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How Does A Trinitarian Understanding Of God Shape Ecclesiology (4)

November 16, 2007

Objections to My Position

Admittedly, there much opposition to the above positions throughout the Church today.  Two critical opposing arguments concern the diversity of gender use when referring to God and authority and submissions implications in the Trinitarian relationship.

A catalyst for gender-diverse references of God stems mainly from a feminist’s desire to use more “inclusive images of God” that correct the almost exclusive use of masculine images of God throughout history.[1]  Some argue to do away with any gender-specific imaging of God and deal mainly with impersonal terms, while others look to compliment each person of the Trinity with their own feminine image.  Others want to do away with any masculine use of images completely.

The feminist desire to compliment masculine images of God with feminine stem from social obstacles to certain interpretation of biblical metaphors.  The difficulty of calling God Father today is that many children have had distant, abusive, or absent fathers and their mothers are the only parental image that brings comfort and peace.  A flexible gender use would solve any problematic social barrier that would hinder warmth, security, or peace when referring to God.[2]  This sort of “God-talk” would be suitable for any theological framework that any individual would approach worship with.[3]

Many, however, find exegetical arguments for their gender-diverse God-talk.  The traditional masculine form will simply not due when trying to grasp the entire representation of God.  The dignity of women, created in the image of God, is completely ignored when referring to God in only masculine images.[4]  The masculine formula of the Trinity is mainly attributed to the patriarchal culture of ancient Palestine and should be evolved into a “renewed speech about God in the direction of greater inclusivity in current theology.[5]  Patricia Wilson-Kastner spends much energy unfolding and unearthing feministic traits of the incarnate Christ.[6]  Wilson-Kastner argues that the Trinitarian formula should portray God the Father, God our Mother, and the Holy Spirit.  She specifically links the crucifixion with child-bearing, where Christ enters into the painful process of “labor” in the new birth of her beloved.[7]  According to many, as well, both the Father and Spirit are attributed the feminine trait of birthing, comforting, and nurturing her creation.  For many feminist theologians, only using masculine images when referring to God is idolatry.[8]

The second opposing position is the hostile view towards an authoritative and subordinate relationship within the Trinity and its implications.  The major dilemma among egalitarian theologians is that a functional subordination relationship within the Trinity easily implies an authoritative and submissive relationship within humanity, even between males and females.  This, however, in the eyes of many, would imply that the masculine gender is superior over the feminine, as it would imply that God the Father is superior over God the Son.[9]   As Kevin Giles argues, the Father and Son are undivided in power, therefore, undivided in authority.[10]  Anything less would be Arian subordinationism.  Implications of one essence, one power, and one authority would be that there is no authority and submissive relationship within the community of the Trinity.  This would also imply that the use of the terms “Father” and “Son” is inappropriate since this would imply an authority and submissive relationship.  A final implication would be that since there is no masculine use (after removing the terms “Father” and “Son”) referring to God, nor an authority and submissive relationship, there is no authority and submissive relationship within a marriage or Church setting.

[1] Daniel L. Migliore, Faith Seeking Understanding, 75.

[2] See Brian Wren, What Language Shall I Borrow?, 9-58.

[3] Ibid, 151.

[4] Elizabeth A. Johnson, She Who Is, 45.

[5] Ibid, 47.

[6] See Patricia Wilson-Kastner, Faith, Feminism and the Christ, 89-120.

[7] Ibid, 102.

[8] Anne E. Carr, Transforming Grace: Christian Tradition and Women’s Experience (San Fransisco: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1988), 134.

[9] Paul K. Jewitt, Man as Male and Female: A Study of Relationships From a Theological Point of View, 84; Kevin Giles, Jesus and the Father: Modern Evangelicals Reinvent the Doctrine of the Trinity, 93.

[10] See Kevin Giles, Jesus and the Father, 172-204

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