The language we use when referring to God is symbolic. It gets at an idea, but because it is human language, our language, it cannot grasp the fullness of God beyond the idea. Feuerbach got at this a little bit, but went too far in my opinion. The humanness of our language and symbols does not mean, as Feuerbach says, that God is nothing but the idealistic idea of humanity, a notion created and developed over time (though some would argue that). Likewise, it is difficult to move our understanding of God beyond our immediate systems and symbolism, because they are deeply rooted in us. And they, like our language, are human creations and therefore cannot fully grasp and contain the infinite, atemporal and immaterial. What this means is that any way I or we envision God is influenced, impacted and dependent on the language we use. Thus, our view of God is often going to be limited to the power and structures held in the symbolism of the words.
For instance the image to the right is from the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling. It shows God creating the sun and moon, and evidently God is an old man, probably Italian, who sports a long beard and unkempt hair. God of course doesn’t look like this, nor is God Italian. God is depicted as temporal and material, both of which God is, wholly, not. There’s Jesus, then again Jesus is not all of God, but one of three. Further, God is a man and God isn’t a man, nor a woman. God is God.
Alhough God is often called Father in Scripture and tradition, God is also seen as mother in the same contexts, though not nearly as much, and it has not been the mainstream view in tradition. Nonetheless it is there.
I myself have a hard time utilizing the mother language for God and its because of my dad.
My relationship with my own dad has positively influenced my view of God and, therefore, influenced my view and experience of God as father. This is not a bad thing. It’s great that I have a good relationship with my dad. I think it’s seen as rare in the world, but don’t think it is as rare as its made out to be.
Not everything about the relationship with my dad is perfect, never has been and probably never will be. I’m an imperfect, sinful, prideful and stubborn human, so is he. He’s probably the reason I am the way I am.
Could I therefore have a terrible relationship with him because of this? Could I throw all of my own faults onto his own sin and blame him for myself?
Sure, but of course then I would be ignoring, quite blatantly, the far more numerous fantastic qualities that I have gleaned from him. I will be a great father and are a great husband because of him.
It’s this great relationship with my dad that has influenced my view of God and the world. (It doesn’t hurt that he and my mom also imparted a good theology.) I never had to wrestle with God the Father language and issues with my own dad, there was never any conflict between the two as I was growing up. In fact, I didn’t have to begin wrestling with the Father language until college, and by then my faith had already been established deeper than logic and cognizance in my identity and emotions. All of the Father language of God was for the most part reflected in my own dad. I could relate my experience of God, in a certain sense, to my experiences with my dad. Therefore, God as Father was feasible and comforting.
This view of God bears nothing to the relationship with my mother though. I have a great relationship with her as well, it’s just that I have only ever been fed Father language of God and therefore have associated God with my own dad’s characteristics. I know mother language for God exits, but I wouldn’t know where to start looking for it. My problem with denoting motherly characteristics then is ignorance and nothing else.
I don’t see this as a “bad” thing. People have gone centuries without needing the mother language of God to enlighten them or others to the reality of God. Although, it is bad when a single view of God has moral and ideological framework built around it, but the view of God as Father isn’t inherently bad.
Given the understanding of the power of language and the symbol’s used for God and God’s nature beyond the symbols, I think it would be beneficial for me and many others to use the language. Because it has power and because it grasps at a reality bigger and beyond the power the symbols, the more symbols used is beneficial. So, I want, I prefer having more symbols to express and understand God. I know that God as Father does grasp the totality of God, just as much as God is love doesn’t. I need more language to better know God.
Now I just need to know where to start finding new symbols…