Author Topic: ELCA prays to "Mother God"  (Read 48093 times)

Steven W Bohler

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Re: ELCA prays to "Mother God"
« Reply #15 on: May 02, 2020, 12:15:49 PM »
Our Lord Jesus (who is God and is definitely a male, hence His circumcision) teaches us to pray: "Our FATHER..."  As far as I know, there is absolutely NO reference in Scripture to anyone praying to "Mother God".  At least not one who is praying to the true God.

Charles Austin

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Re: ELCA prays to "Mother God"
« Reply #16 on: May 02, 2020, 12:17:22 PM »
Are we, Pastor Bohler, only and always and forever and ever, limited in our language about and to God to words of the scriptures as we know them today in our various languages?
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Steven W Bohler

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Re: ELCA prays to "Mother God"
« Reply #17 on: May 02, 2020, 12:21:00 PM »
Are we, Pastor Bohler, only and always and forever and ever, limited in our language about and to God to words of the scriptures as we know them today in our various languages?

As a general rule, that would be best. 

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Re: ELCA prays to "Mother God"
« Reply #18 on: May 02, 2020, 12:22:49 PM »
OK that would be “best.” But that would not be the only way? Right?
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Steven W Bohler

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Re: ELCA prays to "Mother God"
« Reply #19 on: May 02, 2020, 12:29:20 PM »
OK that would be “best.” But that would not be the only way? Right?

Why would you choose to address someone (let alone God) by a different name than the one he has given you to call him?  If you introduced yourself to me as Charles Austin and I called you Ralph Jones, wouldn't you be offended?  Now, add to this that "Mother God" has connections to numerous false gods.  It would be sort of like you introduced yourself to me as Charles Austin and I insisted on calling you Aleister Crowley.

Dan Fienen

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Re: ELCA prays to "Mother God"
« Reply #20 on: May 02, 2020, 12:34:38 PM »
Pastor Fienen writes:
We need to be careful lest we allow social or political concerns to dictate our language about God.
I comment:
Sigh. We have been down this road before. But here we go as I have hitched up the team.
1. There is a tendency on the part of people who don't like what is going on to immediately and uncritically attach the motivation to "social or political concerns." I say here, for the seventy-umpteenth time, I do not believe that is what motivates most of the discussion about, concern for and changes in liturgical or pious language. Can you possibly understand that some of the concern is theological, pastoral and - in certain ways - scriptural? Can you possibly understand that such changes can be driven by actual, living, breathing faithful people who ask pastors and others about language?
2. And such language as "mothering God" is not ubiquitous, required or even dominant. Why does it bother you that it is present? When I was still in a parish, I frequently re-wrote the stuff that came online in liturgical materials, sometimes to make it more inclusive, sometimes to make it less so. (More often to clean up inelegant or inept or silly language and sentence structure. Frankly, I'd rather stick with Book of Common Prayer language and keep teaching people how to understand those wonderful words, but...)
3. All our language about God, even "Our Father," is - in its own way - temporal and impermanent.
4. Yes, despite what I said about these changes not being "driven" by social concerns, it is true that the patriarchal nature of our language and our language about God can get in the way of proclamation of the Gospel. Not always, and maybe not in every place, and maybe not in your place, but believe me: It does. As I just said above, this is still not being "dictated" by social and political concerns.
5. Neither expect you to comprehend these things, nor do I suggest that you alter your references.

You have no respect for people who do not agree with you do you? Think that I am too dumb, stupid, and ignorant to comprehend your concerns?


I did not say that social or political concerns dictate our language about God. At most I cautioned against that and implied that it could be a factor. Just as I implied that it could be a factor for those who are so vehement against mother language about God.


1. One reason that I have read for discouraging Father language for God and encouraging Mother language is that some, especially women, have had bad experiences with men and especially fathers. Well, some, especially men, have had bad experiences with women and especially mothers. Should that discourage Mother language for God? That these concern are real means that they need to be considered and dealt with. I recognize the pastoral concern as it affects people. I do not question the motivation, what I question is whether changing our address of God to Mother is the best way to handle those concerns.


I ask again, while there is Biblical precedent for mother imagery to be used in describing God, is there Biblical precedent for addressing God as Mother. That for me is a Scriptural concern, maybe not for you But I am serious in my question. What does the Bible say about talking to God and how we address God?


I also point out that there is an (I hope) outlier movement within the ELCA (Ebenezer Lutheran Church, San Francisco) that would do much more than pick up on feminine imagery.


2. With a few exceptions (HerChurch) mother language about God impresses me more as faddish and perhaps unwise than necessarily a serious theological issue. I also suggest that there is a difference between "mothering God" and "Mother God." In the first mothering acts as an adjective to describe God as acting in the way that a mother might act, with little implication as to gender for God. In the second, the prayer addresses God as being a mother, something that I find to be different and something that I would not like to do.


Oh, and I did not say that I was particularly outraged or even bothered that an ELCA prayer addressed God as Mother. Some are. I was simply commenting on what Brian cited to support that usage and that I thought his support was a bit off base.


3. Definitely. God is sui generis so all of our language about God is anthropomorphic and analogical.


4. Ah, yes, the dreaded patriarchal rears its ugly head. Mustn't allow even a hint of that. Again, I was saying that social and political factors weren't the only considerations driving the push toward mother language for God, but you demonstrate that it is a factor.


5. If you do not expect me comprehend your concerns, why mention them. If I am so far beneath your intellectual and pastoral level as to be incapable to understanding you, why do you bother? I suspect that I understand much more than you think I do. Perhaps you cannot conceive of anyone understanding your concerns and not agreeing with you. But I think that is more your failure of imagination than it is my lack of intellectual and empathetic capacity.
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Re: ELCA prays to "Mother God"
« Reply #21 on: May 02, 2020, 12:36:45 PM »
OK that would be “best.” But that would not be the only way? Right?

Why would you choose to address someone (let alone God) by a different name than the one he has given you to call him?  If you introduced yourself to me as Charles Austin and I called you Ralph Jones, wouldn't you be offended?  Now, add to this that "Mother God" has connections to numerous false gods.  It would be sort of like you introduced yourself to me as Charles Austin and I insisted on calling you Aleister Crowley.

Your examples make clear the uniqueness of the trinitarian persons-issue I was talking about above.  Thanks

jebutler

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Re: ELCA prays to "Mother God"
« Reply #22 on: May 02, 2020, 12:38:40 PM »

2. And such language as "mothering God" is not ubiquitous, required or even dominant. Why does it bother you that it is present?

Then be consistent. Why use a feminine word with a neuter title ("mother God")? Why not use the term "mother Goddess"?


3. All our language about God, even "Our Father," is - in its own way - temporal and impermanent.

Here is your problem: you argue that this deals with "our language about God." It doesn't. It is about the language that the Lord God used to reveal Himself. You begin at the wrong place: "our language." The correct place to begin is with the Biblical text: God's language.

But let's go with your argument. Given that "All our language about God...is...temporal and impermanent" then what would be wrong with using the term "Goddess"? If it's OK to pray to the "Mothering God" then why can't the prayer read, "Mothering Goddess"? What would be the difference?
The truth we preach is not an abstract thing. The truth is a Person. The goodness we preach is not an ideal quality. The goodness is Someone who is good. The love we preach is God himself in Christ. --H. Grady Davis

Dan Fienen

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Re: ELCA prays to "Mother God"
« Reply #23 on: May 02, 2020, 12:42:40 PM »
OK that would be “best.” But that would not be the only way? Right?

Why would you choose to address someone (let alone God) by a different name than the one he has given you to call him?  If you introduced yourself to me as Charles Austin and I called you Ralph Jones, wouldn't you be offended?  Now, add to this that "Mother God" has connections to numerous false gods.  It would be sort of like you introduced yourself to me as Charles Austin and I insisted on calling you Aleister Crowley.

I can remember how well Charles received the few posters who dared to address him on occasion as Chuck. Did not go over well.
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jebutler

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Re: ELCA prays to "Mother God"
« Reply #24 on: May 02, 2020, 12:50:24 PM »
OK that would be “best.” But that would not be the only way? Right?

The question is not "Are we...only and always and forever and ever, limited in our language about and to God to words of the scriptures as we know them today in our various languages?"

The question is: Is the language about God (or in this case an address used in prayer) we use contrary to Scripture? One can certainly use terms such as "He who set the atoms to dance" or "who set our sphere to circle the sun". Those are simply expressions of God as creator and fully congruent with the Scriptures.

The question is simple: is the address in this prayer "Mother God" congruent with the Scriptures? Since this is an innovation in language (one cannot find the the term in the Scriptures where no only Jesus prays to the "Father" but Paul also says we cry out "Abba, Father") then it is on the ELCA to defend the use of the term.

They also need to answer why they are not consistent use the term "Mother Goddess." Because I, for one, don't see the distinction.
The truth we preach is not an abstract thing. The truth is a Person. The goodness we preach is not an ideal quality. The goodness is Someone who is good. The love we preach is God himself in Christ. --H. Grady Davis

jebutler

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Re: ELCA prays to "Mother God"
« Reply #25 on: May 02, 2020, 12:52:24 PM »
OK that would be “best.” But that would not be the only way? Right?

Why would you choose to address someone (let alone God) by a different name than the one he has given you to call him?  If you introduced yourself to me as Charles Austin and I called you Ralph Jones, wouldn't you be offended?  Now, add to this that "Mother God" has connections to numerous false gods.  It would be sort of like you introduced yourself to me as Charles Austin and I insisted on calling you Aleister Crowley.

I can remember how well Charles received the few posters who dared to address him on occasion as Chuck. Did not go over well.

But given his argument, that it is our language about him and that such language is temporal and impermanent, I'm sure he's happy to be called Chuck now. Or Chuckles. Or Chucky. Or Charliebus. Or even Charlotte.
The truth we preach is not an abstract thing. The truth is a Person. The goodness we preach is not an ideal quality. The goodness is Someone who is good. The love we preach is God himself in Christ. --H. Grady Davis

DCharlton

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Re: ELCA prays to "Mother God"
« Reply #26 on: May 02, 2020, 01:09:11 PM »
OK that would be “best.” But that would not be the only way? Right?

Why would you choose to address someone (let alone God) by a different name than the one he has given you to call him?  If you introduced yourself to me as Charles Austin and I called you Ralph Jones, wouldn't you be offended?  Now, add to this that "Mother God" has connections to numerous false gods.  It would be sort of like you introduced yourself to me as Charles Austin and I insisted on calling you Aleister Crowley.

I can remember how well Charles received the few posters who dared to address him on occasion as Chuck. Did not go over well.

This is really the key issue.  In the ELCA, everyone acknowledges the pastoral concerns that motivated our leaders to alter the language for God.  The revisionists, on the other hand, will not acknowledge the theological concerns of those who insist on Biblical language. 

The key question is whether God wants us to be known and worshiped as he has revealed himself in Jesus Christ, and in the Scriptures, or whether God wants us to seek him out on our own.  In other words, is Jesus Christ the final and sufficient revelation of God's identity, purpose and will, or not? 

The answer of the revisionists to the above is NO.  God's revelation in Jesus of Nazareth is partial, incomplete and imperfect.  First of all because Jesus is not the only mediator between God and humanity.  There are aspects of the truth that are better revealed in other religions.  Secondly, because of the way the revelation in Jesus of Nazareth was distorted by the men, and perhaps women, who wrote what we call the New Testament.  Their prejudices, their captivity by the structures of oppression of their own day, obscured the truth revealed in Jesus. 

Praying to God as "Mother" is one of the ways we improve upon the historically conditioned and imperfect Scriptures, Creeds, and liturgy that we have.  Another way to do that is to bring images and voices from other religions.  So, for instance, you might do a prayer to the spirit of the four directions. 

By the way, the people of the ELCA never knowingly voted to do this.  It is simply the reigning paradigm among our leaders, particularly those who write and publish liturgical resources.  The introduction of the ELW was one of the major milestones in our journey from Nicene Christianity to a more gnostic version.  By the time we voted in 2019 for more expansive language about God, people simply assumed that this approach was true, since that is the way its done in the ELW.  Lex orandi, lex credendi.

« Last Edit: May 02, 2020, 01:16:54 PM by DCharlton »
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Re: ELCA prays to "Mother God"
« Reply #27 on: May 02, 2020, 01:09:38 PM »
Back in the day I had a tiff with some of the guys in theological and professorial leadership in the LCMS over a paper that took off on a tangent when it came to the Imago Dei.  The paper went through all kinds of exegetical conniptions to let us in on a fresh insight - that the image of God referred to the physical masculinity of God.  After a re-parse of the Scriptural passages, the theological/philosophical line of reasoning was that the deep and penetrating structures of the universe are masculine.  Yes, the word "penetrating" was used.  Women are eligible for the image in an auxiliary way, as ribs, #2s to the #1.

I begged to differ; there were a couple of shouting matches.  I said if you're right then our manifestation of God at the altar should be a totem pole, or the Washington Monument.  That comment was not well received.  However, finally, the paper was withdrawn.  More or less.  The thought process went on in its way.

To me the term "Father" is a metaphor, as in the parable of the Prodigal Son, as in Our Father, as in Paul's "Abba."  It has to do with a primary relationship - God is my always caring progenitor.  I am a child of God.  I can call God "Dad (!)" or "Daddy" (Abba) in that sense, as a child calls for her/his dad to take the child into his arms.  Colossians 1 and 2 tie us to Christ and His righteousness through baptism.

Anyway, I wouldn't pray to Mother God.  There are many images that pertain which are feminine.  God is Spirit.  The feminine images are biblical and are appropriate of a loving and gathering God.  They are pertinent.  But my prayers run through the articulation of Jesus "who taught us to pray Padre nuestro, que estas en el cielo..."

I'm fully aware that the image of God as father has been badly distorted by bad dads, invisible dads, deadbeat dads, violent dads and the like.  That's not just re-taught effectively by simple replacement - as well, here's a good dad.  Because the scars are deep.  But the metaphor remains "Father" at the end of the road.

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DCharlton

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Re: ELCA prays to "Mother God"
« Reply #28 on: May 02, 2020, 01:18:29 PM »
Its not a metaphor, its the revealed name of a person, just like Dave Benke.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2020, 01:21:15 PM by DCharlton »
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Brian Stoffregen

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Re: ELCA prays to "Mother God"
« Reply #29 on: May 02, 2020, 01:30:51 PM »

God does not actually have gender, He is a totally different kind of being to which gender categories do not apply. That said, generally in His dealing with us He appears anthropomorphized as male. He encouraged His people to call Him Father. For all the passages that Brian found that uses mother imagery for God, are there any passages that address God as Mother? In addressing God in prayer as Father we are following ancient tradition and Biblical precedent. In addressing God in prayer as Mother, what tradition are we following and what Biblical precedent are we following? To say that at times God has acted in ways that are similar to how we think of mothers acting is not the same as affirming that He is a mother.


For example, in Mt. 23:37, Jesus compared Himself to a hen who gathers her chicks. Does that mean the Jesus was actually a mother hen? The online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines "Mother hen" as "a person who assumes an overly protective maternal attitude" and give as an example of mother hen in a sentence "a football coach who fusses over his players like a mother hen." Are we then to gather that the football coach is actually a woman since he is said to mother hen his players?


We need to be careful lest we allow social or political concerns to dictate our language about God. The temptation has always been to remake God into what we would like Him to be. That also applies to those who would use our traditional masculine imagery for God to somehow elevate males over females as being more in God's image or some such nonsense.


Gender language also works the other way. There are football coaches who will shout to the linemen, "You're acting like a bunch of ladies." Does that mean they have become females?


We translate the biblical languages into English. We do not call God, "Ab," "Abba," or "Patēr". We translate those ideas into a corresponding English word, "Father." However, that's only one way of translating the words. Other ways in BDB: "Ancestor," "Grandfather," "Producer," "Ruler," "Chief." ("Mother" is not listed as a gloss.)


We also realize that the ancient uses of these words was in a patriarchal society. Israel did not have queens. They did not have goddesses. We wonder how much of their portrait of God was influenced by their culture.
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]