Driscoll's God: only metaphorically Father?
Wayne, Henry and I myself have all had a few things to say about Mark Driscoll's article Theological reasons for why Mars Hill preaches out of the ESV. But I want to express my agreement with him on part of what he writes, near the end:
Theologically speaking, God does not have a biological gender because God is Spirit, without physical anatomy (John 4:24), and is therefore not a man (Numbers 23:19). In using the word “He,” the Bible is not saying that God is merely a man, but rather that God is a unique person who reveals Himself with terms such as “Father” when speaking about Himself. ... we acknowledge that Scripture does infrequently refer to God in terms that are more feminine in nature, such as a hen who cares for her chicks (Matthew 23:37). Nonetheless, such language is both infrequent and metaphorical because God is no more a woman than God is a chicken.This is a good argument (although of course the word "He" is in translations rather than the original). But since, as Driscoll agrees, God is not a man, God is no more a man than God is a chicken. Therefore we must say that masculine language about God, just like feminine language about him, is metaphorical. Thus, by Driscoll's own argument, God is only metaphorically Father. Indeed, Driscoll seems to confirm that this is his view with the following:
John Calvin said that God uses terms such as “Father” to speak to us in baby talk, much like a parent uses words that their young child can understand in order to effectively communicate with them.Now I have no problem at all with the statement that God is only metaphorically Father. But I wonder how acceptable this position would be among the Reformed theologians and preachers with whom Driscoll keeps company. For the implication of this being only a metaphor is that it is not an attribute of God, not a part of his actual being, but only a convenient way of talking about him. The Trinity is no longer "Father, Son and Holy Spirit", but "One who is like a father, One who is like a son, and ...". How acceptable is that kind of reformulation?
Also, if there is no essential way in which God is male or masculine, there is also no way in which human males resemble him more closely than human females do. Indeed this is clear from Genesis 1:27, from the very words "male and female" which (as Henry points out) Driscoll wrongly accuses some translations of omitting.
At this point Driscoll's position is completely opposite to that of Philip Lancaster, author of Family Man, Family Leader, as quoted at Adventures of Mercy (see also here and here, thanks again to Henry for these links, which I found only as I was well into writing this post):
God is masculine. He is not feminine. He is not an androgyny, a mixture of masculine and feminine.Lancaster seems to base his generally complementarian teaching about the family on this position. Well, at least he is consistent, but his position does not seem to be the theologically orthodox one, at least if the following from Wikipedia (quoted here) is reliable:
Christianity does not regard the omnipotent God as being male, God the Father is genderlessDriscoll, however, is orthodox on this point:
God does not have a biological genderbut his logic is faulty. In the same article he writes:
Scripture states that God made us “male and female” (for example, Genesis 1:27). Consequently, in God’s created order, there is both equality between men and women (because both are His image-bearers) and distinction (because men and women have differing roles).Indeed this equality is a consequence of this scripture. But the distinction is not a consequence. Indeed, while "differing roles" may not be contradicted by a shared image of God (and differing gender roles in reproduction are indisputable), the kind of view which Lancaster has, in which leadership is a male attribute, is certainly contradicted by Genesis 1:27.
The previously mentioned Wikipedia article also quotes the radical feminist Mary Daly:
If God is male, then the male is God.Lancaster's arguments seem to confirm this. I am glad that Driscoll avoids going down this wrong road. But I fear for some of his complementarian friends. Lancaster already seems to have moved into ideas contradicted by Scripture and rejected as unorthodox. But it seems that these wrong ideas are the only ones logically compatible with complementarianism. So will other complementarians follow? Driscoll manages to be orthodox and a complementarian only because he doesn't notice that this is a contradiction at the heart of his theology.