The rise of feminist theology leaves most evangelicals angry and most traditional theologians edgy. "The Lord's Prayer" has — here and there — been fashioned to "The Lady's Prayer." In those circles where Mary already held worship status, she now has real clout; no longer is she the hallowed maiden in blue robes with her eyes downcast in piety. Lately she arrives in patched denim and butched hair. How does one read gender into the Godhead? Our "Father-Mother God who art in heaven," is one way to pray, say some. Or, if you want to be especially fair, "Our Parent who art in heaven." God used to seem safe from the clutches of the politically correct! No more! Who knew, when we first started calling snowmen "snowpersons," things would go this far.
In April 1993, the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology held a conference at St. Olaf's College in Northfield, Minnesota to examine the content of today's theology. Delegates to this conference came to examine the latest, most gender-inclusive forms of piety. Not to be outdone, the World Council of Churches held a more avant-garde conference in nearby Minneapolis to "Re-Image" the Divine. At the conference, Christian women were asked to examine the sexual and sensual side of the divine creator "who is God, and how can we understand her."
The whole thing began as a feminist communion retreat where bread and wine were replaced with the far-more feminist symbols of "milk and honey." The invocation was prayed by one woman anxious to replace the all-too masculine Jehovah with the Divine Sophia as the final face of the true God:
Our Maker Sophia, we are women in your image: With the hot blood of our wombs we give form to new life. With the courage of our convictions we pour out lifeblood for justice. Sophia, creator God, let your milk and honey flow .... Our sweet Sophia, we are women in your image: with nectar ... we invite a lover, we birth a child; with our warm body fluids we remind the world of its pleasures and sensation .... Our guide, Sophia, we are women in your image: with our moist mouths we kiss a tear, we smile encouragement. With the honey of wisdom in our mouths we prophesy a full humanity to all the peoples.1
Years ago when Helen Reddy, accepting an award, said she was grateful to her Mother in heaven, who could know things would turn out this way. Gradually, the basso voice at the Burning Bush seems to have been treblized by the theological good-time girls.
Carl Braaten has correctly evaluated the Minnesota conference when he surmised:
Whatever else is to be said of such worship, it is, of course, the opposite of biblical faith, an amateurish but more than sufficiently explicit reinvention of the fertility-worship of Ashtoreth and Baal, against which the faith of Israel defined itself through centuries of history with the Lord God, and for our liberation from which Christ died. Had this been just another conference of witches and channellers in Southern California, it could be dismissed for the undisguised foolishness it is. But thousands of churchly women, with a few male follow-travelers, attended: professors of "theology," pastors, chaplains, central bureaucrats, synod and diocesan officials, students. And it was held in a demographic center of mainline Protestantism."2
In this post-modern culture God is daily being refashioned in whatever image best fits the various sectors of our complex cultural matrix. To the gays, feminists and eco-enthusiasts, He has been refashioned into swankier cultural goddesses. These old Baals now are fashioned into Astartes, exalted above the biblical Jehovah. Each of them seems to be saying, "I am not so much the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as the goddess of Sarah, Rebecca and Rachel, and you have missed my true, soft, feminine, aggressive nature. I'm the gay god, the feminist god, the naturalist god, I am the god Humana, I am the god Scientia, I am Narcissus. Enlightenment. I am the goddess Sophia, Gaia, Dianetis, Silva, Zen."
Perhaps no century than our own has been more like the first century into which Christianity was born. Christianity triumphed over Rome, not because she explored culturally acceptable avenues of approval, rather the triumph came because, in the center of all that diversity, Paul relied on the foolishness of preaching and was determined to say one sure thing to a culture dying blind in their fierce dedication to very small gods:
And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of Spirit and power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. - 1 Corinthians 2:5 KJV
When you hear anyone pray, "Come Holy Spirit and be queen of our lives and hasten the coming of the queendom of God," it could be that Sophia is lurking in the shadows and that the Apostle Paul's determination to preach Christ is about to be replaced by someone merely preaching Christine.
1. Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson, Either/Or, The Gospel or Neopaganism (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995) p. 3.
2. Ibid, p. 3-4.
Calvin Miller is a professor at Southwestern Seminary.