Does it really matter if we think of God as our mother rather than our father? After all, the Bible does say that God is "spirit" (John 4:24).
The problem with that sort of thinking is it is only connected to human logic, which can be inconsistent. Words have meaning, and we must respond to what the Bible says, not what we want it to say. So, we are better off asking: "What does the Bible consistently teach about God?"
God the Father in the Bible
In the Old Testament, God is referenced as the Father of Israel or of a specific person 15 times, according to Baker’s research. Fatherhood imagery is used for God elsewhere in the Old Testament, but not very often. However, in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), Jesus calls God “Father” 65 times and more than 100 times in the Gospel of John.
- “Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8)
- “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 18:19)
Female Imagery for God in the Bible
The Bible also, occasionally, describes God with humanly feminine terms and female imagery. However, the context of such passages are clearly metaphors and personifications.
- “You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth.” (Deuteronomy 32:18)
- “The LORD will march out like a champion, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies. For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant.” (Isaiah 42:13-14).
- “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 66:13)
In 26 instances throughout Scripture, feminine imagery is used to describe the activity of God, even a characteristic of God, but never is feminine language used to address God in title or name. Rather, Scripture uses masculine terminology.
In other words, "Father" is not just a description of God, it's who He is.
Interestingly, only five of those 26 instances are found in the New Testament; the rest are in the Old Testament. After the incarnation of Jesus Christ, we find much fewer references to God with female imagery.
The Word "Father" Reveals God’s Divine Nature
The Triune God (the Trinity) 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 the Holy Spirit is not deity because 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.
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.
Portions of the content above are adapted excerpts from “God Our Mother?” by Paul Lamey on Christianity.com.
Why do we want to call God “Mother”?
It’s easy to imagine why someone would personally prefer to address God in prayer as Mother instead of Father.
1. Calling God “Father” feels hurtful.
For some, the word “father” can carry negative connotations. Thinking of God as one’s Heavenly Father can be complicated by hurtful experiences with a human father.
This pain is valid. The urge to ease it in prayer by calling God by another name is understandable. But it’s not God’s true name. And covering up a pain with a lie will likely cause more damage. As Jesus said in John 8:32, it’s the truth that sets us free.
2. Calling God “Mother” feels inclusive.
For others, the objection to calling God “Father,” or at least including the name “Mother,” may not be rooted in pain but in intellect and one’s modern sensibility of gender equality.
One may think: It’s okay, even fair, for Christians to call God “Mother” every once in a while because he’s not a man anyway.
God is a complex being who included women when he created Adam and Eve, the start of the human race, in his own image. Genesis 1:27 says, “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Therefore, females are just as created in God’s image as males are. Remembering that God is spirit, not a sexual male or female as humans are, is important. We are made in his image, not the other way around.
Still, if we look at how God revealed himself to us in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 31:9) and how Jesus, the Word incarnate (John 1:14), addressed God in prayer (Matthew 6:9), we can see that God is indeed our good father (Psalm 106:1).
3. The idea of a Heavenly Mother is a core belief of World Mission Society Church of God.
This cult, World Mission Society Church of God, began in South Korea in 1964 by a man, Ahn Sahng-Hong. The belief in God the Mother is important in this cult and is a popular evangelism topic.
Everyone has incomplete and broken ideas about who God really is. But, gracefully, he is the God who wants his children to seek him, discover his heart (Psalm 105:4, Jeremiah 29:11-14.), and delight in relationship with him (Psalm 16:11, John 15:11).
“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us,” (Acts 17:26-27).
BibleStudyTools.com, Baker’s Dictionary of Biblical Theology: Fatherhood of God.
Christianity.com, “God Our Mother?” Paul Lamey.
FocusOnTheFamily.com, “God…the Father?” Vance Fry. 2016.
GotQuestions.org, “What is the World Mission Society Church of God, and what do they believe?”
Journal For Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, “Our Mother Who Art in Heaven: A Brief Overview and Critique of Evangelical Feminists and the Use of Feminine God-Language.” Randy Stinson. 2003.
Photo Credit: GettyImages/Punnarong