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Nov 13, 2006


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Todd Bensel

I'll try a simple tack - father is a name and a role. Jesus had an heavenly father and an earthly mother. That's speaking about roles, not sexuality. It's my impression that the church historically has understood this. It's also my impression that one current ideological group that doesn't understand this is the edges of the "feminist" league. A personal aside: Jesus said, "When you pray, pray this way - our Father...." Could we possibly disobey in a more plain way then to address God as "Allah", "Mother Goddess", "Queen of Heaven", "Sophia" or other such names? After all - Jesus is the head of the church! :)

Michael W. Kruse

I was thinking about the ACT tests with its questions like: "X is to Y as A is to B"

Father God is to Jesus as God is to me. The focal point is the relationship between God and Jesus. The significance of that is not about earthly parenting. Thus, again, the importance on not getting this caught up in an expression of sexuality.

Thanks Todd.

Michael W. Kruse

Oh yes. I forgot to mention. Christ is indeed head of the Church. He is the life giving animating source of life in the Church and it is through him that we are born again into a new creation.

Christ is also Lord of the Church.


will spotts

As a matter of discrete opinion, I happen to agree with most of this. But something about it bothers me -- specifically, while he points out that there are not biblical grounds for 'the controlling influence of the ideas of “masculinity” and femininity” for our understanding of God’s essential nature,' he also makes many assertions for which there are equally no biblical grounds. These are equally opinion only. For example the concept is advanced that, 'Sexuality is a created good for the purpose of reproduction, not the extension of divine character.' The Bible does not give a reason for sexuality . . . and we can say duh all we want -- the fact is the Bible doesn't address the question of why human reproduction should be sexual, or why, if reproduction is sexual, it should be gendered as opposed to hermaphroditic. The existence of biological reasons for this in no way equals the kind of explanation he provides. Similarly, the lack of a creative, generative role for sexuality in the divine (as opposed to the pagan formulations) still doesn't address whether God has gender. Also whether or not gender is a cultural construct cannot be biblically supported.

My point is that I agree with his view of the lack of biblical support for some of the notions of what he terms 'traditionalist' texts, but I find he is equally lacking in biblical support. I believe this is an area for which one will find little conclusive biblical testimony. Just because we reject something because it offends our reason or cultural sensibilities does not make it a biblical argument. I believe a far stronger argument could be made based on statements like, 'In Christ there is neither male nor female'.

Beyond Words

I agree with a lot of what Will said. I'm fascinated with and hungry for more explanations of the transcendency of God's nature--I think Wright begins to make that point but not on solid biblical evidence. I think biblical evidence is there if one looks at scripture more holistically. But I got tripped up on the statements Wright makes to the effect that "we can call God'Father' without injecting the wrong kind of gendered identity but we can't call God 'Mother' or it will give the wrong idea of God's nature and character." Huh? I think the complementarians will eat that one alive!

Michael W. Kruse

Will, don't give Wright to hard a time. It may be more my representation of his case than what he actually said. *grin*

Apart from the purely reproductive nature of sex there is the unifying of the two into one and that in some ways mirrors the idea of the Trintiy. At Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed I have used the two creation lists:

List 1:


List 2:


List 1 highlights God's otherness from everything in creation. List 2 highlights those ways in which God and humanity are alike but unlike the rest of creation. I think his emphasis is the sexuality in humans belongs to List 1 Characteristics of things in the created order. Things like reason, moral discernment, relationship in humans are characteristics that fall into List 2.

I think the way God chooses to characterize himself in contrast to pagan gods are grounds from which some reasonable inferences can be made.

Michael W. Kruse

Beyond Words, I think the issue Wright gets to is a linguistic one. God has personhood but we have no metaphor for a genderless person. There are no gender neutral pronouns. Any metaphor we use will have a gender connotation to it but that says nothing about sexuality in God and a lot about the limitations of language.

I don't think that Wright would say that calling God "Father" and using male pronouns does not carry gender baggage. It is imperfect but it is what we are left with. Male pronouns can mean humanity or they can mean male. Female pronouns always mean female and therefore, of necessity, interject sexuality into the mix. I think for that reason Wright opposes, at least, the abandonment of the male imagery and is wary of introducing more specifically gender laden monikers that may confuse more than they clarify. I realize this is a deeply controversial issue but I think I am at least in the ballpark of representing his view and I think I generally agree.

Dana Ames

I think Will's comment is good in that what we infer as "biblical" is just that- inference. It goes both ways, as he pointed out. Just a reminder that when Moses asked God his name, God didn't say "Father", either in the sense of name or role. He said "I am/will be that I am/will be", which is not any kind of noun! God's not a noun- don't pin him down! :)

The "other" Wright- N.T.- has gathered a little book of sermons and a couple of papers he gave, called "The Crown and the Fire". The whole book is fabulous, but one chp has stood out particularly to me, and I return to it again and again for various reasons. The first time I read it I was on a car trip with my family, and I just about flew through the roof as we were driving down I-5! It's called "The World, the Church and the Groaning of the Spirit". It's an exposition of Romans 8:17-27 and among other things it speaks to the question "Why two genders?" Up until I read this, I believed, and still do, that it has to do with the union of like and unlike (Jesus with the church, and God with Humanity in Jesus). I do think there is something about God's "essence" (don't know if that's the correct theological term), something metaphysical at which the physical points, but it's not what we would usually think. NTW's explanation is the only one I have ever heard that doesn't leave me feeling squeamish and apprehensive, waiting for the other shoe to drop about how therefore women are unequal in some way.

Warning- extensive quote ahead!
NTW says that “the theme of this passage is the extraordinary vocation of the people of God, within the overarching plan of God for the healing and rebirth of the entire cosmos.” It “points us to the genuinely Christian view of the world, and of God, and of the Church’s task in between God and the world.” The outline consists of the context of the three instances of the use of the word “groaning” in this passage, which is “rather like a threefold Russian doll; each time we open up a set of ideas, there’s another one, similar but compressed, inside. Within each section the connecting words (all the ‘fors’ and ‘becauses’) are vital.”

1) The world waits to be fully redeemed. “...The cosmos itself will one day thrill to respond to the wise rule/glory of God’s redeemed- and now redeeming- humanity. That is the vision. Instead of worship of creation by humans, as in Romans 1, we now have creation rescued by humans... Within that vision...Paul uses the great image from Genesis 3. No longer Eve, but now the whole creation, playing as it were female to God’s male, is groaning together and in travail together...The present state of the world is just this: that it is groaning in the pangs of giving birth to the new world that God desires and intends. And the result is a view of the world which leaves no room for either exploitation or idolatry.”

2) The world waits for the church to be fully redeemed. “If the world is playing out the Eve-theme, groaning in travail as it waits for the new world to be born from its womb, so the Church is also groaning as she waits for her own full adoption....The female image of the Church, groaning in travail, is placed as it were within the female image of the world....Paul is deliberately interpreting the two in relation to each other. The present task of the Church is not only to share the sufferings of Christ but in doing so to share and bear the sufferings of the world....The church is not to be insulated from the pain of the world, but is to become for the world what Jesus was for the world, the place where its pain and grief may be focused and concentrated, and so be healed...Does this mean that some of our wounds are Christ’s wounds, and that some of our wounds bring healing? I think Paul’s answer is Yes.”

3) God is at work in the world through the church to bring about the full redemption. “‘In the same way too’, Paul says in verse 26: what is true of the world and the Church is actually true also of the Spirit. Within the groaning of creation, and within the groaning of the Church, God - this strange God - is groaning also....God is sharing, by his Spirit, in the groaning of creation and the groaning of the Church. But this image remains inescapably the Eve-image, the female one giving birth...Prayer, at the deepest level, is here understood as God calling to God from within the created and groaning world, ...from within the redeemed and groaning church, God the Spirit dwelling in the hearts of her people as they dwell in the midst of the broken world, and calling to God the Father, the transcendent one, and being certainly heard....The Church, then, is caught up in this divine dialogue,...comes to share the pattern of the life and death and resurrection of the Son. Verse 17 stands as the rubric over the entire passage: when the world and the Church look out on the darkness and ask why they have been abandoned, at that very moment they share the agony of the Son; so that the complaint of God’s absence becomes, paradoxically, the evidence of God’s presence....We in the West have assumed for too long that the word ‘God’ is univocal, and that we all know what it means. This passage holds out the startling picture of God as the creator and as the one at work to bring healing and hope within the world, and, in the midst of that, as the one who suffers and dies under the weight of the world’s sin, and rises again as the beginning of the new creation.”


Michael W. Kruse

"God's not a noun- don't pin him down!"

LOL Amen

I haven't read Wright's book you mentioned but I too find this to be powerful. The idea of all creation groaning and in travail to give birth is powerful. The masculine and femenine images are mixed all through scripture. I think the problem is when we try to take the metaphors beyond the reality they were intended to correspond to.

Michael W. Kruse

Will in the first comment:

"The Bible does not give a reason for sexuality . . . and we can say duh all we want -- the fact is the Bible doesn't address the question of why human reproduction should be sexual, or why, if reproduction is sexual, it should be gendered as opposed to hermaphroditic."

While I agree with technical accuarcy of this, from a practical/applied theology standpoint, the fact that no reason is provided should suggest that whatever the reasons are, they are not essential to theology or praxis. Otherwise, God would have revealed them to us. I think that is the larger point.

Dana Ames

To both of your responses: yes and yes.

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