God Our Mother?

Paul Lamey

God Our Mother?


The blistering heat of an Alabama June weighed me down as I stood graveside, attending the funeral of my good friend's mother. Sadly, the words of the officiating minister weighed down my heart even more. Bedecked in garb intended to mark the liturgical season, the matronly minister raised her hands and admonished us all to join with her in saying the Lord's Prayer. What she proceeded to say was infinitely more damaging than the fact that she stood in a position that she was unqualified to hold.  

 "Let us call on God our mother when we pray," she said. After which, she solemnly bowed and led the gathering of mourners in her radically modified "Lord's Prayer." 

Yes, I've read the books and have listened to the arguments of those who think that calling God "our mother" is not only sound logic but also good counsel. But I remain unconvinced for all the reasons that have been rehearsed in almost every major systematic theology. Others have addressed the issue with great skill and clarity, and there is no need to rehearse the arguments.[1]

Instead, the practical question I want to address is: Does it really make a difference in our lives if we think of God as mother rather than father? Or is it just an issue of semantics? After all, the Bible does say that God is a "Spirit" (John 4:24). 

The problem with that sort of thinking is it is only tethered to human logic. Knowing all too well how inconsistent we can be, we are better off asking: "What does the Bible consistently teach?" Words have meaning, and we must respond to what the text actually says not what we would wish to insert. Since the Bible is not a buffet line of semantically arranged choices to pick and choose from, we use the word "Father" when we pray because: 

1.      The Word "Father" reveals His divine nature. 

The Triune God is one, eternally existing in three divine Persons who are equal in essence but different in personal expressions through one undivided and eternal divine nature. What distinguishes the Father from the Son and Holy Spirit is not deity, for they are all equally and fully God. The distinguishing mark is the fact that the Father has a unique relationship with the Son and a unique relationship with Holy Spirit. 

Yes, the Bible does occasionally describe God using humanly feminine terms (Deuteronomy 32:18; Isaiah 42:14; Isaiah 66:13). However the context of such passages makes it abundantly clear that these are metaphors and personifications. The Bible never uses feminine terms, names, or titles to invoke the Father. Rather, it uses masculine terminology. In other words, "Father" is not just a description of God, it's who He is. 

Calling God "Father" is not like adding personification to an inanimate object. He reveals Himself as Father on every page of Scripture because this is who He really is. "Father" is how He truly relates to the Son (Romans 8:31, Luke 2:49, John 5:36, Ephesians 1:3, Philippians 2:9) and how He truly relates to us (Matthew 5:45; Romans 8:31; Hebrews 12:7; James 1:17). Therefore, we cannot abandon or replace His Fatherly identity with an alternate word.  

2.      The Word "Father" reveals His divine work. 

The Son, Jesus Christ, came in to the world to reveal God (John 1:18). This God is the Father. In one sense, the Father is hidden and inaccessible to all mankind because of the barrier of sin. Yet, the Father is revealed to those who come by way of the Son. The incarnation, death, and resurrection all sprang from the eternal relationship that the Father has with the Son (Psalms 2:7; Isaiah 53:1; 1 Corinthians 1:28; Ephesians 1:9).  To have Jesus is to have the Father—the One who is the master architect and purposeful designer of our redemption and coming consummation (Matthew 11:27; John 10:15; 1 John 1:13). For this reason, the Apostle calls us to "give thanks to the Father" (Colossians 1:12). 

3.      The Word "Father" reveals His divine purpose. 

Finally, the eternal purpose of God for us is to bring glory to the Father. Again, this is perfectly accomplished in the work of Christ the Son (John 6:38; John 8:42; John 8:28; 1 Corinthians 15:25). Furthermore, the result of the Son's work means that we, as a kingdom of priests, are to bring glory to the Father (Revelation 1:6). One expression of this, Paul says, is our love for one another. As we abound in Christ-like love for the body of Christ, the Lord is using this to shape us in holiness for our future meeting before the Father (1 Thessalonians 3:11).  

      Our Fatherless Generation 

The mention of the word "father" is a painful occurrence for many. Ours is a generation that is quickly becoming fatherless. Sadly, many dads are missing-in-action or aloof from their families. This is all the more reason to open God's Word and be reminded that God is the Father who will never leave us or forsake us. What love He has sealed for us in the blood of His Son. Our Father, who is in heaven, has dwelt among us, given us life, and opened up Hebrews 10:19 for us to enjoy a fully restored relationship with Him, now and forever. 

Dr. Paul Lamey is Pastor of Preaching at Grace Community Church, Huntsville, Alabama. He and his wife, Julie, have four children. You can read more from Paul at his blog, expository thoughts and follow him on Twitter @paulslamey.

[1] See for example, Randy Stinson, "Our Mother Who Art in Heaven: A Brief Overview and Critique of Evangelical Feminists and the Use of Feminine God-Language," Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood 8/2 (Fall 2003): 20-34.  



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