While we often think of God in masculine terms, T.E. Hanna thinks its important to develop, the often ignored, Divine feminine in the Christian scriptures.
It was a powerful image: a well designed graphic of Jesus astride a lithe and well-muscled battle horse. In his gauntleted fist was wielded a slender longsword, and his body was clothed in the beaten and worn raiments of a medieval knight. The caption was inspiring, and deceptively simple. It merely read, “Our God is a warrior. Man was created in His image.”
I enjoyed the picture. For a moment, I even indulged in puffing out my chest as I replayed scenes from Braveheart and The Last Of The Mohicans starring myself as the battle-hardened lead. There is something within the heart of men that yearns for a cause worthy of fighting for, a deep purpose compelling us to mount up on our metaphorical war steeds and pound at the walls of the enemy. There is adventure within the human spirit. There is adventure within God.
I suppose it is only natural, then, that we project much of our masculine imagery upon this God we serve. We relate to these attributes particularly well. It is far easier for us to conceive of God as King, Father, or Provider than it is to imagine our Lord as Nurturer, Lover, or Mother. In our own heavily masculinized culture, we understandably emphasize the masculinity of our faith. But this is only a partial image.
It struck me as somewhat strange that the aforementioned graphic only made reference to men being fashioned in the image of God. People today may skip over the reference to men and women given in Genesis 1:27, but the ancient readers to whom the book was written would certainly have stopped short. After all, amidst the cultures of the Ancient Near East, wealth and power were typically measured by your ownership of three key metrics: your flocks, your cattle, and your women. Women were viewed as little more than property. Therefore, for the writer of Genesis to suddenly emblazon his scrolls with such a declaration was, to put it simply, powerfully counter-cultural. The single statement not only placed women on an equal tier as men but also makes them a reflection of the divine If men, who were fashioned in the image of God, bear attributes reflective of the God we serve… then women must as well.
Which means that God must also bear feminine attributes.
In fact, as the pages of scripture continue to unfold, we begin to see that God is not solely a masculine entity. Often, he is vibrantly portrayed in the feminine as well.
Take Proverbs, for instance. There in the first chapter we encounter a woman named Wisdom crying out in the streets that the people might change their ways and return to God (Proverbs 1:20). A few verses later, we come to discover that this woman is God herself, who then begins to announce judgment upon Israel because “…I have called and you refused” (Proverbs 1:26). Wisdom, here and throughout the rest of the Wisdom Literature, not only portrays a feminine aspect to God, she portrays God in the feminine completely.
The more we dig in, the more we continue to discover feminine traits. We often hear about God as Father, but the idea of God as Mother strikes many as borderline blasphemy. Despite this, we see God portrayed as a mother giving birth to her children (Deuteronomy 32:18), a comforting mother for Jerusalem (Isaiah 66:13), and a mother raising her children (Hosea 11). In fact, the early church merged these images. It is among the early apostolic writings from the likes of Clement, Justin, and Theophilus that we read of the paradoxical “womb of the Father.”
Of course, some might point to Jesus as proof of God’s masculinity. In this case, let us remember that even Jesus portrays God in the feminine. In the Gospel of Luke, he describes the Father as a woman looking for a lost coin (Luke 15:8). In referring to his own love for Jerusalem, he describes himself as a mother hen, yearning to gather her children under wing (Matthew 23:37).
None of this minimizes the masculine attributes of God, of course. The God we serve is still King, Savior, Lord, and Father. It does, however, expand the horizons and reveal the jagged edges of the theological box we have locked ourselves within. In our overemphasis of God’s masculine traits, we have lost our connection with so many of the foundational attributes which sculpt the heart of the Christian faith. God is wisdom personified, the mother who imbues us with life and raises us up, the woman that seeks us out no matter where we may be hiding, and the mother hen that gathers us together.
The day will come when Jesus returns, the great Warrior-King astride his stallion with a Revelation 19 tattoo on his thigh and a sword in His hand. In our eagerness for His return, however, let us not forget that God is here, among us, wooing and drawing us back into His heart. Let us not forget the broad attributes of this God that encounters and seeks us out: God is love. God is nurturing. God is merciful. God is gracious. God is wise.
T E Hanna holds a Masters of Divinity degree from Asbury Theological Seminary and is the author of "Raising Ephesus: Christian Hope for a Post-Christian Age". In addition to writing, he has served the church since 1999 in ministry roles ranging from youth pastor, to outreach pastor, to a senior pastorate. He currently pastors a congregation in central Florida where he lives with his wife and their three cats. T E Hanna writes regularly on issues of faith and culture on his blog at TEHanna.com.