Father-Ruler: The Meaning Of The Metaphor ‘Father’ For God In The Bible -- By: Aída Besançon Spencer

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 39:3 (Sep 1996)
Article: Father-Ruler: The Meaning Of The Metaphor ‘Father’ For God In The Bible
Author: Aída Besançon Spencer

Father-Ruler: The Meaning
Of The Metaphor ‘Father’ For God In The Bible

Aída Besançon Spencer**

One of the more emotional topics in the Church today is the use of the title “Father” for God. “Father God” is no longer a term that unites all people.

On the one hand, goddess feminists are rejecting Judaism and Christianity as viable religions for today. One major reason is this term. Mary Daly, in her anti-Christian diatribe, is often quoted: “If God in ‘his’ heaven is a father ruling ‘his’ people, then it is in the ‘nature’ of things and ac-cording to divine plan and the order of the universe that society be male-dominated.” 1 Alice Walker in The Color Purple has the character Shug Avery explain to the protagonist Celie: “When I found out I thought God was white, and a man, I lost interest. You mad cause he don’t seem to listen to your prayers. Humph! Do the mayor listen to anything colored say?” 2 Carol P. Christ writes: “I left the church … because I concluded that patriarchy was deeply rooted in Christianity’s core symbolism of God the Father and Son.” 3 Daly and C. Christ are now witches. Walker is a pantheist.

But similar statements are also being made in the Christian community. Sallie McFague, a religious liberal, writes that God the Father is a Biblical model. Nevertheless, “the feminist critique of God as father centers on the dominance of this one model to the exclusion of others, and on the failure of this model to deal with the anomaly presented by those whose experience is not included by this model.” 4 Her words are not too different from those of evangelical pastor Paul R. Smith: “The passion of my life has been to discern what God is saying to the church today and to translate that into practical reality within the local church.” To speak of God exclusively in male terms “seriously distorts our faith” by implying that “God is more ‘masculine’ than ‘feminine’ as we commonly understand those terms” and “men are more like

Aída Spencer is professor of New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, 130 Essex Street, South Hamilton, MA 01982.

God than women, a belief which buttresses the idea that only men should be in charge.” 5

On the other hand, conservatives, who may or may not treat the Bible as reliable, are insisting on the priority of God as Father and the litera...

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