[quote=john doran]it is not just that god has been referred to as “father”, but that he has referred to himself in that way.
God also refers to himself/herself as female in several Bible passages as well. Particularly throughout Isaiah and Hosea, God is portrayed as a mother. Job and Psalms too has references of God as mother. The parable told by Jesus of the woman searching for a lost coin in Luke is a feminine fo version of God to balance the masculine shepherd image.I Matt God is described as a mother hen. The list goes on and on, and it seems repetitive to list each and every occurrence.
People who claim that God is male and only male do not seem to have much knowledge of the Bible; they must read it with the perspective closed and seeking not to know about God as a whole, but only to find proof of the God they already created in their own mind. To say that God refers to himself as male is only half of the story and erroneous.
The Hebrew word for “begot” is gender neutral and its Enlgish translation can refer to male activity of being fathered or female activity of mothering, and the preference for itnerpreters through the ages (who have been predominantly male) has to be use the masculine form where ever possible.
And the concept of a masculine holy spirit is highly debateable. I would also argue irrelevant, since God’s nature transcends genders. This is debated at length on another thread but to sum here, as this is an etension of the depth of God’s gender issues: Holy Spirit (in Hebrew, feminine; in Greek, neuter) is often associated with women’s functions: the birthing process (Jn. 3:5; Jn. 1:13, 1 Jn. 4:7b, 5:1, 4, 18), consoling, comforting, an eschatological groaning in travail of childbirth, emotional warmth, and inspiration. Some ancient church traditions refer to the Holy Spirit in feminine terms (the Syriac church used the feminine pronoun for the Holy Spirit until ca. 400 C.E.; a 14th c. fresco depicting the Trinity at a church near Munich, Germany images the Holy Spirit as feminine).
I think Jesus’s use of the term “father” was necessary because of the patriarchical times and scientific limitations of their uadience’s understanding, in order to make his audience comprehend that they have a relationship with God that is personal, but they still owe authority to God (this relationship would not be so authoritative if a feminine form the deity was used), and that God created us because with love, (again, if a feminine form were used in this scenario it would not convey the power of God as a loving creator, because the people of the time only believed that males created).
We are commanded to read the scriptures in reference to the cultural and histrorical background of the time in which the story occurred. In Jesus’ time, women had very little authority in society, and were not considered anything more than incubators, with no power of even basic biological creation.
Jesus likewise had to born male due to the time perod, because the word of a woman would not have carried much weight in a society where women did not have rights or authoritty.
Personally, I feel more comforted by the image of a paternal God, because my father didn’t really do much in the way of paternal help (the concept of God as father and Mary as mother provides much more emoptional wieght to me), but that being said, to reduce God to only maleness is to create a God in the image that suits me, rather than seek to know more about the deeper truth of God’s all encompassng power, as examined by theologians like Elizabeth Johnson. Julian of Norwhich and Gertrude of Helfta, also worte much about the feminine aspects of the divine; God as a nurturing mother.