The conjunction of Trinity Sunday and Father’s Day had me thinking yesterday about the fact that we are urged by Christ to call God our Father. Every so often you hear someone claim that we only call the first person of the trinity “God the Father” because it has been men doing the talking through most of Christian history. Had it been women in charge of things, so the claim goes, we might be talking about “God the Mother” instead.
It strikes me that the basic problem with this point of view, from a human perspective, is that it assumes that the relation of men to their fathers is more like the relationship between women and their mothers than it is like that between women and their fathers. This suggests that sex is the primary determining factor of the relationship we have with our parents — one sort of relationship with the parent of the same sex, a different sort of relationship with the parent of the opposite sex.
Like all mistakes, there is, I think, some element of truth to this. The parent of one’s own sex serves as an example (even if in sad circumstances a negative one) of how the child will be a parent. Sons know that some day they may be fathers. Daughters know that some day they may be mothers. And yet, this sense cannot be the sense in which we see God as father. We will not grow up to be God like Him, we will not become creators of our own universes. We will not become all knowing, all powerful and eternal. So the sense in which we (or according to that theory, men) see God as a father is not the “I could be like him someday” sense.
At the more basic level, it seems to me that “father” and “mother” are archetypes which are different — and although sons and daughters may relate to their father differently, the ways in which both sons and daughters relate to and understand their father are more similar to each other than the way daughters relate to their mother is to the way sons relate to their father.
When Jesus told us to call God our Father, He didn’t mean in the most literal and physical sense, one which would have come naturally to many pagans at that time. God the Father does not come down, like Zeus to some pretty girl, and father each one of us. And yet, we understand God as our Father because as human persons our understanding of “father” is an imperfect understanding of what our relationship with God the Father is.
As such, it seems to me that all of us, men and women, can equally relate to God as being our Father. If anything, the difference in this for men and women would not be that men see God as a father while women see Him as a mother, but rather that men relate to Him as sons while women relate to Him as daughters.