Sunday, May 22, 2005

God imged as big Sky Dadday or great adminstrarotr in sky?

I have traffic hit counters that trace where visitors are coming from. We have quite a collection of international reders:

45 United States
23 United Kingdom
8 Thailand
5 Ireland
3 Canada
2 Australia
2 Singapore
2 - -
1 Korea, Republic Of
1 Indonesia


I do notice that I've lost ground among UK readers. I guess I'm just not as interesting to UK people as I used to be.

The reason I mention it is because I can follow the links and see where they came from, that is what sight brought to me. One such site was a post on some message board in which the poster made the remarkable observation that the God of the Bible is not a very good administator. The poster seemed to be quite serious about it. Of curse one might think having a whole universe to run is a big deal, but this guy seemed rather emphatic that God has really screwed it all up. For example, all those wars in the Bible. He made such an incredibly frail creation in man, we just canm't keep oursevles out of trouble; all God's fault of course. Atheism forbid that we should ever take responsiblity for our own actions. Its' all because God is such an inept creator that he just couldn't make a perfect speicies.

Of course, unique and original as this line of reasoning must be, it seems flawed somehow. I think the real flaw is in the incessent need that sketpics have to blame teh father. Its' truely freudian, they playout their battles with the superego by construing God as the Big Sky Daddy. Of course i must say, the Bible doesn't help matters that much by occaisoinally portraying God in ths manner. The Bible, chruches, religion in general all set up the image of the big man in the sky with a white beard on a big throne watching us all and decing who get's zapped. That kind of thinking hangs over religious thought like a stench, causing us to reflect upon God as though he were just another drunk in bar on saturday night. We all probably have a sneaking supscion that we could do better than the big white beard guy. We probably could, the thing is, that's not God. It's hard to think of it as not God, because incessently relate to God in such a way as to give that impression. It also could be the case that in those passages where God is portrayed this was a similar public image probelm from that time and perhaps the author's own Fruedian thing at work back then.

The truth of it is there are coutner images where God is imaged as female, or even non human, in the actual Bible. The number of passages in the OT where God is picutured sitting as a big man on a throne are not that many. I can think of Job, and couple in Isaiah, and a couple in Esserah. The word used for God and most often tralstaed "Lord," El Shaddi, means "brest."


"El Shaddai The God who is Sufficient

from the website Hebrew Letters by SARAHLEAH



EL SHADDAI is usually translated as GOD ALMIGHTY - EL, meaning GOD and SHADDAI being a combination word - SHE, meaning WHO and DAI meaning ENOUGH. EL SHADDAI GOD WHO IS ENOUGH, GOD WHO IS SELF-SUFFICIENT (Hagigah 12a). SHADDAI may also be from the Akkadian sadu, meaning MOUNTAIN, or the Hebrew sadeh, meaning BREAST. EL SHADDAI would then be translated respectively as GOD OF THE MOUNTAIN or GOD OF THE BREAST. Variant spelling - EL SHADAI “Adonai appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai” (Exodus 6:3).

(Zohar. 1984. Tr. Harry Sperling et al. New York: Soncino. 3:130).


Jacob giving last instructions to his sons said:


Gen 49:24-25.(24) "But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God (El) of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:)25 Even by the God (El) of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty (Shaddai), who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb..."

(For other references to this same usage, see Isaiah 60:15-16 and Isaiah 66:10-13.)


For the full list of female imagery of God:

There are also many ensconces in scripture where God is imaged in female or motherly terms:


Deu 32:11 "As an eagle stirs up her nest, and hovers over her young, and spreads her wings, takes them up, and bears them on her wings.

Deu 32 :18 "Of the Rock that bore you, you were unmindful, and have forgotten God that formed you." (that one may be hard to get, baring children--female image).

Job 38:8 "Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb."

Job 38:29 "From whose womb did the ice come forth, and who has given birth to the hoarfrost of heaven."

Isa 45 9-10 Woe to you who strive with your Maker, earthen vessels with the potter. Does the clay say to the one who fashions it: What are you making, or Your work has no handles? Woe to anyone who says to a father: What are you begetting? or to a woman: With what are you in labour?

Isa 49:15 "Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. (comparing God's attitude toward Israel with a woman's attitude toward her children).

Isa 66:13 As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

Hosea 13:8 "I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs, and will tear open the covering of their heart";

Mat 23:37 and Luk 13:34 Jerusalem, "Jerusalem, the city that kills its prophets and stones those who are sent to it. How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing."


But my point is not just that God can be imaged as female. A female could possibly also be thought of as a bad administrtor. There are also images of God that compare the divine to non human: hens, bears, egals, chickens, whirl winds, consuming fires, sotrms, darkness, light. The point is really that God is not an adminstrator. There is no passage that implys that God set up the world to opporate as some form of public works project. Even though God is often compared to kings, taht is no reason to understand creation as a Kingdom in the sinese of a nation state.

The virulent atheist is fond of thinking of religious people as week and needing a crutch. We could just as eaisly think of the atheist (or at least that knee jerk type of atheist) as obressed with castrating the father, and needing an authority figure to best. The problem is in trying to think of God in a way that doesnt conjure up some athropomophic image projected into the heavens, while not losing the warm fuzzy of the parental images. I don't think this is possible. There is no such image that is both human and none human at the same time. Givent he track record of athropomorphizing, it might not be a bad idea to try to think of God in other ways; like the laws of physics for examle, or as some kind of strange attractor (even strage attractors are not real things).

2 comments:

tinythinker said...

Some folks want to have their cake and eat it too--God is the law of physics oh but there is a real Kingdom of Heaven or Pit of Hell/oblivion for actual "souls". Most of the Bible is myth pointing to deeper truths about the human condition but every event in the life of Jesus must be 100% literal/histroically accurate. I think that kind of inconsistency and the extreme fundamentalist view(s) are more of a problem than what a few atheists think.

J.L. Hinman said...

yea, the problem of litteralizing the metaphor. But the other problem is the oppossite extreme, making it so meaphorical that it means nothing.

I think Kierkegaard was right, we have experince it for it mean anything. When we experince the reality of God we have, what is for us in our hearts, a "concrete" sense of meaning, even though we may not be able to put it into words.