Christmas is a good time to talk about why we don’t call God, “Mother.” We know that God is a Spirit, not male or female. And yet we use Father/Son language, “him” language. Even though we see some maternal language associated with God, we privilege the paternal language. Sadly, and even dangerously, many in the church have used this language to privilege males over females, developing with it destructive views of masculinity and femininity.
All language that we use about God is anagogical. In Women and the Gender of God, Dr. Amy Peeler has a chapter “God Is Not Masculine,” where she discusses the destructive views of a so-called masculine God and why we call God Father and not Mother. She makes the case that it is the incarnation that gives us the explanation. She says that we always have to start with Jesus to talk about God rightly. And the Christmas story gives us the answer:
Jesus has a mother.
God, like a father does, stood distinct from creation and did not carry it within the divine being.
That which God did not do to creation, however, God allowed creation to do to him. God was carried in the womb. God was birthed, and God suckled at the breast.
Mary the Mother of God has proved a slippery character in the Christian narrative. For some, she has slipped off the page completely, or at least for most of the year, until it is time to set out her figure in the nativity. For others, she has ascended to such an elevation where no effects trickle down to any other woman. Those who miss her and those who misuse her also forget the true nature of her son and the God whom he reveals. It is not only the Word who teaches us the meaning of our words but also the one who bore the Word.
Peeler says that it is through the lens of the “incarnate Son’s linguistic expression of his eternal, personal, and begotten relationship with God” that we get the full picture, even of the Old Testament expressions of God as Father. Why doesn’t Jesus call God, “Parent,” or “Mother?”
Jesus does not call God “Mother” because he already has one.
Christians can and should address God, the first person, as “Father” not because God is male and not because God is more masculine than feminine but because God the Father as an expression of triune will sent forth his Son born of a woman. There is no God apart from the one who willed to dwell in the womb of Mary. Jesus of Nazareth, with his form of address for God, born out of his unique experience, reveals who God is.
…When Christians call God “Father” as [Jesus] did, they invoke the revelation of the particular way the Son came.
The angel replied to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
“See, I am the Lord’s servant,” said Mary. “May it happen to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:35, 38)