Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Losing God the Father

Last Spring, a seminary friend of mine was invoking his privilege as a senior to give one sermon at the midweek chapel service. The senior sermon serves as an opportunity to share something of your faith with the community that, for two or more years, has been part of shaping that very faith. There are basic, "broad middle" sermons. Some sermons that question the person's call after 2.5 years of education. Many sermons that criticize the Bush administration. And a plethora of GLBT, Social Justice, or other standard Christian Left sermons. Fine and dandy.

But my friend was called in to the dean's office. His crime? He dared to use masculine pronouns and speak of God the Father. Apparently, inclusive language isn't meant to include half of the population.

Don't get me wrong. Inclusive language in regards to humans is a good thing (though it can make for poor writing in the hands of less-skilled writers). It's a seminary policy to use inclusive language.

But a recent Touchstone article asks, "What are we losing?"

A lot of feminist and post-modernist theologians talk about how people have felt excluded by masculine god-talk. (Which, let's be clear, is MASCULINE, but not necessarily MALE.) They want to jettison 4,000 years of linguistic reflection on the basis of 40-60 years of empowerment talk. But I don't think they've thought through all the implications. They can tell you why they don't want masculine god-talk, but have a harder time justifying the alternative they propose.

Do you know why masculine god-talk is important? Please feel free to use the comments section to elucidate. And stay tuned...the vicar is about to stir things up.


Presbyman said...

Progressive tolerance for different views seems to diminish when said progressives are safely in charge of a particular institution.

Kevin said...

Chris, I once was in a play in which a (heavily edited) line said, "Politics makes strange bedfellows."

I find it interesting that here is a point in which we find allies in the RCC. Last summer the Pope declared invalid baptisms that were done in the name of the "Creator, Sustainer, and Helper" or other such rockgut. I agree. I think the gospel net should be cast as broadly as possible and that we should remove language barriers as much as we can. STILL, when certain things are a matter of revelation, like masculinity vs. maleness (good point there, BTW), we need to accept the Bible for what it says.

I am exceedingly envious that Presbyterians can't be vicars too. :p

Hey presbyman, I would love to read your blog, if you could find it in your heart to "elect" me. ;)

Rev'd Chris Larimer said...

John & Kevin,

Thanks for reading and responding. Something I'm going to blog on later is that masculine language for God makes the rest of creation (us included) feminine. It's less about male / female distinctions than it is about creator / creation distinction. The blatant pantheists (ala J. Shuck, J. Spong, et al.) know this - so they dress it up in equality-talk in order to dupe evangelical egalitarians. DON'T BE FOOLED!

As for the laicized Presbyterian Church, each Teaching Elder functions as a bishop (ordaining presbyters and deacons, overseeing their work). Don't seek a demotion, brother!

Kevin said...

I just think the title is cool, vicar. ;-)

I look forward to seeing what you do with the clearly FEMALE bride-language as it is applied to the Church.

Viola said...

Thanks for writing this. Its the place where I go nuts when reading material from the Women's Ministry Area and Presbyterian Women. for a while they were refusing to use kingdom, instead they used kindom. Also at Presbytery I don’t know how many statements of faith I see with a reference to the Holy Spirit as “it.” When you question the writer they do believe the Holy Spirit is personal, they just are afraid to use the word he. It is a shame.

Rev'd Chris Larimer said...

If you're afraid to use a personalizing pronoun for the person of the Holy Spirit - even when you know that's the only way to present his personality - because you're afraid of what the crowds might say...tell me again why you think you're called to speak in God's name?

Truly prophetic preaching is not entrusted to people who fear to say what the Bible plainly says.

Kevin said...

Viola, just an observation that the Greek NT does use a neuter pronoun to refer to the Spirit, which is why, for instance, the KJV does too.

I suspect the people you are referring to are more interested in theological bias than Greek, however.

Viola said...

I know it is a neuter pronoun, but I don't believe it is impersonal which in English "it" is. Correct me if I am wrong but I think if you are going to translate it into English it must remain personal since the Holy Spirit is personal.

Rev'd Chris Larimer said...

I was taught that it was possible to refer to an infant as "it" up until approximately 1 year old, mainly because it's not always easy to discern the sex. (Gender doesn't become discernible until they've sat through three semesters of public school sex-ed and double-minored in Women's Studies and LGBTQ Studies... but I digress.)

Benjamin P. Glaser said...

lol Chris. Reminds me of my public school days...

Dave Moody said...

Vi is right (no surprise there)-- English masculine and feminine pronouns have been, until recently, understood as unmarked and marked pronouns. That is general (unmarked) and specific (marked). It just so happens that, the masculine third person singular also happens to be the general/unmarked pronoun.

We have no way of referring to a personal neuter - it- is impersonal. So, we use He.

I am looking forward to your essay Chris on the significance of God revealing himself to us as masculine. I hope you touch on the generative aspect- creating life outside of himself- that we males reflect.

Vicar, eh? I see a BBC sitcom in your future....

Rev'd Chris Larimer said...


I know that sketch, you naughty little schoolboy. I'll need some accessories to open the door to a future in British tele.