Book Review -- By: Anonymous
Is God The Only Reliable Father? by Diane Tennis. Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1985,117 pages. Reviewed by Alvera Mickelsen, Assistant Professor of Journalism, Bethel College, St. Paul, Mn.
This small, highly provocative book by a staff associate for the General Assembly Mission Board, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has surprising premises and conclusions, worthy of the careful attention of pastors and serious students of the Bible. Tennis pleads with readers not to abandon the imagery and language of God the Father. Her conclusion is not surprising—but some of her reasons are.
Tennis does not defend patriarchy. Neither does she defend efforts to rid God of “maleness.” Rather, she presents God the Father as a model for earthly fathers. She does not defend her position on the grounds that God is like human fathers; instead, she insists that human fathers should be like the loving, nurturing father that God is. Unlike many earthly fathers, God the father is reliable, loving, persistently present with his children, (both physically and emotionally) and never abusive.
She makes her case on the basis of the need of men and women alike to have a “reliable Father.” Tennis believes that one of the reasons that men and women alike need God the Father is the failure of most of their own fathers to be what God intended
The book draws more heavily on psychology, sociology, and history than on the Bible. Tennis carefully points out that when the Bible speaks of God as Father it is nearly always in the context of nurturance and love —not in the context of dominance and autonomy. She maintains that the desire of many feminists to eliminate the symbol of God as Father is based on a wrong kind of father image—a tyrannical one who is preoccupied with his power and need to control, and that some feminists have collected their ugly father images out of their human experience and deposited them on God as Father.
The author also enumerates unwise ways in which women have dealt with the problem of unreliable fathers. She decries the tendency of women to tolerate irresponsibility in others and to blame themselves for every family problem. She terms this an illusion of omnipotence that leads to a sense of martyrdom. She says that women as well as men like to play God, and women do it by acting and thinking as if everything depends on them and they are responsible for everything. Tennis finds fault with the way many women rear their sons and daughters. “When the little girl grows up, what has she learned about the quality of love? She has learned that unconditional love comes from a woman [her mother] who she is now. She expects to give it to a man. She does not expect to receive it from a man.” When boys grow up, they expect to receive ...
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