Should Christian’s Call God “Father”?

Mark Silk authored a recent essay in which he declared that the terms for God are metaphorical and can be easily replaced. Mr. Silk suggested calling God “they” to avoid patriarchal language. “A phrase such as ‘God the Father’ should be treated as a metaphor- and for those concerned about the embedded misogyny of the tradition, to say nothing of post-binary folks– a deeply problematic one.”

This is not a new suggestion. For many years some preachers and teachers have been using feminine pronouns to speak of God. For example, some have rewritten the Lord’s prayer to begin, “Our Mother which art in Heaven.” Is this an acceptable change? Given the many abuses that have been perpetrated by male church leaders, should Christian’s avoid masculine and fatherly terminology to describe God?

Mark Silk is accurate when he says the references to God as Father are metaphorical. God is not male in any biological sense. God is not a Father in any reproductive sense. God did not sire any children. Jesus is God the Son but that title speaks only to how members of the Trinity relate to one another. The name God the Son does not indicate that the second person of the Trinity is somehow the offspring or product of God the Father. God the Father and God the Son are equally eternal. Neither owe their existence to the other. Likewise, the description of the Christian as the child of God is a reference to a relationship that exists by adoption, not to any physical procreation on God’s part.

Since much of the Biblical language used of God is metaphorical, can we therefore replace problematic terms with ones less troublesome? No, Christian’s cannot call God by any extra-Biblical title or description they find most Biblical. God has revealed Himself in certain terms. Man dare not devise new descriptions of God. Biblical terminology about God is not literal, but it’s non-literalness does not imply inaccuracy. Rather, the metaphorical nature of many descriptions of God suggests truths greater than any one can understand.

The Bible is not the product of the mind of deeply religious men. The Bible is the product of God. Scripture was given directly by God the Holy Spirit through holy men of God. The human authors of the Bible wrote exactly what God intended. Every Word of God is true and accurate. Because the Bible is the Word of God it is the Christian’s authority. Because every Word of God is pure the Biblical language used to describe God must be submitted to. While God is not male in the physical human sense, He is undoubtedly masculine with a masculinity that transcends biological maleness. God is the Father of all creation and the Father of all saints in a way that transcends siring children. These terms are descriptions of God that accommodate the limitations of the human mind and they are also the only authoritative guides to understanding God.

Consider, not one time in the thousands of references to God does the Bible speak of God as “she.” Even in situations where mothering analogies are used, like the image of a mother hen sheltering her young under her wings, the pronouns for God remain masculine. “He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust.” (Psalm 91:4) Past experiences may cause some to be uncomfortable with fatherly terminology, but the corrective is not a change of the way we describe God. The corrective is to develop a right understanding of God that we may think rightly about God our Father.

Does the greater good justify using aborted fetal cells to develop vaccines?

Andrea Gambotto, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, said about the controversy over the use of aborted fetal cells in the development of the coronavirus vaccines, “It’d be a crime to ban the use of these cells.” He added. “It never harmed anybody — it was a dead embryo so the cells back then, instead of being discarded, they were used for research.” Is this argument valid? Can the use of aborted fetal cells in medical development be justified by the good it accomplishes?

Before answering this question, a few disclaimers need to be given. This article is not about the morality of the use of aborted fetal cells in the use of vaccines or any other medication. This article is not about if people should get vaccinated or about the various vaccine mandates in America. The question at hand is narrow and regards the perception that the greater good justifies wrong behavior.

Another repsonse, similar to Mr. Gambotto’s, protests that if it is immoral to use products developed wth aborted fetal cells, then say good bye to modern medicine. Is this a valid argument? Does the great good accomplished by vaccines or other modern pharmacology outweigh any harm that may have been caused in the origin of the fetals cells?

A simple illustration may make the question more clear. Doctor’s discover that a young man has a an enzyme in his blood which immediately stops the spread of any cancerous cells in his body. Even more amazing, this enzyme is reproducible and can quickly be made available at low cost to cancer patients around the world. This one man’s blood could end cancer for everyone. This hypothetical scenario has two difficulties. First, to get enough of the enzyme to assure success doctor’s will have to drain his body of blood, killing him. Second, he does not want to die and will not consent to the procedure. Is it ethical or moral to take that man’s life so cancer can be completely cured?

Of greater importance than our feelings about the justification of certain ethical and moral decisions is the Bible’s evaluation. What does the Bible say about judging immoral actions by the good they produce. Two examples from the Old Testament should be sufficient to show God’s perspective. The first example involved King Saul. In 1 Samuel 13 King Saul was preparing to lead the army of Israel against the Philistines. Before the battle they waited for the prophet and priest Samuel to offer a sacrifice to God. But Samuel did not show up at the appointed time, and the army of Israel began to drift away. The Philistine army approached and it seemed the army of Israel would be routed. So King Saul called for sacrificial animals to be brought to him and he offered sacrifices to God. The problem is, Saul had no right to offer sacrifices. Only the priests could do that. Saul did wrong in order to maintain the army of Israel and gain the victory in battle against the Philistines. Considering that God had commanded the Israelites to defeat the Philistines, this is a good result. However, God was not pleased. Through Samuel God told Saul, “Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: Now thy kingdom shall not continue.” (1 Samuel 13:13-14)

On a later occasion, during the reign of King David, God shows again His view about doing wrong to accomplish a greater good. The Ark of the Covenant had been stolen by the Philistines, but was returned to Israel. Because the Ark of the Covenant was the center of Jewish worship and the place where God’s glory rested in the Tabernacle, King David went out to bring the ark to the capital city of Jerusalem. However, David made a serious error. He had the ark hauled on an ox cart instead of carried by priests as God had commanded. At one point in the journey the cart shook and the ark began to fall off. Uzzah reached up and held the ark on the cart. God had specifically commanded no one was to touch the Ark of the Covenant and warned that whoever touched it would die. (Numbers 4:15) God struck Uzzah dead. Uzzah’s action accomplished great good, keeping the ark from falling to harm. But God requires obedience, not pragmatism. He punished Uzzah for disobedience.

God is not impressed with human justificaitons and rationalizations. He requires obedience to Him above all else. Any good that may come from doing wrong never justifies the wrong done.

Is God Just and Righteous?

The character of God is declared in the Bible and is revealed in His actions to humanity. For example, Scripture says that God is both just and righteous. “The Lord our God is righteous in all His works.” (Daniel 9:14) “The just Lord is in the midst thereof: he will do no iniquity.” (Zephaniah 3:5) The Bible affirms repeatedly the justice and righteousness of God. What does this mean?

The Biblical words translated “just” and “righteous” do not mean precisely what is meant by those same words in modern English. In English the word “just” has a connotation of legal justice that does what is right in dispensing the law. A just judge passes judgment rightly, lawfully and without bias. A just rebuke is one that is rightly deserved. In English the word “righteous” has the connotation of moral behavior. The righteous man is honest, faithful and ethical. Just is often perceived as having a bent towards the judicial and legal. Righteous is seen as referring towards the personal and moral. This distinction did not exist in Hebrew or Greek. Instead, the Bible brings both concepts together into one package. One Hebrew word is translated as “just” in some places and as “righteous” in others. The same is true in Greek. In the original languages, the words translated just and righteous are identical. The Bible does not consider just and righteous to be two different ideas.

The Biblical words combine the legal and the moral aspects. To be righteous and just is to live in accord with the law of God. The just one keeps the moral and civil laws of God. The one who is just and righteous will respond fairly to all. The just business man will not cheat his customers. The righteous ruler will not bend the law to suit his own ends, or show favoritism in passing judgment. One who is just and righteous always acts in accord with the law of God.

To say that God is just and righteous is to say that God always acts in accord with His own law. His actions never violate His law and He always judges fairly. When Abraham pled with God for Lot he appealed to the justice of God. Because justice gives to all men what they deserve and does not punish the innocent Abraham pled accordingly. He knew the character of God. Because God is just He will not punish the righteous for the actions of the wicked. “That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25)

The justice of God is also a perfect justice which judges according to complete knowledge of the situation and the individual. (Psalm 7:9) When God condemns, His judgment is always accurate and right. (Revelation 16:7) He never condemns the innocent or acquits the guilty. Every decision and ruling is always the correct ruling and in perfect keeping with all His laws.

To say that God is just and righteous is also to say that He is always moral and upright in His deeds. God never acts immorally or unfaithfully. He always does what is proper and right. He does not sin. (Zephaniah 3:5) This means all can trust God to do what is right, to execute perfect judgment and to always act in accord with His perfect law.

Why has Jesus not Returned to Judge Evil?

In a recent conversation the assertion was made that if the Bible is true then Jesus should have already returned to put a stop to the evils that are happening in this world. Recent headlines include multiple mass shootings and the kidnaping of missionaries and their families in Haiti. If God is real and if Jesus is really God then why doesn’t He come back like He promised and put an end to all these terrible wrongs?

This question gets back to the old problem of evil, that never goes away. The Bible gives several clear answers to this question. The most important is that Jesus has not come yet so that others might be saved. (2 Peter 3:9) Because God does not delight in the death of the wicked, He waits. He gives the innocent opportunity to repent, lest they should be destroyed with the wicked. (Jonah 4:11) Because God desires all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4) He gives them room to repent. (Revelation 2:21) When Jesus returns, the chance for salvation will be gone. The lost will be forever condemned. Jesus’ delay is salvation for those who will believe. (2 Peter 3:15)

Many skeptics who raise this question are not demanding a righting of wrongs, they are demanding Jesus prove Himself. Jesus has already given all the proof needed. When John the Baptist’s disciples brought a message to Jesus asking if He was really the Messiah, Jesus pointed them to the miracles He had done. They were proof enough that He is who claimed to be. (Matthew 11:2-6) God has given us even more proof that Jesus is God- the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The Bible gives ample evidence that Jesus is who He claimed to be. He has no need to prove Himself further to those who reject the proof already given.

The original question also betrays an expectation that Jesus is like a super hero who swoops in to save the day from the worst of villains, but allows the rest of humanity to go on with their lives. This is a complete misunderstanding of Jesus, His judgment and His righteousness. When Jesus returns to judge wickedness, He will not just judge the worst of evils, He will judge all the wicked. (Matthew 25:31-33) Jesus will not judge according to man’s standards of who is a good person, He will judge according to His perfect standard. (Matthew 5:48) All those who have not received Him for salvation will be condemned (Revelation 20:15). When Jesus returns those who do not believe will lose their opportunity for salvation and will be cast into eternal judgment.

A better question to ask is why does Jesus continue to give good things to sinners? (Matthew 5:45) Psalm 36 describes the skeptic who doubts God’s goodness. Despite the abundance of wickedness in this world, the mercy and faithfulness of God abound. God’s compassion is seen in the sky, the mountains and the oceans. God’s goodness is seen in all of creation. Since humanity has rebelled against God, the question that should be asked is, why does God give good things to humanity? Why are we not all destroyed? “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.” (Lamentations 3:22)

Jesus has not yet returned that you might be saved. Do not doubt His goodness, but trust Him.

What is justice?

Justice continues to be a major concern for Americans, and rightly so. All citizens have good reason to be concerned that we live in a just society. Americans should lawfully oppose and correct injustice. Americans should pursue justice. God requires His people “to do justly.” To do justly the Christian must first have a right understanding of justice. To pursue justice, the citizen must have a correct understanding of what he is pursuing. How does the Bible describe justice?

This article will not examine everything the Bible says about justice. The aspects of individual justice will be untouched to focus instead on governmental and legal justice. The starting point to understanding justice is the character of God. Justice must conform to the character of Him who is Just. Any law or judgment that does not conform to the character of God is inherently unjust. For example, the laws which decreed blacks to be 3/5ths of a person were unjust and laws which decree homosexual relationships to be moral are equally unjust.

Only one nation has received its laws and jurisprudence directly from God. That nation is Israel. As a result, Israel is a case study in Divine justice in a society. However, not all of Israel’s laws are directly applicable to modern day nations. Few would suggest that it would be just for any nation today to impose penalties on those who eat shellfish. Nor can it be said that Israel’s system of laws is the absolutely perfect ideal. Jesus Himself declared that portions of the law were given as an accommodation to the sinfulness of men. (Matthew 19:8) Despite these limitations, principles of governance that transcend cultures are found in God’s instructions to Israel.

Certain of the universal principles found in the law of Moses are restated in the New Testament. God specifically ordained governments to oppose evil and promote good. (Romans 13:3) Governments are ministers of God for the good of their citizens. Governments are to execute wrath on those who do wrong. (Romans 13:4) The role of government is retributory, bringing consequences on those who do wrong. This includes execution of certain criminals. (Roman 13:4; Genesis 9:6) How the government is to exercise this responsibility is not directly addressed in the New Testament, but it is modeled by Israel in the Old Testament.

Israel’s laws reveal that God’s justice is concerned with equal treatment of all individuals. Equal treatment is founded on the truth that all people are created in the image of God. No person is a lesser being because of their position in society. All are equally bearers of God’s image. Biblical justice treats all equally, regardless of citizenship, power or wealth. (Deuteronomy 27:19)

Justice is also concerned with the protection of the weak. Governments are to ensure that the powerful do not take advantage of the weak (Exodus 22:22; Leviticus 19:14) and that the seller does not take advantage of the buyer. (Deuteronomy 25:13) The government should take care to protect the weak from being wronged by the powerful, but in criminal matters it is never to give special consideration to a person’s financial status or social condition. (Leviticus 19:15) In general, Biblical justice is about protection of individuals, equal treatment under the law and judgment of evil that is exacted without regard to the status of the person.

However, the Bible also teaches that injustice will persist in this world. This is not intended to produce apathy towards injustice in this world. Instead, the Bible points Christians to the future that they may be faithful to perform and promote justice now. The Christian can continue to pursue justice in this world because in the end justice will be perfectly and fully executed. When Jesus returns He will judge the world in righteousness. He will punish all sin with perfect justice. He will establish righteousness across the world. He will judge all people based upon full and exact knowledge of all sin and without favor towards their status, wealth, ethnicity or culture. In the end none will escape justice, and none will be cheated the justice they deserve.