Objections to God’s Masculinity: Part Four

Last Updated on Wednesday, 4 January 2012 03:24 Written by Father Bill Wednesday, 4 January 2012 03:24

masculinity god BibleContinuing to examine objections to the idea that God is masculine, we come to this:

Yes, we find the Bible speaking of God in all sorts of ways that seem to predicate masculinity to him. However, we cannot take these predications as if they were literally true. They are simply a more elaborate version of a common figure of speech known as anthropomorphism – speaking of God as if he were human (or male). The Bible speaks of God as if He had bodily parts such as an arm, or or hands, or fingers, when we know that God is a bodiless Spirit.

The unknown author of Psalm 94, however, construes the relationship of Creator and creature in a different way:

He who planted the ear, shall He not hear?
He who formed the eye, shall He not see?”

God’s hearing is positively asserted here, and that very capacity – God’s actual hearing – underlies His creation of human hearing. That men see is evidence for God’s seeing, for He created men’s eyes. One could easily extend the Psalmist’s statements to the entire human body. If we did so and then summarized the result, we could say that man is the image of God!

“Image” in Genesis 1 is the Hebrew tzelem, the ordinary term for a statue. Nebuchadnezzar erects a golden tzelem of himself [the Aramaic equivalent of the Hebrew term] in the Plain of Dura. There is no question in either Daniel 3 or Genesis 1 that the respective images fail to precisely, accurately, and fully replicate those whose images they are. On the other hand, there is no doubt that either image corresponds to the one whose image it is.

The golden tzelem is, so to speak, Nebuchadnezzaroid. Nebuchadnezzar is the original, the archetypal schema, the prior reality which determines the shape of the image of himself which Nebuchadnezzar creates, such that the statue on the Plain of Dura is an image of Nebuchadnezzar instead of an image of Abdul the Beer Brewer down on the banks of the Euphrates.

To say that God’s arm or God’s hand or God’s finger are anthropomorphisms is, after a fashion, to put the matter backwards. Man is himself theomorphic. Not all God’s creatures are theomorphic; none of the animals, for example, are ever said to be created in the image of God. But man is expressly said in Genesis 1 to be theomorphic. Whatever this means in the details, the very notion of an image requires that some minimal features of the image mimic in their nature and/or function the Original on which the image is modeled. In these respects, therefore, it is legitimate to assert that any such features apply to the Original, even if we know such features only in the image.

Craig French, in a comment on a previous blog in this series, wrote this:

So if God describes Himself in masculine terms, it isn’t that He isn’t masculine…it’s that our masculinity cannot contain His. His masculinity is on an immeasurable scale.

In a sense, I guess it is better to say He *is* masculine…what we are is analogically masculine. We can only be accommodatedly masculine because He is ultimately masculine.

In this comment, French is getting at the same idea contained in the notion that we human creatures – created in the image of God – are theomorphic. And, if so, then it is not at all out of the question to predicate to God a quality one observes in the creatures created in His image.

Again, these considerations do not establish that God is masculine.  But, they do dispel the criticism of God’s masculinity, that it cannot be literal, that it must be merely figurative.

The same considerations undercut a criticism that other sex-specific predications about God are merely figurative. Among such criticisms is the claim that God’s fatherhood is merely figurative, he is only like a father. The Bible, of course, is awash in similes and metaphors applied to God.  But any objection to the Bible’s description of God as somehow defective or indeterminate because it is cast as a simile or metaphor begs the same sort of question as the claim that some statements are anthropomorphisms.  Any comparison between God and something not-God is obviously pointing to a quality or feature or aspect that is the same in both God and in that thing to which He is compared.  The interpretative challenge is to identify what those features or aspects amount to.

We say, for example, that a beautiful woman’s lips are like a rose.  Do her lips have thorns?  Roses have thorns, after all!  Are her lips colored yellow?  Many beautiful roses are yellow!  No — we mean that her lips have a deep red color, just as the rose has a deep red color.  Seeing the woman’s beautiful lips makes us think of the beautiful rose.  So, even if God is merely like a father, to say such a thing is to positively assert that fathers and God share some quality or characteristic(s) in common.

But, again, with fatherhood, Paul tells us in Ephesians 3:15 that God is the Father (as Mr. French describes in his comment linked above) while all fatherhood in heaven and earth takes its nature from Him.

At this point, a religious feminist can be expected to pounce and to say “Gotcha!! God is just as feminine as She is masculine!” The reasoning here is that man is created male and female, that both male and female are in God’s image, that this datum in Genesis 1 requires us to conclude that God is no less feminine than S/He is masculine.

Paul would disagree, of course. In fact, he does so in 1 Corinthians 11. And, that is the subject of the next couple of blogs in this series.

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Millennial Women Are Burning Out

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 November 2011 11:32 Written by Father Bill Thursday, 17 November 2011 11:32

Larissa Faw, a contributor to Forbes, tells us that “a growing number of young professional women who seem to ‘have it all’ are burning out at work before they reach 30.” Most of her piece summarizes various reasons for why Millennial Women – “ambitious go-getters [who] are working as doctors, lawyers, engineers, and advertising executives, blessed with great salaries, health benefits, and paid vacation – nevertheless flame out while their male peers do not (at least not nearly in the same numbers, with the disparity increasing as the Millennial Careers advance beyond entry-level positions).

For example, Ms. Faw opines that lack of relaxation probably takes a toll. She cites Melanie Shreffler of the youth marketing blog Ypulse: “These women worked like crazy in school, and in college, and then they get into the workforce and they are exhausted.” On the other hand, Captivate Network reveals that compared to their female peers “Men are 25% more likely to take breaks throughout the day for personal activities, 7% more likely to take a walk, 5% more likely to go out to lunch, and 35% more likely to take breaks ‘just to relax.’”

Here’s a shocker: “It’s not as if these women expected their jobs to be parties and good times, but many underestimated the actual day-to-day drudgery.” And why, you ask, is this so shocking to read? Well, it’s because the classic work of women – to make a home for husband and children – was so thoroughly trashed by all the feminist founders of the Millennial Woman lifestyle, beginning with Betty Friedan in the 1950s and on to all the Women’s Studies centers in universities which insinuated their agenda into every other degree program in every other college on campus for the past 50 years.

Home making? Drudgery! And, now the workplace is filled with drudgery too? Who knew??

Ms. Faw continues, without the slightest hint of embarrassment: “Also, while earlier generations may have opted out of the workforce through marriage or motherhood, these paths aren’t viable for these self-sufficient women, who either are still single or unwilling to be fully supported by men.”

Well, there you have it. Women need men like fish need bicycles, right? Self-sufficient Millennial Women can’t “opt-out” through marriage or motherhood. These are paths Millennial Women are unwilling to take. Evidently, they prefer single self-supporting drudgery to the drudgery of companionship and (yes, it’s shocking to say such a thing nowadays) the support of a husband. It’s soooo demeaning to be a “kept-woman,” dontcha know!

Purdue University’s Teri Thompson’s analysis is cold comfort. Ms. Faw summarizes Thompson’s insight this way: “Ultimately these women are going through the difficult realization that they may have to redefine their goals and come up with different measures of success in order to thrive in the corporate world.” Why, we wonder, is departing the corporate world for something more – uh, well, sheltered? – not a possibility to consider? Instead, Millennial Women “are turning to therapists and prescription medicines, as well as [to] explore alternative remedies, including acupuncture, yoga, and even psychics.”

Over a hundred years ago, when feminism was giving its first full-throated cry, G. K. Chesterton had its mistake accurately analyzed and published for all to read in What’s Wrong With The World (1910). Following the teaching of Christendom, which itself had learned from the Bible how men and women differ in their work, Chesterton nailed the feminist mistake about the old way of women in the home with these words:

When domesticity, for instance, is called drudgery, all the difficulty arises from a double meaning in the word. If drudgery only means dreadfully hard work, I admit the woman drudges in the home, as a man might drudge at the Cathedral of Amiens or drudge behind a gun at Trafalgar. But if it means that the hard work is more heavy because it is trifling, colorless and of small import to the soul, then as I say, I give it up; I do not know what the words mean.

To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheets, cakes and books, to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.

These days, of course, “woman’s function” is nothing like what it was in Chesterton’s day.  That function –  to be wife and mother to a family – is now deemed to be drudgery in the nonsense meaning Chesterton describes above.  Rearing children is something for the State, at as early an age as politics will permit.  And wifery?  Well, Friedan broke women out of that comfortable concentration camp (her term for domesticity, in case you haven’t read The Feminine Mystique).  Now women are free to pursue their Millennial Careers as Millennial Women – single, self-sufficient, and burned out.

The penchant women have for playing the generalist, in contrast to the specialist bent of most men in the workplace, is a distinction between the sexes as old as Adam and Eve in the Garden. And, if we take the human who is by design (yes, yes, feminists won’t grant you that one either, I know) equipped to administrate in a private domain 100 disparate agendas simultaneously and place her instead in competition against the male in the public arena where he excels in a narrow focus relentlessly pursued as a hound chases a fox – well, might we not predict the woman to burn out as Ms. Faw describes?

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St. Paul and Sex

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 November 2011 08:08 Written by Father Bill Thursday, 10 November 2011 08:08

“Man is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.”

Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 5 is not difficult to understand, though religious feminists seem to find it challenging. On the other hand, Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 11 seems to be very difficult to understand if one surveys the almost wildly diverse interpretations given to it by just about everyone (including both patriarchalists and religious feminists).

So, while Paul in Ephesians is merrily spun by religious feminists, his teaching in 1 Corinthians 11 is usually ignored as treating some obscure cultural issue pertaining to First Century Corinth, but having no relevance to modern Christian faith. It’s commonly referred to as “the head covering passage,” though the covering of women is actually an application, a behavioral consequence, of the truth about the sexes which Paul is expounding in 1 Corinthians 11.

The two passages, however, are the most dense in Paul’s letters on the subject of the sexes: That one is spun to say what it most emphatically never says and the other is dismissed as (at best) a cultural curiosity shows how seriously confused modern Christians are about the tenets of their faith at a place where the world attacks those tenets with special ferocity.

1 Corinthians 11 contains special problems beyond its subject matter. A quick beginning-to-end reading of the verses sounds very much as if Paul is reviewing teaching that he likely gave the Corinthians when he was previously with them. He speaks of man, the glory of God, and woman, the glory of man, as short-hand terms which he expects his readers to understand, for he writes not one syllable to define these concepts.

Add to these problems other obscure statements: because of the angels and authority on her head along with an obvious play on multiple meanings of the word head (Gk. kephale).

None of these difficulties in 1 Corinthians 11 are insuperable. Yet, they are variously parsed by students or expositors of the text. And, so, this present blog serves to introduce a series of additional blogs devoted to the overall teaching that Paul gives us in 1 Corinthians 11 as well as specific interpretive pitfalls in this passage (not pitfalls for Paul, of course; it’s his religious feminist despisers and his pusillanimous defenders who are always falling into pits!).

Prospective (at this point) blog topics in this series will include:

  • Glory of God, Glory of Man: what do these phrases mean?
  • Image and Glory: are they the same? Different? What difference?
  • Worship and Glory: the overall argument of 1 Corinthians 11:1-16
  • The Veiling of Women: an archaic Corinthian custom?
  • The role of the sexes in worship: why men are up front and leading while women are present and participating

Watch for additional blogs in the series.

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