Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob Sarah, Rebecca and Rachel

Cranmer has been aware of the aggressive feminisation agenda within the Church for a very long time. He has debated with feminist theologians, occasionally heard in church God referred to a ‘she’, and read bowdlerised scriptures in which all references to anything divinely masculine are specifically neutered. After millennia of patriarchy, the matriarchs are on the warpath, and a thousand Hattie Jacques are queuing up to be made bishops.

Grateful that Cranmer’s Prayer Book is unscathed, it is concerning to hear that the feminisation agenda has now infiltrated the prayer books of Judaism. It seems that YHWH is no longer a ‘He’, according to the Movement for Reform Judaism which has produced a ‘gender-equal’ prayer book.

The latest edition of ‘Forms of Prayer’ mentions in the Amidah not only the ‘God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’ but also the ‘God of Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel’. All masculine terms like ‘Father’, ‘King’ or ‘Lord’ are expunged, being replaced by gender-neutral terms like ‘Eternal One’, ‘Creator’ or ‘Ancestor’. Their reasoning for such a development is explained on their website:

Reform Judaism is living Judaism. It is a religious philosophy rooted in nearly four millennia of Jewish tradition, whilst actively engaged with modern life and thought. This means both an uncompromising assertion of eternal truths and values and an open, positive attitude to new insights and changing circumstances. It is a living, evolving faith that Jews of today and tomorrow can live by.

Reform executive director Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand said: "It is clear that faith is still regarded as hugely important and relevant in the modern world. Nevertheless faith movements still have a long way to go to bring themselves into line with modern attitudes on gender. Faith is still seen as fundamentally discriminatory and still almost exclusively promotes male images of God, with which only a minority any longer identifies. The launch of our new prayer book can play an important role in challenging such thinking and re-engaging those who feel cut off by current attitudes."

No, Rabbi, your innovation alienates just as much as it re-engages. Since God is not a created being, he is not bound by male or female, but he is possessing of personhood – he has a mind, a will, an intellect, and emotions. Anthropomorphism demands gender appropriation for he is manifestly not an ‘it’. He is Lord and King, omnipotent and omniscient, alpha and omega. To neuter God is to accord with the programmatic elimination of the importance of the father, the need for masculinity, the necessity of testosterone-charged maleness.

Christianity is also a living faith. It is a religious philosophy rooted in two millennia of Christian tradition, whilst actively engaged with modern life and thought. This means both an uncompromising assertion of eternal truths and values and an open, positive attitude to new insights and changing circumstances. It is a living, evolving faith that Christians of today and tomorrow can live by.

But it is bound by tradition and certain historic factors: Jesus was male, he chose 12 male disciples, and, while the New Testament speaks abundantly of equality between the genders, there is also acknowledgement of the manifest differences. A woman is not, as Plato might say, an ‘inferior man’, but a creature of complementary attributes.

Yet Reform Judaism believes that ‘all religion is provisional and that continuing revelation is an awesome reality’.

Who discerns the veracity of this revelation? Who declares infallibly a new doctrine or eternal truth?

Cranmer awaits the declaration of their prophets that Yeshua is, after all, their Messiah.

Unless they are waiting for an hermaphrodite.


Anonymous billy said...

"Unless they are waiting for a hermaphrodite."

A little tetchy today, Your Grace?


28 May 2008 at 10:48  
Anonymous The Welsh Jacobite said...

"A woman is not, as Plato might say, an ‘inferior man’"

Would he?

References, please.

Aristotle (not Plato) is often alleged to have said this, but this is based on a misinterpretation. See:

28 May 2008 at 11:15  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Welsh Jacobite,

Certainly - The Republic, Book V, though it may be more accurate to say 'as Socrates might say'.

It is not that Plato asserts that women may not attain the rank of Guardian or Auxiliary roles traditionally occupied by men, but that in some respects they simply cannot do what men can do, or not as well, and any attempts to do so render them 'inferior men'. They simply do not possess sufficient testosterone. Incidentally, he would not dispute that there are also things that women do better than men.

28 May 2008 at 11:25  
Anonymous Dr. Irene Lancaster said...

YHVH is not a noun, but a verb signifying 'becoming'. It is composed of letters that were used as vowels before the Hebrew vowel system was introduced, around 700 CE.

YHVH is impossible to pronounce per se. The same verbal root also constitutes the 'I will be that I will be' of the burning bush episode experienced by Moses (not 'I am that I am', which is static).

The verb 'to be' is either past or future in biblical Hebrew. This signifies the flux of divinity; the fact that divinity cannot be grasped; and the sheer dynamism of divinity.

YHVH is also transcendent, and as such beyond gender.

28 May 2008 at 11:25  
Blogger Homophobic Horse said...

A theology like this is is a self-revelation of the psychic background and, philosophically, a presumption. Psychologically it amounts to an invasion by the Unconscious. The modification of centuries old scripture to suit personal tastes reduces the transcendent to subjective form, gives banalities the charm of novelty, pass's off commonplaces as searching wisdom. Such a terminology is a symptom of weakness, ineptitude, and lack of substance. Put more simply, the lord is not a fertility goddess or Great Mother, it is something more terrible. The lord's characteristics, by reference to scripture, are more like that of an earthly king.

28 May 2008 at 11:49  
Blogger Tomrat said...

Your Grace,

You need to read some of the works of Jacob Prasch:

He is an evangelical Messianic Jew who has dealt with the departing of ancient Judaism into the modern form of mystic hoccum they've adopted - this is the sort of rubbish that he's predicted as a result of their departure from the Torah.

28 May 2008 at 13:17  
Blogger ultramontane grumpy old catholic said...

Your Grace

OK, the men have got the Deity, let's see what the girls have got:

Mother Earth, Mother Nature, Mother Hubbard (aka Barbara Follett - chieftainess of the nulabour wimmin in the HofC see Wikipedia)

All ships, aircraft, motorcars...

What more do they want?

I am reminded of the the old Arthurian tale about Sir Gawain, searching through the world to find out what women really want. And the answer was 'To rule over men'

It's all a bit silly, but when this economic depression comes fully upon us, and fuel shortages, more al qaeda atrocities, and if the global warming occurs that the environmentalists are gleefully threatening , I daresay the feminists (along with the rest of us) will have higher priority things to worry about e.g surviving.

28 May 2008 at 13:24  
Anonymous hear o israel said...

your grace
broadly with you , but the issue of subordinancy has to be sorted out, time and time again i hear the old femenine bug bear that "eve was adams rib" "she was the easy to sway and then adam astray" "jesus was a man" (he was also part god .people take these pieces of scripture for all sorts of thinking that religion is bad for women and they need equality !!!.

its a bit warped at the doctrinal level , the salvation of christ is no different for man or woman, but i dont equate that as being the same as ministry .

ican live with some women clergy , but i cant see how gene robinsons vestments can be worn correctly . he appears to be defining his own life style as non sinful !!

28 May 2008 at 14:38  
Anonymous fr william said...

Ultramontane GOC —
Though admittedly not relevant in the case of the Jews, for Xtians we have Mother Church, not to mention the Mother of God!

28 May 2008 at 16:33  
Blogger ultramontane grumpy old catholic said...

Fr William


Some also say that the soul is feminine. I'm not sure whether that is a feminist spin, though I am fairly certain that there are earlier references e.g. Portrait of an Artist.

Perhaps you or His Grace might comment on this point

28 May 2008 at 16:53  
Anonymous steadmancinques said...

With the greatest respect to Your Grace, I submit the following;

The question of gender identification of the components of the Trinity, without falling into the Modalist heresy, is a problem for Man (people!), not for God. Study carefully Andrei Rublev's unsurpassable ikon of the meeting with Abraham at the Oaks of Mamre; the androgynous nature of the three forms is straightway apparent. The Holy Spirit is consistently regarded as having a feminine persona throughout Hebrew scripture, but that did not prevent the Early Fathers identifying the ascribed characteristics with Jesus called the Christ.

The assertion that the company of the disciples was exclusively male is plainly contradicted in the Gospels; the word used for the women at the cross, Mary Magadalene, Salome and Mary, Mother of God in John is the same as for the male followers, who had fled after Gethsemane. Only Luke seeks to diminish their role, not even deigning to name them; but then Luke consistently enhances the importance of Simon Peter, as do other texts which reduce the status of these women.

I would go further; if, as is generally accepted, the criteria for apostleship is a) having seen the risen Lord and b) having been entrusted with a mission, then Mary Magdalene, from John's account, is as much an apostle as Paul, who laid down these criteria, for she saw the risen Lord and was instructed to tell the other disciples (of both sexes) that He would meet them in Galilee.

I am very happy with women's ministry, and I see nothing canonical in rejecting people whose reproductive organs are inside the body rather than outside.

28 May 2008 at 17:01  
Anonymous mararnold said...

With all due respect (and I read your blog with great interest), I am rather confused by your problems with "feminisation".
It seems to confuse two separate issues.
One is whether we accept women's vocations to preach in the church. It followis a Catholic argumentation that all the disciples were male, therefore women have no role as pastors or priests. As has been pointed out, this isn't an accurate portrayal of the biblical texts and completely ignore the fact that the bible was written in a certain historical and social context, which included the oppression and/or exclusion of women, slaves and non-Romans/non-Jews.
For a non-Anglican, the spectacle of Anglicans getting upset over this issue has been bewildering and at times grotesque. I come from a tradition that regards the details of church administration, such as whether to have bishops or follow a congregational model and including women's right to preach and celebrate communion as externals, an idea that follows Melanchthon's theories.As these issues are not essential to the Christian faith, they are they changeable as times and societies change. "Sabbath was made for man, not man for sabbath" could be regarded as a biblical justification, though I'm sure Melanchthon gave the better justifications ;-)
The second issue you raise, the alteration of Biblical texts to match current preoccupations is far more troubling and in my mind degenerates into forgery. The bible is what it is, no more and no less and we don't alter other historical documents (such as the American constitution with its regulations on slavery) to fit our ideas. As adult Christians, we are quite capable of reflecting and sometimes ignoring parts of the Bible (e.g. the legislation on how to marry your slave girl), which are no longer literally relevant to our situation.
The third issue you briefly mention (using female pronouns for God) troubles me not at all. God is beyond gender and using such pronouns is a matter of comfort and personal taste, rather than revelation (except in the case of Jesus, who was unarguably male to to call him "she" would again be tantamount to forgery).

29 May 2008 at 09:27  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Archbishop Cranmer:

I have recently heard some rumblings in our conservative synagogue that we should no longer think of God as someone with a long flowing white beard, but rather as someone who is clean shaven.

Since I agree with you 100% on the issue posted above, I get the feeling you and I might see eye to eye on other issues as well (excluding anything pertaining to Yeshua, of course);

Since we have been imagining Him as a bearded man for so long, it is entirely inappropriate to all of a sudden change gears and start visualizing Him as an angry, white-haired, CLEAN SHAVEN man stomping around in heaven. I am utterly convinced that you would tend to agree, but if you could lend a few words to confirm this it would be greatly appreciated.


9 June 2008 at 00:33  

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