MARCHING TO A WORTHY DRUMMER INSTALLMENT #13

Chapter 5: The Problems Associated with an Insistence Upon a Gender-Neutral or Masculine Holy Spirit

I love my brother Jon.  After all, we are twins.  But sometimes I get the suspicion that his placenta was bigger than mine and he hogged the incoming nutrients.  What’s worse, when I confront him with that, he readily agrees as he pats me on the head condescendingly.  He also smiles about it, which I find infuriating.  I’m not sure that this phobia of mine is a contributing factor, but we also are fiercely competitive.

When Jon became a licensed pilot, I followed suit.  When I took up SCUBA diving, so did Jon.  Same with the Marines.

When I took up hang gliding, Jon bought an ultralight, an Eipper Quicksilver MX-2 two-seater.  It was a beautiful craft.  My admiration for it won him over and he allowed me to take lessons in flying it.  We both were among the last to receive the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association pilot’s licenses for Ultralight Craft before AOPA got out of the business due to a rash of accidents and lawsuits.

Once in a while my brother and I would fly together, but we were somewhat on the heavy side, which tended to limit the performance of the craft and we were happier flying solo.  The time eventually came when we decided to fly together again, at a point where we had gained so much weight that the unfortunate vehicle was barely able to take off.

The problem with that was that the runway was short, narrow and primitive, which didn’t allow any margin for deviating from the runway heading.  Compounding that limitation was a huge tree that stood precisely at the end of the runway.  Further restricting our options was the performance of the engine, which, despite its mighty labors, was insufficient to the task of clearing the tree.

The biggest problem of all was that we were slow to appreciate the situation that we had gotten into until we were committed to taking off.  Our response was a reprise of the Stan and Ollie comedy act, wherein I shouted to Jon, “Look what you got us into now!”  His reply was a hurled oath, which included a command to shut up, and which elicited a like response from me.  We traded insults in that manner, bickering all the way to the expected point of impact, whereupon an updraft raised us just above the treetop.

That incident didn’t involve any confusion whatsoever; we both knew with certainly that our doom was approaching.  What we were doing was simply assigning blame for the debacle.

But there are indeed times while aviating that one can get confused, especially if that one happens to be me.  A good example, one that I recall with dread, is making a timed instrument approach under the hood to a new and strange airfield, in turbulence, with numerous background distractions.  Given my limitations in that regard, I consider myself to be quite fortunate to have acquired an instrument rating.  But at least I had the sense enough never to subject a passenger to the kind of situation where confusion of that brand could pop up.

But I had a flight instructor once who did encounter kind of a worst-case situation.  And he wasn’t flying under the hood, because he was flying in actual instrument conditions, complete with lightning, thunder, extreme turbulence, and no visibility out the windscreen.

And with a passenger.  An airsick woman, who hurled her ample dinner past his shoulder onto the instrument panel, obliterating his only sources of information.  He flew perfectly blind until he was able to wipe the goo off the instruments, a process that included the use of his undershirt while he was still wearing it, and while straining with all his might to prevent his own stomach from adding to the mess he was trying to clean up.

Judging from his eyeballs and the suppressed retching as he told the story to me, he’ll be telling it until his dying day.

Confusion is not good.  It bodes ill, the threat of something very wrong.  It can be dangerous.  In another sense, it can be harmful to the soul.

The overview presented in the previous chapter on the Church’s understanding of the Godhead indicates a rather continuously-held view from just a few hundred years past the beginning of Christianity to the present in which gender was associated with the Holy Spirit in one of two ways, both of which had strong followings that currently still exist among the various sects and factions within the boundaries of recognized Christian belief: some Churches insisted upon a gender-neutral God, including the neutrality of the Holy Spirit, while others asserted the masculinity, albeit asexual, of all three Members of the Godhead, again including the Holy Spirit in that categorization.  The difficulties attending either of these viewpoints, as we noted earlier, are both numerous and significant.

The first problem, and this applies to both the gender-neutral and all-male viewpoints, is one of confusion.  Two teachers of the Bible of my personal acquaintance, one of whom is a close friend and an excellent pastor in other respects, have at separate times while adhering to the gender-neutral view, personally confessed to me their inability to fully understand the nature of the Holy Spirit.  One of the teachers possesses a doctorate in Theology; the other was a respected long-time Bible Study lecturer.  The tenor of this incomplete understanding demonstrated an awareness of a confusing inconsistency within the little understanding that they did possess.  Their personal resolution of this problem was an admission that mankind was not given to fully understand God, and must wait until it sees God face-to-face in order to obtain a more complete and accurate picture of Him than it now possesses.  The logical inconsistency lurking in the background of both of their minds was associated with the necessity, given the gender-neutral or all-male viewpoints of the Godhead, of its differentiation into separate Entities without a clearly-defined functional distinction among them.  The most confusing aspect of this obscurity is the strength of the Godhead’s unity in the face of the vagueness of its Members’ respective roles. 

The second problem, which again applies to both the gender-neutral and the fully masculine viewpoints, is the inability, given the lack of clearly-defined differentiation among the Members of the Godhead, to reconcile their unity of being with the necessity of a Trinitarian nature.  This problem differs from the first in that while the first is merely confusing as to the importance and application of love in what appears to be a collegiate unity, this latter issue represents a sharp logical inconsistency.

One readily can grasp, given the nature of this apparent inconsistency, how the heresy of Modalism emerged.  Modalism views the Godhead as consisting of one God, as opposed to the three distinct Entities of mainstream Christianity.  This singular Individual, in the Modalist view, presents the three distinct attributes of Will, Power and Glory usually attributed to Father, Holy Spirit and Son as the situation and audience require.

The third problem is related to the first, extending the issue beyond mere intellectual confusion to the more significant one of loving God.  Adding to the confusing sense of incompleteness, the intra-Godhead love, being limited by this view to that of agape, does not connote the sense of common ownership of each other that a more romantically-driven relationship would elicit.  It is most difficult to love with fervor and passion a Godhead whose unity is seen to be based on commonality of thought and purpose, as in a corporate boardroom, than one whose unity is inextricably associated with a fervent, even possessive love akin to romance within its own Members.  Yet, in contradiction to this difficulty, Scripture commands us, as directly stated in Deuteronomy 6:4 and 5 and Matthew 22:37 and 38, to love God with fervor.

The fourth problem is the disassociation in those viewpoints from the family connection that exists within the higher forms of animal life in Creation, and with the Scriptural admonitions and laws associated with family and heterosexuality.

The fifth problem is the weakness of gender distinction among all three Members of the Godhead, which contradicts the Scriptural portrayal of strong masculinity of both The Father and Jesus, as well as the proscriptions in both the Old and New Testaments against weak masculinity and sexual impotence.  Among these are the following clearly-stated passages in both the Old and New Testaments:

“He who is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord.”

 

  • Deuteronomy 23:1

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?  Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”

 

  • 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 10

One of the more intelligent discussions of the Godhead that remains within the Church-imposed boundary of asexuality has been supplied by Catholic Father John Macquarrie in his book Mary for all Christians.  In his chapter entitled “God and the Feminine”, he acknowledges the incompleteness of male alone or female alone without its complement.  While touching on the all-important notion of complementary otherness, he goes on to other topics rather quickly, largely overlooking the most important aspect of otherness, which is its necessity in supporting the noble selflessness intrinsic to God as emphasized throughout the Bible.

Father Macquarrie also openly states, reminiscent of medieval theologian Jerome Zanchius, that God transcends sex.  How does he apply that concept that God is above matters of gender to his perception of the incompleteness of a single-gender Godhead?  He does so in distressingly extra-Biblical fashion.  Being well-read in psychology, Macquarrie turns to C. J. Jung and his concept of shared gender.  In that context, Macquarrie asserts, all the Members of the Trinity share both male and female characteristics.

Many Catholic theologians, perceiving despite the Church’s grand elevation of Mary that there were some elements of the feminine within the all-male Godhead, grasped onto the Jungian notion that each of the divine Entities possessed both male and female attributes.  Here again is a view that suggests gender weakness in contradiction to Scripture.  In addition to promoting a divine narcissism in distinct opposition to the general tenor of Scripture, this notion is logically untenable in the face of the pronounced masculinity of both the Father and Jesus Christ and the proscription against male neutrality in Leviticus 21:20 and against male femininity in 1 Corinthians 6:9.  That leaves the Holy Spirit alone as the possible embodiment of the female gender.

As if the direct problems associated with the gender-neutral or all-male viewpoints of the Godhead aren’t bad enough of themselves, they sometimes create collateral difficulties.  Among some Christian communities the ever-present threat that these viewpoints will inhibit ardor in worship has led to further misunderstandings that are intended to correct their deficiencies and restore the fervor suggested by Scripture.  One such compensating offshoot practice is the Catholic veneration of Mary as the primary female persona of our religion.  Despite protestations to the contrary from Catholic authorities from the Pope down to the pastoral level, this veneration, as was noted in Chapter 4, approaches actual worship to such a degree that it represents a de facto integration of Mary into the Godhead.  Indeed, Mary is endowed in the Catholic Church with a number of attributes that rightly belong within the Godhead, specifically the Holy Spirit.

Before proceeding further on the topic of the Catholic veneration of Mary, I wish to state at the outset that I consider the mistaken Catholic attribution to Mary of what rightfully belongs to the Holy Spirit to be far superior to the standard Protestant practice of overlooking these attributes altogether.  I suspect, moreover, that God Himself might not look all that unfavorably toward this perceived mistake of the Catholic Church, to the point that perhaps the Holy Spirit Herself has a name in heaven, that name being Sophia Mary, of which the earthly Mary was a type in the same sense that Joseph and Isaac and a host of other precursors to Jesus represented Him.

As was noted in Chapter 4, the highest Church authorities themselves name Mary as Co-Redemptrix, Queen of Heaven and Mother of God, insist upon her sinless birth, and claim that she was assumed body, soul and spirit, into heaven.  Yet, even Mary, although she was fully female, was stripped of her sexuality.  The Catholic Church’s assessment of moral purity as including sexual abstinence is amply demonstrated by her insistence on Mary’s perpetual virginity, meaning that her husband Joseph was himself subjected to sexual abstinence for the entire period of his marriage to Mary.

The Catholic teachings on Mary beg for a number of comments.  First, in opposition to the Catholic view on Mary’s virginity, Scripture itself, in Matthew 13:55 and 56, notes that Mary had children other than Jesus:

“Is not this the carpenter’s son?  Is not his mother called Mary?  And his brethren, James, and Joseph, and Simon, and Judas?  And his sisters, are they not all with us?  From where, then, hath this man all these things?”

 

The Catholic position that these “children” were actually cousins rather than siblings of Jesus is logically weak, given that Scripture suggests in Matthew 1:24 and 25 that Mary’s virginity was only temporary:

“Then Joseph, being raised from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife, and knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born son, and he called his name Jesus.”

The Catholic Church’s claims regarding Mary’s virginity involve a chain of attributions to both Mary and the Holy Spirit that manifestly lack Scriptural justification.  Indeed, with regard to this topic the Catholic Church displays a shockingly arrogant freedom of interpretation, all to justify a view that itself is at odds with Scripture.

[to be continued]

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