, Cowen seems to make the mistake of thinking that ‘feminine imagery’ = ‘feminine dimension’ (as does Bell). It doesn’t make you a liberal theologian to admit the obvious: giving birth is a feminine image! What else could it be? And yet, ‘feminine image’ doesn’t have to mean ‘feminine dimension’.

    Cowen doesn’t actually seem to accomplish much. For, he essentially says that feminine and masculine analogies don’t describe God’s nature, but his character (the way he acts/feels). But this just equalizes everything. How then do we positively assert God as masculine then? Giving Cowen the benefit of the doubt I assume he would say that we go to those portions of scripture that actually ‘describe God.’ But, when can we use language of God that isn’t in some sense analogous? Isn’t this how Aquinas solved the problem of God-talk for us? If so, we’re back in the same boat and Cowen hasn’t accomplished much.

  3. Denny Burk September 24, 2008 at 6:54 am #

    Joel,

    Chris Cowan has an essay in the forthcoming issue of JBMW titled “How Shall We Speak of God? Seven Reasons Why We Cannot Call God ‘Mother.'” It interacts with the larger egalitarian and feminist tendencies to use feminine God language.

    Thanks,
    Denny

  4. Adam Omelianchuk September 24, 2008 at 8:55 am #

    Actually, I find Rob Bell’s video to be indefensible. Though, I would caution the CBMW guys to not assume that God has an attribute of “maleness.”

  5. Don September 24, 2008 at 9:06 am #

    God is Spirit and beyond gender. God is infinite and beyond our understanding. ALL descriptions of God are metaphors, except perhaps holy. God is not male nor female, either is a pagan concept.

  6. Truth Unites... and Divides September 24, 2008 at 9:07 am #

    Adam O.:Actually, I find Rob Bell’s video to be indefensible.

    An encouraging first step in the right direction.

  7. Don September 24, 2008 at 10:05 am #

    Jesus and Paul used female imagery to describe themselves and this was deliberate, not incidental or accidental. It was also done in a patriarchal society so it SHOULD BE clear they were mapping themselves to the female and less-than, which is supposed to be SHOCKING, even revolting, to those who think they are male and more-than.

  8. William September 24, 2008 at 10:07 am #

    Paul speaks of himself as a “nursing mother” in 1 Thess 2. So perhaps we should stop speaking of Paul as just masculine… after all… he speaks of himself in feminine language. 😉

    I don’t disagree that we often articulate God as if he is an American style macho-man (some accuse Mark Driscoll of this though I have yet to see it myself). But I think that Rob Bell has yet again incorrectly interpreted Scripture. To speak of God having a womb does not ascribe a feminine attribute to God. It highlights his creative and nurturing qualities.

    I don’t think we should speak of God as having both feminine and masculine qualities… it would probably be best to speak of men and women as having qualities reflective of God. God is not nurturing or creative (in a birth sense) like a woman, a woman is nurturing and creative like God.

    Just a thought.

    Rob Bell seems like a genuinely concerned fellow… but I am constantly aggravated by his mis-use of Scripture. But arguing against him is like attacking Mother Teresa… or beating up Santa Clause. 😉

  9. volfan007 September 24, 2008 at 10:48 am #

    We live in a culture today that is embracing the effeminate to an extreme level. The feminists and the lesbians are intent on destroying the Bible’s teachings on gender roles, and we have a lot of men today who are embracing their feminine side to the extreme as well. We used to call them sissies, or girly boys. Some of these sissies are even becoming homosexuals… embracing thier effeminate tendencies to the max.

    We live in a culture that is trying everything it can to tear down the Scriptures teachings about men and women, and sadly, we even have some Southern Baptists who have joined the culture.

  10. Tom September 24, 2008 at 10:51 am #

    You say it like Bell’s opting ONLY for a feminine metaphor. And he’s not. He’s just demonstrating that there are multiple metaphors for God.

    To say, “the biblical depiction of God is a feminine one” and represent that as Bell’s view is completely misleading. of course – is see that kind of stuff all over blog pages, just generally not on the blog pages of ‘scholars.’

  11. Blank Slate September 24, 2008 at 10:55 am #

    The first thing that caught me was that Rob looks pretty androgynous in this new vid. Do you think that was on purpose or am I the only one…

  12. John September 24, 2008 at 11:02 am #

    Denny,

    This is completely ridiculous. You guys have taken this “male” image of God thing entirely too far and are just being downright oppressive with it now. There are feminine metaphors for God…deal with it, admit it, and grow up. I’ll admit that Bell has some exegetical fallacies in his video, but to just act like feminine imagery is no big deal, just kind of throw it to the side, and not admit that there are some inherent characteristics in females (and not males) that are also characteristics of God is completely short-sighted, eisegetical, oppressive, and dominative.

    Talk about bad scholarship and eisegetical conclusions. You destroy the beauty of the literature for your absurd systematic theological beliefs.

  13. Ken September 24, 2008 at 11:15 am #

    John–Could you demonstrate from Denny’s text or either part of the two Cowan essays where either states that God is a male?

  14. David (not Adrian's son) Rogers September 24, 2008 at 12:01 pm #

    Would it be too much to ask what are the scriptural references around which this discussion revolves?

  15. Steve Hayes September 24, 2008 at 4:00 pm #

    volfan007 in #9:

    Man, I wish we could go back to the good old days when people were called “sissies” and “girly boys”! Those were the days! We should merge those two and start calling people “girly sissies”!! God would like that.

    Everybody else:

    This is another goofy thing to be making a big deal of. I’m still not sure why what Bell said is such a problem? Feminine language is used in Scripture to describe God. God is nurturing like a mother? So what? I think that’s very cool. God’s also like a strong tower. That doesn’t make him a brick! He’s also like a mighty rushing wind! That doesn’t make him a storm. What’s the big deal? I don’t get it.

  16. Truth Unites... and Divides September 25, 2008 at 12:46 am #

    A critique of language which offends PC modern sensibilities:

    “Publishers and universities are outlawing dozens of seemingly innocuous words in case they cause offence.

    Banned phrases on the list, which was originally drawn up by sociologists, include Old Masters, which has been used for centuries to refer to great painters – almost all of whom were in fact male.

    It is claimed that the term discriminates against women and should be replaced by “classic artists”.

    Excerpted from: The phrase Old Masters is sexist, authors and students are told

    Words matter.

  17. Lydia September 25, 2008 at 5:41 pm #

    “This is completely ridiculous. You guys have taken this “male” image of God thing entirely too far and are just being downright oppressive with it now. There are feminine metaphors for God…deal with it, admit it, and grow up.”

    I agree, John. It has become an idol… all this macho man..everything has become effiminate talk. How do you guys feel about being part of the BRIDE of Christ. Macho? How is being referred to as the BRIDE of Christ not effiminate? Explain that one away to make it macho. I would be very interested in reading a thesis on that. :o) I am sure Grudem has one somewhere.

    BTW: Rob Bell’s doctrine is a sham. So, please do not equate my comment as an approval of Bell. Even a broken clock is right once a day.

  18. Paul September 25, 2008 at 10:39 pm #

    A broken clock is right TWICE a day. You know, like 7:12am and 7:12pm. Unless you’ve got one of those nifty digital models, but those usually don’t work at all if they’re broken.

    Love,

    the cliche police

  19. Lydia September 26, 2008 at 5:57 pm #

    “A broken clock is right TWICE a day. You know, like 7:12am and 7:12pm. Unless you’ve got one of those nifty digital models, but those usually don’t work at all if they’re broken.”

    Terribly sorry but if we are going to be technical, it is only am or pm once a day. So my cliche could still be correct, right? :o)

    Men as part of Christ’s ‘Bride’? Anyone?

  20. Christopher Lake September 27, 2008 at 3:12 am #

    Lydia,

    The Church, collectively, is the Bride of Christ– men and women. That metaphor (illustrating the fervent commitment of Jesus to His people) is far different than calling God “Mother.” God the Father is *the Father* in the Bible. The Son was incarnated as a *man,* not a woman. Men and women are certainly equal in worth before God (which means they are equal in reality), but as C.S. Lewis once said, God has told us how to speak of Him in the Bible, and for His own reasons, which He does not have to explain or justify to us, the masculine descriptors for God in the Bible *far* outnumber the feminine ones– to the point of two persons of the Trinity actually having masculine titles. We can’t just think of God, or describe Him, however we might wish. The Bible has to be our guide in these matters.

  21. Christopher Lake September 27, 2008 at 3:23 am #

    To clarify– God is *like* a mother in some ways. The Bible says as much. It also does use other feminine metaphors for God (without actually giving Him the title of “Mother,” as do some feminist theologians).

    However, the masculine titles, metaphors, and descriptors for God in the Bible do vastly outnumber the feminine ones. I’m not devaluing women and femininity by making this observation. I’m simply stating a fact.

  22. Don September 27, 2008 at 9:48 am #

    God the Father is said to have a womb and breasts but NEVER male genitals. All of these terms, including Father, are metaphors. God is Spirit and not gendered, is beyond gender and created the genders of humans and animals.

    On numbers of usage of terms, if something is stated 1000 times in the Bible or just once, it is still true. Repetition does not make something MORE true.

    In Hebrew, the Holy Spirit is referred to as “she” when a pronoun is used, because Holy Spirit has feminine grammatical gender in Hebrew; this does NOT mean the Holy Spirit is female. And the same is true for other references to the Godhead, it does not mean they are male.

    Yes, Jesus was male. Humans come in 2 genders.

  23. Christopher Lake September 27, 2008 at 1:21 pm #

    Don,

    You don’t think that the fact that “masculine” words, in relation to God (such as Father and Son), greatly outnumber “feminine” ones has *any* significance at all (beyond that the Biblical writers lived in a patriarchal culture, which has no bearing on the Trinity)? Again, I’m not denying that feminine metaphors are used, in relation to God, at times in the Bible.

    It is, of course, undeniable that God the Father is Spirit and has no physical body, male or female. However, Jesus the Son *is* God incarnated in human flesh, and in His sovereign plan, God the Father chose for the Son to be born as a male. Does this have no significance, Don? Isn’t it obvious, in light of the facts that God the Father is titled “the Father,” that God the Son was born as a male, and that masculine metaphors vastly outnumber feminine ones, in relation to God– isn’t it obvious, in light of all of these factors, that the Bible guides us to think of God, generally speaking, more in “masculine” ways than in “feminine” ones? Yes, again, there *are* feminine words used, in relation to God, in the Bible, but where is the greater emphasis?

  24. Don September 27, 2008 at 4:00 pm #

    Jesus and Paul WENT OUT OF THEIR WAY to use feminine metaphors to describe themselves. This was incredibly counter-cultural and shocking.

    I do not see repetition as necessarily being a greater emphasis.

    I do not think a male human is more like God than a female human or less like God for that matter by being male or female. In both cases it is the spiritual dimension that matters, not the physical.

    I see that for Jesus saving us it was important for him to be human, but I do not see that it was important for him to be male. I can be wrong, but I do not see this taught in the Bible.

  25. Christopher Lake September 27, 2008 at 9:36 pm #

    Don,

    Any Bible scholar knows that repetition is common in the Bible, and that it is there for a reason (or reasons). The Biblical writers didn’t merely like to repeat themselves– or to repeat the same idea, using different words or thoughts, without a reason.

    When you say that a male human is not “more like God” than a female human, you are replying to something that I didn’t say. I have already said that men and women are of equal worth in the eyes of God. Of course, it is the spiritual dimension of a person that matters most before God, rather than the physical. I never denied that fact.

    If it wasn’t important for the Son to be born a male, then why was he, Don? Think about it. Could the Son just as easily been born a woman? (What kind of absurdity *is* this that we’re discussing here?!)

  26. Christopher Lake September 27, 2008 at 9:37 pm #

    *have* been born a woman, that is

  27. Don September 27, 2008 at 9:56 pm #

    The Word is a way to discuss the pre-incarnate Jesus. I do not know of any verse that says the Word needed to come as a male. If you know of any, I am listening. I agree the Word needed to come as a human.

  28. Christopher Lake September 28, 2008 at 2:25 am #

    Don,

    This is not a matter of quoting proof-texts to prove one’s position. This is a matter of thinking with a Biblical paradigm and with Biblical principles. The second Person of the Trinity is referred to in the Bible as the Son. How could “the Son of God” be incarnated in human flesh as a *woman*? Would the title of the second Person then not need to be “the Daughter of God”?

    Jesus is not “the Daughter of God,” and I fail to see how He, under any circumstance, could ever have been born female. The Son has always existed as the second Person of the Trinity, and appropriate to His title as the *Son* of God, when Jesus was incarnated in human flesh, He was born a male. How could it conceivably have been any other way?

  29. Don September 28, 2008 at 8:53 am #

    I am not trying to proof text or be tricky, I am thinking out loud.

    I do not see the Word as having genitals before the incarnation.

    During the time of Jesus on earth, the Word was incarnate as a Torah-observing Jewish male human descended from Judah, fulfilling the OT prophecies of the suffering servant Messiah.

    The generic term “son of X” could be used of a woman, for example, the terms the sons of Abraham or the sons of Israel included women. In effect, the term meant “child of” in some cases.

    B’nai B’rith is a Jewish organization that MIGHT be (over) literally translated as “Sons of the covenant” but includes women and so is better understood as “Children of the covenant”.

  30. Lydia September 28, 2008 at 3:45 pm #

    Thank you, Mr. Lake, for saying that I am equal before God even though a gal.

    With so much emphasis on masculinity here I was just wondering how the macho men here, who are so very worried about the ‘feminization’ of Christianity, felt about being referred to as a “Bride” in scripture. :o)

    BTW: I agree with you that is a metaphor.

  31. Christopher Lake September 28, 2008 at 5:20 pm #

    Lydia,

    It’s not a matter of you being equal before God “even though you are a gal”– God made you a woman, in His perfect plan, and He made me a man, also in His perfect plan, and we can both bring God glory, in our respective genders! I respect and love my sisters in Christ. I would never want to imply that men are somehow “more important” to God than women. There would not even *be* any human males if God had not created females (well, except for Adam)! 🙂

    Don,

    This is a very simple issue. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have always existed, from eternity past. You can’t use the term “the Word” (which John does use in His Gospel, obviously) to get around the fact that the Bible also uses the term “the Son” for the second Person of the Trinity, and the Bible strongly implies that the Son has always existed, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit. In light of the Trinity’s eternal existence, when the Son (who has always existed in eternity *as* the Son) was incarnated in human flesh, he was born as a male. It’s not a matter of the Son having male genitals before Jesus was born. It’s that the Son *always was* the Son– and appropriately, when the Son became one of us, He was a male. Otherwise, the Trinity would have had to be “The Father, Daughter, and the Holy Spirit.”

  32. Don September 28, 2008 at 8:35 pm #

    In English it might appear simple, but not so in Greek (or Hebrew, for that matter).

    We KNOW that referring to the Father does not imply male genitals. So before the incarnation, I still do not see any male genitals on the Son.

  33. Christopher Lake September 28, 2008 at 9:06 pm #

    Don,

    Please carefully read my last comment again. I already replied that it is not a matter of Jesus having male genitals before the Incarnation. The relevant matter here consists of three things: Jesus’ title as the “Son,” the fact that the “Son” has always existed (even before the Incarnation, i.e. “pre-genital”), and the very logical fact that the “Son” was incarnated as a human male.

    You can’t use the term “the Word” to get around this issue, Don. God has a purpose for everything that He does. He doesn’t just decide, “I think that I’ll have my Son incarnated as a man– but He could just as easily be incarnated as a woman!” God isn’t capricious in that way (or in any other way). In His plan, everything is done for a reason. He makes no capricious decisions– including in choosing the gender of His Son in the Incarnation.

  34. Lydia September 28, 2008 at 9:35 pm #

    “God isn’t capricious in that way (or in any other way). In His plan, everything is done for a reason. He makes no capricious decisions– including in choosing the gender of His Son in the Incarnation”

    What is His reason for choosing maleness in this way? I would be curious to know what you think.

  35. Christopher Lake September 28, 2008 at 10:27 pm #

    Lydia,

    The second Person of the Trinity (who always existed, obviously, but who was incarnated in human form as Jesus) is referred to in the Bible as “the Son of God.” Jesus is not described merely as a “a” son of God, in a way that could be dismissed as “gender-neutral” Biblespeak (as Don has tried to dismiss it), but rather, as *the* Son of God. In that light, it makes perfect sense that the Son of God, when incarnated in human form, appeared as a male. If the second Person of the Trinity had been incarnated as a female, he would have been “the Daughter of God,” not the Son. God’s reasoning is clear here, because He has revealed it to us in His word.

  36. Don September 28, 2008 at 10:32 pm #

    And what do you think is God’s reasoning, since you claim it is clear?

  37. Christopher Lake September 28, 2008 at 10:52 pm #

    Don,

    I explained it in my above comment. Again, Jesus is described in the Bible, not merely as “a” son of God (in the gender-neutral way that the Biblical writers sometimes employ the word “son”), but as *the* Son of God. The Trinity is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, not “the Father, the Daughter, and the Holy Spirit.” If the second Person of the Trinity were titled “the Daughter,” it would make perfect sense for that Person to have been incarnated in human form as a woman. As the title of the Second Person is the “the Son,” it makes perfect sense that that Person was incarnated as a human male. If you want to push further than this for God’s reasoning in the maleness of the Incarnation, I direct you to Deuteronomy 29:29.

  38. Don September 29, 2008 at 8:10 am #

    ESV Deu 29:29 “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

    On the maleness of the incarnation, 1st century society was patriarchal, and among Jews women were not taught Torah contra the commands in Moses. God demonstrates throughout the Bible that God works with a person and peoples where they are at, taking them step by step into the Kingdom.

  39. Lydia September 29, 2008 at 9:08 am #

    Do you think that God choosing to reveal Himself as male and the Son has any significance for human males in general?

  40. Christopher Lake September 29, 2008 at 2:30 pm #

    Don,

    Somehow I thought that you might go with the “patriarchal” explanation. God is eternal, above any social and cultural pardigm. Yes, first-century Israel was patriarchal, and yes, to a degree, God works with people where they are at, but again, the second Person of the Trinity has *always existed,* from eternity past, as the Son (not “a” son, but *the* Son). When the Son was incarnated, He was incarnated as a male– which makes perfect sense. Don, you never answered my questions about the Incarnation being female. In that case, would not the second Person of the Trinity have needed to be titled “the Daughter of God”? You can’t use the term “the Word” to get around this issue. Both Jesus, as the Incarnation, and the second Person of the Trinity, are repeatedly referred to as “the Son” in Scripture– not “a son of God,” in some possibly gender-neutral way, but *the Son.*
    If the Incarnation had been female, wouldn’t the second Person of the Trinity have needed to have a female title, such as “the Daughter of God”?

  41. Christopher Lake September 29, 2008 at 2:31 pm #

    *paradigm,* that is, in the first sentence

  42. Christopher Lake September 29, 2008 at 3:03 pm #

    Lydia,

    That is a great question! It’s also a very deep question, one that I think we would ponder for a very long time and possibly come up with some partial explanations but maybe never exhaust. One thing that I think God revealing Himself mostly in male ways (especially in the Incarnation) means is that in their marriages, men must take the sacrificial example of Jesus very, very seriously. As sisters in Christ, pursuing Christ-likeness, women are to sacrificially love their husbands too, but it seems clear from Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:25-33 that husbands have a special calling and command from God to love their wives in daily, hourly, minute-by-minute self-sacrificial ways– just as Jesus did for the church. We men should be willing to die, physically, for our wives (I’m not married yet, but I apply this to myself for the possible future), but we should also be willing to die to our own selfish desires, every day, for our wives.

    This dying to self means that if we work 12-hour days, we don’t “veg out” in front of the television when we come home– we spend quality time with our wives and children, listening to them and talking with them. It means that when we are sinned against by our wives, we don’t sin against them in return, but we respond in love and humility. It means that we put our wives’ needs and non-sinful desires ahead of our own, as part of “laying down our lives,” as Christ laid His life down for the church.

    All of the above scenarios illustrate part of what it means for God to have revealed Himself mostly in male ways, especially in the Incarnation. There are certainly many other implications and applications, other than just to husbands with their wives, but that is the one that came quickly to my mind. I love what Dr. Stuart Scott, author of “The Exemplary Husband,” says to husbands when they too eagerly bring up the subject of Christian wives submitting to their husbands– “That’s true, and I’m glad you brought up the subject of submission. Let talk about submission– *your* submission to Jesus Christ!” Scott is a complementarian, but he knows that some Christian husbands are too quick to bring up the subject of wifely submission, when the husbands themselves aren’t even living out the command to love their wives self-sacrificially, as Christ loved the church!

  43. Christopher Lake September 29, 2008 at 3:08 pm #

    Sorry, Don, that should have been “God the Daughter,” for the second Person of the Trinity (if the Incarnation had been female, that is), not “the Daughter of God.” God the Father, God the Daughter, God the Holy Spirit. Think about it. It’s not Biblical, is it?

  44. Brian (Another) September 29, 2008 at 3:55 pm #

    Christopher:

    Well put! The quote by Scott is a wonderful reminder. R. Kent Hughes in Disciplines of a Godly Man discusses the same in his chapter on the Discipline of Marriage:

    ”This call to marital love [Eph 5] was a bare-knuckled swing at the domestic commitment (or lack of same) of the men of the day – just as it is today. Taken seriously, the naked form of the these words, ‘love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,’ is staggering! And honestly received, the punch it delivers flattens many Christian men…..because they fall so short.”

    And, the bane of many of the commenters here, Dr. Grudem will turn so many conversations first and foremost to this verse (I’ve had the opportunity to hear it in context outside of lecture, etc.).

    Thanks!

  45. Don September 29, 2008 at 5:51 pm #

    From Strong’s huios
    hwee-os’
    Apparently a primary word; a “son” (sometimes of animals), used very widely of immediate, remote or figurative kinship: – child, foal, son.

    One of the primary meanings is simply child, with no gender specified. Yes, we know Jesus was male.

  46. Don September 29, 2008 at 6:14 pm #

    The call for a husband to agape-love his wife includes the aspects of the definition found in 1 Cor 13, specifically the idea that “agape-love does not insist on its own way”. This rules out the supposed non-egal “right” to make a unitary final decision for the family.

  47. Christopher Lake September 29, 2008 at 10:14 pm #

    Don,

    I don’t understand the fact that you continue to repeat essentially the same things without even attempting to engage much of what I have been writing. I have already answered what you wrote about the word *son* multiple times in my previous comments. Jesus is not simply described in the Bible as “a” son of God, in some possibly gender-neutral way. Jesus is described in the Bible as *the* Son– God the Son, the second Person of the Trinity in human form.

    Unless you want to say that the second Person of the Trinity could just as easily have had the title, “God the Daughter,” you cannot merely assert that the Incarnation could just have easily have been female. What do you think of “God the Father, God the Daughter, and God the Holy Spirit”? This “Trinity” is the outworking
    of your assertion that the Incarnation could just as easily have been female as male. Please engage my argument here, Don.

    About the agape-love of a husband for his wife, this fact does not preclude him making ultimate financial decisions for his family. Doing so is not necessarily “insisting on his own way,” because it could be that a given decision would actually involve great self-sacrifice for the husband but yet would be better for his wife and children. In any event, the husband is the head of the wife, under submission to God (the husband’s submission to God, that is), and God has given the husband the role of *loving* leader of the family. I know that as an egalitarian, you won’t agree with that statement, but it stands nonetheless.

  48. Don September 29, 2008 at 10:23 pm #

    If a wife does not agree, it does preclude a husband from making any supposed “final” decision. Doing otherwise violates his wife, never a good idea.

    As I explained, huios can be understood as child as well as son, it depends on context. The same for pater, it can mean father or parent, again it depends on context. My recommendation is to think like a Hebrew (or a Greek speaking Hebrew) and get beyond the English translation.

  49. Christopher Lake September 30, 2008 at 12:53 am #

    Don,

    If your wife does not agree with your financial decision, and *her* financial wishes would be unwise and destructive for the family, then not going along with her wishes is a bad idea? I don’t follow that reasoning at all.

    In the Bible, husbands are given the role and the solemn responsibility of being *loving leaders* of their families. This may mean making the ultimate financial decisions, or it may not. If the wife is better with finances, and she wants to manage the bill-paying and such, the husband may give those decisions to her.

    Don, you continue to say the exact same thing about “son” being gender-neutral in Hebrew. I have already answered that argument in several of my comments many times over now, in relation to the title of the second Person of the Trinity and the gender of the Incarnation. If you will not engage my arguments, and you insist on simply repeating yourself, then it is pointless to continue the conversation. If the conversation ends though, it will not be because I wasn’t willing to answer you. I have answered each point that you have attempted to make several times. However, you haven’t engaged most of my answers.

  50. Christopher Lake September 30, 2008 at 1:11 am #

    Don,

    Once again, about the word translated as “son” meaning “child,” as well as “son,” in Hebrew, the fact that the Incarnation was a human male has implications for how we understand the “Son” of the second Person of the Trinity. The second Person is titled “the Son,” (God the Son) and Jesus, a human male, is described as “the Son of God.” Obviously, *in this context,* the word “son” has masculine implications.

    If the Incarnation could just as easily have been female, is it not needlessly confusing, in that light, for the second Person of the Trinity to have the title of “the Son”? Why is the second Person not titled “God the Child” or “God the Daughter,” if the Incarnation could just as easily have been female, Don? The title “the Son,” in relation to the second Person of the Trinity, does *not* mean “God the Child.” To even imply that the title, “the Son,” in the Trinity, could mean “child” is a head-spinning display of tortured logic and reading out of context in order to try to make a point.

  51. Don September 30, 2008 at 9:17 am #

    The unfamiliar is not wrong simply because it is unfamiliar.

    I asked for verses that say it was important for Jesus to be a male as contrasted with being a human. I can find those that say he needed to be human/anthropos. I am not claiming they do not exist, as I have not studied this area, I am saying I do not know of any.

    For example, I can find a verse that says the 12 apostles map to the 12 patriarchs/tribes of Israel.

    The descriptions of the members of the Godhead are metaphors and with any metaphor a question arises as to how far to take it, that is, what aspect is valid and what is invalid, taking it too far. Just as a simple example, all members of the Godhead are eternal, but in our material world a son is younger than a father. The JW’s make use of this fact of the material world to make (false) claims about Jesus. My point is it is a very legitimate question to ask where the metaphor breaks.

  52. Don September 30, 2008 at 9:19 am #

    The Bible never says that husbands are to be “loving leaders” of their families, that is an interpretation, it is not explicit. An interpretation can be wrong and in this case it is.

  53. Don September 30, 2008 at 9:20 am #

    Clarification: A husband is a leader and a wife is a leader, both are co-leaders of the family.

  54. Kathy September 30, 2008 at 4:20 pm #

    ‘In the Bible, husbands are given the role and the solemn responsibility of being *loving leaders* of their families.’

    This is your interpretation for the bible never explicitly says that husbands are to lead their families. The kephale metaphor is used when Paul speaks of husband and wife ONLY not father and family. There is not 1 person in the bible who is kephale of children. It’s only claimed that husband are heads of their children (family). I would like to know how it is that any children can be the body of the father? (The church is the body of Christ and the husband is to love the wife as his own body) It makes no sense biblicaly speaking.

  55. Kathy September 30, 2008 at 4:23 pm #

    Paul notice never gives instruction for the husband as head of children (but he does as head of the wife). The metaphor cannot be applied to family without making an addition to scripture.

  56. Brian (Another) September 30, 2008 at 4:38 pm #

    Kathy:

    I would hope that the bible wouldn’t say for a husband to treat his wife as a child. The bible says for children to obey parents.

  57. Kathy September 30, 2008 at 7:17 pm #

    Brian, it doesn’t say that but since the comp idea is that the wife is subordinate to the husband who has final say, represents the family to God, in essence, she IS treated like a child. It makes no sense why one adult should have rule over their adult (I hope) partner. And why one adult would want that over their adult partner is REALLY beyound me.

    It shall not be so among you.

  58. Christopher Lake September 30, 2008 at 7:48 pm #

    Don,

    You say that the titles of the Persons of the Trinity are (only) metaphors. This is an assertion on your part, not an argument. How do you back it up Biblically?

    One more thing about “the Word”– the first chapter of the Gospel according to John tells us explicitly that the Word is a “he.” In John 1:1-5, the Word, who has existed from the beginning, is described as a “he” and in terms of “him.” This Word later became flesh in the person of Jesus. If the Incarnation could have been female, how do you explain the fact that the Word who has existed from the beginning, and who later became flesh, is described by John in chapter 1, verses 1-5, as a “he”?

    About Christian husbands being loving leaders of their families, there is a valid and abundant Biblical basis for this concept. There is much more of a basis, in fact, both in terms of Biblical principles and in terms of prescriptive and descriptive verses, for the “loving leader” concept than there is for the “co-leader” concept. Egalitarians have a few verses which they love to repeat (out of context) for their position. Complementarians have the testimony of the whole counsel of Scripture for the roles and responsibilities of husbands and wives before God.

  59. Don September 30, 2008 at 10:22 pm #

    ALL descriptions of God are metaphors, except perhaps holy. God is infinite and beyond our finite understanding, except thru the use of metaphor.

    I see the whole counsel of Scripture teaching marriage as a partnership. Yes, in a patriarchal society God was bringing people into the kingdom step by step.

    I think the male-only loving leader concept is a power grab by males, who CHOOSE to interpret a few verses out of context and add a blue tint to the Bible that is not even there. I do not recommend interpreting the Bible to give oneself an advantage over other adults.

  60. Christopher Lake October 1, 2008 at 2:48 am #

    Don,

    All descriptions of God are metaphors, except *perhaps* holy? What about loving? Just? Angry with the wicked? I’m sorry– I don’t buy the postmodern hermeneutic that would have the titles of the three Person of the Trinity to be only “metaphors.”

    Yes, God is infinite and we cannot *exhaustively* understand Him, but He reveals Himself to us in Scripture. One of the things that He reveals in John 1:1-5 is that the Word is described as a “he.” It’s simply a cop-out to say that this is just a metaphor. You are not dealing with the text. What do you do with John 1:1-5? You have previously said that “the Word” is beyond gender. Then why does John refer to the Word specifically as a “he”?

    Don, the “husband as loving leader” concept (a Biblical concept) is *anything but* a power grab, because it means that men are to lay down their lives (emotionally and physically) for their wives, in a radically self-sacrificial way, as Christ did for the church. Where is the “power grab” in that scenario? Was Christ grabbing for power when He died for us?

    If you see the whole counsel of

  61. Christopher Lake October 1, 2008 at 2:49 am #

    *Persons* of the Trinity, that is, not Person

  62. Christopher Lake October 1, 2008 at 2:53 am #

    Hmmm, somehow, that last part of the #60 (the sentence fragment part) found its way into my comment, when I didn’t even type it! I have no idea how that happened…

  63. Don October 1, 2008 at 9:56 am #

    Christopher,

    On John 1:1-5 what you are doing in retrojecting English concepts of gender back into the Greek, which is never a good idea. What needs to be done is use the Greek concepts for gender as used in the inspired Scripture and try to describe those in English.

    The reason masculine pronouns are used in that section is because the “logos” is a GRAMMATICAL masculine noun. In Greek or Hebrew (and many other languages) nouns are assigned a (grammatical)gender, but this has no required relationship to any actual physical gender. This is not the way things are in English.

  64. Brian (Another) October 1, 2008 at 9:57 am #

    Kathy:

    You point out how a biblical doctrine (complementarianism) can be applied in a sinful manner. As husbands, we should never treat our wives as we do children. However to take that and say that means there cannot be an order is a fallacy. God ordains government, we are to submit. I certainly don’t feel like a child there. God ordains that we submit to leaders within the church. I don’t find that akin to be a child, either. In a similar manner that you see comps as “claiming superiority”, I see an egalitarian claim of “someone doesn’t get what they want”. God gives gifts to each of us. To take an example, the gift of tongues is given (sorry, cessationists), but there are specific confines of how that gift is used (only an interpreter present, etc.). God does not say use your gifts however you see fit, however it pleases you. No, it’s how it pleases God, it’s how He sees fit. He has specifically spoken on teaching (and holding authority with) the church body (congregation) and what is seen as “fit”. He doesn’t say not to use a gift of teaching, but it is revealed that teaching the congregation is not to everyone.

  65. Don October 1, 2008 at 11:46 am #

    Comp is NOT a Biblical doctrine, it is ONE way to interpret the Bible.

    Salvation by faith is an example of a Biblical doctrine.

  66. Don October 1, 2008 at 2:29 pm #

    Actually, ANYONE possibly having a teaching, etc. is what

    ESV 1Co 14:26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.

    says.

    LITV 1Co 14:26 Then what is it, brothers? When you come together, each one of you has a psalm, he has a teaching, he has a language, he has a revelation, he has an interpretation. Let all things be for building up.

    Of course, brothers is inclusive, as are the he’s in the above.

  67. Kathy October 2, 2008 at 2:03 pm #

    ‘You point out how a biblical doctrine (complementarianism) can be applied in a sinful manner. As husbands, we should never treat our wives as we do children. However to take that and say that means there cannot be an order is a fallacy.’

    To say that there IS an order (gender hierarchy ordained by God) is the fallacy to begin with, and then it is born out by husbands having to be told or taught that they Should not treat their equal partners as children. Only the immature need to be told or taught such.

    ‘God ordains government, we are to submit. I certainly don’t feel like a child there.’

    Goverenment is not a partnership of marriage. No comparison there. It is not in the marriage bed, nor does it live under the same roof.

    ‘God ordains that we submit to leaders within the church. I don’t find that akin to be a child, either.’

    Yes, he does, and also it is explicitly said that all are to submit one to another per Paul, Eph 5:21, and elsewhere in the bible, which is why no one would feel like they are a child becasue all are on equal ground since afterall we ARE ALL spiritual CHILDREN OF GOD as EXPLICITLY WRITTEN. Children do not rule over other children. Bogus.

    ‘In a similar manner that you see comps as “claiming superiority”, I see an egalitarian claim of “someone doesn’t get what they want”.’

    It is the comp view that ensures that the immature husband can get what he wants because the comp view CANNOT have it any other way, it CANNOT have ‘the husband doesn’t get what he wants’ (because he MUST have final say at the very least in belief). The egal position on the other hand claims mutuality for both partners, neither having final say to ‘get what they want’ so to correct your perspective, BOTH husband and wife just simply do not get ‘what they want’. Only that you view from the comp position do you say ‘I see an egalitarian claim of “someone doesn’t get what they want”.’ You have to view from the egal point in order to actualy see that BOTH do not get what they want because neither are striving for power over the other or the final descsion over a marital disagreement.

    And you should have added (even coming from the comp perspective) to ‘I see an egalitarian claim of “someone doesn’t get what they want”’ but someone DOES get what they want, the husband.’

    ‘God gives gifts to each of us. To take an example, the gift of tongues is given (sorry, cessationists), but there are specific confines of how that gift is used (only an interpreter present, etc.). God does not say use your gifts however you see fit, however it pleases you. No, it’s how it pleases God, it’s how He sees fit.’

    What does this have to do with anything? The egal position agrees to order just not hierarchal order. The order of peace is not a gender hierarchal order. Peace is not gender.

    ‘He has specifically spoken on teaching (and holding authority with) the church body (congregation) and what is seen as “fit”. He doesn’t say not to use a gift of teaching, but it is revealed that teaching the congregation is not to everyone.’

    Authority only resides in the truth that one teaches, it does not reside in the flesh, it does not reside in a Y chromosome, it does not reside in a tounge of the flesh, it resides in God’s Truths.

    You said it is ‘revealed’ that teaching the congregation is not to everyone. You meant to say that teaching the congregation is revealed to be not a gift given to WOMEN. There is a big difference. And I must say that to claim it is ‘revealed’ is pretty weak, because your word choice shows that it is only a matter of interpretation. There is nothing explicitly said that ‘women’ (!!) are not to teach a congregation or correct doctrine.

    Thank you for the comment.

  68. Brittany October 8, 2008 at 11:40 am #

    I admit it: Rob Bell’s Nooma videos warm my young, emergent, postmodern, film-loving, design-driven heart. Whatever you believe about his doctrine, his presentation is admittedly very rhetorically effective, especially amongst younger generations.

    Moving on.

    I tend to agree with the idea that “feminine” language and metaphors used to represent God is more significant than it is being given credit for on this thread. Metaphors are our primary (perhaps even only) ways of experiencing and interpreting God (especially what texts, in this case the scriptures, say about God).

    If God is “like” something, such as a mother, God must actually share characteristics that define and separate mothers from other humans (qualities such as nurture, femininity, maternal love). Such is the nature of metaphor and analogy.

    Arguing that God cannot be substantially “feminine,” while having substantially “masculine” qualities, also implies that women are less God-like than men, and that they do not share in the imago dei to the same extent that women do (because they lack masculinity, an active characteristic of God).

    However, if both men and women – at Creation – are equal (if separate) representations of the imago dei, then women, and femininity by extension, are equal representations of God’s qualities alongside men and masculinity.

Comment here. Please use FIRST and LAST name.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes