God the Mother?

God the Mother?

Monday of this week, I was greeted at the door by a couple of missionaries. This was the first time I’ve ever had the opportunity to talk with cultists in this face-to-face personal context since my JC meeting over three years ago. It was an exciting experience to be sure.

One of them was a smiley Asian man with braces, accompanied by a Caucasian woman who stood off to the side. The man barely spoke English as he offered to show me a video on what looked like an iPad (I had no idea cults were getting this high-tech these days, ha!). The very dramatic presentation he had to show me raised the question “If there’s a God the Father, couldn’t there be a God the Mother?” Of course, like most of these questions cult propaganda raise, it was a rhetorical one, and their answer became rather obvious as the video went along…

Now, I started out by assenting to the fact that the Holy Spirit is sometimes thought of in the feminine as the Shekinah glory is grammatically femine in Hebrew. And it is a tempting conclusion to draw, considering within the revealed Triune nature of God we have the Father and the Son, and this third person we call the Spirit. If the Son was born into the world through the conception of the Spirit (just as Mary bore Christ out of her womb 9 months after that), wouldn’t it be logical to think that perhaps the Spirit could be thought of as God the Mother?

On the other hand, I immediately pointed out that the language of scripture never actually employs such terminology, and so in essence the conclusion is extra-biblical speculation. And the important thing is that when we consider God in the totality of His nature, He is always masculine. Why? Because, we ourselves are feminine in comparison. As the Bride of Christ, the Church is the feminine counterpart to our masculine God.

Upon later study, it seems these folks were from the World Mission Society Church of God. They never identified themselves, and I initially thought after speaking with them that they were from the Unification Church (a.k.a Moonies). When I finally found the video they had shown me online, I realized my error.

Now, since it seems that this cult absolutely needs this doctrinal assertion to validate its further conclusions (i.e. that Ahn Sahng-Hong’s wife Zang Gil-Jah is the incarnation of God the Mother), then it’s understandable that the discussion did not end there. And instead this woman—at this point her companion was remaining silent—continued to argue for “God the Mother” as though it was an established fact in scripture.

She started with Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

“See?” she asked. “The image of God is both masculine and feminine, for ‘male and female He created them’!”

“Ah…” I started, “but notice the semi-colon we put here in the text? These are ultimately two distinct thoughts that are related enough to join together in one sentence, but distinct enough to necessitate a semi-colon.” (Punctuation has fascinated me for some time, for all of its nuances have been a challenge for me to master). “In order to exegete this passage properly, it seems more likely to me that the antecedent of the thought here with ‘male and female’ is not so much about God’s ‘image’ but rather simply how God ‘created him’. It would be reaching to insist it necessarily implies anything more that God created both male and female individually in the image of God.”

Seeing that I was not convinced, she started by making an argument that when one sees a term in scripture he can not simply assume that its referent is the same in every context. Quickly going on to John 21:15 where Jesus said to Simon Peter “Feed my lambs.”

“Jesus was the lamb of God, yes?” she asked excitedly.

“Yes,” I replied dryly.

“But Jesus wasn’t saying ‘Feed my Jesuses’ was He?” she asked somewhat condescendingly.

“Yes, of course He wasn’t,” I replied, trying valiantly not to roll my eyes. And at this point, I wasn’t entirely sure where she was going with this line of thought.

So she went on to Matthew 22 and rather hurriedly gave a summary of the parable of the wedding feast (without reading it), and asked the question insistently “Where is the bride here?”

Thrown somewhat off-guard, I replied something to the effect that the bride hadn’t arrived, and asked her what her point was exactly. She went on to assert that the Bride had not come down out of Heaven yet, and that this Bride is in fact God the Mother.

So, I informed her that she was making an argumentum ex silentio. There’s simply no mention in this text of any “mother”, the whole thing is entirely a parable, and there’s nothing in the text to refute the understanding in Orthodox Christianity that the Bride of Christ is the Church. Now, we didn’t get to debate this passage of scripture much at the time, before she just wanted to move on enthusiastically to another one of her proof texts about which she was clearly exuberant: Galatians 4:26.

Here we read “But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.” Aha! Our “mother”! “Our mother!” she emphasized dogmatically. So at this point, I explained how “the Jerusalem that is above” is clearly referring to the Church, and if we interpret “mother” here figuratively, it’s understandable as the Church is greater than any one of us individually. And I pointed out how the video her companion showed me asserted that no one else seems to understand this “mother” motiff, yet Roman Catholics are fond of referring to their organization as their “mother” (just as the Watchtower is of theirs), for they believe it to be the Universal Church itself Paul was referring to here.  Both the Unification Church and the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints also teach about “God the Mother” or “Heavenly Mother” quite explicitly, the former matching this cult’s conception to a tee, but we didn’t get into that at the time.

Now, at this point, she did her best to be cordial and kind, but said something akin to “Well, I would rather go with what the Apostle Paul actually has to say…” To which I tried my best not to groan.

Around this time, they informed me their “ride just arrived”, but I did manage to request and schedule an appointment with them for a study before they left. I should have the opportunity to talk with them again in a few short days. In the mean time, I felt that with this entry, I would share some points I didn’t get to make in the spontaneity of the moment.

So, suffice it to say, the key verse that is used to support this whole “God the Mother” concept is Galatians 4:26. Like cultists often do, the context is completely neglected when interpreting this passage, so let’s examine what’s being ignored now…

“For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.” – Galatians 4:22-26

So, when we read the verse in context, it becomes quite apparent why “Jerusalem which is above” is referred to as a “mother”. For what Paul is expressing he says himself is in the context of “allegory” (verse 24). The “bondmaid” Agar (a.k.a Hagar) is the mother of those “born after the flesh”—the natural Israelites. Meanwhile, the “freewoman” (Sarah) is “the mother of us all”, for she allegorically depicts the new covenant—remember that the two women “are the two covenants”.

Now, if we insist that we must interpret the “mother” of the last verse literally and conclude that Paul is affirming that this “mother” is a person or aspect of God, then what exactly does he mean by the “Jerusalem which is above”? If “Jerusalem… above… is the mother”, then how exactly is this mother a city? We can not escape that one must be a figure of the other. Either Jerusalem is somehow a metaphor for a literal mother, or the mother is a metaphor for a literal city.

There is absolutely good reason to assert the latter. In our own language, we often hear expressions of “the father land” or “the mother land”. These days it is not uncommon in environmental movements to hear much talk of “Mother Earth”. The land that sustains us is easily understood as a maternal metaphor.

Not to base our conclusions solely on contemporary usage of terms in our language, however, if we simply examine the text itself it’s quite clear that the counterpart to the “Jerusalem which is above” is the literal city of Jerusalem on Earth. It only makes sense that if one woman (Agar) represents a city, that the other woman (“the mother”) would represent a city—not the other way around.

When we go outside this passage to the rest of scripture, we see this is not the first time we have feminine metaphors employed like this. In Proverbs 1:20-21, wisdom is personified as a woman who cries aloud in the streets. Again, considering Paul is making allegorical comparisons, it only makes sense that this woman too would be the personification of something more impersonal (viz. the Heavenly Jerusalem).

While Revelation is a book that is admittedly written in figurative language, one has to wonder why in Revelation 21 the dimensions and attributes of the heavenly Jerusalem are described in meticulous detail. Is this really the description of God the Mother? It’s hard to see how “gates” (v.13), a “wall” (v.14), specific measurments (vs.15-17), and particular stones for its construction (v.18-20) could all be applied to what is in reality a person. Are these different aspects of God the Mother’s psyche or something? It seems much more likely, that again, the mother is a metaphor for the city—the city is not a metaphor for the mother.

Paul is commonly thought in much tradition to have written the book of Hebrews, and there Paul again describes “the city of the living God” in very spatial terms, where it’s hard to see how this “heavenly Jerusalem” is in full literal reality a person…

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.” – Hebrews 12:22-24

It is simply the consistent witness of scripture that the “bride of Christ” is His people. In the Old Testament, God’s people were depicted as His bride: “I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 31:32). So too, with the “covenant”, Christ—who is God incarnate—has His bride: the Church. And like natural Israel that has its land, spiritual Israel has its own land as well: the heavenly Jerusalem. It is the motherland.

So, in regards to Matthew 22, the bride has not yet “appeared”, for it has not fully formed. I related this analogy to the two missionaries at one point in the course of our conversation: We all start out in life as single-cellular organisms within our mother’s womb. As we grow and grow, we finally become mature enough to emerge from the womb and make our appearance into the world.

Now, like all analogies, it has to be applied in context and it has its limitations and shortcomings. Certainly, in one sense we could say it is God that nourishes us in His spirit and could be related to the “mother” in that analogy. Jesus Himself said “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings” (Luke 13:34). And this is an important quote, as we note that Jesus not only compares Himself to a female organism (a hen), but at the same time speaks of Jerusalem having “children”.

So, while God in certain aspects can be conceptualized in feminine ways, He is always to be understood in His totality as the ultimate Masculine to the feminine Church. The Church is greater than any of its constituent members, and has its orgin—and perhaps its greatest number of members—in Heaven. Just as natural Jerusalem has its “children”, so too are we Christians the children of heavenly Jerusalem.

“God the Mother” is simply and completely foreign to the Bible, and like so many seemingly innocuous doctrines first presented by cultists, it is used to justify something even more aberrant and diabolical.  For instance, as I’ve come to find out in some preliminary research, “God the Mother” is considered in this cult’s theology to be a separate god altogether from “God the Father” who is the one to appear in the various “roles” of Father, Son, and Spirit.  Thus we have the heretical Modalism (most prominent in Oneness Pentecostalism) combined with a blatant affirmation of polytheism (as in Mormonism).

Currently, my appointment is scheduled for Monday, and I’m looking forward to discussing some of these things—as well as much greater objections—in the days and weeks ahead.