JACOB INSTALLMENT #16

Chapter Seven (continued

“I grew up a Catholic,” Millie offered over dinner that night. “I stopped going when I left home and got married. I didn’t get much out of it when I went. There was just too much ritual. God seemed – oh, just so distant and irrelevant to my life.”

“I can’t blame you there,” Joyce responded. “It’s difficult for a person to understand God or to have a relationship with Him with any kind of intimacy until he gets a decent background from Scripture of who our God is and the love He represents. The Churches – and I’m talking about both the Catholic and Protestant ones, have done a miserable job in priming the pump of their congregants’ interest.”

“And to my thinking,” Earl added, “the Churches have made things even worse through their theologians’ and leaders’lack of understanding of some very fundamental truths about God”

How so?” Jimmy chimed in, his interest picking up.

“Take the birth of Jesus. It’s common understanding that Jesus fulfilled a prophecy way back in Genesis that the seed of the woman would bruise the head of satan, which Jesus certainly did by making Himself as God the sacrifice for the shortcomings of mankind. But the Catholic Church has an odd take on the seed from which Jesus came to earth as a man, while the Protestant Church is indifferent to the whole business. Here, let me go get a Bible.” When he returned to his chair, he opened it. “The beginning account is in Genesis 3:14 and 15:

“’      “And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shall thou eat all the days of thy life. And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”

“I get that Jesus is that seed,” Millie said, “but what’s the problem with that?”

“The problem is with the nature of the process by which God implanted the seed of Christ in Mary. There is general agreement, at least by Catholics, that the seed is the male sperm rather than the female egg. I agree with that. I also agree that it was the Holy Spirit who did the implanting.”

“As do I, from what little I know,” said Millie.

“But then the Church made a straightforward association of the male seed with a male Holy Spirit,” Earl continued.

“Of course! How else could you interpret the account in Luke?” Millie said.

“Okay, then, let’s go to the passage,” Earl said, thumbing through the Bible. “Here it is, in Luke 1:34 and 35:

“Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered, and said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”

“The seed of the woman as given in this passage is universally identified as Jesus Christ, who indeed in the fullness of time was born of the woman Mary. And, of course, it seems to follow logically that this makes Mary the woman spoken of in the Genesis passage we just read.”

“So?” Earl was just coming out with common knowledge. Millie was expecting new or at least important information, and his statement of the obvious was starting to irritate her.

“Don’t you see the problem with that?” Earl countered. “The seed, which is perceived as a male seed, couldn’t have come from Mary, because she is just a normal human woman. The seed is also perceived as coming from the Holy Spirit, which is logically far more consistent with Luke’s account.”

“But the seed had to come from Mary,” Millie asserted with a militant attitude. “Remember, it was the seed of the woman that was spoken of in Genesis.”

“Ah,” Earl assented. “Now we get to the heart of the problem. The seed can’t come from Mary, but it must come from her. You can’t have it both ways. Let’s put everything we’ve talked about up to this point on hold, and go back to Genesis – this time to the creation story, of which Genesis 1:1-5 offers us a very brief glimpse:

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.”

 

“Keeping that in mind, we’ll turn now to the other end of the Bible, where in Revelation 3:14, Jesus commands John to write his commentaries to the seven representative Churches. For each Church He gave himself a unique name. As for the last of these Churches, Jesus gave Himself this name:

“And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write: These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.”

“With Jesus’ own claim in mind that He represented the first act of creation, the Light of Genesis 1:3, we can now go back to the creation overview given in Genesis 1:1-5 and put in a rational, self-consistent way the process of creation and the roles of the three Members of the Godhead in accomplishing it.

“The usual supposition,” Earl continued, “both Catholic and Protestant, presents the Godhead as all male, wherein the absence of gender differentiation in the process of creative birth renders their masculinity pretty weak. This supposition leads to an awkward interpretation of the passage in Genesis 1:1-5 as we had read above, as thoughtful theologians of both Catholic and Protestant persuasions see in that passage an interaction among the Will and the Spirit such that the creative power of the Holy Spirit acts in response to the Divine Will to endow the Will with the reality of Creation. What is awkward about that relationship under the usual interpretation of the Godhead as all-male is that it puts the Holy Spirit in the role of responder, or, as Warfield put it, as Executor of the Will, which clearly gives the Holy Spirit a feminine attribute.

“If the Protestant theological community has chosen to address that conflict, their thoughts on that topic have not been made accessible to the general Christian public. Catholic theologians have indeed opted to pursue this difficulty, with the result that they have developed a school of thought, ably presented by Father John MacQuarrie, that all three Members of the Godhead possess attributes associated with both male and female genders.

“For multiple reasons that I won’t go into right now, there are grave theological difficulties with assuming that bi-gender attribute, worse in fact than the creation issue that such an arrangement would resolve.”

“Yes, please don’t go any farther right now on that topic,” Joyce laughed. “I’ve had my fill of your reasonings, not that I don’t agree. And, Earl, you may want to start thinking about winding up. If you’ll notice, their eyes are getting glassy.”

“Okay, if I can just say this: if you can assign the female gender to the Holy Spirit, these logical discrepancies go away and you have a much more coherent picture of the roles that the three Members of the Godhead played in the epic of creation. In this alternative view, a functionally female Holy Spirit responds to a functionally male Will by implementing the Will’s vision. The result: reality, as embodied by the Divine Word, Jesus Christ. Thus the creation epic becomes a gender-based act wherein the Will in union with the Implementer, or divine Means, gives birth to the Reality. I suspect the process to be a romantic one, and one that at the deepest level superbly represents the notion of family.

“I also view this alternative understanding, unlike that of the usual presupposition, to be fully compatible with the beginning of John’s Prologue in Chapter 1 of John’s Gospel:

“’In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of the world.’”

“But what about the many instances in Scripture where male pronouns are used to reference the Holy Spirit?” Millie asked. “Even I know that much.”

“I’ll save my rebuttal on that point for another time, but just understand this: there are numerous ways in which the use of male pronouns in reference to the Holy Spirit can be made compatible with a functionally female Entity, one of which actually makes this usage a wonderful promise to mankind. Actually, what I just said may be a moot point, because there’s some impressive evidence that suggests that references to a feminine Holy Spirit were in Scripture all along until they were deliberately switched to the masculine several hundred years after the beginning of the Church in an attempt to sterilize Christianity from all sexual connotations.

“I’ll end this long-winded discussion with the comment that the Catholic Church, which clings to the notion that the apparently male Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, claiming as a result that Mary’s spouse, or husband, in the process, being the Holy Spirit, endows Mary with the role of wife to the Holy Spirit. This, in turn, leads to the elevation of Mary in the economy of God beyond what Protestants consider to be proper. Indeed, the Catholic Church not only considers Mary to be mother of God, but also mother of the Church, residing at a higher level within the Church of all other humans. It is a major source of contention between Catholics and Protestants.

“But if one considers the alternative view of the Godhead, wherein a female Holy Spirit responds to the Divine Father in the process of creation, one appreciates that the original creation of Adam, including the formation of his male seed within him, was simply one instance among many of the creative acts of the Holy Spirit. In that context, the formation by the Holy Spirit of the perfect male seed within Mary was no different in nature than the uncountable multitude of other creative acts performed by the Holy Spirit, and therefore can be viewed as a birthing event that was entirely consistent with the office of the Holy Spirit. That makes the functionally female Holy Spirit the true source of the male seed, permitting a wonderfully natural attribution to the Holy Spirit of the “seed of the woman” of Genesis 3:15.

“While Mary certainly deserves the veneration of all Christians, whether Catholic or Protestant, for her participation in the cosmic drama of salvation,” Earl concluded, “the “seed of the woman” properly refers to the Holy Spirit rather than Mary, as do so many of the companion attributes that the Catholic Church assigns to Mary.”

“Whew,” Millie said, theatrically wiping the back of her hand across her forehead, “I’ll have to think about that. Maybe harder than I’m used to. But I kind of understand. One thing I’ll say, the thought presents a more loving God than I’m used to. And more like a family.”

“That’s a big part of assuming a female Holy Spirit. In the face of the functional differentiation I’ve outlined, nobody can come back with an accusation that I’m pushing the heresy of tritheism. In a family context, and only in that context with the Members united in perfect love, the One God of a functionally-differentiated Godhead is the Divine Family.”

“Now that really does make sense,” Millie said. “But with that, I’m going to head to our bedroom. I’ve had enough thinking for one day.”

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