Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Gender of God: What if God is Female? (Part 4 of 4)

What if God is female?

In retrospect, the problem is the application of interpreted language, tainted by experience, imposing human attributes upon a transcendent deity. Use of masculine or feminine language does not make God male or female; nor, does it deny the need for divine gender perceptions. God transcends gender (linguistically and physically). Physiology and language are not the same, but they work together. Hence, language interpretation is of critical importance. Theologically, God, as father, is important to biblical context and to redemptive interpretation. The language of a divine father or a divine lord is meant to replace – to purify – the distorted image of human fathers and rulers.

 In conjunction, what if that redeeming image can be used to call God, Mother? What if the counseling figure of the Holy Spirit represents God in feminine form? The Spirit of God is a guide to disciples, she is like a nurturing mother. People are baptized with the Holy Spirit, as an induction into the Church. This is their “new creation.” Baptism of the Holy Spirit is ones beginning in the family of God; their birth into the Christian faith (Mk.1.1-13).

Finally, what if God is neither male nor female in physical form, but both, masculine and feminine in gendered language? This is the work of a transcendent God, who is revealed in, through, and beyond the language of gender. God has no organic gender, but God is represented in a dialectal gender. God’s alternate gender dialect is a redeeming gift that has the power to heal the wounds of our tainted gender-language. Truly, this is why, God’s gracious work of the cross is so powerful. Because, people like me (and maybe you) need the love and grace of God.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Gender of God: What if God is Female? (Part 3 of 4)

If you missed Part 1 or Part 2 of, “The Gender of God: What if God is Female?” 

What if God is female?

Honestly, who would have thought so much complexity could arise from referring to God as he? God transcends gender. There is a theological function and biblical context in the use of gendered language. The Godhead (Trinity) is the basis for reconstructed use of gendered language. Biblically, God is portrayed as Father and by the masculine pronouns. One might contest this hermeneutically (which was addressed earlier in this discussion). One may contend that masculine language for God emanates from a male-dominated biblical culture. Nevertheless, there is a redemptive hermeneutic (interpretation) in this biblical language and it should not be ignored.

In reality, God’s fatherly depiction (when understood properly) is meant to present an alternative image of what a father should be. It is not the distorted portrait of a father that has already been discussed. God the Father is loving, forgiving, just, redeeming, and gracious. God is the father to the fatherless (Ps. 68.1-10). God steps in as the surrogate father to the abused and abandoned. Redemption is the champion argument in favor of God as father. One is redeemed in Christ’s work of the cross (death and resurrection). This is the promise of God.

As the divine, God transcends gender, but it is evident that language is important. What if God is omnigender? What if God is female and male? The Godhead is three persons and one God. The Holy Spirit takes on two forms in biblical language, feminine (Hebrew) and neuter (Greek). But, linguistic gender (he, she, masculine, feminine, and gendered language) and physiological gender (whether one perceives God as a male or female being) are different matters. These distinct definitions have, unequally, influenced the interpretation of divine gender issues.  

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Gender of God: What if God is Female? (Part 2 of 4)

What if God is female?

Returning to the problem, one can debate that the deeper issue herein is a psychosexual-demigod complex. More simply put, the Theology of Glory. Strict usage of gendered language, when talking about God, is the result of a cultural movement. What is a psychosexual-demigod complex? It is a process that happens when one forgets to acknowledge the mysteries of God.

First, one can seek to “know” God and to understand God so much that they forget that God is awe-inspiring. Second, one can become so fixated on talking about God as he or she that the act of worship starts to get cloudy. Third, one can develop an, “I’m married to Jesus” phenomena. In no way, is it healthy to have that sort of attraction towards ones savior. It’s problematic. Fourth, always seeking to please God so, “he won’t punish us,” and so we can become “better Christians” is also a problem. All of the above, are components of the aforementioned psychosexual-demigod complex. Why is this problematic? If we achieve perfection, this makes us God (thus, a demigod). If my abusive or scary heavenly father is going to hurt me, I want no part of that God or that father.

Moreover, what if God is female? What if God is male? What if God doesn’t have a gender? What if all this talk about God’s gender makes people think of God in a, subliminally, sexual fashion? What if gendered language prompts the association of God with abuse, molestation, or abandonment? What if the result of all of these things is the distortion of faith in God? These gender connotations can be a distortion of God, faith, and healthy relationships (when used improperly) which is dysfunction. The result is dysfunctional theology and a diluted perception of God’s message. In order to rectify this distortion, one must look to the work of the cross; knowing, this is the work of an infinite, transcendent God – who cannot be contained in our languages –and we need to do away with gendered language or use it correctly.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Gender of God: What if God is Female? (Part 1 of 4)

 What if God is female?

In many Christian spectrums, people primarily use masculine language to describe God. In other words God and the Godhead (Trinity) are referred to as he. Hence my question, what if God is female? The relevance of the question is to illustrate problems with gendered language. If God, the Father, is strictly referenced as he, how does masculine language affect ones interpretation of their faith? If one has issues with their biological father, such as, domestic violence, molestation, or abandonment, they might transfer those issues to their perception of God. This is sad – arguably unhealthy – and can create an anti-evangelistic barrier.

In analysis, what if God is female? Better still, what if God is neither male nor female? God transcends gender. This means that God is infinite and doesn’t fit in the box of our languages. In support of the thesis, I will deconstruct the opening question. Gendered language limits God to the essence of the human forms, which, sadly, limits God. One uses gendered language to understand God. In spite of this necessary obstacle, one should contend that God cannot be female; just as much as, God cannot be male because that takes the issue of gendered language and gives it a new disguise. However, there is theological value to gendered language in scripture, which will be addressed prior to concluding arguments.

The discussion continues, use this link: “The Gender of God: What if God is Female?”(Part 2 of 4).

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving: Redefining "Family" as God Redeems the Raw and Gritty

It is Thanksgiving weekend and I have a lot to be thankful for this year. I am thankful for the God of the cross who has carried me through one breath at a time. God gave me everything. It is through the gifts of God that I live in grace and redemption.

I understand God through the event of the cross and the cross is the lens I look through to see life. I am blessed. Sure, this past year or so has been like, a cinematic tragedy, and I’ve spewed a fair amount of raw and gritty emotions. Now is not the time for raw and gritty.

I’m thankful for my family and friends; without whom, I might be singing a darker tune today. But, God gave me you, wonderful people to share life with; so, I’ll be damned, if I’m not going to stop and feel the love long enough to say thank you.

In 28 years, I have only missed Thanksgiving with family on two occasions. In 2009, I spent a memorable day with some of my close friends at Trinity. Honestly, a handful of my friends are an extension of my family; therefore, Thanksgiving, to me, is about family (relative and friend). In turn, I may have spent Turkey Day in 2009 and 2011 apart from relatives, but I was still with my family (thank you Lance and Jeff, I love you guys)!

I’ve spent this weekend thinking of family (friend and relative) missing the family who I could not be with, share a meal with, pray with, laugh with, and love face-to-face. It’s been a warming reflection. I laughed as I remembered last year living with Grandma, being banned from the kitchen due to Mono, and sneaking in to carve the turkey as my last girlfriend saved the meal for the five of us. Grandma’s not here anymore, but I got to live in her home for her last Thanksgiving; without a doubt, I am thankful for that memory!

Austin, Holly, Jake, Hillary, Jeff, David, Kristin, Lance, Brandon, Scott, Jeremy, Kellie, Jim, Susan, Dick, Cindy, Michael, Carol, Kyla, Karly, Morgan, Ally, Sam, Michelle, Chase, Dave, Valerie, Melissa, Nadia, Matthew, JP, Phil, and the countless people who have supported me this year, I am incredibly thankful for the presence you have had in my life! I dedicate this post to all of you my family (friend, relative, and church). Again, I thank God for all of you, all you’ve done for me, and what you mean to me. With a prayer of thanksgiving, I am especially grateful, in a different way, for my dad and Holly and continue to pray for the Lord’s healing.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tim “Jimbo” Kellogg 

(While I wrote this, I listened to:)

Monday, November 21, 2011

How will they Know We are Christians (if We don't Know)?

Beware of Christians, an independent film surrounding the orthopraxy of Christian living, discusses what it means to live out the teachings of the Bible and how believers struggle to be set apart, truly practicing their faith, and allowing Christianity to make a difference in human lives.

Beware of Christians, inspired this post, but the approach herein is from a different perspective. However, I am asking a question the film implies. How will they know we are Christians? Whoever they are, they probably don’t know we are Christians or they know because we call them sinners.
We, all professing Christians, do not see Christ and scripture within the same lens. We are a mixed breed and the best (or worst) of sinners. We are liberals, legalists, complacent, conservative, spiritual, fundamentalist, moderate, and/or religious. We are not the same, but we share the same God and the same label.

Apart from a mixture of differing theological views, Christians are redeemed from their sinner state through the work of the cross event (Jesus’ death and resurrection). Whether they focus on sin or grace, Christians, like the rest of the world, are people and the Son of God died for people (Christians, sinners, non-believers, everyone) as God’s gift to the world.

Are we, as Christians, aware that we are the ones responsible for our own disrespect? Christians who are anti-sins have driven people to disregard what we say about God. Christians who are pro-grace have spent so much time “being all things to all people” that we are forgetting to see if it’s made a difference to the rest of the world.

Will we start loving each other in a way that lets the world know who the God of the cross is and why Christ’s redemption is relevant to all humanity?

The world knows who Christians are and that is why they don’t know Christ.

How will they know we are Christians, is the wrong question. Instead, I ask, knowing that I am equally responsible, how will we (the world) know Christ? We will know because the cross event has redeemed the world through God's love.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"The Dark Passenger:" Today's Sinner-Saint Narrative

The human condition sees many of us struggle with the “Sinner-Saint Complex.” But, perhaps, this historical paradigm falls on deaf ears for many young people today; as spirituality becomes more prevalent than bring religious. In light of a perceived paradigm shift, I turn to entertainment to illustrate this archetype of human nature. The TV hit, Dexter, speaks of a “Dark Passenger;” folks, this is the “Sinner-Saint Complex” at its best (or its worst, depending on how you look at it).

The “Dark Passenger,” is that internal component of the human mind that drives our selfish desires. In contrast, “The Code of Harry” (the show’s representation of light and good) lives in tension with the “Dark Passenger.” Why do light and darkness present themselves in the form(s) of a complex? In short, Original Sin (Lutherans call this the Bondage of the Will and Reformed traditions call it Total Depravity). How does Original Sin cause us to live in tension with “The Code” (saint) and “The Passenger” (sinner)? It is the fact that we cannot rid ourselves of one or the other. We are both saint and sinner.

One doesn’t have to be like the Dexter character (a serial killer) to need their own “Code of Harry” or to struggle with their own “Dark Passenger.” This is the human condition, this is the bonded will, this is the totally depraved, and this is our nature. Now, how do we reconcile this reality? There are a few common routes people take; first, we can fight our “Dark Passenger” making sure we live every letter of our “Code of Harry.” Second, we can deny our “Passenger” and conclude that we don’t need a “Code” if there is no “Passenger.” Third, we can give into our “Dark Passenger” and wallow in a state of constant misery, rage, depression, lust, hatred, envy, etc. Fourth, we can receive the external grace we need because “The Code of Harry” is not enough to overcome the “Dark Passenger.”

The first option (living “the Code”) might make you a saint, but you’ll still be a sinner. The second choice (denial) is the illusion of Free Will (so, good luck with that). The third – a concession – indulgence of “The Dark Passenger;” The Fall, without hope of redemption. The fourth, a contrast to all the others, finds us covered in grace; sanctified by “the Code,” bound to the “Dark Passenger,” and redeemed by the external grace of God.  


Monday, November 7, 2011

When Life Defecates, Get Wisdom; Proverbs, Prudence, and Prostrating

Proverbs is not the book for me – I’m a rock-star-rated-R-silver-tongued-servant-of-the-pulpit – and this book takes me to church. Rather, to the cross. One of the challenges of teaching people about the scriptures, is that one tends to be taught – though, not so willingly – along the way. If I’ve learned anything from the deep study and lessons I’ve taught on this book of compiled wisdom sayings (one of few compilations in scripture) it’s that wisdom begins and ends with the fear (meaning reverence) of the Lord.

In order to possess wisdom, one has to have virtue, prudence, reservation, and humility (among other things). Easier said than done, I’m sure. Hence why I said the book of Proverbs takes me to church. But, this isn’t about getting religion, winning metals for moralism, or becoming a better Christian. It’s about gaining practical wisdom. Unfortunately, practical wisdom doesn’t come easy.

However, practical wisdom puts scholars, like me, in our place. Nine times out of ten, the wisest person in the room is the only one not talking or waiting to be heard. Wisdom is the authenticity I promote, but mockery falls through my lips like a thief. Knowledge is the prudence of a good friend; recklessness is its ruin. Reservation is one’s investment; saying all there is to say leads to sorrow. The humble seek wisdom, but the proud are fools. In other words, don’t be a jerk.

One could ask, what do we do when practical wisdom doesn’t follow through, the “bad guys” win, and life goes to excremental proportions? Start over. For, wisdom begins with our reverence (respect, worship, or admiration) for God. In juxtaposition, wisdom is from God.

“The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps” (Proverbs 16:9, NRSV).
“The lot is cast into the lap, but the decision is the Lord’s alone” (Proverbs 16:33, NRSV).

The Lord’s wisdom can be frustrating at times and we can glean from it other times. On one hand, practical wisdom from the Proverbs can be quite useful in daily life. On the other hand, practical wisdom doesn’t stop life from defecating on us. In turn, it’s God we seek to understand wisdom. By the grace of God, both the wise and the foolish will meet at the foot of the cross with our humble questions.