Archive for the ‘family’ Category

THE “HE” ISSUE

 

Something’s definitely wrong about the Church’s current understanding of the Holy Spirit. A recent poll of evangelicals revealed that 68% of us consider the Holy Spirit to be an impersonal force, indicating the shallowness of a large group of Christians that would permit the movie Star Wars to influence their perception of God to such an extent. But shallowness isn’t the only culprit. Theologians with advanced degrees in Divinity admit to being stumped by the nature of the Holy Spirit.

The problem is at once both simpler and more profound than confusion or shallowness of thought. The primary source of our misapprehension of the Holy Spirit has been with us for a very long time and is our presupposition, inculcated by the Church herself, that the Holy Spirit is either genderless or weakly masculine.

With regard to the common perception of the Holy Spirit’s masculinity, the enormous gorilla in the room is the use, in virtually all translations and versions of the Bible, of masculine pronouns in reference to the Holy Spirit.

Examples of this include John 14:16, 14:26, 15:26, 16:7 and 8 and 13-15, and Hebrews 3:7 and 10:15, although some verses reference the Holy Spirit as neuter. These references constitute the most common argument against a feminine Holy Spirit.

The most likely reason for all those “he”s in the Bible is the certainty that the Bible we use today does not represent the original. While I believe that the original autographs of Scripture are inspired and inerrant, I don’t extend that trust to the various translations and versions that are available to us today. There is ample reason to suspect that a gender switch took place around the time of Constantine under the misguided motive of purifying the heavenly domain from all connotations of sexuality. Many well-known Church Fathers at that time have conveyed, through their writings, their repulsion of matters involving gender and their equation of purity with chastity.

We know that the Hebrew name of Spirit, ruah, is feminine, while the Greek equivalent is neuter and the Latin equivalent is masculine. These language-based gender differences may partially account for the gender switch in the translations. The more likely scenario, unpleasant as it may be to consider, is that the switch was deliberate. The Jewish religion had, for the most part, viewed the Holy Spirit as feminine, as did a large group of early Christians, as demonstrated by the femininity of the Holy Spirit in the Syriac Scriptures. In addition, the Sinaitic Palimpsest, the original writing of which is thought to be close or identical to the Gospel that Paul taught from, depicts Jesus in John 14:26 as describing the Holy Spirit as feminine.

There are multiple reasons why it is thought that the switch was deliberate: first, the neuter description of the Arm of the Lord in Isaiah 51:9 and 10 is known to be a deliberate switch from the feminine; second is the motive: the prevailing sexual debauchery of the secular society surrounding the Christian community led the Christian leaders to set the Church apart in perfect purity, even to the extent that motivated some early Christian males to attempt to castrate themselves. Sometimes, as was possibly the case with Origen (according to Eusebius), the attempt was successful. Many of the early Church Fathers, including Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, Ambrose of Milan, and, most famously, Augustine, vehemently equated purity with chastity. Some of them were misogynistic as well. Supporting that urge to switch genders was the pressure of numerous heresies that confronted the early Church. One important threat to the Church was Gnosticism, which favored a femininity of the Holy Spirit. The heresies embraced by the Gnostics placed their belief in a feminine Holy Spirit, which was common to Jewish faith and early Christian expressions in general, in disrepute. The rejection of gender in God seems to have been a classic case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

The switch to the masculinity of the Holy Spirit was probably complete around the time of Constantine.

It’s a matter of concern to me how reluctant the Church leadership has been throughout the past several centuries to see God in the light of His Word rather than blindly adhering to Church doctrine in the face of Scriptural passages that are inconsistent with dogma. There are plenty of indications in Scripture, even in the versions we use today, to support the femininity of the Holy Spirit in opposition to the use of male pronounce in reference to Her. All it takes to see this is scripturally-compatible eyes.

We revere Christians of the past who had the insight and courage to reform the Church in the face of the corruption that attended her political power. But these Church Greats were human just like the rest of us. None of them was perfect, nor were their insights complete. Martin Luther, for example, was a rabid anti-Semite; he also thought that Jesus had an affair with Mary Magdalene. Those who are inclined to avoid any questioning of the Bible as it stands now should apply that same inclination to Luther, who lashed out against the Book of James and supported the removal of the Book of Wisdom and others from the Protestant canon of Scripture.

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CREATION’S EPIC LOVE

 

In re-reading the Creation epic of Genesis 1, I was rather surprised to see in it an intense and beautiful love story. I was more surprised that I hadn’t picked up on that sooner, as my view of the Godhead and Creation dovetailed quite well into that understanding.

That same understanding is emphasized throughout Scripture itself. 1 John 4:8 defines God as the very essence of love:

“He that does not love does not know God; for God is love.”

Scripture virtually pleads with us to apply that understanding to the relationship between the Father and the Holy Spirit.

With respect to Creation, I understand Scripture in the original to be inerrant and inspired of God as both Paul, in 2 Timothy 3 and Peter, in 2 Peter 1, have claimed. That means that I accept the Creation epic as truth, and its competing worldview, (macro)evolution, to be false. That clash with secular wisdom led me into a rather lengthy research of modern molecular biology which, in the end, more than justified my rejection of evolution on purely scientific grounds as itself being mythical in nature and not to be trusted.

With evolution out of the way, the Creation epic stood boldly as an account that deserved much reflection. From the many hours spent in consideration of Genesis 1, I eventually reached an understanding that not only reconciled a large number of ill-fitting odds and ends regarding the nature of the Godhead, but also managed to blow my mind with its simple, majestic elegance. I couldn’t have come up with the ideas myself, so I give credit where credit is due: to the Holy Spirit and the Wisdom She embodies. I have written of my vision of the Godhead before in numerous places, so here I will limit myself to a brief review of what was touched on in a previous chapter: the Godhead as I perceive it consists of three Divine Members, Father, Holy Spirit and Son, tightly united as a Divine Family, and each with different but complementary roles: the Father as the Divine Will, the Holy Spirit as the Divine Means, and the Son as the Divine Reality.

That view of the Godhead implies much about the relationship between gender and love as well as about the origin and function of the Trinity. There are many forms of love, as reflected in the several names for love in the Greek language: fileo, agape, eros. Of these differing forms, eros or gendered love is unique in its possessive nature. That quality of mutual ownership grants gendered love an intensity and passion of an altogether higher level than the other forms. Love of that nature is fervent.

The functional relationship involving Will, Means and Reality, where the functionally male Father, in marital union with the complementary functionally feminine Means, gave birth to the Reality, is an intrinsically gendered one. The intimacy involved in this functional relationship identifies gendered love as the driving force behind all of creation.

At its core, the nature of this functional relationship evokes the notion of complementary otherhood, where the other responds to initiation and in complementary harmony with it. The joyful execution of this teaming activity elevates love to beauty of the highest order. When it is performed in selflessness, it becomes noble as well.

If complementary otherhood is considered to be the essence of gender, virtually all of creation exhibits that characteristic. Even at the cellular level, as biologists have recently discovered, cell division involves the search for a complementary other. Below that level as well, a complete atom has matching numbers of protons and electrons; a mismatch of these causes the atom to search for balance.

The ubiquitous display of love in Creation verifies Paul’s words in Romans 1:19 and 20:

“Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God has shown it to them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse;”

It was with Adam and Eve that God brought gender and love together in the form that most closely matched that which exists within the Godhead. Had not the Fall of man occurred, man would have been free of the numerous perversions that produce debauchery in the place of love. Because of Jesus, man can look forward to a restoration of love to its original meaning.

It is fervor of this order that lies at the center of Moses’ Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4 and 5, connecting the oneness of God with love of a passionate nature:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”

Gendered love and its associated fervor is why Scripture describes the spiritual union between Jesus and His Church in terms of marriage, and why Jesus, in Matthew 22, repeats the commandment of Moses to love God with passion and labels it the greatest of commandments.

If we look beyond the level of the individual to the composite Church, we see that there is nothing in Scripture to suggest, as do many pastors both now and in the distant past, that this marriage is no more than a figure of speech connoting a relationship that in actuality lacks gender and its corresponding intensity. A profound joy of gendered love is implied by Jesus’ turning water into wine through His first miracle at the wedding in Cana. Jesus obviously is anticipating in His marriage a far more intimate bond with His Church than a genderless relationship would produce.

The desire of God, as revealed in the Bible, to endow us with appealing personal qualities of character, speaks to His loving plan for His Church as Jesus’ worthy partner in her future role as the Bride of Christ.

IN THE IMAGE OF GOD

 

Man is typically treated as the primary subject of Genesis 1:26 and 27. This passage is routinely viewed as descriptive of the manner in which God created man to reflect certain attributes of His own. These attributes are generally considered to be related to character and intellect, chiefly man’s personality, rationality, and morality.

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

Reference to man’s gendered creation is usually omitted or, at best, treated as incidental. But there it is in Scripture, in black and white, in a context that discourages it from being disregarded with such appalling ease. This passage speaks as much about God as of man. The attribute of gender isn’t trivial, but instead is presented as among the most profound of the attributes of which man was made in God’s image.

And to what end have we denied this beautiful attribute to God? So that we may maintain a distance from Him in direct opposition to what He desires in His relationship with us? So that we can equate purity with chastity, when the two are manifestly different concepts? The key to this blatant falsehood is found in the end of the passage above: . . . “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”

As I had noted in Marching to a Worthy Drummer, it is the shame, not the act, that has driven us to think of gender as inappropriate to God. And the shame came not from God but from Adam’s fall. It persists to this day, and prevents most of us from perceiving the Trinitarian Godhead in all its beauty and glory.

In Genesis 2:18 and 21-24 is another passage that tends to be trivialized. As is commonly accepted, God the Father existed forever. Our minds, particularly in the material realm, are too limited to grasp any more of the nature of the Father, the Divine Will. But that same limitation doesn’t apply to the Holy Spirit, as Scripture itself gives us a clue as to Her origin. In Genesis 2, Scripture brings out details for emphasis of Eve’s creation out of Adam. This account of the creation of Eve out of Adam is commonly but quite mistakenly treated as a secondary or afterthought account of the creation of man, simply providing additional detail to the first account in Genesis 1:26 and 27.

“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help fit for him. . . And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be one flesh.”

But the repetition of the latter part of this passage by both Jesus, in Matthew 19, and Paul in Ephesians 5, places it far above the trivial in importance. This account of the creation of Eve out of Adam, rather than furnishing incidental details of man’s creation, was far more likely to have been included in Scripture for emphasis as describing the romance of the loving formation of the Holy Spirit out of the essence of the Father.

The thought that this portion of the creation epic might be descriptive of the Godhead Itself points back to the very beginning, Genesis 1:1-5:

“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.”

In this first passage of Scripture, the Holy Spirit is seen responding to the Father in giving birth to the first spoken Word of God, the Light. But that is precisely what John said in verses 1:1-5 of the Prologue to his Gospel of Jesus Christ:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shone in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”

We in the Church have been conditioned to believe, in opposition to the notion of Jesus being a created Being, that Jesus eternally co-existed with the Father. But that comes from the various Christian creeds, not from Scripture. Scripture itself, in Revelation 3:14, stands in plain opposition to that notion:

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

Can it be that the Holy Spirit, in union with the Father, did indeed give birth to Jesus Christ? John, in Chapter Three of his Gospel, attributes spiritual birth to the Holy Spirit. The details of the Holy Spirit’s participation in creation are provided in Proverbs 8:22-31:

“The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth – when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills, was I brought forth; while as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there; when he set a compass upon the face of the depth; when he established the clouds above; when he strengthened the fountains of the deep; when he gave to the sea its decree, that the waters would not pass his commandment; when he appointed the foundations of the earth,

“Then I was by him, as one brought up with him; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him, rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delight was with the sons of men.”

Why did God emphasize the detail of Eve’s formation out of Adam? And why, if it was not good for the man to be without a complementary woman, would it be good for God Himself to be so, as theologians commonly assume? Could it be that at one stage before the beginning of time all the attributes of the Godhead resided within the Father alone, and that in self-denial the Father parted an element of Himself to form the Holy Spirit as a separate but complementary Entity in order that love transcend all other attributes of God? Could it be that what He lost in the parting He regained in love according to the words of Adam that a man shall cleave unto his wife and they two shall be one?

ARK OF THE COVENANT IN FLESH AND SPIRIT

 

In the previous chapter the Ark of the Covenant was described as the enclosure located in the area of the temple known as the Holy of Holies. It was noted there that the ark of the covenant is mentioned again in Revelation, but that this ark is probably a very different one. In my novel Jacob, book three of the four-book Buddy series, Earl Cook connects this later ark with the earlier one in his talk to fellow Christians in a Bible study:

This one’s about the Ark of the Covenant. This ark was a wooden box, overlaid with gold and topped with two cherubs. Inside the box were relics of past interactions between God and man, including the staff that Aaron used, the one that turned into a snake in front of pharaoh, and a sample of the life-sustaining bread that fell from heaven during the great exodus from Egypt and, most important, the tablets upon which God had written the Ten Commandments and which he gave to Moses on the mountain. These tablets encapsulated the Law of the Old Testament in covenant between God and man. The Ark of the Covenant was placed within the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, and later in Solomon’s temple. At the dedication of both of these temples the glory of God, called the Shekinah, descended in a cloud and dwelt within the temples. There is a great significance to this indwelling of the Shekinah glory, and I’ll probably go into it in another sermon. But for now I want to focus on the Ark, which has had a very colorful history. There’s a question as to whether Menelek, the queen of Sheba’s son with Solomon, went back to Ethiopia with a copy of it or actually had stolen the real thing. To this day, that version is jealously guarded by Ethiopians. The ark that remained in Israel was eventually lost. Apparently, the prophet Jeremiah buried it in a cave toward the end of the sixth century B.C. when Jerusalem was in danger of being overrun by enemy forces. There’s another story in that too, but to forge ahead, the Ark of the Covenant is finally mentioned again toward the end of the Bible, in the Book of Revelation, where John sees it in heaven. But this may be a different Ark altogether.

Let me tell you why. In Revelation 12, immediately after John’s sighting of the Ark in heaven at the end of Chapter 11, he goes on to describe another heavenly wonder: a woman clothed with the sun, who gives birth to a man-child who is to rule the world, obviously Jesus. This woman has variously been identified as several different personages by people of differing faiths, each one being the favorite of one faith or another. Many have thought of this woman as representing Israel. Catholics have picked up on this passage, claiming her to be Mary. For reasons that I won’t go into now, I don’t think that’s quite accurate. But it’s very close. Whether this woman actually is Mary or not, it does evoke an image that makes me want to say, ‘Of course! It can be no other way.’ That image, which I cherish now with all my heart, I know to be true, and I want to share it with you now. Mary herself, in containing the Word of God in her womb, was herself the flesh-and-blood Ark of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ. That may well have been the Ark that John saw in heaven.”

But there may also be a yet greater Person to whom this later ark may be attributed, wherein the connection is spiritual rather than fleshly. The Biblical account of this ark is presented in Revelation 11:19 through 12:17:

“And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his covenant; and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderclaps, and an earthquake, and great hail.

“And there appeared a great wonder in heaven – a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. And she, being with child, cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.

“And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and, behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven and did cast them to the earth; and the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered, to devour her child as soon as it was born.

“And she brought forth a male child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.

“And there was war in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, who deceiveth the whole world; he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ; for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.

“And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman who brought forth the male child. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was angry with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”

Could this spiritual Woman be the same Shekinah who indwells Christian believers, as described in an earlier chapter? Could She be the same Holy Spirit of whom Jesus spoke in John 3 as giving spiritual birth? Could She be the spiritual Mother of Jesus?

Just as Revelation 11 and 12 symbolize Mary as the ark of the covenant in flesh, so do those same passages symbolize God the Holy Spirit as the ark of the Word, God’s covenant to mankind, in spirit.

TEN REASONS WHY THE HOLY SPIRIT MUST BE OF THE FEMININE GENDER

 

The following reasons are taken from Scripture, and are consistent with a view of the Bible as inspired and inerrant in the original.

ONE: The original Old Testament Scripture in the Hebrew language described the Holy Spirit in feminine terms. Evidence of this has been furnished by several language-expert Bible scholars, among whom is R. P. Nettelhorst of the Quartz Hill School of Theology. Dr. Nettelhorst’s specific examples include Genesis 1:2 that pointed to the role of the Holy Spirit in Creation and Judges 3:10, which represented a turning point in his understanding of God. He claims that there are 75 instances of either a feminine or indeterminable reference to the Holy Spirit, and no instances, other than descriptors of the Father, where in the original Hebrew the word “Spirit” is described in masculine terms. Other investigators have listed a multitude of specific Old Testament Bible passages that describe the Holy Spirit in feminine terms. Other passages, including Isaiah 51:9 and 10, furnish evidence of a deliberate switch of the Holy Spirit (Arm of the Lord) from feminine to masculine, as both feminine and masculine translations still exist, the feminine version being the earliest.

TWO: The original New Testament Scripture in the Greek/Aramaic language described the Holy Spirit in feminine terms, exposing a deliberate switch in descriptors from feminine to masculine. Evidence of this has been furnished by several Bible scholars, among whom is Johannes van Oort of Radboud University, Nijmegen, the Netherlands, and the University of Pretoria, South Africa. Dr. van Oort, another language expert, claims that the primitive Christian Church, until at least through the second century A.D., and in some places through the fourth century A.D. spoke of the Holy Spirit as feminine. His sources include the Gospel of the Hebrews, which, while now lost, was quoted widely by early Christians, who noted that the Holy Spirit in that Gospel was described as feminine. He observed from the extensive quotations from that Gospel that it apparently was quite popular among the early Christians. Dr. van Oort notes that more modern Christian leaders, including John Wesley and Count von Zinzendorf of the Moravian Church, were influenced by quotes from that Gospel. Other investigators, including S. Santini and R. Nettelhorst, point to the Sinaitic Palimpsest, the earliest currently known of Gospel passages still extant, as quoting Jesus in John 14:26 as referencing the Holy Spirit in feminine terms. It is the originals that are to be respected for inspiration and accuracy, not the various translations. Next in line for respect, the earliest available versions are generally considered to be the most faithful to the original. Other passages, including Romans 9:25, retain an understanding of the Holy Spirit as feminine. It is important to note also that some of the interlinear translations of the Bible in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic have also adjusted the language to conform to the Church tradition of replacing the feminine with the masculine.

THREE: The first Chapter of Genesis in commonly available translations and versions (including the King James) unequivocally depicts the Holy Spirit as feminine, regardless of the attempts to suppress that aspect of the Holy Spirit’s nature. The passage most strongly indicative of a feminine Holy Spirit is Genesis 1:26 and 27, which identifies the gendered nature of mankind as conforming to God’s own nature. While modern commentators on this passage refuse to address this gender issue, they have no basis to do so other than participating in a slavish conformance to Church tradition, and are dishonest in their attempts to remove this characteristic from the image of God.

FOUR: The account of the creation of Eve in Genesis 2 is a statement of the importance to God of gender. In opposition to the generally-accepted notion that the account of God’s creation of Eve in Genesis 2 took place well after the creation of Adam as an incidental afterthought, the Genesis 2 account is so central to the intention of God that it is more detailed than the original description and is presented again for the purpose of emphasis. Back in Genesis 1:26-31, God already had created both Adam and Eve as gendered and capable of reproduction. Furthermore, it is in Genesis 1:31 that God describes His creation, including gendered humanity, as very good. In Genesis 2:18, God describes Adam without Eve as being not good, which would be a contradiction to the earlier account in Genesis 1 if Genesis 2 represented anything other than an emphatic revisit of Eve’s creation. Yet more, in Matthew 19:4 and Mark 10:6-8, Jesus strongly defended the gendered nature of mankind as being the express intent of God from the beginning of Creation, pointing to its importance within the Godhead itself. This emphasis suggests the importance of Eve’s creation from Adam to the extent that it says something about the gendered nature of the Godhead, which could easily be interpreted as a continuation of the information presented in Genesis 1:27 that the creation of Eve amounts to a reprise in mankind of God’s own family nature.

FIVE: Only a union of a romantic, possessive nature between a male and a female is capable of fulfilling the passion intrinsic to God. Despite Church tradition that, influenced by the odd, cold theology of Zanchius and others of his cloth, the attributes of God include passion, and that passion includes romance. Scripture often attributes passion to Jesus and the other Members of the Godhead, most notably so in the Song of Solomon. The Song of Solomon is an overt description of gender-driven passion. Many respected Bible commentators see in this book a connection between Jesus and His Church in the spiritual domain, which places the attribute of gender firmly within the Godhead. Given the romantic, passionate nature of that Book, if romantic, possessive passion was not an attribute of God, the Song wouldn’t belong in the canon of Scripture. Moreover, according to Jesus’ greatest commandment to us in Matthew 22 (echoing Deuteronomy 6) God demands that same passion of us with respect to our relationship with Him. If God was incapable of experiencing that same passion, the commandment would be meaningless.

SIX: The selfless nobility intrinsic to God suggests a union within the Godhead of a harmony built upon complementary otherhood, which can only be fulfilled through gender differentiation. The Bible in its entirety, most emphatically presented in the work of Jesus on the cross, depicts God as selflessly noble. The alternatives to gender differentiation of an all-male or genderless Godhead would encourage narcissistic selfishness. The demand to love God with fervor requires us to view God in a family context as well. Any alternative to that view leaves us with confusion and a profound inability to obey the commandment of love that Jesus expressed in Matthew 22. The confusion is quite real: the confusion and lack of understanding has been confessed to me multiple times by theologians who possess impressive credentials, but who remain committed to a genderless or all-male Godhead. It is difficult to understand how a person who is confused about such an intimate detail regarding the nature of God would be able to worship Him with fervor.

SEVEN: In Ephesians 5, Paul claims that Jesus and His Church will be married, attributing functional gender to attributes within the Godhead. In Genesis 2, Adam states that Eve is bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh, and that therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh. The latter phrase represents the very words that Jesus repeated in Matthew 19:5 and 6, and in Mark 10:7 and 8. The importance of this phrase is confirmed in Ephesians 5:31 and 32, where Paul repeats it yet again, and then goes on to claim that it applies to the union of Jesus and His Church. Here, the Bible explicitly states that Jesus and the Church are fully gendered and will, in the spiritual domain, unite in marriage. That this union will be productive is asserted in Romans 7:4. The fact that Jesus is a Member of the Godhead and is slated to be married plainly suggests that the other two members of the Godhead are also gendered, and, in fact, are united with each other.

EIGHT: The Old Testament Shekinah Glory, generally acknowledged to be feminine, is revealed in the New Testament as the Holy Spirit. Paul goes to great lengths to describe the Church as a spiritual composite of individual Christians, in which the individuals are contributing elements of a whole, each individual being somewhat akin to the various organs that comprise a human body. In that context, gender is not important with regard to the individual (how would a gendered heart work?), but is a vital necessity, as in the complete human body, to the complete Church. An important aspect of the integrated spiritual Church is the indwelling Holy Spirit. As Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 3:16 and Ephesians 2:19-22, we Christians comprise a temple of God, wherein the Holy Spirit dwells. This temple described by Paul is a fulfillment of the type described in the Old Testament, where the Shekinah Glory indwelt the Tabernacle of the Wilderness and Solomon’s Temple at their dedications (Exodus 40 and 1 Kings 8). The Shekinah Glory is generally acknowledged to be feminine in nature; the indwelling fulfillment in Christians identifies the Shekinah as the Holy Spirit.

NINE: The Book of Proverbs describes as feminine the Holy Spirit in Her role as complementary other to the Father. Proverbs 8:22-36, in particular, describes the Holy Spirit working alongside the Father in the Creation. That the feminine Persona of the Holy Spirit in Proverbs is far more than simply a figure of speech, is confirmed by Jesus Christ, who in Luke 7:35 described the Holy Spirit in terms of a sentient Mother. The connection between Wisdom and the Holy Spirit is also made in the Book of Wisdom, which, while having been removed from the canon of Protestant Scripture during the Reformation, remains canonical in the Catholic Church. In that book, Wisdom as a feminine Being is directly linked to the Holy Spirit.

TEN: In multiple passages, Jesus describes the Holy Spirit in feminine terms. In the Gospel of John, Jesus frequently links the Holy Spirit with feminine descriptors, such as “Comforter” and “Helper”. This association is most direct in John 3, where Jesus connects the Holy Spirit with spiritual birth. Birth, of course, is an eminently feminine function. Moreover, many theologians see in Scripture the role of the Holy Spirit as an executive one. An executive function is feminine in nature, representing the essence of complementary otherhood in the carrying out of the will of the Father. More generally, even in translations that corrupt the original description of the Holy Spirit in feminine terms, the Holy Spirit in Genesis 1:2 is described as creatively responsive to the Father’s will. A responsive role is a feminine one.

WANT TO KNOW WHY THE SWITCH WAS MADE FROM A FEMININE TO A MASCULINE HOLY SPIRIT? WANT TO KNOW WHY GOD ALLOWED THAT TO HAPPEN? READ MARCHING TO A WORTHY DRUMMER BY ARTHUR PERKINS, AVAILABLE THROUGH SIGNALMAN PUBLISHING AND AMAZON.

Arthur Perkins

perkinsart44@gmail.com

360-832-6099

HOLY CLOUD

 

If one looks up the word “cloud” in a Bible concordance, even a modest one, he will see well over forty entries. They don’t all have the same meanings, of course, but there are several that do. And some that do have the same meanings don’t seem to at first, because they are used in different contexts. The Biblical clouds that are mentioned here all have the same meaning, and that meaning is a holy one.

In Exodus 40 and 1 Kings 8, the Glory of the Lord, called by the Hebrews the Shekinah, indwelt as a Cloud both the tabernacle in the wilderness and Solomon’s Temple at their dedications. This indwelling feminine Presence was a type – a representative precursor to – the Holy Spirit who indwelt Jesus’ disciples at the Pentecost described in Acts 2 and now, as the Comforter promised by Jesus in John 14, indwells every constituent of Jesus’ entire Church, described by Paul as living temples of God.

The Shekinah Glory of the Wilderness Tabernacle is described in Exodus 40:33-38:

“And [Moses] reared up the court round about the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the hanging of the court gate. So Moses finished the work. Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys; but if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.”

The description “cloud of the Lord”, “fire by night” and “taken up” leaves no doubt that this “cloud” is equivalent to the Shekinah of the Red Sea adventure and of Isaiah 4:5.

The Shekinah Glory of Solomon’s Temple is described in 1 Kings 8:5-11:

And King Solomon, and all the congregation of Israel, who were assembled before him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing sheep and oxen, that could not be counted nor numbered for multitude. And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the Lord unto its place, into the inner sanctuary of the house, to the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubim. For the cherubim spread forth their two wings over the place of the ark, and the cherubim covered the ark and its staves above. And they drew out the staves, that the ends of the staves were seen out in the holy place before the inner sanctuary, but they were not seen outside,; and there they are unto this day. There was nothing in the ark except the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, when the Lord made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord.”

In Daniel 7:13 and 14, and Matthew 17:1-5, the Holy Spirit, still represented by a Cloud, accompanies Jesus in His spiritual appearance before men.

“I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”

“And after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, his brother, and brought them up into a high mountain, privately, and was transfigured before them; and his face did shine like the sun, and his raiment was as white as the light. And, behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah talking with him. Then answered Peter, and said to Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you will, let us make here three booths; one for you, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah. While he yet spoke, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and, behold, a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear you him.”

In Matthew 24:30, Acts 1:8-11, and Revelation 1:7 and 14:14 that same Cloud conveys Jesus between earth and heaven:

“And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

“But you shall receive power, after the Holy Spirit is come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth. And, when [Jesus] had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in while apparel, who also said, You men of Galilee, why stand you gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who is taken up from you into heave, shall so come in like nammer as you have seen him go into heaven.”

“Behold, [Jesus] comes with clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they also who pierced him; and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.”

“And I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat, like the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.”

In 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and 17 and Revelation 11:11 and 12, the cloud also conveys from earth to heaven special humans, constituting the Church and the prophetic witnesses in Jerusalem at the last days of the age:

“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

“And after three days and a half the spirit of life from God entered into [the two witnesses], and they stood upon their feet, and great fear fell upon them who saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up here. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies beheld them.”

In each of the passages noted above, the settings, associations and contexts readily identify the Cloud as representing the Holy Spirit. But our appreciation of and involvement with the Holy Spirit is greater than mere recognition or even conveyance. As I noted in my book Marching to a Worthy Drummer, the connection between the precursor temple Presence and the indwelling of Christian believers is given in 1 Corinthians 3:16 and Ephesians 2:19-22, wherein Paul asserts that the Church herself, through her constituents, is a temple indwelt by the Holy Spirit:

“Know you not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

“Now, therefore, you are no more strangers and sojourners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone, in whom all the building fitly framed together grows unto a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together for a habitation of God through the Spirit.”

NAMING THE ANIMALS

 

In Genesis 2, God pronounces it not good that Adam should be without a mate. But before He proceeds to do something about it, He brings the animals of His Creation to Adam and asks him to name them. Then he forms Eve out of Adam’s rib.

“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help fit for him.

“And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help fit for him.

“And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof. And the rib, which the lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.”

This passage raises a number of questions, particularly in the sequence of events, but with other issues besides. Why did God insert the naming of the animals between His concern over Adam being alone and His forming of Eve? What was so important about Adam naming the animals? How could he possibly name all the animals, given the enormous diversity of life?

As to the first issue, the sequence of the Biblical narrative, I like best an answer picked off the Internet on the Creation Moments website: God was using the simple tool of names to teach Adam to communicate, a skill that he would then pass on to Eve, enabling them to bond through joint communication. That answer is appealing, as it would be a valid prerequisite to the event of bringing Adam and Eve together, much to be preferred to the two staring dumbly at each other and at a total loss for words.

This reason also answers in part the second issue, the importance of Adam naming the animals. But there are other important reasons other than helping Adam to communicate with Eve, one of which is that in having Adam name the animals, God was asserting that these creatures were fixed kinds, finished designs whose basic properties would remain intact throughout history. Thus, this episode in Adam’s life is a slap in the face to Darwin’s theory of evolution, which postulates that life is unceasingly undergoing change. In Darwin’s view, all life is in constant transition from one form to another, so that the animals we see now are simply snapshots in time of what may be very different in the future.

Noted biochemist Douglas Axe captures the essence of this contrast between God’s stability of form with Darwin’s corresponding instability in Chapter 6 of his book Undeniable: How Biology Confirms our Intuition that Life is Designed. There, under the heading “Life A La Darwin”, Axe speaks of the salmon and the Orca whale, each very different but “utterly committed to being what it is”. Life, as Axe sees it, magnificently represents completion of form, creatures living precisely as God designed them to live.

This stability of form leads to the next issue, the question as to how Adam could have named all the animals, even within his very long lifetime. If all kinds of life are stable as was asserted above, the very diversity of life would not only indicate that this variety existed at the time of Adam, but also would make his task extremely difficult. At this point I’ll make a statement that appears to directly contradict this supposed stability of life: there were a relatively few “kinds” of animals that Adam was asked to name; first they were limited to birds and the larger animals; second, these “kinds” were the much-fewer basic precursors whose offspring branched out after Noah’s Flood to the diversity we see today. But then one might say, “See? Animals aren’t stable in form at all!” But the post-Flood diversity has much more to do with designed-in adaptability than actual change corresponding to the evolutionary model. The difference is that God’s engine of change is His inclusion in DNA of pre-existing alternate design modifications, whereas Darwin’s “engine” is dumb, random variation.

Take, for instance, the dog. There exists today an enormous variety of dogs of varying shapes, sizes and attributes. But they’re all still dogs, having the wolf as a common ancestor. The DNA of the wolf is information-rich, capable of accommodating plans “B”, “C”, and so on according to environmental conditions or the human interference of breeding. Most common breeds today are the product of the intelligent operation of selective breeding, and some, but not all, of their features would quickly revert back to those of their common ancestor if they were to be divested of their human overseers and go into the wild. It is true the Mexican hairless creature would be in serious trouble in another ice age because some features such as length of hair might be incapable of reversion. But that would be due to DNA information loss arising from forced breeding.