God as Father

Why It Isn’t Sexist to Call God ‘Father’

snowy hill with two empty lawn chairsI’m working on a new book these days, and this week’s work has me digging into the way Jesus changes these terms, the way he insists that we each come to God not as a judge or distant monarch or business owner, but as a father. 

Jesus only prays to God using the word Father. Never Lord. Or King. Or Creator of the Universe. Only Father. 

In the Old Testament, according to Janet Martin Soskice, in her wonderful book The Kindness of God, God is referred to as “father” 11 times, and never in prayer. By contrast, in the New Testament, God is referred to as “Father” 170 times, and that is always the way Jesus refers to God in prayer. 

To modern ears, it can seem patriarchal and sexist to only refer to God as Father. But Soskice insists that Jesus does this not in order to underscore God’s masculinity. After all, Jesus also tells us we all must be “born again” by the Holy Spirit. If God is giving birth, God embodies femininity too. Soskice writes that this way of addressing God moves us to “new intimacy on the model of the knowledge of the son.” She claims, “naming God ‘Father’ is an anticipation of great intimacy, new relation, of hope, and of love.” 

The reason we are invited—even instructed—by Jesus to call upon God as our Father is in order for us to understand the abundant and everlasting love God has for each of us, the inheritance God has for each of us, the delight God takes in us, the protection God promises to us, as God’s own sons and daughters.

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