Re-considering the Single Narrative: “She Who Is.”

INTRODUCTION

The bible opens up, in the book of beginnings, Genesis, with the story of creation.  Chapter one of Genesis outlines six days of creation and the Sabbath, as one of God’s definitive works.  The earth, as we know it, is blessed with God’s creative power, as we read of the formation of the heavens, the earth, the waters, land, vegetation, night and day, living creatures of every kind, and finally humanity.  Through 26 verses, we encounter the title “God,” without any reference to gender distinction.  It is not until verse 27 of chapter 1 (NRSV translation), that we read of the idea of God and maleness:

“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

And so, the single narrative of God as male, begins at the beginning.  God is “stamped” as “he, his, and him.”  This is also the genesis of our own understandings and acceptance, as God as male.  The imprint of God and God’s maleness is firmly established and unquestionable in our minds.  So, imagine the shocking considerations of Rev. Wil Gafney, Ph.D., and her alternative presentation of the divine:

“She, the Spirit of God, She-who-is-also-God, at the dawn of creation fluttered over the nest of her creation at the same time as He, the more familiar expression of divinity, created all. They, Two-in-One, are the first articulations, self-articulations, of God in (and the God of) the Scriptures. God is female and male, and when God gets around to creating creatures in the divine image, they will be female and male, as God is.” [Womanist Midrash, 19] – also from the blog article: “Conspire With The Spirit” (http.www.wilgafney.com@wp/press)

Imagine this biblical interpretation offered in our churches, Sunday school, or traditional bible study encounters.  Heretical! Blasphemous!  How can God be female?

And Now, THE WORD from Our Sponsor……………………………………………………………………………

Hosea 11: 3-4; Hosea 13:8; Deuteronomy 32:18;   Job 38: 28-29; Isaiah 42: 14; Psalm 123:2-3; Luke 11:49; Luke 15: 8-10

If we consider God as male, with corresponding roles of Father, warrior, husband, king, ruler, master, and more; why are we so reluctant and unwilling to consider, with biblical agreement, (as indicated above) God as female, and the corresponding roles as Mother, nurse, midwife, seamstress, life-giver, womb, and more?

In order to properly solve this dilemma,  our first step is to reject the single narrative of God, as exclusively male.  It starts with the understanding that God is incomprehensible and unfathomable.  As the great theologian Saint Augustine wrote“If we have comprehended God, then what we have comprehended is not God.”  Our thoughts and language become great barriers to our own quests to comprehend an unknowable God.  Even as we seek God, as we should, we are confronted with a great paradox:  God is a holy mystery.

Yet, what we are dealing with, when we encounter the majority of scripture, is the presentation of patriarchy and the male image of God offered to us in the bible, as normative.  “Imagery for the divine throughout the Judeo-Christian tradition is taken predominantly from the roles and relations of he; God being name lord, king, father, son” (Johnson, ibid.)  These titles added to the masculine pronouns of “his, him, and he,” remove God’s “otherness” qualities and nature*, and supplant the mystery of God, with an exclusively male identity.

*God is omnipresent (everywhere at once); God is omnipotent (all powerful); God is omniscient (God is all knowing).

As Elizabeth Johnson observes: “We give names to God, but ultimately, God is nameless – no name being able to [fully] express the divine nature.” (“The Incomprehensibility of God and the Image of God, Male and Female.”)

Yet, what we are dealing with here, is our human need to give God a name.  How do we gain intimacy and relationship with God, if we cannot personalize our understanding of the Holy?  Consider Jesus and the title He appropriated for God:  “Abba,” which translates to “Papa” in Hebrew.  Surely, we are permitted, as God’s daughters and sons to do the same.  So, if God can be “Papa” for Jesus, and the name is both intimate and scripturally, we are permitted to do the same with “Mother God.”  Indeed, there is wonder working power, when as believers, we are free enough to consider and work into our own personal theology, the image of God as female, if we so choose.  Again, we must acknowledge God is neither male or female, God is Spirit.  As Elizabeth Johnson comments:  “Revelation [divine or otherwise] cannot and does not dissolve the mystery of God.”  Our human attempt to know God, make all of us, in a bizarre way, idol worshippers! Yet, in a divine paradox, Jesus grants implicit permission and connection to God, in the most intimate way.

Secondly, we must acknowledge and accept, we are working under a great paradox, even as we struggle to break the bonds of patriarchy that permit us to think of God only as male.  We have established God is neither female nor male.  We have established God is Spirit; yet, if we decide to relinquish our struggle to free ourselves, as women, from an androcentric viewpoint of God, we automatically “denigrate and deny the dignity of women,” as created in the image of God. – imago dei. (Elizabeth Johnson, ibid)

Since the biblical single narrative creates the normative of God as male, this sets up the slippery slope of women as subordinate to men( presented in 1st Corinthians, chapter 11:7, with tacit agreement throughout the Old Testament).  From this erroneous view, we arrive at the general disempowerment of women, justified through scriptural references,  biblical and church authority; that ultimately translates to general ideas, practices, and treatment of women in our contemporary cultural contexts.

An alternative mindset is what Jay G. Williams suggests in his article:  “Yahweh, Women, and the Trinity”“In the divine economy, it is not the feminine person who remains hidden and at home.  She is God in the world, moving, stirring up, revealing, interceding.  It is she who calls out, sanctifies, and animates the church.  Hers is the water of one baptism.  The debt of sin is wiped away by her.  She is life-giver, who raises men from the dead with the life of the coming age.  Jesus, himself, left the earth so that she, the intercessor might come.”

What can be said after this?  It is:  She Who Is!  She who empowers. She who illuminates.  She who reveals.  She who inspires.  She who speaks to us, and through us, in Scripture and in our experience.  It is our right, our privilege, and our duty to know who She is, as well as who He is.  They are ONE!  And, we, as women, are created in THEIR image, as well as our male counterparts.  Again, and again, and again:  To God be the Glory for the things God has done!

“The enclosed materials are the property of Maxine E. Garrett and Tabitha’s Daughters Bible Empowerment Series. They may be used by you with our permission, which may be revoked at any time. All copies of the materials must include the following notice: “This material is Copyright [2017] Maxine E. Garrett and Tabitha’s Daughters and is distributed with permission.”

 

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