SUNDAY STUDY: “Mother God” is not Biblical

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) posted a prayer on their Facebook page and Twitter addressing God as ‘Mother’ instead of ‘Father’. The ELCA has rejected Jesus’ own way of referring to God as Father.

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Any attempt to argue for the biblical perspective on gender and sexuality is likely to elicit a hostile response. Yet, as followers of Christ, we are not called to preach what people want to hear.

Now, “God is spirit” (John 4:24), and so He doesn’t have a body or a gender in the sense that we, as humans made in God’s image, do. However, throughout Scripture, God consistently refers to Himself as our “Father”—not our mother—and uses the pronoun “he,” not “she.”

There are some passages that refer to God caring for His people and use terms that are often applied to mothers. However, none of these passages ever refer to God as a woman or mother . . . or use female pronouns for God. They are simply metaphors to give us glimpses into who our God is. “A father . . . does not become a mother when likened to a mother, any more than he becomes a rock when likened to a rock (Deut. 32:18).” His unfathomable capacity to show compassion no more makes Him female than does the extravagant mercy extended by the father of the prodigal son in Jesus’ famous parable (Luke 15:11–32). Compassion may be an attribute that is strongly evident in women, but it is not exclusively feminine.

So why does it matter if we refer to God as Father or Mother? Well, first of all because we want to be biblical—and again, there is no “Mother God” ever mentioned in the Bible. There is only one true God, and He is the God revealed to us in Scripture. We cannot add to the Bible or add our own ideas about who God is to what He has revealed to us.

Second, it matters because of the motivation that individuals generally have who refer to a “Mother God.” They’ve rejected what the Bible teaches about male and female. They’ve rejected that men and women are created equally in God’s image, yet differently, and have been given different roles in the home and in the church. They claim that these are antiquated ideas from the male patriarchy meant to advance and secure male privilege. That’s a very low view of Scripture and results in man-made doctrine, rather than doctrine derived from God’s inspired Word.

As humans, God has mandated that it was “not good for man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18), and He formed Eve from the rib of Adam. From that point on, mankind knew that his wife was to be his helpmate. She was to be the loving mother (Proverbs 4:3, 31:28) who helped her husband to raise the children and run the household. In other words, mankind was created as male and female (Gen. 1:27), so that even in Paradise, man alone was not complete without woman.

God, however, is complete. He needs no “helpmate,” so there is no need for a heavenly mother. God’s character has some qualities that we more often associate with the feminine side, such as compassion, sacrificial giving of oneself, and patience (which is not to say that men do not exhibit these qualities, but they are more often associated with women). In one of a small number of instances that an attribute or action of God is associated with that of a woman, Isaiah 42:14 records YHWH saying,

For a long time I have held my peace; I have kept still and restrained myself; now I will cry out like a woman in labor; I will gasp and pant.

The use of the word like is critical, telling us that this is a simile. A simile is “a figure of speech involving the comparison of one thing with another thing of a different kind, used to make a description more emphatic or vivid.” God is not a woman. But just as a woman can set aside her inhibitions in the intense pain of labor, so too a time is coming when God, having held His peace from long ago, will unreservedly make Himself heard. The simile regards a transformation in behavior at an important threshold.

In Isaiah 49:15 God speaks of His faithful love toward His people as being even more reliable than a woman’s compassion for her nursing infant. Indeed, as mankind was made in the image of God, all good and wholesome qualities flow from God’s character.

To assert that He is partly, or wholly, female is inconsistent with sound biblical scholarship. It is a blasphemous misrepresentation of His nature, and seriously undermines Christian doctrine.

Regardless of who is referring to God—whether He Himself, or others—He is always portrayed in the original manuscripts of the Bible (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) as being male, not female. For instance, in the Hebrew Old Testament, the 6,828 occurrences of His name, יהוה (YHWH), are always in association with masculine adjectives, and masculine verbs. Similarly His titles—whether in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek—are all masculine, and are always associated with masculine grammatical forms. Furthermore, in all three Biblical languages, all pronouns associated with God—i.e., words used instead of His name or titles, such as He, Him, His—are masculine.

Thus, throughout the Old and New Testaments, God is portrayed in many thousands of grammatical forms as being male, and never once as being female. The evidence is overwhelming and conclusive.

God is perfect, unique (one of a kind), and does not need any helpers. Man, however, is not perfect or complete by himself, so God created moms and dads to be able to help each other.

Though some may grant that God is always presented as male (and as a father), they may nevertheless insist that these are “figurative representations.” They may assert that He is not really male (or a father), but that the Bible merely uses maleness (and fatherhood) as an anthropomorphic metaphor to help us understand His character.

God could have created a world in which there were no gender distinctions, and in which human reproduction was non-sexual. But He didn’t. He chose to incorporate gender and sexuality as part of His “very good” creation (Genesis 1:31). Thus, in creating gender and then representing Himself consistently and repeatedly as male, God is making a deliberate assertion about His nature. There is something particular about maleness that He chooses to represent His nature in a way that femaleness does not.

Theoretically, God could have conceived of a means of asexual reproduction for humans. Indeed, asexual reproduction is seen in single-celled organisms, and in many plants and fungi. Furthermore, had He so wished, God could have made it clear that He was genderless.

The fact is that God chose to incorporate gender into His “very good” creation and to present Himself as being male. When we handle Scripture correctly—as we have been commanded to do—we see that the Bible’s teaching about men and women doesn’t hold women in bondage or give men some kind of privilege. Those who teach such things need to reexamine Scripture.

Fatherhood, at the head of the family structure, takes its lead from God. That the Fatherhood of God is a reality, and not just a metaphor, is supported by the fact that He is called “Father” approximately 256 times in the Bible: eight times in the Old Testament and about 248 times in the New Testament, of which no less than 113 occur in John’s Gospel.

On numerous occasions Jesus referred to and addressed God as “Father.” Clearly, for the Son, God’s Fatherhood (incorporating maleness) was a firm reality, rather than a qualified metaphor. “‘Father’ is not simply one metaphor among others in the Bible; it is what God in actuality is for His worshipers.”

So should we pray to “Mother God”? No. Absolutely not. The one true God is not our “Mother”—He is our Father—and there is no God but Him (Isaiah 44:6). To worship any other God is idolatry. And remember how God Himself taught us to pray:

Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.’” (Matthew 6:9)



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