BACKGROUND TO BUDDY #26

Note to the reader: the series of articles entitled Background to Buddy were extracted from a Christian nonfiction work that formed the basis for the novel Buddy, which is available from either Amazon or Signalman Publishing. Directions are noted on the page entitled Buddy on this blog site. The purpose of this work was to explain the reasons why I consider the Holy Spirit to be functionally female. Adventure episodes and humor were added for the entertainment of both the reader and the author.

Chapter 13: An Incomplete Resistance to a Female Holy Spirit

While there may exist a reactionary attitude within the conservative Christian Churches that would work to resist any thought of assigning female attributes to the Holy Spirit, there already exists a large body of Christians, a good many of whom are conservative in outlook, who may be sympathetic to that thought, as their current pattern of worship already is quite close to it. Moreover, the pattern has existed in this Christian community for centuries.

For a very long time the Roman Catholic Church, almost certainly sensing that the feminine has been missing in the traditional view of the Godhead, has attempted to embellish upon the basic Trinitarian view of God by inserting Mary1 into the central core of the Christian faith. With the passage of time Mary has increased in stature in the Roman dogma, until now her veneration approaches actual deification so closely that reminders are carefully pronounced to the effect that she must still be considered to be fully human. Regardless of such disclaimers, the laity within the Catholic Church makes little differentiation regarding her between veneration and worship. Mary is prayed to; she has taken her place alongside Jesus as Co-redemptrix; she is said to have been conceived without the original sin of Adam; and she was even perceived as having been assumed bodily into heaven at the end of her life.

In their Everything Catholicism Book1, Catholic authors Helen Keeler and Susan Grimbly furnish a lucid, easy-to-digest overview of the Catholic faith and her differences from her Protestant counterparts. Among these differences, they note that “Protestants don’t believe, as Catholics do, in the special significance of Mary.” From my own Protestant experience, I would certainly agree with that assessment. The Catholic veneration of Mary is, in fact, thought of by many Protestants as a significant error. Given my personal belief in why the Catholic Church has been motivated toward this veneration, I believe the Catholic Church is far more correct in this than her Protestant siblings.

In his book Mary for all Christians1, John Macquarrie, past Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity and Canon of Christ Church, University of Oxford, gives us a taste for the urge to place Mary on a pedestal in the following commentary:

“Clearly, any ‘co-redemption’ or ‘mediation’ in which Mary has a place is subordinate to and derivative from the redeeming work of Christ. This has always been the teaching of the Church, and from time to time it has even been felt necessary to cool down the fervour of Marian devotions when they seemed to be getting out of hand and encroaching on the centrality of the worship which is offered to the triune God alone.”

In Chapter 1, Macquarrie fleshes out the nature of this “missing” feeling – the reason for this urge to elevate Mary – with remarkable precision:

“Ann Ulanov, who writes from a Christian and Jungian background, is, in my opinion, much more convincing than Freud. Although she too recognizes the very different styles of masculine and feminine personality, she argues that each needs the other to constitute a complete humanity. The implication is that, taken in isolation, the masculine and the feminine are both deficient. She writes, ‘The feminine is half of human wholeness, an essential part of it. . . Masculine and feminine elements exist only in relation to each other, and complement rather than fight each other’. Here the starting-point for considering the relation of the sexes is not envy or a sense of superiority or inferiority on one side or the other, but complementarity and a desire on each side for a wholeness which needs a contribution from each side.”

Macquarrie agrees wholeheartedly with Ann Ulanov that some aspect of the feminine must be found within the Trinitarian Godhead. After furnishing more detail in support of this insight, Macquarrie proceeds to set up the background for his own view of precisely how this femininity might be included in the Godhead. While in later chapters he goes on to defend the more recent and contentious Roman Catholic Mariology dogmas, including the Immaculate Conception, her assumption, and her salvific role as Co-Redemptrix, his viewpoint regarding the feminine within the Godhead permits him to fit Mary into the commonly-interpreted Scriptural position as being fully human. Using Mary’s role in the Church as a point of departure, he pursues his observations regarding gender and the relationship of one gender to another:

“But now we move on to the important insights of C. J. Jung. In his view, the masculine and feminine types of personality are not found in isolation, the masculine exclusively in men and the feminine exclusively in women. Rather, every human being, whether man or woman, has both masculine and feminine elements in his or her personality. Of course, in most cases the man tends to be more masculine than feminine and the woman to be more feminine than masculine. But every man has his anima, that part of his psyche which is the feminine complement of the dominant masculine part, and every woman has her animus, the masculine part of her psyche which complements the dominant feminine part.

“These brief remarks on human sexuality and the relations of masculine and feminine have now led us to the point where we can see how difficult and complex this whole matter is. We have seen grounds for believing that the difference between masculine and feminine personalities, is a real one. We have seen further that it has nothing to do with questions of superiority or inferiority, but rather with the completeness of human life which has to be built out of different elements that will sometimes be in tension with each other. We have also seen that it is possible to characterize the feminine in broad strokes – it is a type of mentality responsive rather than initiating, concerned with the whole, the inward, the ideal, with what can be intuited rather than deduced, while the masculine style is different at each point. But finally we have seen that every well-balanced human being is constituted of both masculine and feminine elements, and that it would be a mere caricature or stereotype to suppose that in every woman one finds or should find exclusively the typically feminine traits, or in every man the corresponding masculine traits.”

Having performed the preliminary setup, his recognition that members of each gender possess elements of both genders, Macquarrie proceeds to apply that notion to the Godhead, in the end directly acknowledging that Genesis 1:27 includes gender as a characteristic of man that embodies the image of God. The inclusion of the words “male” and “female”, then, were not gratuitously inserted in that passage, but were intimately linked to that image.

“Let us now return to the question of God and of what place, if any, ideas of sexuality and femininity can have in our understanding of God. Most Christian theologians have believed that, however dimly or obliquely, the infinite is reflected in the finite, so that whatever is good and affirmative in the created order imperfectly mirrors something in God Himself, though admittedly that ‘something’ in God may so transcend what we know in finite existence that there will be incomprehensible difference as well as some measure of affinity. Mystical theologians have always combined analogical language with a considerable measure of agnosticism. Of course, at times when the sexual act was considered inherently sinful and the feminine was in consequence despised or feared, to talk of sexuality or femininity in God would have been branded unchristian and pagan, perhaps even blasphemous. But if one does set a positive value on sexuality, and if one acknowledges that the masculine and feminine are essentially the complements of one another in a completely personal human being, and that neither the masculine nor the feminine can claim superiority in their polar relationship, then presumably whatever is good and affirmative in sexuality and in femininity is present in an eminent way in God. This does not mean that God has a sex in the ordinary sense of the word. He is beyond distinction of male and female. Though we habitually use masculine words to refer to God, Christian faith acknowledges that God transcends sex, but He does so not by sheerly excluding sexuality but by including in the divine nature in an eminent way whatever is of value in sexuality. Some of these questions have been explored with truly remarkable insight by Karl Barth in his treatment of the creation stories in Genesis, and I shall be turning to them shortly.”

Here Macquarrie takes a courageous stand against that apparent majority of Christians throughout history whose understanding of God has been so shallow that they have refused to understand the difference between a beautiful aspect of God’s creation and the terrible ways that fallen mankind has perverted that gift. For that I applaud him. On the other hand, he makes no effort to justify his notion that God might be beyond distinction of male and female. Certainly he presents no Scriptural basis whatsoever for embracing this viewpoint; it is merely a presupposition supported only by convention. Of course, our physical sexuality may well have nothing to do with God himself, but that doesn’t mean that the individual Members of the Godhead don’t possess individual gender characteristics, wherein I emphasize that we humans have no way of perceiving what that might entail. There is nothing in Scripture, however, to suggest that the Members of the Godhead may lack gender differences. There is much in Scripture, on the other hand, e.g. from Genesis, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Hosea, the Gospel of John, and Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, that does suggest that within the Godhead may be found gender distinctions.

I should add that his reference to C. J. Jung2 is ambiguous. If he is referring to the founder of analytical psychiatry, the name is C. G. (for Carl Gustav) Jung. If indeed he is speaking of C. G. Jung, the reference is of dubious value in a Christian theological discourse, as Carl Jung was anything but an exemplary Christian, and probably not a Christian at all. His father was a rural pastor in the Swiss Reformed Church, but they were poor, his mother was a basket-case neurotic, and he was ill-adjusted and somewhat mystical as a child. As an adult he apparently violated the commandment against adultery frequently, openly, and without remorse. While he was sympathetic toward religion in general, he dabbled in a number of religious pursuits that were well outside the pale of accepted Christian thought. These dabblings included Gnosticism and eastern religions, and he leaned toward the notion that religion was an inner need of the human psyche. According to at least one biographer, his religious beliefs were more pagan than Christian, wherein he appeared to view God as an essentially a human construct or at best a facet of humanity itself.

I don’t mean to imply through this digression regarding Jung that John Macquarrie himself is not to be trusted. His Christian insights are deep and compassionate. Like the rest of us, however, he seems to have a quirk or two. His seem to be of no great import.

Macquarrie, having identified the central item of his viewpoint, that while the Godhead may possess some elements of both the male and female genders, those elements are distributed within the three Members of the Godhead, proceeds to flesh out his thesis of how the Godhead includes femininity.

“It will be noted too that the first words that Adam speaks are addressed to the woman. Language, which sets the distance between human being and merely animal being, is basic to human association and fellowship, and it is evoked from Adam by Eve in his meeting with her.

“But it is in the later and more sophisticated account of the creation, now in the first chapter of Genesis, that we see more clearly how the human sexual relation has significance for the understanding of God. As the climax of His great creative work, God says,

‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness . . . So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created he them (Gn. 1:26-7).’

“In this story, man and woman are created simultaneously, and thus their equality and co-essentiality to humanity are recognized. But what is more important is that both the man and the woman are required for the possibility of an image of God on the level of the finite. The image is jointly constituted by man and woman in their ‘one flesh’. The image is reflected in their community, which requires in turn their sexuality, so that we conclude that the image of God needs both masculinity and femininity.

“Commentators have sometimes drawn attention to the fact that, contrary to the grammatical convention which I mentioned above, the verb used by God, ‘Let us make . . . ‘ , is plural, not singular. The fact that the Hebrew word for God is grammatically plural in form, though singular in meaning, is being exploited at this point. If association and fellowship are essential to personal being, and if God is the supreme or eminent person, then there must be distinctions or diversity within God. God is not a bare individual being but is self-related. Or to put it another way, there must be sociality in God. Many centuries after the Hebrew Scriptures were written, Christian theologians worked out the doctrine of the Trinity, the teaching that God is perfectly one yet at the same time self-related, so that within the unity are the three distinct modes of being that we call Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Though such ideas were far from the minds of the writers of Genesis, it is not wrong to see in these writings some foreshadowings of the doctrine of God as it came to be rethought in the light of the revelation in Jesus Christ. Is there any better analogy we can find for representing to ourselves (so far as we can understand it) the mystery of the threee-in-one and one-in-three of the Triune God than the earthly mystery of Christian marriage, in which two become one flesh – and, in a sense, this is also a trinity, for in sacramental marriage God is the ever-present third party in the love that unites husband and wife, and is indeed the life of both. In the sexual relation, the partners are distinct, and yet they are one, and that is surely our best clue to perichoresis or circumincessio of the divine Persons of the Trinity, that is to say, their mutual interpenetration and reciprocity.

“Such reciprocity clearly implies that there are in God, as the consummation and perfect integration of the individual and social poles of personal being, elements analogous to both feminine and masculine. Sometimes attempts have been made to associate the feminine element with a particular Person of the Trinity, namely, the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s brooding on the creation suggests the contemplative inner space of the feminine, while the Spirit’s travail amid the sighs of creation suggests the feminine work of bringing to birth through patient endurance. But just as in human marriage each partner evinces both masculine and feminine characteristics, so the analogues of those characteristics belong to all three Persons of the Trinity. As we have seen, Julian of Norwich did not hesitate to speak of motherhood in relation to the Father and the Son.

“There is a further point worth mentioning in this discussion. The union of husband and wife is not a closed union – it opens out into the wider community of the family. In the sexual union, man and woman under God become procreators, they are charged with the solemn and joyful task of creating community . . . Human procreation is a reflection of God’s own creativity. God was not content, so to speak, to stay within Himself or to enjoy the untroubled bliss of His unique individual-cum-social being. His creation is the generous overflow of His love.”

Here we have the inclusion of femininity in the Godhead, with Macquarrie taking the Jungian notion of the human psyche, both male and female, as containing both masculine and feminine elements, and extrapolating it to his notion of the Trinity. Interestingly, the nature of Macquarrie’s distributed gender is more sexual than one might assume from his protestation that God is “beyond the distinction of male and female”. While there are certainly several elements of his viewpoint that agree with mine, his distributed gender is basically quite different than the gender associations I had presented in Family of God and recounted in an earlier chapter and associated with the sexual malady of hermaphroditism.

Because of Christian tradition along with a healthy dose of prejudice against change and the attachment of sexual or even romantic implications to God, Macquarrie’s conjecture, I think, would be much more palatable to the conventional Christian understanding of God than my own. Yet it has difficulties, the most obvious being logical, that render it unlikely.

Scripture rather exclusively associates the Father with the Divine Will, which, as an initiating role, also is exclusively masculine. Similarly, Jesus the Son is presented in Scripture as the Divine Representation which, as the perfect image in reality of the Father would also be predominantly masculine. The masculine predominance of Jesus is given further weight by Paul’s characterization in Ephesians 5 of Jesus as the Bridegroom of the (functionally feminine) Church. In Family of God3 I simply noted what to me was an obvious connecting function of the Holy Spirit between Father and Son: the Divine Means which, in union with the Divine Will, gave birth to the Divine Implementation in reality (Divine Representation). Obviously, this Divine Means, being so closely linked with the other two Members, is also Deity. Because the Divine Means performed a function that was responsive to the Will, an obviously female role, I attached a female gender to this Person. Scripture and Christian tradition both understand this third Member of the Trinity to be the Holy Spirit.

[to be continued]

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