God's womb

I have to write again on a topic which generated a lot of posts: the feminine imagery attributed to God in the Bible. I described a few days ago that if I were to preach on Mothering Sunday, I would preach on God's presentation of himself in imagery that is feminine, in descriptions of God as mother.

God as mother captures the sense of the fierce protective instincts which mothers have about the welfare of their children. This nurturing impulse is a divine impulse. We are God's chldren and God helps us to relate to God as to a mother and father so that we might come to understand God better.

The word for 'compassionate' in the Bible in Hebrew is 'raham' which means womb and there are so many places in scripture where God is described with imagery which we associate with the feminine. Our God is compassionate, womb-like? Well, he certainly created us and labours and suffered for us through his Son Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 49:15

"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!

Job 38:8
"Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,

Genesis 1:27
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

God transcends gender, as we are all aware, God is spirit and yet God includes what we understand about men and women in descriptive imagery. We are all so used to envisaging God as patriarch, would it really harm our theology to envisage God as matriarch too? If it does damage our faith to envisage God as matriarch, then perhaps we need to ask ourselves why this is. What else is going on in our psychology for this to make us feel uncomfortable. Dwell on God's feminine side.

The Church has worshipped God the patriarch, God the warrior, God the judge, God the rock, God the bridegroom/husband and I am certainly not suggesting that this is not what God is - God is. But we need to widen our view to include all of the other ways in which God is made known to us.

Jesus presents us with a radically inclusive God. Jesus was radical in his treatment of women as was Paul with his 'let her learn' and his corrections to the traditional idea that women were owned by their husbands. Christian men are exhorted to treat their wives as Christ treats the church - this was all radical stuff against a patriarchal, first century back-drop.

God made us male and female in his image and so God is understood in both male and female terms, for only male AND female reflect the image of God.


Crunch said...

Anything we perceive to be 'good' or 'holy' in someone must be a reflection of God's nature. He created us in his image and therefore any positives MUST come from his likeness. This of course includes so called feminine attributes if we accept that females have some positive traits in their make-up. Unfortuanately many Christians still harbour Greek philosophical ideas about women. They misinterpret the story of the fall as the result of women's weakness and unsuitablility to lead. Eve was the one who upset the applecart and rebelled. Adam was an unfortunate and fairly silent victim in the whole sorry tale. According to some, all he did wrong was to lack the backbone to stand up to his wife and say NO! Consequently those preaching this theology, have to accept that they see all women as inferior. Their attitude to God's character and 'gender' betrays this. If man alone was made in the true image of God as many in this school of thought believe, then where does that leave women? I asked a friend who believes this stuff recently and his answer was that women were made in the image of man. Like the Greeks then, women are seen by some to be inherently inferior to man, not made in God's image but made in the image of Adam. Women cannot truly reflect God's nature because nothing exclusively feminine is 'good' or 'holy'. i.e. directly from God. As God's nature is inherently good; God must therefore be a male through and through...

Rachel said...

I find it interesting that many people in the Church consider these kind of explorations as the response of someone who is simply a product of their postmodern (questioning), anti-authoritarian (because we don't simply see authority as male) and liberal (because inclusive) society.

It would seem that those who defend God the patriarch (not that he needs defending) are unable to see that this defensiveness is also symptomatic of a patriarchal culture, whose establishment of what is 'normal' is so deeply entrenched, it seems just that, with anything divergent seeming almost blasphemously radical.

If we could but all be a little more conscious of our presuppositions and psychological inheritance, we might be able to see the truth a little more clearly through our own personal fogs and build a diverse image of the God we worship to accord with his own diversity.

Singing Owl said...

I did this once.

I do not (generally) use feminine pronouns for God. I don't think that "Wisdom--Sophia" is necessarily a feminine form of God. However, there is that feminine imagery which so many never even see...no matter how many times they read a scripture.

I was one of those, once upon a time.

So I preached on "A More Complete Image of God." I did it with "fear and trembling." I'm not exactly in a progressive denomination. ;-)

People loved it!

Yay, GOD!

Rachel said...

This is just it Singing owl - yay indeed!
If we can describe God as rock, the inanimate, surely it should not be so controversial to describe God in terms of woman!

I bet you are missed, no matter how anointed the next preacher might be.

love Rachel


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