Sunday, September 18, 2011

Why Is God A "He"?

So, lately I've been thinking a lot about this particular issue. It's come up in several of the books I've had to read for school. But the tipping point was this video with Mark Driscoll and Doug Wilson*:

So, this does raise the question: Why is that - The Shack not withstanding - God is consistently referenced as male in the Scriptures? It's God the Father and God the Son. Likewise, male pronouns are always used to describe God the Spirit. For our family members who believe that gender is merely biological this makes absolutely no sense. After all, God is a spirit. He doesn't have an anatomical structure and therefore speaking of God in terms of male or female is ludicrous. Right? Well, apparently the Holy Spirit doesn't think so, because He inspired the holy men to portray God in male terms.

So, how do we explain this? Well, it becomes a lot easier when recognize that gender is a symbol for something greater. After all, God loves matter, as C.S. Lewis said, and He uses matter to convey truths about Himself.

Elisabeth Elliot, the wife of martyred missionary Jim Elliot and one of the greatest writers and speakers of her generation, does an excellent job of arguing this position in her classic The Mark of a Man:

"Psychologists sometimes describe belief in God as a father as nothing more than a projection of the sterotyped father. It never seems to occur to them that if two things are alike, one ought to ask whether the first is copied from the second or the second from the first. Why should it not be at least as logical to assume that human fathers are copies of the Original? Those who take the Bible as their rule see God as the archetype. From Him are derived all ideas of what fathers ought to be."
The argument goes that the genders are symbols of something much greater than biology. The functions of the genders actually reflects the nature of God. Within the Trinity there is equality, love, unity and other-centrality but there is also structure, order, submission and, yes, authority (I know, that's a naughty word in our culture but just bare with me). Therefore, this same dichotomy is mirrored in the relationships between the genders.

Those who hold to this view
also recognize that consistently throughout Scripture - literally from Genesis to Revelation - men are given the responsibility of initiation. That brings us back to original question of why God is always portrayed as male.

C.S. Lewis said, "God is so masculine that all creation is feminine by comparison." What could he possibly mean by that? He meant that God is the Ultimate Initiator. He initiates our salvation, our sanctification - shoot! - He initiated our very existence. The fate of every human being is decided by how we respond the initiation of God. Therefore, we are all feminine (responders) in comparison to the Initiating God.

But I can almost hear people saying, "What a chauvinist! He actually thinks that men are like God!" No, no, no! Sure, lots of men think they're God, but God knows better. This isn't about men, this is about God. My goal in this post is not to spark a debate over gender roles. If I wanted to do that I would have started off with loads of bible passages and quotes from Greek experts. What I want to do is point you to marvelous design of God.

When men act like men and women act like women, we're actually displaying the very nature of God. It's a like a painting, showing the majesty of the Real Thing. Or a song that causes emotions to rise up unbidden. Or a monument which testifies to the greatness of an awesome God. Gender is a work of art, giving us hints at the beautiful character of the Artist. Praise His name!

I know that this has been a very quick summary of very deep and intense issue, but if you get nothing else out of this, pay attention to this: Gender isn't about biology. Like everything else, it's about God.

*I always feel the need to say that just because I link to someone doesn't mean I necessarily endorse everything about that person.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Heroes I Spend Sundays With

You want to know who my biggest heroes are? It's not some great preacher like Spurgeon or Moody. It's not a great writer like C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien. It's not a great theologian like Jonathan Edwards or Martin Luther. Nor is it even a great missionary like William Carey or Hudson Taylor.

Rather, my heroes are...

-The ten year old girl who makes a point of saying "Good luck, Josh" before every time I preach.
-The woman sitting behind me who sings like she actually means what she's saying.
-The man sitting in front of me who often can't finish the hymns because the truthful words are too powerful.
-The newly saved man who (being unaware of all the "rules" we've associated with prayer) simply talks to his Daddy.
-The 80+ year old who has more energy than I do.
-All the people who know me so well but love me anyway.
-The "old folk" who are willing to hangout with the teens.
-The teens who don't act like teens.
-The young men who act like men.
-The young women who act like women.
-The young lady who always knows and cares about what's going on in my life.
-The "kindred spirits" that help me see myself honestly.
-Young people are not only willing but eager to discuss spiritual things.
-A pastor who loves the Word and love people.
-People courageous and loving enough to point out my faults.
-The older woman how knows everyone's name.
-The lady who embodies servanthood.
-The man who can always be counted on to do anything.
-The older men who make a point of passing on the torch.
-The people I spend Sundays with.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we need the local church.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Where Were You?

Ten years ago today, a nine year old boy woke up anticipating a rather dull day of school and dentist visits. Intent on not letting the day be a total waste, he decided to get some fresh air and play around outside before the trip to the dentist and subsequent school day. To his disappointment, he found the weather to be cloudy and dreary. Still, he made the most of it playing with his favorite toy. A stick.

Then came the dreadful moment when his mother called him inside. He assumed that it was time for them to leave for the dentist and that his fun for the day had ended. He was actually a little relieved to discover that it was not time to leave but that his mom felt it was important for him to see something.

He looked at the TV and saw two buildings draped in smoke. He didn't understand. His mom had called him inside to watch an action movie? "Terrorists captured planes and flew them into two buildings in New York." His mother explained. A sinking feeling came over the boy, as if someone were dragging him into the floor.

For the rest of the day, the boy was glued to the TV set. He heard the news anchors speculate over who was responsible. He saw a picture of a man they called Osama bin Laden. He heard words like "Afghanistan" and "jihad" and "Islam" for the very first time. When he heard the news of the Pentagon being attacked he felt as though the world was spinning out of control. He wished that someone would pay for all this.

He still had to go to the dentist, but he spent every moment thinking about burning buildings in New York. By the time he got home, those buildings had collapsed. They never did get around to doing school.

He spent the rest of the day with his neighbor friends, trying to make sense of the whole thing. That night went to bed but he couldn't sleep. It was a while before he was able to sleep.


So, where were you ten years ago?