Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Fatherhood of God (Part 1)

Why do Christians call God Father? There are those who would say that using masculine language for God is only the result of a patriarchal conception of God that we need to move beyond. But the significance of calling God Father goes much deeper than that. It is worth noting that no other religion calls God Father. Even in Old Testament Judaism, they never addressed God as Father. They might say metaphorically, that God is like a Father. But they never called God “Father” in the way that Jesus does.

Jesus brings something entirely new to the realm of human existence. He calls God "Father," because God is his Father, and he teaches his disciples, “When you pray, pray like this: “Our Father, who art in heaven…” Jesus could not call God “mother,” because he had a mother, and she wasn’t God. As we are “in Christ”—that powerful reality that the Apostle Paul deals with again and again in the New Testament—as we are in Christ, his Father becomes our Father.

But I hear the objection, “What about those who have had bad relationships with their fathers or who have had abusive fathers? It isn’t helpful for them to think of God as Father.” The problem is that naming God according to our conception of what is helpful relegates God to the level of a human construct. We don’t think of God as Father because it is a helpful analogy. We call God Father, because it is a reality—indeed the most precious reality that human beings can know&mdashthat if we are in Christ, his Father becomes our Father.

Those who may have had hurtful relationships with their earthly fathers can find healing and fulfillment in the true and perfect fatherhood of God. God's love and care for us, through Christ, is a precious and powerful truth of which we must not lose sight amid the changing religious landscape that surrounds us.

1 comment:

benjamin said...

Yet, St. Gregory the Theologian warns us against taking the masculine language concerning God too far in his Theological Orations.

I have no interest in introducing feminism into the Church, and I completely object to changing the wording of the Creeds. I sincerely wonder, though, whether or not we catholics have not largely ignored motherhood as an icon of God; I ask why there is so little talk about a genuine theology of motherhood. There is something to that, not in rebellion or in perversion, but in opening up something of God that is seen in God's creation: woman as mother.