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The "Masculinity" of God

The "Masculinity" of God

from Order of Creation/Order of Redemption
by Michael Azkoul, publ. Orthodox Research Institute, 2007, pp. 23-30.

Republished on our website with permission of the author.

According to Judge Robert Bork, radical feminism is the most destructive and fanatical movement to reach our century from the sixties. Promising to give women choices, it rather condemns any thought or behavior inconsistent with its agenda. It is totalitarian in spirit, deeply antagonistic to traditional culture, and proposes the complete transformation of religion, morality and society by a new understanding of human nature. Feminists are convinced that only new values and institutions will liberate women from the historic oppression of their sex that has denied them the free exercise of her talents and the realization of their most personal aspirations. The Port Huron Statement identifies woman's oppressor as "patriarchy" (i.e., the male sex) or tyranny that has confined her to Children, Church and Kitchen—Kinder, Kirche und Kuchen—and a fortiori as a sex object. Hence, their hatred for the institution of marriage and the family, and the support of them by the Christian religion. Radical feminists are certain that men and their patriarchal deity are behind it. "‘No God,’ ‘no master,’ ‘no laws’" seems to be their motto. "The exclamation 'no God' presumably refers to the feminist illusion that religion was intended by men to control women."(18)

The religious aim of "radical feminists" is the feminization of God, and hence, the emasculation of the world’s male population. They are not merely egalitarians who seek the virilization of women and the feminization of men. As a part of their philosophy, many of them have adopted the Platonic myth about male-female creatures (androgyny). At present, the sexes are differentiated, but in the future the traits of one will become the traits of the other, "Androgynization" is the destiny of the human race. Many feminists, also, believe in the superiority of women; consequently, the future of humanity is female dominance (matriarchy).

Naturally, they reject anything that opposes their ideology, which involves, if not the abolition of Scriptures, a complete rewording of them, that is, the elimination of its so-called masculine gender bias. Also, the deity ("God/ess" as some address it) of radical feminism is not the God of the Prophets, the Apostles and the Fathers. "She" rejects what her daughters reject, approves what they approve. One would expect, too, that She abhors the traditional definitions of "masculinity" and "femininity" — the male as bold, resolute, authoritative; the female as "the weaker vessel” (1 Pet. 3:7), gentle, nurturing, pacific, sympathetic, etc. Perhaps, there is some truth in the feminist prognostication, inasmuch as today we find men and women often sharing the same characteristics; hence, "the tender male" and "the strong female"; or, more accurately, the evisceration of all gender differences. "Gender feminists" are doing their work well. "Nature" is being corrected by their "nurture. "

Most feminists calling themselves "Christian" are willing to combine elements of the biblical tradition with the anthropological aims of the radicals. They seem to have no aspirations to manhood, nor do they resent womanhood. One "Christian feminist" told me :hat she approves of strong men. Unlike the radicals, also, she did not abhor motherhood or "wifery” and she loved children. Her only concern was "equality of rights and opportunity." She did not crave the revision of the Nicean Creed to read, "I believe in one Father/Mother"; and the Lords Prayer as "Our Father/Mother which art in the heavens." Neither did she demand "inclusive language" in the Bible (e.g., "human" for "man" or "Child of God" for "Son of God" or "Parent" for "Father").

Most Orthodox feminists, although not in accord with the theology of the radicals or "gender feminists," yet share with them, to some degree, a common understanding of church history. They explain the exclusion of women from the priesthood on the basis of "patriarchy" and man-centered ("androcentric") values. They are also grateful to the feminist movement in general for "raising the consciousness" of society on woman's issues. They see, also, women gradually achieving a new status in the Church (e.g., teaching in seminaries, serving on Church Board's, etc.), an obvious impact of the feminist movement on the Church. The door to women in the priesthood is opening.

In addition, not a few feminists imagine that this new picture of women may in fact have been the primitive conception of the Christian women, somehow lost in the long trek of the Church toward 21st century enlightenment. The changes they want would surely begin with the worship of the Church, and the worship with her language and rubric; and that would be followed by a reexamination of the "masculine God." Naturally, then, a justification of the changes would require a new study of the Scriptures with their masculine language and imagery.

Let us concede that holy Writ does indeed sometimes attribute feminine characteristics to God. Thus, "the Rock that begot you ...the God who gave you birth" .(Deut, 32:18); or, Yahweh says, “I cry out as a woman in labor, gasping and panting" (Isa. 42:14). Also, He exclaims, “As a mother comforts her son, so will I comfort you" (Isa. 66:12). Some feminists argue that such verses ought to initiate the beginning of the Christian "de-patriarchalization" of the Scriptures, which would profoundly influence our conception of God and how we should address Him/Her.

Although there are words and phrases that characterize His behavior as feminine, nowhere in the Old or New Testament is God conceived or addressed as feminine per se. Even when female images or similes are ascribed to His actions, it is still very much a "masculine" Divinity to whom they are applied. This is clear from the consistent use of the masculine pronoun "He" for God. Nowhere is He called "she" or "her," even when feminine imagery is involved. The Bible never refers to Him as "Mother" or some other female appellation. Nowhere in the Scriptures is God hailed as "Queen" or "Mistress" "consort" or "matriarch." On the contrary, although not a man —and beyond gender—He is ordinarily compared to a masculine-father.(19) The inspired biblical writers never think of God except in masculine terms.

In the Hebrew, the names of God, Yahweh and Elohim,are masculine. He is described as "Father" (Ex. 4:22; Deut. 32:6; Isa. 63:16; Mal. 2:10, etc.). Jesus prays, "Our Father" (Matt. 6:9). He is "father" in the parable of the Prodigal Son. Through baptism and the Spirit of adoption we are privileged to cry, "Abba, Father" (Rom. 8:15). God has the title of King (ho basileus) Who rules a Kingdom (he basileia). He is Lord, ho kyrios. He is also Judge, Master, Savior, and Ancient of Days. The Old Testament speaks of Him as "the God of Abraham," not "the God of Sarah." The fact that the man Adam was created before the woman Eve suggests that God, in His actions (i.e., the Uncreated Energies), is masculine rather than feminine.

One might pause to ask whether there is something in the divine Nature and Its relation to maleness which accounts for the use of masculine language? Likewise, one may argue that to amend or displace this male language is to distort the meaning of the Scriptures. If the sacred books were "cleansed" of male "bias," what criterion would we apply? Secular egalitarianism? Must the Church accept the idea of "equality" as modern society defines it? No Prophet, no Father, no Bishop or Council of Bishops has that authority. To be sure, the Church recognizes the value of textual criticism (e.g., the authentication of documents, verses and words), but unless one denies the inspiration of the Old and New Testaments, no changes in the Bible history or doctrine is permissible, "androcentric values" notwithstanding. There is no one with the holiness, the wisdom or the divine authorization to revise the Scriptures.

To eliminate gender language altogether in theological discourse, as feminists demand, is post-Christian mischief with no justification in Orthodox Tradition. Rather than obedience to the word, there are some that would prefer to explain the Divine masculinity as the product of the Prophets' or Apostles' or Evangelists' cultural conditioning rather than divine inspiration. There is certain irony in this point of view, because it was the ancient pagans who had goddesses and priestesses — who in their function and status were not in the least inferior to male gods and priests. Some of the Fathers held that the idea of the pagan priestess is necessarily linked to the idea of female deity. The history of ancient religions would strongly intimate that this connection was not coincidental. I fear the modern revival of female deities among feminists (and witches) and their call for women to the priesthood is more than accidental. I have a sense that the noise of some Orthodox women for admission to the priesthood may, in some instances, presupposes a new conception of God.

 Their logic seems to be that if God is not masculine, then it is not important for Christ to be male, and, since the priest is the icon of Christ, a neutered Christ may act as Prototype for either male or female. Furthermore, if "masculinity" is emblematic of neither God nor Christ, the Church and society must dispense with their patriarchies. But the Orthodox Church maintains that the history of the human race begins with Adam and Eve, and, as F.Crusermann says, Genesis 2 postulates “a clearly androcentric view of the world.”(20) The rest of :he Bible confirms it. The admission of women to the priesthood cannot occur until the Church renounces the theology and anthropology of Genesis as traditionally understood.

We have this wisdom from C.S. Lewis to add, "But Christians think that God Himself has taught us how to speak of Him. To say that it does not matter is to say that all the masculine imagery is not inspired, is merely human in origin; or else that although inspired, is merely arbitrary and unessential. And this is surely intolerable; or, if tolerable, it is an argument not in favor of Christian priestesses, but against Christianity"

Notes

18. Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modem Liberalism and American Decline. New York, 1997, p. 202.

19. The God of the Testaments is Christ, "the Father of the Age to Come" (J. W. Miller, Father and Fathering. Mahway (NJ), 1989, p. 61).

20. Als Mann und Frau Geschaffen: Exegetische Studien zur Rolle der Frau Berlin, 1978, s. 60.

21. "Priestesses in the Church?" God in the Dock. Grand Rapids (MI), 1970, p. 237.

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