A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

This is in response to Wesley Blog's post on the language we use to describe God. While we both recognize that God is not captured by neither masculine nor feminine terms, Shane is concerned that our focus on language precludes people from using masculine language. If that is the case, I'd agree with him, that'd be a shame. But then he proceeds to preclude people from using feminine language, repeating the same mistake.

The reason he makes this move is that male language is "revealed" in the Bible, while female language is us making it up, ie one is God's self revelation, the latter is a form of idolatry. Leaving aside the question of revelation, it's clear that the Bible does use feminine language, describing God like a mother bear, Jesus compares himself to a mother hen, etc. Of course what is more interesting is the wide range of language used in the Bible and the tradition.

God is the living water, we sing of God as a mighty fortress, as the wind, and so forth. If we want to avoid idolatry, the best route is to throw open the doors on the language we use, so we don't imagine that any one phrase captures God. If we become wedded to a particular language, that language and not what it points to, becomes the focus and then the game is up.

I wanted to highlight a few news items: The National Council of Churches, along with a wide range of religious groups, comes out against torture. Sadly enough, I could find no evangelical church who has been willing to take a similar stand, and the church's witness is accordingly weakened in the face of such an evil. And Kofi Annan calls for a conference on religious pluralism as a means to fight increasing extremism, an important goal.

3 Comments:

At 11:00 AM , Anonymous Tim said...

You'd all do well to remember that male & female are of God, not the other way round.

Linguistically, in English the most generic pronouns we have are masculine (not male).

 
At 1:28 AM , Blogger T.L. Stanley said...

You stated "And Kofi Annan calls for a conference on religious pluralism as a means to fight increasing extremism, an important goal".

Kofi Annan went on to say the following in trying to calm fears about religious extremism. "We must also unite in our efforts to address the extremism that is, alas, on the rise not only in Islam but among adherents of many faiths."

Even though he is correct in addressing religious extremism, he should go to Baghdad, Tehran, and several other Middle East countries first.

Launching into a chastisement of all religions misses the point. Islam is promoting violent terrorist attacks upon the world. Suicide bombers are not Lutherans, Catholics, or Baptists. They are Muslims.

It would be wise to focus on the problem, not broad brush everyone with a general "Diversity and Tolerance" message.

 
At 1:24 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tim, you may be superhumanly able to separate out "generic" masculine pronouns from the assumption of maleness, but psychological studies show that those of us mere mortals are incapable of doing so. When an average person hears a supposedly generic masculine pronoun, that pronoun activates male associations in the mind. Perhaps you are not average, but I think the church should recognize how normal people are influenced by these supposedly generic pronouns.

 

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