Archive for the ‘God as mother’ Category

God as mother: five new publications

Being invited to give the 22nd Annual William Menzies Lectureship (five lectures) and Asia Pacific Theological Seminary’s agreement that I could tackle the title “God as Mother?” was an honour and also a privilege (that they agreed despite some hesitations over the topic. Spending time in Baguio, in the Philippines, was great fun. It is a beautiful place, but even more conversations with staff and students over meals and during breaks, as well as listening to the other papers, was stimulating and encouraging.

Now the lectures have been published as:

God as Mother? Ideas to clarify before we start,” Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies, 17,2, 2014,107-118.

Biblical Talk of the Motherly God,” Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies, 17,2, 2014, 119-137.

Jesus and the Father,” Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies, 17,2, 2014, 139-150.

Speaking the Unspeakable: nearly 1,500 years of Christian Theology and Worship,” Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies, 17,2, 2014, 151-161.

Experiencing God as Motherly,” Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies, 17,2, 2014, 168-170.

Is God male in the eyes of people in the pew?

I have just finished a five-lecture series at Asia Pacific Theological Seminary in Baguio in the Philippines, with the title “God as Mother?”. The experience has been great fun, with friendly interested and interesting staff, and students who engaged well with the ideas and were not afraid to question.

Even if I had had no clue before  I would have realised that the topic was challenging when before the first lecture every single person I spoke to said that the “topic is interesting”. As we all know “interesting” very often means “weird, off the wall, strange…” 

In my first lecture I set out to underline that God is beyond gender. This is one of those truths that every theologically literate person affirms, but which many fail to actually state in their teaching, so that in churches and classrooms people do not understand/believe it. Some Conservative teaching about gender roles in church and home also seems to deny it.1 I am glad I did because APTS students who come from many different countries in the Asia – Pacific region have a wide range of prior education, and some needed time to process even this claim. 

The extent of this reticence to accept a core Christian idea, which matches my informal surveys in NZ churches and among Carey students suggests that we have a BIG education job to undertake. Because I do not think APTS students are any “worse” in this respect than Christians in other parts of the world. Indeed by their openness and willingness to think they demonstrate why they have been selected for higher level study. 

What is your experience? Do theology students and people in churches generally really understand that God is beyond gender, or do most/many actually assume God is in some sense male or at least masculine?2

  1. Of course, writers like Wayne Grudem do not deny this basic truth of Christian doctrine, but many who read them draw their own conclusions. It must be difficult to hold “Complementarian” views, especially those that forbid women from teaching and preaching, and at the same time admit that God is NOT male. []
  2. NB here I do not mean “masculine” as a gramattical gender but as something nearer biology, like this dictionary definition: “having qualities … traditionally associated with men”. []

What sort of God do we sing?

Photo from wonderlane

I am, as those who know me face to face will be aware, somewhat more than somewhat introverted. I have posted here before about how my (Western) culture is extroverted and favours extroversion. Introverted behaviour is seldom given equal oportuntity or space.

The other week I could not avoid thinking about that as we sang in church (yes, we go to an old fashioned church were the music from the worship leaders is quiet enough that usually the congregation actually participate by more than shuffling along) that today’s worship songs present God as a male extrovert. In our songs God is forever “marching into the land” at the head of his troops, always “answering” and solving our problems.

Then I came across a “humorous” post on Facebook of “male rules”, here are a selection:

  • Men ARE NOT mind readers.
  • Ask for what you want. Let us be clear on this one: Subtle hints do not work! Strong hints do not work! Obvious hints do not work! Just say it!
  • Come to us with a problem only If you want help solving it. That’s what we do. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.
  • Christopher Columbus did NOT need directions and neither do we.
    –don’t worry we will find it eventually.

It struck me that these sound a lot like the LORD described in the songs in church today. In prayer we have to tell him what we want, the last thing we say is “your will be done”. We don’t expect this LORD to merely be with us, or sympathise when we hurt, we expect a solution!

By contrast even a quick look at the old, tatty at the corners Baptist Hymn Book we used to use (a lifetime ago), and its collection of worship songs across the ages (basically 2nd to 20th centuries). Seem often content to spend time “waiting on God”, who presumably was not being pictured as an extrovert with an instant answer. In fact solutions were not always expected, but comfort was!

Perhaps, the God of the old hymns, the one the modern world has squeezed out and grown impatient with, seems more of an introvert, and more feminine than the LORD of the “contemporary” songs.

I think the less extrovert, less aggressively masculine, God of the hymns is both closer to the one whose story I read in Scripture, and more real, than the instant fix, loud, God I meet so exclusively1 in today’s songs and prayers…

What do you think?

 

  1. NB I am not here, or anywhere intentionally, arguing for replacing the male extrovert God with a female or introverted one, just for God to be allowed to be, and to be recognised as being a more balanced character! []

Popular podcasting

For years it was hard to draw listeners (except a faithful few) to podcasts, while blogs attracted visitors lie nectar draws in bees. However, at last this seems to be changing. 5 minute Bible is now (according to Alexa) more popular than Sansblogue among biblical studies sites. And it regularly attracts also a number of people on Facebook.

I wonder if it is because recently I’ve been posting there more often than here, or does it mark a tidal shift in Internet usage as phones and pads become more common?

Either way I hope it leads people to my series based on Not Only a Father. The first four posts are available as Guest Posts on Sarcaparental:

and as screencasts or audio on 5 Minute Bible:

And of course the whole book Not Only a Father is still available here (in e-format where you can discuss it with others or me) and as a paperback.

 

Disbelieving the same god

“Unfortunately I was not able to gain access to the actual site.”

Deane Galbraith was kind enough to link to my podcast Was God married? Part two: the death of the goddess, as you might expect we do not see eye to eye. Deane prefers Stavrakopoulou’s version of things, pointing to a more recent TV show  in the BBC series, Bible’s Buried Secrets, in particular in episode 2.

In the programme Francesca rehearses much the same arguments more fully and in doing so the BBC provide stunning imagery and Stavrakopoulou presents the evidence well. The trouble is, she here also confounds history and theology, what happened in the past with what was written about it in the (more recent) past.

Her agenda is clear, and well-signposted. Near the beginning of the video she says:1

But there’s something about this ancient world that the Bible is not telling us… Hidden in its pages is a secret.

And according to her this “secret”:

Rocks the foundation of monotheism to its core.

Somewhat confusingly as the programme continues She changes her mind and says:

I think there’s evidence that the ancient Israelites also worshiped any gods… yet if you examine the biblical texts you find references to more than one god here in Jerusalem itself.

So, this is a “secret” when that suits her rhetorical needs “to undermine monotheism” but is clearly acknowledged in Scripture when admitting that suits her needs. This sort of fudging the evidence is not worthy of a scholar of her standing, though it does make “good television”.

In short (laying aside the places where Stavrokopoulou misrepresents the Bible, because she herself corrects those!) the facts are not at issue. Except at one point. She claims that biblical monotheism worships a male god, and she does not believe in such a god. I do not believe that the Bible presents Yahweh as a male god, and like her I do not believe in such a god.

  1. All quotations are my own transcriptions of the sound track, if there are any errors in the citations are problems of my hearing and I regret them.  []

New Media, digital and networked

Among the reading for my MIT MediaLab MOOC, Learning Creative Learning, is the huge report: Mimi Ito et al. (2009): Learning and Living with New MediaMacArthur Foundation.  The executive summary includes this sentence, which reminded me why the term “new media” is so much better than the older “digital” to describe the current cultural shift:

We use the term new media to describe a media ecology where more traditional media such as books, television, and radio are intersecting with digital media, specifically interactive media, online networks, and media for social communication.

Old media like TV and radio (but increasingly also books) are (or at least are at some stages of their production and transmission) digital. But even the most digital TV is not “new media” because it is not networked.1

New media is both:

  • digital:
    • infinitely copiable
    • almost free to transmit or copy
    • malleable (digital media can be changed/edited as well as copied)
  • networked:
    • open to talk back
    • open to reuse
    • open to conversation
    • open to extension


To the extent that something embodies most of these characteristics it is new media, if it mainly or exclusively embodies the first group it is merely digital. The Amos: Hypertext Bible Commentary was digital, my 5 minute Bible podcasts are digital moving towards new media. The hard bit, for a media dinosaur2 Is getting the last step. Not Only a Father as a discussable book attempts to be new media, but so far has not generated a community of discussion… I wonder what I can do to encourage that last step…

 

  1. NB I am not here using the term “network” in the sense that the name CNN uses it. But rather of a media environment where communication can and does move in multiple directions. Not just from me to you – a monologue like most traditional TV and radio; or from me to you and you to me – a dialogue – like talkback radio; but between you, me, him and her… severally and sometimes together. []
  2. I grew up with radio, but TV came to our place only when I was almost a teenager. []

More on my online book launch


Recently I posted a request to readers to help me “launch” the online discussable version of my book Not Only a Father.

The online version is at http://bigbible.org/mothergod/ it uses a WordPress plugin to let people add comments, questions or to object to or correct things I’ve written.

Recently more people have helped by mentioning it on their blogs:

In order to encourage visitors who find the site (either by buying the paperback or through Google or those blog posts) what I really need is for some of you to post comments, questions etc. on parts of the book, so less tech-savvy people can see how it works :)

Online book launch


Do please participate in helping me to make my latest experiment in online publication work better. I want to explore how authors and readers can engage more and at greater depth through using online communications. My book Not Only a Father is not only available as a paperback on Amazon, but also the full text is online at http://bigbible.org/mothergod/ using a WordPress plugin that allows commenting and discussion at paragraph rather than post level.

However, my publisher (the NZ Baptist Research Society) has no funds for promotion, and as yet few people have responded to my efforts on Facebook or here so the discussion is still sparse. I would like to do an Online Book Launch to (roughly) coincide with the physical one. So I am asking a number of bloggers to agree to mention the book (especially the free online version) in a post in the first two weeks of October (the physical launch is 10th October). I am also trying to find people willing to read a few paragraphs and post a comment (naturally if you want to read more I’d be delighted ;)

I wonder if you’d be willing to share in this in some way? I’ll mention everyone who does in posts (and leaves a URL) here, which since I am hosting the September BS Carnival tomorrow so this should give you extra Google mojo as a bonus ;)

Those who have already begun include:1

 

  1. If your name/URL is missing please let me know, I’ll try to keep this up to date, but am fallible :( []