In view of this pastoral need (see previous post), we may ask why we evangelicals do not talk of God as motherly. Does some clear and strong reason prohibit this? A number of admired evangelical thinkers believe there is. Alongside the feminist argument for equality in God-talk, an opposing literature claims this is unChristian.1 Key figure Elizabeth Achtemeier, a respected evangelical biblical scholar and teacher of preaching, posed a case against speaking of God as mother.2 She claimed, along with others, that the Bible uses “father” not merely as a picture but as a name, so that to speak of God as mother speaks of another God, different from the God of the Bible.
Below, in the section “Yahweh or Baal” in Chapter 5, I argue that her conclusion is precisely the wrong way round. Those who speak of a God who is father rather than mother talk of a different god. Baal the Canaanite god was a male figure, as were half of the gods of the pagans. The biblical God is no more male than “he”3 is female!
- Kimel (1992) collected notable examples. [↩]
- See Achtemeier (1986, 1987, 1992, 1993) and my critique in “Shall we serve Yahweh or Baal?” [↩]
- I will put gender-specific pronouns for God in inverted commas, indicating that, though the use of “he” is traditional for God, this implies nothing about God’s nature. “S/he” and “her/his”, or an impersonal pronoun the worst alternative for the living God seem clumsy. Quotation marks are intrusive, slowing reading, but this lets us examine our unrecognised prejudices. [↩]