“We see the world not as it is, but as we are.” – Talmud
There has been a call to return — did we ever really leave? — to a masculine Christianity. This movement, spearheaded by the likes of John Piper and Mark Driscoll, has come to a head in some ways due to some recent comments by Piper. Recently, he wrote:
“God revealed Himself in the Bible pervasively as king not queen; father not mother. The second person of the Trinity is revealed as the eternal Son not daughter; the Father and the Son create man and woman in His image and give them the name man, the name of the male…God appoints all the priests in the Old Testament to be men; the Son of God came into the world to be a man; He chose 12 men to be His apostles; the apostles appointed that the overseers of the Church be men; and when it came to marriage they taught that the husband should be the head.”
It needs to be pointed out that this is an extremely selective reading of the Biblical narrative. It only listens to half of the narrative. Take, for instance, the creation narrative. Genesis 1:27 says
“So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
In the initial act of creating a relationship between God and humanity, God creates both men and women in God’s image. God’s command to “have dominion” over everything goes to both men and women. It’s plural throughout the rest of the chapter.
While Piper repeatedly highlights the rest of the male-centered stories of the Bible, he leaves out the fact that God has been represented as:
A mother (Numbers 11:12, Job 38:8, 29, Isaiah 42:14, Isaiah 49:14, Isaiah 46:3, Isaiah 66:12, Hosea 11:4, Acts 17:28)
A seamstress (Nehemiah 9:21)
A midwife (Psalm 22:9, Psalm 71:6, Isaiah 66:9)
A woman working leaven into bread (Luke 13:18-21)
A woman seeking a lost coin (Luke 15:8-10) — This is in a line of parables where God is depicted as both male and female. There’s that egalitarian thing again.
There are countless images for God in the Bible — both male and female. It’s a case of you get what you look for. We could revise the Talmud quote from the beginning of this post to say “We see the Bible not as it is, but as we are.” In John Piper’s case, he wants God to be a man and he wants a masculine Christianity so he finds those instances in the Bible and reads that Bible through a masculine lens.
If we’re proper students of history, we know that Christianity has been masculine and dominant for far too long. I suggest that it’s actually a time to re-imagine feminine images of God. I think when we do that, we gain a richer theological imagination that helps us move outward into a new realm of possibility.
And that’s something that excites me.
If you’re interested in a more feminine view of God, I would encourage you to check out the writings of Rosemary Radford Ruether, Sallie McFague, Octavia Butler, Elizabeth Johnson, and Naomi Goldenberg. I think you would be better served reading any of these ladies than Piper or Driscoll.