Saturday, August 1, 2009

+ It's a surprisingly common misunderstanding that the Christian Church sees God as "masculine" -- or even as somehow male. This is especially surprising since we've historically -- since the very beginning, in fact -- been very explicit about the fact that God is a bodiless spirit.

In the fourth century there arose a controversy about "Anthropomorphism." There were some who mistook the physical metaphors relating to God in the Old Testament as literally true.

Saint Kassian the Roman (known in the West as Saint J0hn Cassian) tells a poignant story of an elderly monk who had been for many years misled by an anthropocentric view of God. When the issue came to a head and was clearly rejected by the Orthodox, this monk broke out weeping, and cried out: They have taken away my God.

We mourn for his anguish, but his views were simply wrong. We grieve with him because he was misled.

Yet many in our time and place are similarly misled, thinking that if there's nothing of us in God (particularly, in our culture so saturated with sex, if God has no gender) then God is wholly alien: perhaps even frighteningly so.

Nevertheless, Orthodox Christians maintain the ancient truth: God is not us. God is not a part of created being. There is no gender in God.

This point is extremely difficult for people in our time to grasp. Many of our contemporary pagans want a "mother" god or even an androgynous god. It seems especially difficult for people in our culture to accept that the Christian God is a genderless God. Many make a point of insisting that the Christian God is "masculine" or even "male" just so they'll feel justified in their rejection of Christianity.

But such a rejection is false since its based on a misrepresentation of Christian doctrine.

Below is a quote from an important contemporary Orthodox theologian. It indicates the importance of abandoning any concept of God that can be derived from things we can know.

An important element in the eastern Christian understanding of God is the notion that God, in His essence, is totally transcendant and unknowable and that, strictly speaking, God can only be designated by negative attributes: it is possible to say what God is not, but it is impossible to say what He is.

A purely negative or apophatic theology -- the only one applicable to God, in the Orthodox view -- does not lead to agnosticism, however, because God reveals Himself personally -- as Father, Son and Holy Spirit -- and also in His acts, or "energies."

Father John Meyendorff
article in Encyclopedia Brittanica

No comments:

Post a Comment