Holy Mother God

I was sitting at the lunch table today, and a bunch of seminarians were somewhat discussing, somewhat complaining about an assignment they had just turned in for a theology class.  The topic was this:  from the stance of a pure philosophy, is it permissible to refer to God as a Mother using analogical language?  The one seminarian summed up what everyone else seemed to be have written:  yes, [s]he can, but they felt guilty saying it.  Apparently the professor argued the affirmative or something.

I pulled a Paul Hamilton, counted to ten, and began unloading.  I reject the question, and I am at a loss as to what this particular theology professor was trying to prove.  Yes, from a purely philosophical standpoint, God can be called mother; but no Catholic theologian worth his degree (or Catholic philosopher, for that matter) uses philosophy unguided by revelation.  Such a thing has little to no support in the Tradition of the Church:  every great philosopher in the history of the Church has started from revelation and used philosophy with an eye on helping us grasp revelation better.  That doesn’t mean that they always used theological premisses in their arguments, but it does mean that they concocted their philosophy in service of revelation.  Hence, the question asked in class is fundamentally misguided.  If I were in that class, I would have rejected the question altogether, for it seems to make a highly questionable assumption about the relationship between theology and her handmaiden, philosophy.

But to the question of whether God can be called mother via analogy.  Yes, He can.  But God can also be called a cockroach, or a penis, or a dead baby carcass via analogy; therefore, aside from sin, the fact is that anything created by God can be compared to Him by the mere fact that He created it.  Thus I find that question to be, at the very least, boring.  The question is why we should we use ‘mother’ when–to understate my case a bit– ‘Father’ has so much going for it.  It seems that for every point in favor of calling God mother, we can find one for calling God Father, too. 

I don’t see how any argument raised in favor of calling God mother via analogy can possibly raise mother to the status of being a name preferable to Father.  However, the inverse does not seem true, for it seems that there is ample reason to prefer (and yes, even mandate!) the use of Father over and above mother.  For one, Jesus was a Son.  He was not a male merely by analogy (because He is both true God and true Man), nor is He a Son merely by analogy.  For one, He is the Son of Mary:  Mary is not Jesus’ mother analogically, but univocally speaking.  We call Mary Jesus’ Mother because, as the Church has dogmatically declared, Mary was the Mother of the whole Jesus, not just His human nature.  But if that’s the case, then why would we want to call the Godhead mother?  The Son has a mother, so it seems highly appropriate to call the Godhead which sent the Son into the world His Father.  Not only that, but Jesus did not reveal God as mother:  He revealled the Godhead as Father.  The question, then, should be why we should prefer to call the Father something which seems to twist the title which the God Incarnate chose for the Being which eternally begot Him.  Nor do I think that arguments from the Old Testament in which God is sometimes described with feminine characteristics seem like much of an argument, for this suggestion falls prey to the same criticisms I have already raised:  God is also described in masculine terms in Scripture, and Jesus–whose words we as Christians should *probably* treat with the highest respect–called God Father unequivocally. 

As a final objection, someone brought up that by calling God mother may serve ecumenical purposes.  This seminarian said this half-heartedly.  I am almost positive that he didn’t like the argument himself, but he obviously heard someone say it (I can only guess who).  But this argument is fundamentally misguided.  Based on what I’ve said, it seems that the supporters of calling mother God need to provide an argument as to why the revelation we have been provided as well as Jesus’ actual familial situation merits calling God mother.  If they cannot, then there is no room in Christianity for us to call God something which seems to thumb our noses at what Jesus clearly and explicitly called the Godhead.  Without such an argument, the argument from ecumenism does not fly.  We should not be aiming for the least common denominator of agreement in ecumenism, but the drawing of those not fully in the Church back into [full] communion.  But unless a good argument is made, I don’t see how such ecumenists can avoid the charge of compromising an important aspect of Church teaching, a title for God revealled to us by One who seems to know better than us. 

I cannot even begin to comprehend what the purpose of this exercise was.  We have a group of people in the Church–the whacky section of feminism (not to be confused with the feminism of JPII) is currently advocating calling God Mother, not just within the context of philosophy, but in our theology as well.  So frame the topic in such a way that we even appear to be lending support to such a feminist ideology, if we are not in fact providing support for it?  If a professor wants to do philosophy with the intent of the Church in his mind, he probably ought to do it the way our greatest theological-philosophical minds did it.

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