Ben’s comment on my previous post demands, I think, more than a comment reply. Here’s his comment:
I would have to disagrew with you hear Jamie. I would argue that God is fully gender/sexual. That the essence of masculanity and feminity is derived from God. God has come to identify himself the analogy of being a Father. Which really does capitilize on the masculine side of it. And yes Jesus does have a penis between those legs, and those obviously physically male. However both Father, Son, & Spirit in their action possessed qualities of the feminine.
Gender/sexuality is a very major component of our identity. If God is not a sexual/gender being then we really do have a hard time relating to Him. It might really do some fuddling to what the Imago Dei might mean.
For an interesting discussion on this from a conservative point see this article.
A disclaimer, then a couple of observations:
Disclaimer: My exploration of theology has been a self-studying endeavor. I don’t have the benefit of a formal theological education, and I’m not foolish enough to think that I have all the answers. As I said in my original post, this is my opinion, based on my reading of Scripture and theology. On to the pontificating!
1. We cannot say “God is fully gender[ed?]/sexual” without qualification. The article you referred to says, after all: “Therefore God is neither male nor female, but nor is God radically a-sexual either. We should understand God’s sexuality as transcending but embracing (and not negating) the personal and relational aspects of sexuality. It is the intimate, personal relationship of the Trinity which is reflected in the imago dei.” (p. 3) Further, Edgar argues that we must not see the terms ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ as gendered and in need of a feminine balancing term (7). He does, however, consider those terms essential because they are terms that Jesus used.
That said, I am not arguing for a wooden interpretation of those terms as we understand them. After all, a certain amount of contextualization is necessary so we can relate to God. I do not think, however, that we must refer to God alternately as Father and Mother in order that both men and women can relate to him. While some of our God-language is conventional/traditional, that fact alone doesn’t mean we throw out the baby with the bathwater.
2. Saying “God has come to identify himself as Father” might be a little dangerous. I’m not saying it is, in your case, but some might argue that language smacks of process theism. I cannot presume to think the thoughts of God, but since I believe the specific revelation of Jesus and Scripture is complete, I don’t think we’ll get a new revelation of God as Mother. If we go that direction, do we then speak of Jesus as “Daughter of God” or “Daughter of Humanity”? Seems to me it’s a slippery slope.
3. “If God is not a sexual/gender being then we really do have a hard time relating to Him.” Again, I’m not arguing that masculinity and femininity do not derive from God’s nature, nor am I trying to fuddle with the imago dei. God is not gendered or sexual in the sense we understand, since from our perspective gender/sexuality is intimately connected (no pun intended) to sex and reproduction, neither of which God “does.”
I recognize the “mother/feminine” qualities of the Trinity (the mother hen, the woman in the lost coin story). I do not think, however, (and I think Dr. Edgar agrees with me) that adding the epithet ‘mother’ to Jesus (who, in any case, never calls himself father) accomplishes anything positive and has a number of negative effects, including the suggestion that Scripture might not be sufficient. I think it arises from confusing ‘qualities’ with ‘attributes’.
4. For the record, I think it is just as wrong to take the Fatherhood of God to the other extreme and demean, debase, abuse, or otherwise destroy women. My wife will tell you, I’m high on women. She’s smarter than me, and a lot better-looking than I deserve, and in her mothering of our sons, I see over and over again the motherly qualities of God at work.
Thanks for the dialogue. I’m sure this won’t be the end. 🙂
(By the way, Ben, I think it’s interesting that the author of the article you mentioned is a member of the Uniting Church of Australia, which is neck-deep in an ECUSA-style split over the ordination of homosexuals. I don’t know much about him, but I’m guessing since he taught at Asbury last year that you took a class with him?)