Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Naked In Amsterdam

On this date in 1535, five Anabaptists ran naked through the streets of Amsterdam.

Naked Anabaptists is an alarming term. I suppose Anabaptists get naked like anyone else, but since the only modern Anabaptists I know are Amish, the picture in my head is disturbing.

Also, notice the date. It’s cold in Amsterdam on February 10th. Very cold. Very, very cold. Naked is not a good idea.

Whose idea was it to go naked in Amsterdam in February?

I guarantee you it wasn’t a woman’s idea. Women just don’t decide to run naked through the streets to protest heresy.

The women Anabaptist might even told the guys this was not a good idea.

“But Fredrick. You’ll freeze your … self!”

They didn’t listen and so five Anabaptists ran naked through the streets of Amsterdam.


Religious history would have been far different had the women not been locked out of the decision-making process. Now, I’ve seen my share of nutty women spiritual leaders too, so men don’t have a monopoly on religious stupidity. Still. Women see things from a different perspective and usually, we make better decisions when women and men share their different perspectives before acting.

We should have adjusted our thinking about women’s role in the church for centuries. For most of Christian history, the church has been much more chauvinistic than the apostles ever were.

That brings me to an interesting topic.

People are increasingly using feminine terms when referring to God.

Well, why not?

The Bible certainly uses feminine metaphors for God. God created male and female in “His own image and likeness.” Obviously then, women as well as men bear God’s image. Therefore, some facet of God’s essential nature is expressed through women that does not get expressed through men.

So why can’t we call God “Mother”?

Let’s begin here: the Bible is much more than a human document.

Were the Bible merely a human document, we could freely edit it to reflect the evolving sensitivities of culture.

Women have often been harmed by male domination, even in the church. Through much of history, a father or husband could beat a woman in his household without answering to anyone. A man could approve or disapprove his daughter’s choice of husbands. He had control over any income the women of the family might make.

Most of us no longer believe that such male domination is acceptable. Naturally enough, some people believe that addressing God as “Father” reinforces our old culture habit of male domination. (The formal term for that cultural habit is patriarchy.) Many people argue that by calling God “Mother” or escaping from the dilemma altogether by calling God “Parent,” we can avoid the dangers of patriarchy.

These arguments are appealing to many. As new generations become the teachers and pastors of the faith, they will appeal to even more people than they do today. Furthermore, these opinions are often stated in all sincerity by sincere and capable people.

One more thing: the arguments about using gender inclusive language in relation to God are not as Biblically weak as some conservatives claim.

Nonetheless, we do not have the authority to edit Holy Scripture, not even for what we think is a good cause.

Theology that develops from an orthodox view of the Bible is formed by the belief that God inspired its writers to reveals Him as God wished to be revealed.

Even the most conservative believer will agree that God “as He really is,” is beyond all gender distinction. Nonetheless, God “as He reveals Himself” in Scripture is nearly always masculine.

The orthodox believer must ask, “Should we speak of God other than in the ways He speaks of Himself?”

It depends on one’s view of the Bible.

Is the Bible the product of fallible human beings? Did its writers give us a divinely inspired message that was unfortunately distorted by their own cultural biases?

Or, is the Bible, though certainly a product of human minds and hands, inspired in such a way that its message is divinely protected from error?

Christians who are more liberal, (they would prefer the word “progressive”) tend to give the first answer.

More conservative Christians, (they would, or should prefer the word “orthodox") give the second one.

It is a question every Christians has to settle for himself or herself.

I am an orthodox Evangelical Christian. Although I am a fallible human being and therefore realize that my interpretation of the Bible is doubtlessly flawed, I believe that God’s revelation of Himself in Scripture comes to us as He intended.

I do not believe we have the right to edit Divine revelation, however noble our reasons.

For these and other reasons I will address in later blogs, I do not call God My Mother and don’t believe any Christian should do so.

Nonetheless, I wish a woman had been present that morning in Amsterdam when five Anabaptists got carried away at the prayer service and thought that God was telling them to run naked through the street. One of their mothers, sisters, daughters or wives would surely had stopped that idea dead in its tracks by simply bursting our in uncontrolled laughter.

Or, perhaps, a woman would have asked them to take out the trash first.

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