Archive for the ‘love’ Category

THE ROMANTIC BOND

 

Of all the possible relationships people may have among each other, the romantic bond uniquely involves three features harmoniously and synergistically combined: functional unity, mutual possession, and shared intimacy.

Of itself, the feature of functional unity is common among relationships. It is the essence of teamwork, wherein individuals, each having specialized tasks, operate together in coordinated fashion to achieve higher-level objectives. Functional unity serves as the most sought-after expectation of armies, factories, sports teams and virtually every human endeavor that requires multiple persons working toward a common goal. Most relationships, however, require instruction and training to achieve that feature of human interaction, and firm supervision to maintain it.

In a good romance, however, teamwork is achieved far more naturally than in other relationships, requiring neither instruction, training, nor coercion. Gender-based specialization automatically delineates the normal roles of the participants, enabling them to interact together in complementary fashion without giving much thought to the process. Moreover, this functional synergism within the romantic bond uniquely complements the other two distinctive features, mutual possession and shared intimacy.

Outside of romance, possession is essentially off the table for normal human relationships. As in slavery or prison, possession of one human being by another is always, with but one exception, unhappy and forced. That exception is a passionate romance, which involves mutual possession as not only a voluntary act by the partners, but a comfort as well, and an expectation that each places on the other. Any situation that threatens that possessive bond, such as a potential romantic interest outside that relationship, is seen in a vehemently negative light. Two of God’s Ten Commandments address that very issue.

Scripture itself sometimes conveys that same sense of possession regarding relationships within the Godhead, between God and humanity, and between individuals. Unfortunately, instances in which possession is the topic is very often misinterpreted by Christians as meaning something entirely different than what the text plainly states. An example of that is found in Jeremiah 10:12:

“[God] has made the earth by his power; he has established the world by his wisdom, and has stretched out the heavens by his discretion.”

This passage has often been interpreted to mean the essential opposite of what it intended to convey. In the common misinterpretation, the words “power”, “wisdom” and “discretion” are taken as attributes of the Father. As this interpretation applies these claims to the Father alone, it effectively denies their potential application to the other Members of the Godhead. In other contexts within Scripture, and particularly throughout the Book of Proverbs, all three of these so-called “attributes” are associated with the Holy Spirit rather than the Father. In an alternate interpretation these “attributes” can be taken to be possessive in nature toward the Holy Spirit. In that context the “attributes” belong to the Father’s Holy Spirit and it is the Holy Spirit who belongs to the Father. Under that very natural alternate interpretation a completely different understanding of that passage results, one with romantic implications.

Another example tends to corroborate the possessive interpretation of the passage noted above, wherein the object of the possession is an Entity rather than a mere thing or attribute. The Scriptural passage for this example is Ephesians 5:25-28:

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word; that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

“So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loves his wife loves himself.”

In verse 28 of this passage, the body of the wife is possessively related to the man. The man owns his wife’s body, just as she owns his. Paul was very explicit in this connection in 1 Corinthians 7:2-5:

“Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render to the wife due benevolence; and likewise also, the wife to the husband. The wife has not power of her own body, but the husband; and likewise also the husband has not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud you not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.”

The possessive ownership of each others’ bodies, while taken for granted in romantic relationships within humanity, is often avoided in the context of the relationship between Jesus and His Church. Yet Paul was quite explicit in his establishment of that as well, as Ephesians 5 continues in verses 29 through 32:

“For no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord the church; for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”

But why, if the Church’s marriage to Jesus is to be a meaningful one in the context of our marriages to each other, did Paul in Ephesians 3:28 declare us to be neither male nor female in the spiritual realm? The obvious answer is that we as individuals are simply components of the composite Church, which herself is gendered. Paul alludes to this differentiation between individuals and the composite Church in 1 Corinthians 12:12-17:

“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Greeks, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.

“If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it, therefore, not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it, therefore, not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?

Given the common misunderstanding of Ephesians 3:28, Ephesians 5:28 is often misinterpreted as supporting the common claim that the Church is the one and only spiritual body of Christ, inferring that the Church is the exclusive repository of that body. In the more natural context of possession, however, the Church belongs to Jesus as a body integral with His own, in the same sense that a wife’s body belongs to her husband as an integral component of his own body, just as Adam in Genesis 2:24, Jesus in Matthew 19:5 and Paul in Ephesians 5:31 directly stated.

Of the three features of romantic love, the third, shared intimacy, is the strongest bonding agent to unite the couple. Other human relationships can involve intimacy, but never to the extent of the sexual union between a man and a woman in their romantic partnership. God designed it that way to impart to the gender-based relationship its unique fullness, to set the couple apart from others as a special inviolate unity. It is the intimacy of their shared sexuality, or the promise of it, in synergy with their shared possession of each other, that gives their romance its very strength of passion. Nothing other than that intimacy provides individuals with a bonding force of that strength or beauty.

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WORSHIPING GOD

 

How does one go about worshiping God? In America today, there probably are as many styles and motives of worship as Jelly-Belly flavors – maybe even as much as Jelly-Bellys themselves.

We’re pretty sure that God isn’t dwarfish – most of us perceive Him as rather larger than we are. That size difference evokes a sense of God’s magnificent power, and many Churches affirm that majesty in their communal worship. Others see in that difference in size and power that God possesses considerably more “things” than we do, and consequently adjust their style of worship toward pleas to share the wealth.

Still others, knowing of the promise of the Holy Spirit indwelling believers, seek to tap into that power, just like Simon attempted to do as described in Acts 8:9-24:

“But there was a certain man, called Simon, who previously in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one, to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that for a long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also; and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and was amazed, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.

Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John, who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for as yet he was fallen upon none of them; only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Spirit. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter; for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent, therefore, of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee; for I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.”

This incident has left us with the word simony, which has come to mean, according to one dictionary, “The act of buying or selling places of honor in the church”, a practice that was particularly rampant in the medieval Church and contributed to Martin Luther’s choler against it. People never learn.

Simony is practiced today in a more subtle form among the Church laity, wherein tithing is related to expectations regarding personal finances and workplace successes. But all of the worship practices noted above, including the obsequious slobbering, tail-wagging groveling associated with the worship of God’s majesty, have one glaring characteristic in common: they all are, at their core, dreadfully self-serving. They all constitute nothing but lobbying God for favors. Of such practices, Scripture says in John 9:31:

“Now we know that God hears not sinners; but if any man be a worshiper of God, and does His will, him He hears.”

Self-service is not what God intended worship to be. According to the Bible, what God wants out of us is a restoration of communion with Him, as He initially enjoyed with Adam and Eve in the Garden. He even went so far as to sacrifice Jesus on the cross to provide the way for that to happen.

How, then, should we worship God in a manner pleasing to Him? Above all, we must know the God whom we worship. The only reliable way to know God is to read Scripture, His Self-revelation to us. That, of course, is a process, one which can be supported by the fellowship offered by the Church. Rather quickly, the reader of Scripture comes to understand the true majesty of God, which is pure love, always taking the form of noble selflessness and evoking the same from us. As we come to understand His greatness in love, our worship always should include the spirit of thanksgiving for what we do possess, most of all being His loving, gracious inclusion of us in His extended family.

As suggested in the passage in John quoted above, our worship also should involve active obedience to His will, as it is thoroughly described in Scripture. As Paul plainly notes, our salvation has nothing to do with works; nevertheless, as James also plainly notes, godly works come naturally through the Holy Spirit who indwells believers who have accepted the offer of salvation through Jesus’ vicarious work on the cross in our behalf, moves them to service to God and gifts them with the wherewithal to do so. This does not mean that the Christian need immediately seek out the nearest soup kitchen, but rather that he or she should be available for service as moved by the Holy Spirit. Christians who do serve the Lord in that way quickly learn that such service brings them ever closer to God in a wonderfully loving, productive relationship.

WHY SHOULD IT MATTER?

 

The usual response to my multi-year heartfelt presentations of the Holy Spirit’s femininity is glassy eyes and a shrug of the shoulders. So what? The body language says with eloquence. Why should I care? Whoever or whatever God is or isn’t, I’m a believer, so my faith is the only thing that really matters.

But is it all that matters? More to the point, is faith without love really faith? In Matthew 22:37, Jesus echoes Moses’ words in Deuteronomy 6:5 by claiming that the greatest commandment of God is that Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. Jesus stated that not as a suggestion, but as a commandment. Jesus also said in John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments. These two passages can be paraphrased to say that your love must be fervent to truly be love.

Our faith itself must involve fervent love; otherwise, it isn’t really faith at all, just some meaningless mind-exercise performed for the sake of acquiring peace of mind over the issue of where one goes after the game’s up here on earth. But the faith of most of us is exactly that – fire insurance. Our worship of God seems to be based on a self-centered desire not to be left out of the joys of heaven (if heaven actually does exist, as we wonder within ourselves, and if it actually is joyful).

Fervent love toward God is far more than an exercise of the mind, because fervor doesn’t come from the mind. It is an imprinting upon the soul akin to the passionate, possessive love between a man and a woman. It must be of such a magnitude that the thought of its removal invokes the same sense of desperate grief as the loss of a lifelong mate. It is the way that God made us to love Him. Anything less is not love, nor is it faith. Less than fervent love has the potential of crumbling at the first threat to well-being. We see it happening now in the mass exodus from Church following the recent marginalization of Christians.

Here is where the issue of loving faith collides with our understanding of the nature of God. How can we possibly love that which we so imperfectly know? The Church for centuries has treated the Trinitarian Godhead as either void of gender or somewhat masculine, all three Members having essentially the same nature. The problem with that misrepresentation is that the Godhead and the functional roles within it are both alien and confusing. Some theologians, in recognizing that problem, have put forth the idea that each Member of the Godhead is endowed with traits belonging to both genders. But such theologians failed to use their heads: on a moral basis alone God’s nobility resides far beyond such a narcissism-promoting arrangement as that would encourage. Beyond that issue, gender duality within each Member leaves unsolved the confusion of roles. Yet further, the gender ambiguity would attribute to God Himself gender traits which Scripture discourages in us. Because of the multiplicity of issues associated with it, most Churches recognize the problems inherent in that assignment, leaving us with the basic genderless or all-male model of the Godhead, returning us to confusion and alienation regarding the matter, which has led most Churches to ignore the issue completely.

But the issue is so important that it demands to be heard, for it involves faith. How can we worship God with the fervor He demands of us without even a basic understanding of who He is, and what little that we do know of Him is alien to us? That is exactly why the majority of self-styled Christians, lacking the love that God asks of us, are in blatant disobedience to God, holding to nothing more than a shallow semblance of faith. Most of us think more highly of ourselves than that, visualizing how we will hold fast to our faith in the face of persecution. But that kind of self-aggrandizing attitude is nothing but self-centered chest-pounding that will vaporize under any real threat.

The importance that I attach to this issue of the Holy Spirit’s gender raises another issue of grave importance to all the millions of Christians who have lived and died over the many centuries that the Church has mischaracterized the Holy Spirit: has their failure to obey their God with the ardent love that He commanded denied them the eternal fellowship with God that He promised to His believers? Personally, I don’t think that to be the case, particularly since the misleading came from the Church, not them. My belief that God is far more compassionate and merciful than that is reinforced by the numerous descriptions in Scripture of godly people who, at one time or another, failed to the extent of disobeying God’s commandments. I certainly hope that He is that merciful, because I, for one, have been disobedient to God with distressing frequency.

Yet, if disobedience in loving God the way we should doesn’t forever prohibit us from attaining favor with God, the issue of the Holy Spirit’s feminine gender remains important to us regarding the depth of our commitment to God and to the advantages that are conferred upon us in the here and now for that understanding. For it is a great blessing to fellowship with God, and the closer we come to Him, the nearer that He comes and displays His love toward us. Then, of course, there is the matter of a shallow faith being subject to abandonment in the face of trouble, which is an issue that is not a threat to those closer to God.

In an enormous contrast to the prevailing state of affairs with the Church’s misconception of God, an appreciation of a feminine Holy Spirit introduces the archetype of family into an understanding of the Godhead, instantly clarifying the respective roles of the individual Members and immediately removing all sense of confusion regarding the nature of God.

Most importantly, God is no longer alien to us, but One with whom we can identify through the personal experience of life itself. We can know this God intimately, and this intimacy grants us access to the kind of love that produces real faith in obedience to Jesus’ command, a faith that is capable of withstanding all the negatives that life as Christians can bring us.

Principally because of the issue of holding fast to our faith under the pressure of worldly pleasures and the threat of persecution, the understanding of the Holy Spirit as of the feminine gender does indeed matter – under certain situations, it can be as important as the destination of our eternal souls.

There’s still another reason for appreciating the Holy Spirit’s feminine gender. Equipped with that understanding, a reading of Genesis 1 and 2 becomes a breathtakingly beautiful endeavor. For in the reading the prospect becomes convincing that these passages speak not only of the creation of mankind, but of the arrangement and roles within the Godhead itself of the Members comprising it. Is it not possible, then, that the Holy Spirit Herself was formed out of the Father’s side in His effort to place Love above all other attributes of God, irretrievably far beyond self?

RECAP: TEN REASONS FOR A FEMININE HOLY SPIRIT

 

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. Direct support of the depiction in Genesis 1 of the Holy Spirit’s feminine nature is found in Psalm 94:9, wherein God describes attributes of man, specifically ears and eyes, asking why man can’t understand that God possesses the same attributes. In that context, it would be appropriate for God to ask why, if man was made a gendered being, why God Himself wouldn’t possess as well that same profoundly important attribute.

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.

THE EARLY MORAVIAN CHURCH

 

As I was browsing the Internet recently I came across a fascinating article written by Dr. Craig D. Atwood entitled Motherhood of Holy Spirit in the 18th Century.

According to Dr. Atwood’s biography, his current title is the rather lengthy “Charles D. Couch Associate professor of Moravian Theology and Ministry Director of the Center for Moravian Studies”. He is a faculty member of the Moravian College and Theological Seminary located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where he teaches Moravian theology and history, Christian history, religion in America, and history of Christian thought.

His current interests include a desire to help the Christian community in general to “rediscover the riches of the Moravian theological heritage”. There is a hint in this aspiration, supported in the article noted above, that he sees that something quite valuable was lost in the transition of the Moravian Church away from its unique early dogma toward a more mainstream perception of our Trinitarian Godhead.

The perception that ultimately was abandoned by the Moravian Church is identified in the title: the femininity of the Holy Spirit.

The article itself, which was delivered in a presentation to the faculty of the Moravian College in 2011, traces the history of the Moravian Church in America during its most controversial (and possibly its most fruitful) period, the two decades of the 1740s through the 1750s. From the establishment of the Moravian community of Bethlehem in 1741 on a 500-acre plot purchased from the estate of George Whitefield, the Church initially adhered to the theology of Moravian (now Czechoslovakian) Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf.

Zinzendorf’s theology is rooted in the Czech reform movement of the fourteenth century, in which John Hus’ protests against the Catholic Church a full sixty years before Luther landed him astride a stake, where he was burned as a heretic in 1415. Followers of Hus organized the Moravian Church in 1457 in the village of Kunvald, about a hundred miles east of Prague. The Church spread into Poland through heavy persecution in the sixteenth century. Continuing persecution in the seventeenth century contributed to a relative stasis in the Church. It enjoyed a revival in the eighteenth century as the Church planted roots in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania under the leadership of Count Zinzendorf. Bethlehem lies on the outskirts of Allentown in southeastern Pennsylvania, just north of Philadelphia and west of the New Jersey border. It recently was recognized as being one of the one hundred best places to live in America.

According to Dr. Atwood, Bethlehem enjoyed particular favor from God, as the community was one of the most successful in pre-revolution America. Atwood implies that this favor resulted from the theology of the Moravian Church, unique at that time, in which the Holy Spirit was considered to be the Spouse of the Holy Father and the Mother of Jesus and His Church.

The Moravian Church was recognized for its emphasis on the love of God. God blessed it by endowing the Church with a very active missionary outreach, where it attained a position of leadership in sending emissaries of Jesus Christ to other lands as well as the local Algonquin-based Lenape Indian Tribe, many members of which were converted to Christianity. Bethlehem itself was blessed with stability and commercial prosperity, becoming a center for the production of steel and shipbuilding.

The Church’s perception of the Holy Trinity continued at least for the twenty years following the establishment of Bethlehem. Following the death of Count Zinzendorf and his wife and son, the far weaker post-Zinzendorf Church leadership fell away into a desire to conform more closely to the more popular “mainstream” dogmas of the Protestant Churches in the surrounding communities. They completed their abandonment of their original dogma by burning Zinzendorf’s writings.

The Church leadership now appears to lament this transition toward “normalcy”, implying that Bethlehem and the Moravian Church did not continue in the favor of God thereafter. They have expressed disappointment in the manner in which this transition was handled, implying that in continuing embarrassment Church historians label the two initial decades of the Moravian presence in America as “a time of sifting’, wherein the theological “experimentation” of the time eventually led to the more stable dogma of mainstream Christianity. In opposition to this false and rude dismissal, some Church members claim that a substantial segment of the Moravian Church continues in the initial dogma even to this day.

Some Church leaders appear to be seeking a re-establishment of that early doctrine of the Holy Spirit, not only for its intrinsic truth but for the good of the Church and perhaps even America.

Here’s my take on this account of accommodation to popular thought: as the reader of my blog postings is well-aware, I consider the perception of the femininity of the Holy Spirit not only to represent truth, but to be the only viable way to worship our Judeo-Christian God with the love that He demands of us. Beyond that, the transition of the Moravian Church to “normal” is just another sad tale in a very long litany of similar ungodly, cowardly acts of appeasement to majority thought, begun in the New Testament by Peter’s threefold denial of Jesus and continuing on to this very day, where we see, among other examples of falling-away, the Church’s attempt to accommodate herself to the false and thoroughly secular notion of evolution.

THE NATURE OF OUR MARRIAGE TO JESUS CHRIST

 

Having denied the existence of gender in heaven, some scholars of theology have taken this absence to the extreme of insisting that Jesus will wed a building, beautiful as it might be. Individuals of this persuasion have pointed to Revelation 21:1-3 in support of that notion, interpreting it to align with their particular vision of God:

“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away, and there was no more sea. And I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of Go is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.”

But if that is the case, one might ask such an individual, what about the Church? Indeed, in John 3:29, where Jesus refers to Himself as the bridegroom of the bride, the object of His affection is usually interpreted as the Church.

But no, he who pictures the bride as a building would respond. The Church is the body of Christ, he would assert, pointing to 1 Corinthians 12:27;

“Now you are the body of Christ, and members in particular.”

But Paul, in Ephesians 5:28, made a more possessive association of the Church with the body of Christ than one in which the Church actually takes over Christ’s body. In developing in more detail the interpretation of the Church as being “the Body of Christ”, Paul commented there that “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. In that phrase Paul emphasizes the image in which the wife is considered to belong to the man’s body. The inclusion in marriage of the notion of ownership was developed at the very beginning of the Bible in the restatement of Adam’s commentary regarding Eve of two becoming one flesh such that in the marital union the wife is considered to belong to the man’s body.

In short, the Body of Christ represented by the Church is a possessive extension of Christ’s own body, the Man and wife being considered as one flesh.

Scripture itself asserts that Jesus will marry a living entity rather than an inanimate object. In Matthew 22:31 and 32, Jesus declares that He is the God of the living:

“But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken to you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”

My own interpretation of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 20 is that this holy city is the mansion that Jesus spoke of in John 14:1-3:

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”

But if the New Jerusalem is itself Jesus’ bride, it is a living building. There is some allusion to that in Scripture. In His message to the Church at Philadelphia in Revelation 3:12, Jesus graphically describes a member of the Church as a component of a building:

“Him that overcomes will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out; and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from My God; and I will write upon him My new name.”

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 3:9, 10 and 16, describes the members of the Church as living temples:

“For we are laborers together with God; you are God’s cultivated field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let every man take heed how he builds upon it. . . Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”

Paul makes this same association of Christians to living temples in Ephesians 2:19-22:

“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 growth unto an holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together for a habitation of God through the Spirit.”

Note from these examples that while the imagery is one of a building or components thereof, the components themselves are living human souls, all redeemed by Jesus Christ and therefore identical to the components of the Church. Given that identity, the imagery in Revelation 21 of the New Jerusalem is not mutually exclusive with the imagery of the Church. Indeed, if one considers the mansion of John 14 to be supplied by God and the Church its living furnishings, the two images are entirely compatible with each other and mutually supportive, each adding color to the understanding of the Church as the spiritual Bride of Christ. This understanding brings this commentary full circle through Revelation 19: 7-9 back to the character of the Church as not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing:

“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to Him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he said to me, Write, Blessed are they who are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he said to me, These are the true sayings of God.”

Not only is Jesus’ bride alive, but His relationship with her will be romantic. If that was not the case, Jesus would not have joyfully worked His first miracle at Cana as recorded in John 2, nor would the Song of Solomon or the book of Ruth, both commonly recognized as prophetic of Jesus’ marriage to His Church, have belonged in the Bible.

THE BRIDE OF CHRIST

 

The beautiful mystery explained by Paul in Ephesians 5:25-32 has instilled in me the wonderful and moving view of the Church as the Bride of Christ:

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of the water by the Word; that He might present it to himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord the Church; for we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of his bones.

For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the Church.”

In repeating the words of Adam in the Garden and of Jesus in Matthew 19, both in the setting of marriage and in the physical union between a man and his wife, Paul, by placing this marital union in the context of Jesus and His Church, plainly stated that the Church will be the spiritual Bride of Christ in an intimate relationship with a meaning that extends far beyond that of a mere figure of speech, as is the prevailing custom within the Church.

Unfortunately, the Church for a very long time has attempted to minimize the nature of this spiritual relationship, to the extent of denying that gender and the romance associated with it exists in heaven. There are two particular passages in Scripture that are used to foster that thought. One is in Matthew 22, and the other is in Galatians 3.

In Matthew 22: 28-30, Jesus responds to the Sadducees’ attempts to trick Him by telling them that in heaven people don’t marry:

Jesus answered and said unto the, Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels in heaven.”

Notice that in this context Jesus mentioned the power of God. This doesn’t square with the common interpretation of the passage as describing a feature that is absent. Those who would deny the existence of gender in heaven overlook that point. Why the deniers miss this is that they’re thinking too small. Jesus didn’t deny the existence of marriage; He denied the existence of marriage among individuals. But the Church, as a composite of a multitude of individuals, is perfectly capable of marriage, and that’s where the power of God comes into play.

Paul addresses the same issue in Galatians 3:28 regarding individuals in the spiritual realm:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Again, the subject is the individual. But in 1 Corinthians 12: 4-11 and elsewhere in Scripture, Paul very plainly develops the idea that the individual is not the Church, but rather just a component of her, and a rather small element at that:

“Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit.

“For to one is given, by the Spirit, the word of wisdom; to another, the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another, faith by the same Spirit; to another, the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another, the working of miracles; to another, prophecy; to another, discerning of spirits; to another, various kinds of tongues; to another, the interpretation of tongues. But all these work that one and the very same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.”

In verses 12-17, Paul develops the role of the individual within the Church as similar to the roles of parts within our bodies:

“For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, where we are Jews or Greeks, whether we are bond or free; and we have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.

“If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore, not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling?”

Paul continues to develop the point that individuals are only components of an integrated whole, and concludes by listing some specific individual roles of individuals within the Church: apostles; prophets; teachers; workers of miracles; healers; administrators; and speakers in tongues. His point is clear: there is a vast difference in the spiritual Church between the individual components and the whole, just as in our own bodies between our individual organs, which of themselves are genderless, even those that implement gender, and our composite selves, which are indeed gendered.

There are Old Testament prophecies of Jesus’ marriage to His Church. The elaborate and moving description of it found in Genesis 24 certainly doesn’t portray that relationship as trivial. Nor does the description in Ruth, nor in the Song of Solomon.

Genesis 24, for example, describes the betrothal and marriage of Rebekah to Isaac. In Genesis 22 God commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, which identifies Isaac as a type of Jesus Christ. In line with that identification, Isaac’s marriage to Rebekah identifies her as a type of Christ’s bride. According to Galatians 3:28, in which spiritual individuals do not possess gender, this bridehood cannot be fulfilled in individuals: the fulfillment must come for a collection or aggregate of individuals, which would suggest the Church. This identification of the Church as the Bride of Christ is strengthened by Paul’s characterization of the Church in 1 Corinthians 12 as a collection of individuals, each possessing specific gifts of the Holy Spirit.

In the Book of Ruth, Ruth’s husband Boaz is routinely identified by the Church as the Kinsman-redeemer, a type of Christ. It follows that Ruth, a female, represents His spiritual Wife, the Church.

Relating again to the Old Testament, it would be extremely difficult, if the Church was not a feminine entity, to justify the inclusion of the Song of Solomon in the canon of Scripture. Why, if the spiritual domain is genderless, would this overtly sexual document be a part of the Bible?

Jesus certainly didn’t dismiss His future spiritual marriage to His Church as amounting to “a figure of speech”. Jesus made numerous allusions to His own future marriage, including the parable of the marriage feast in Matthew 22, the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25, and, of course, his first miracle at Cana recorded in John 2, wherein He changed water into wine in anticipation of the joy of His own future wedding.

Nor, according to Paul in Romans 7:4, is this marriage to be empty of birth.

“Wherefore, my brethren, you also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ, that you should be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit to God.”