Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Is God male?

Mary Daly, a radical feminist theologian, asserted in 1974 (in what is a now-famous slogan used by her disciples) that "Since God is male, the male is God." As with most slogans, this one was crafted to elicit an emotional response from women in the Church who believed themselves to be an "oppressed" class simply because Christ has not called them to the priesthood. And, like most slogans, it was long on emotional appeal while being short on substance.

References to God as Father may be traced well back into the Old Testament. For example, in Deuteronomy 32:6, Moses uses a rhetorical question to teach that God is Father to the Children of Israel: "Is not he your Father who created you, who made you and established you?" And in Isaiah 63:16, the prophet directly addresses and professes God in just those terms: "For you are our Father....You, O Lord, are our Father."

But, within the biblical framework, such passages cannot be taken to mean that God is to be considered male, or biologically masculine, or that He is to be identified in any way biologically. We see the proof of this in Sacred Scripture, in numerous passages which must have escaped Mary Daly as she penned her emotional, but theologically unastute slogan. For example, in Numbers 23:19, we read that: "God is not a man" and again in 1 Samuel 15:29, we read that: "the glory of Israel...is not a man." Furthermore, in Hosea 11:9, God speaks directly to the prophet saying that: "I am God, and not man." And one of the most dramatic repudiations of any identification of God as a male (or as a female for that matter) may be found in Moses's "last address" to the Children of Israel, where he reiterates the prohibition of every form of idolatry, including the perverse religious conceptions of God as either male or female: "Since you saw no form when the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire, take care and watch yourselves closely, so that you do not act corruptly by making an idol for yourselves, in the form of any figure - the likeness of male or female...." (Deuteronomy 4:15-16).

Radical feminists reject God's revelation in Sacred Scripture as "sexist" and "patriarchal" because their understanding of God's Word has been distorted by their own ideology. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which Pope John Paul II has referred to as a "sure norm" in his Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum, teaches quite clearly that: "In no way is God in man's image. He is neither man nor woman. God is pure spirit in which there is no place for the differences between the sexes. But the respective 'perfections' of men and women reflect something of the infinite perfection of God: those of a mother and those of a father and husband" (CCC, 370).

However, that being said, God has revealed Himself as "Father" and this too is the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "Many religions invoke God as 'Father.' The deity is often considered the 'father of gods and of men.' In Israel, God is called 'Father' inasmuch as he is Creator of the world. Even more, God is Father because of the covenant and the gift of the law to Israel, 'his firstborn son.' God is also called Father of the king of Israel. Most especially he is 'the Father of the poor,' of the orphaned and the widowed, who are under his loving protection."

And again, "By calling God 'Father,' the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that he is at the same time goodness and loving care for all his children....We ought....to recall that God transcends the human distinction between the sexes. He is neither man nor woman: he is God." (CCC, 239).

And yet again: "Jesus revealed that God is Father in an unheard of sense: he is Father not only in being Creator; he is eternally Father in relation to his only Son, who is eternally Son only in relation to his Father." (CCC, 240).

Many religious sisters, and most especially those agitating for the ordination of women to the ministerial priesthood, accuse both the Church and Sacred Scripture of being "sexist" and "patriarchal" without any having any real basis for such ridiculous claims. Such malcontents have already left the Church in heart and mind. But what is the spirit which stirs this radical feminist animus against Holy Mother Church? Hasn't the Holy Spirit already provided us with an answer? We read that, "If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This wisdom is not such as comes down from above, but is earthy, unspiritual, devilish...But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason." (James 3:14-17).

When radical feminists (and their male cooperators) argue that God is addressed in the Old Testament as "Father" rather than "Mother" because of a merely "patriarchal" projection onto the ultimate reality, they are really asserting that the Old Testament is pagan. Faithful Catholics know better. And they know as well that while God has been revealed as Father, he also has many attributes of a mother.

Is there sexism in our society? Of course. Are there individuals within the Church who are sexist? Of course. Is the Church or Sacred Scripture sexist or patriarchal? I have just demonstrated that such is not the case.

Ironically, many radical feminists are sexist themselves. They fail to see that by attempting to impose a "Mother" deity, they are guilty of the very thing which they accuse the Church and Sacred Scripture of.

God love you,
Paul Anthony Melanson

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