Q & A - Why Is God Referred To As Masculine?

PART 2

ADDENDUM – Comments by Dave Maas

 

DISCLAIMER: At the end of this article are some additional comments by the reader that asked the original question.  While she views God as a goddess, and HIStory as herstory, I sense there’s perhaps some connection to Wicca.  Just the same, I posted her views for the discerning reader to understand what people believe.  Also, I do not dehumanize her simply because of her opposing views, but love this lost soul with the same impartiality that God loves us.

 

The point needing emphasis in such discussions is that God is not human.  He is neither male nor female.  But he has created man male and female and called that creation "good."  It does not follow from this that there is to be inequality between the genders. 

 

Often overlooked especially by fundamentalists is the fact that Eve's subservience to Adam is a result of her (and Adam's) disobedience, it is part of the "curse" (Genesis 3:16, "Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you."), along with pain in giving birth.  Yet many fundamentalists view female subservience as an eternal value, a timeless truth.

 

Among other things Jesus brought about the reversal of the curse for those who are now "in Christ."  This is why Paul could write that now there is no more "male and female" (the Greek has the conjunction kaí, not oudé in Gal. 3:28, and the clause there is a verbal allusion to Genesis 1:27).  This does not mean that we are now completely free from the effects of the curse for we will not have the full consummation of our salvation until the Resurrection. 

 

This also does not mean that we now can ignore the created distinctions between male and female for God created both genders before the fall.  However, males and females are of equal worth in the eyes of God and should be in the eyes of Christians.  I find the emphasis in some fundamentalist circles on wives being subservient to their husbands to be unbalanced and sometimes even wrongheaded.

 

Because we don't relate to the strong patriarchal orientation of the Greco-Roman society of the First Century (as well as in the culture and history of Israel) we don't realize just how radical in some ways the NT's portrayal of and teachings regarding women is.  That women are used as prominent witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus in the gospels would have been shocking since in the courts of that day the testimony of females was considered unreliable and of no weight. 

 

Paul refers to a number of key women who provided him with vital support.  He also refers to "Junia," a female name, as being one who was "outstanding among the apostles" (Romans 16:7), and to "Phoebe, a deaconess of the church at Cenchrea" (Romans 16:1). 

 

Too many preachers who struggle with what Paul meant by a head covering in 1 Corinthians 11 fail to notice that Paul allowed and encouraged women to publicly pray and prophesy (his concern was how not whether they did so).  When Paul mentions Priscilla and Aquila he always refers first to Priscilla, describes both of them as "his helpers in Christ," and labels the house in which a church met as "their house" (rather than Aquila’s house); in Acts Priscilla participates in teaching Apollos. 

 

When Paul writes for wives to subordinate themselves to their husbands he does so in contexts in which he is telling all members of the church to submit themselves to one another.  There is always mutuality involved (I do not by any of this mean to imply that I support feminism, which is distinguished by its attempts to blur and even eliminate the created distinctions between male and female).

 

Most revealing is 1 Corinthians chapter 7, a chapter ignored by the evangelical "family values" crowd.  Paul was answering questions regarding believers getting married and whether those already married should abstain from sexual relations.  Several keys points from Paul's answers need to be stressed. 

 

First, nowhere does Paul state that sex within marriage is for procreation.  Certainly Paul understood that sex produces children and certainly he was not opposed to believers having children.  But Paul does not here view procreation as the only or even primary purpose of sex.  His stance is that husbands and wives are mutually obligated to satisfy the sexual needs of one another, a view simply unheard of in Paul's day (sex was almost universally viewed as being for the pleasure of the male). 

 

Today there is a growing movement within evangelical circles that argues that Christians ought not to use birth control (e.g., Hank Hanegraaff, the “Bible Answer Man,” has argued this numerous times on his radio program).  And, while I certainly believe homosexual acts to be sin and gay marriage to be anything but marriage in the sight of God, the common evangelical argument against gay marriage is that marriage and sex are for the purpose of procreation. 

 

Both of these viewpoints stand on thin ice in the light of what Paul wrote and my response to a Christian making either argument is, "Sir, since you only have two children can I assume you've only had sex with your wife twice?"  That is, if they've had sex more often than was required to produce whatever number of children they have, are they not hypocrites in light of their own argument?  And do not such arguments denigrate the value of the marriage of couples that cannot have children? 

 

Second, Paul makes it clear that sex within marriage is a mutual affair and both husband and wife are obligated to meet each other's needs.  They can abstain from sexual relations only for limited periods of time and only if both agree to it.  "In Christ" both are equal in honor, value, etc.

 

Third, Paul does not denigrate marriage but he also tells those who feel called to remain single to do so.  One does not sin by marrying but one who remains single for the sake of the work of the Lord does better, assuming he or she has the so-called "gift."  This is in line with what Jesus said in Matthew 19:11-12.

 

Fourth, it is safe to assume that Paul would only approve of Christians having children within marriage.  That he encourages single people to stay single if they are able shows that having children was not a high priority with Paul.

 

Fifth, allowing women to remain single and serve the Lord was a radical notion in Paul's day.  Women we expected to marry and produce offspring. 

 

Sixth, what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7 must be understood within the light of verses 29-31, "But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; 30 and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; 31 and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away." 

 

That is, Paul's advice flows from the knowledge of what God has done in the death and resurrection of Christ, an event that had cosmic consequences.  Marriage is one of many institutions that belong to the old order, to the present evil age (that doesn't mean marriage itself is evil).  As such it is in process of "passing away" and in the age to come when Jesus returns and ushers in the kingdom of God in the new creation, we will neither be given nor give in marriage. 

 

Those of us who are married must fulfill our responsibilities to our mates and to fail to do so is to be worse than a pagan.  However, marriage is not our ultimate end and the importance of marriage (and producing children) has been relativized by what God has done in Christ.  The problem with today's evangelicals is that they have absolutized the institution of marriage and made Christianity into little more than a self-help system used to enable us to live more productive, prosperous and happy lives. 

 

All this raises the question; since "in Christ" there is no longer slave or free, Jew or Gentile, male or female, why then does Paul elsewhere instruct slaves to submit to their masters, wives to their husbands, etc.?  Such questions arise because people do not understand that the NT has no interest in reforming the surrounding society.  This is a prominent and fundamental misunderstanding of Christianity dominant in both liberal and conservative churches. 

 

Though operating with different ideological agendas both liberal and conservative Christians believe it to be their Christian duty to bring about change in and reformation of society and the body politic.  Many have accused Paul of being inconsistent regarding slavery, for example, precisely because they have failed to understand this.  Paul's letters were written to Christian assemblies and his advice to slaves, free men, males, females, Jews and Gentiles is advice given to believing slaves, free men, males, females, Jews and Gentiles.  It is "in Christ" that there is no longer "Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female." 

 

This is how the church is to conduct itself regardless of what the surrounding society believes or does.  Such distinctions belong to the old order; they are part of the “form” of this world that is passing away.  This is not to say there are no longer distinctions for there is one and it is the one that truly matters, for since Jesus’ coming humanity is divided up into those who are “in Christ” and those who are not.

 

And this leads to a vital issue widely understood among NT scholars but barely understood by the laity, what some have called the eschatological framework underlying much of the NT.  Due to centuries of man's traditions, pagan influences and the deliberate efforts of church leaders during the early centuries of church history to sever Christianity from its Jewish roots, most of us do not have a biblical understanding of reality. 

 

Most of us view reality or the universe with an understanding best labeled "spatial dualism."  That is, we see reality divided up into two different realms.  The first is the created and physical universe dominated by time, a temporary and inferior realm that God will one day do away with.  The second is an immaterial and timeless realm where God dwells usually called "heaven" or "eternity."  This latter realm is especially marked out by its total lack of physicality and its timelessness, and its immaterial nature is one characteristic that makes this realm superior to the physical universe.  Such ideas stem from Platonic and Gnostic influences, not from the Bible. 

 

The NT takes over the OT understanding of the universe, an understanding best described as "temporal dualism."  This view sees reality moving from original creation to new creation.  History or time is linear moving from present to future.  The future new creation will be perfect and without sin.  Nonetheless it will include a material universe (regardless of how different it is from the present one) and it does not follow from the fact that life will be endless that it will also be timeless (the Greek word usually rendered "eternal," aionios, does not mean "eternal"). 

 

 "Eternal" is a philosophical term that brings its own set of baggage to the table.  Aionios is derived from the word for "age" and means something along the lines of "age-long, age-enduring," or even, "perpetual").  History in scripture is seen as divided into (at least) two ages, the present evil age under the domination of Sin, Death and Satan, and the "age to come," to be ushered in by the advent of the Messiah.  The destiny of the righteous is endless life in the kingdom of God in the new creation.  The biblical hope is entirely oriented towards the future.  (Please note in none of this am I advocating dispensationalism).

 

I should also point out that the common Greek word for “age” (aion) is often mistranslated in our English versions (e.g., 2 Corinthians 4:4 calls Satan the “god of this age,” not the “god of this world”).  Similarly, the clause commonly translated as “forever” in our English translations, is usually in the Greek a clause that literally reads, “unto the ages of the ages” (e.g., Galatians 1:5).

 

Contrary to popular notions, the biblical hope of the righteous is consistently the bodily resurrection of believers at the end of the age when Christ returns (and the transformation of those still alive at that time), at which time he overthrows the last of God's enemies and ushers in the kingdom of God. 

 

Paul especially makes clear that this is our hope and we will not have our ultimate and final salvation until that time (e.g., see 1 Corinthians chapter 15).  Yet the importance of this had been vastly reduced by the idea that death is simply a doorway to eternity, that Christians receive their full reward when they die and "go to heaven" (the Bible portrays death as an enemy, not a doorway or escape hatch). 

 

Frequently on Christian talk shows like the Bible Answer Man callers ask about this because they struggle with how to reconcile the ideas of a future bodily resurrection and the notion of receiving one’s rewards at the moment of death.  And, at the end of the day, they cannot be satisfactorily reconciled (the notion of instantaneous transportation to heaven following an individual’s death is ultimately derived from Gnosticism with a lot of Dark Age mythology mixed in).  Contrary to popular belief the Bible says very little about the intermediate state between death and resurrection at the return of Christ, and precisely because of this ambiguity it has been a topic of debate among biblical scholars for generations. 

 

Paul's statements about departing and being with the Lord (Philippians 1:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:8) are very obscure and create more questions than answers.  Those who assume Paul means depart and get his reward in heaven at the moment of his death should examine whether they are reading their own presuppositions into Paul’s words. 

 

One is hard pressed to find passages that actually say believers go to heaven to receive their reward (passages do refer to God holding our rewards in reserve “in heaven” for some future point but they do not say we go there at death to get them).  I don't have a hard opinion myself as to what the intermediate state is nor am I worried about it since I have faith in God and trust he will only do me good. 

 

But the NT is very clear that the hope of believers is tied to the return of Jesus and the collective (i.e., we all rise together), bodily (that we will be transformed and have a life dominated by the spirit does not negate the fact that it will be a bodily existence) resurrection of the righteous dead at the end of the present age.  People who use 1 Peter 3:19 and 4:6 for proof of where the dead go at death simply misunderstand the passages.

 

The NT takes over this Hebrew way of understanding reality but modifies it in the light of Christ's "first" coming.  The expectation of many Jews in the first century was that when the Messiah came he would bring an end to the present evil age, usher in the new age, establish the kingdom of God, overthrow Israel's enemies, resurrect the righteous dead, etc.  Not all of the expected events came to pass with Jesus' first coming, and to the natural eye his life appeared to end in horrific defeat rather than victory since Jesus died a most ignominious death at the hands of Israel's worst enemy. 

 

Nonetheless, the NT teaches that the crucifixion was God's victory and that victory already has had cosmic repercussions (Ephesians 1:20-21; Colossians 1:16; 2:10, 15; Philippians 2:10-11; 1 Peter 3:22).  The Spirit Jesus gives us is described as the "firstfruits" and the "guarantee" of that future life (Romans 8:23; 2 Corinthians 5:5). 

 

Similarly, Jesus' resurrection is portrayed as the "firstfruits" of the general and future resurrection.  In the NT the kingdom of God is portrayed as in some sense being already present since the first coming of Jesus yet in another sense it is seen as still a future reality and hope.  That is, beginning in Jesus' ministry and subsequently within the life of the community of believers there is a sense in which the kingdom of God is at least a partial reality in the present (but note well that the NT never equates the church with the kingdom of God), its ultimate consummation lies in the future when Jesus returns and establishes God's rule throughout the earth and universe (the Bible portrays God as redeeming the entire creation, not just humanity).

 

What all this means is that the people of God live (or should live) under what some call an "eschatological tension," an existence and attitude defined as both "already" and "not yet."  Because of Jesus' first coming we already have a foretaste of the resurrection life to come; already we at least provisionally are citizens of the coming kingdom of God.  Our orientation and allegiance is toward the future. 

 

Since the first coming of Christ the "form" of the present evil age is already in process of "passing away."  Yet we are still in another sense stuck in the old age.  We live with one foot in the old age and another in the new age yet to come.  Jesus has freed us from the dominion of sin and the fear of death yet we still continue to sin and will still one day die. 

 

This is the eschatological tension featured in the NT and is the framework underlying much of it.  It is also a reality that must be understood if we are to properly comprehend some of the ethical guidelines laid out in the NT.  Because Jesus has already come within the church there must not be Jew or Greek, slave or free.  Such ways of dividing up humanity are part and parcel of the old order and as such have no place in the community of God's people.  But because we still live in the old age and have been tasked with the mission of witness, slavery is still a reality and how Christian slaves conduct themselves in the surrounding society is important to that mission (and wives, husbands, etc.). 

 

This is also why the NT states categorically that already we are in the “last days.”  This is not a reference to the limited time left between first and second comings but to the fact that with the first coming of Christ already the ages have begun to turn, thus we are already in the last times regardless of how much longer this final stage of history lasts.  One might say that already within the community of God’s people the future age is invading the present evil one.

 

In other words, the NT does call us to "social reformation" but this is to be reformation within the life of the community of believers and individual Christians, not within the surrounding society.  The institutions, ideas, and so on of this present age are in process of passing away and the final redemption and “reformation” of the world and cosmos can and will only take place when Jesus returns.  This is one of many reasons why I argue that at best Christians who try to reform society or participate in politics are wasting their time (emphasis on the qualifier “at best”).  God alone can and will redeem his creation.  If there is anything we can do to speed or help that event along it is the task of global proclamation of the gospel (Matthew 24:14; 2 Peter 3:12). 

 

An objective review of America’s history demonstrates that if America is “good,” it is only good in a relative sense when compared to more oppressive or poorer countries.  History proves that like other nations the US and its government are and always have been under the dominion of sin and if America is “under God,” it is under the “god of this world.”  This is not to pick on the US for the same is true of all other nations and governments.

 

 For Christians to participate in the political process or to attempt to bring about righteousness using the coercive power of government is to return to one of the “weak and beggarly elemental principles” from which Christ freed us.  Evangelicals clamor loudest (though correctly) about how the holy and perfect law given by God through Moses is unable to save a single soul or impart life to anyone, yet they also seem to believe that they can institute righteousness in a fallen and sin-dominated world by using man’s highly flawed and exceedingly corrupt political system.  This simply makes no sense to me.  Frankly, what we need to realize is that many of the things we hold dear like democracy, freedom, capitalism, material prosperity and so on are false hopes and in some contexts constitute false religion and idolatry (i.e., unwavering belief in “democracy”).

 

If one can get a hold this eschatological tension and understanding it will completely reorient one’s life and priorities.  This understanding leaves no room for things like politics and social reformation, and it will relativize many things that we now consider to be important. 

 

It should also rekindle our zeal since not only do we understand that the return of Jesus is vital to our salvation, but also that his return is always imminent and therefore we must always be prepared for it.  Although the topic of end time prophecy is popular among evangelicals, the interest in it is little more than intellectual.  Some may use it as a tool for evangelism and the topic certainly helps sell a lot of books, but because we have transferred the time of consummation from the return of Jesus to the death of the individual we have robbed the NT hope of resurrection at the end of the age of its indispensability and essential importance to the Christian faith.  In the end, if Christ does not return and resurrect the righteous dead we will not receive our salvation.

 

To summarize all of this, when I hear Christians arguing for believer participation in things like politics and war I contend that this demonstrates contemporary Christians do not understand biblically Who they are (children of God), What they are (the community of God’s people that transcends all ethnic, national, political, social and economic boundaries), with What they have been tasked (global mission and that means proclamation of the gospel, not the spread of democracy and laisser-faire capitalism) and When they are.  In the preceding I am addressing the question of When they are.

 

Disclaimer: Below are The Reader’s Final Comments

 

 

Craig,


Thank you very much for your answer to my question.  You answered it in your first few paragraphs.  I never understood in the past why I couldn't warm up to any of the modern religions, and now I am sure I know why.  I know now that I am here to pass a message on to you. The "MOTHER" is back to take her proper place.  I actually didn't mean sex.  I meant gender.  God is either all genders (archetypally speaking) or is none of them.  It's very possible that in the past 6000 years the masculine side has prevailed.  Since things happen in cycles...I'm sure she is reemerging.  Craig it's obvious you see things in linear terms as opposed to cycles.  The book you refer to requires revision in order for all humans to have a place.  I am glad to see that it will be revised very soon and not necessarily in our own time. I will never accept the Bible as it is written
today.  Jesus Christ did not write things down. The politicians of his time did.
I REALLY LIKED LEONARD SHLAINS TAKE ON THINGS.  "THE ALPHABET VS THE GODDESS."


Unfortunately I perceive the "Western" Bible as a written tool that will be used for world domination (imperialists).  I also can see how they would predict an anti-Christ. You are either for them or against them (Bush).  But I assure you that our nature does not function without opposites.  It is what brings us balance.  Even when two opposites get together it is what creates life. So it makes sense that the creator is composed of opposites.  Who's Bible or Holy book will win out?

 

Answer: The one who uses the best propaganda. The ones who prey on those who are weak of mind.  No anger intended here. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR
YOUR RESPONSE. IT IS APPRECIATED.


May the Goddess and God be with you (balance).

FLO

 


 

Go To Part One of “Why is God Referred to as Masculine?

 


 

Return to BAS Homepage   ·   Craig's Bible Studies   ·   E-mail Craig   ·   Write Us   ·   Writings & Links to BAS Friends   ·   Q & A   ·   Return to Top of This Page