The Gender of the Holy Trinity

May 2003By Monica Migliorino Miller

Monica Migliorino Miller received her Ph.D. in Theology from Marquette University and was a classmate of Scott Hahn's (and was present at his dissertation defense). She is an Associate Professor of Theology at St. Mary's College in Orchard Lake, Michigan, and is author of Sexuality and Authority in the Catholic Church (University of Scranton Press) and The Authority of Women in the Catholic Church (Crisis Books).

"Two parents have generated us for death, two parents have generated us for life." These words of St. Augustine succinctly sum up a basic truth of Christianity. The order of man's redemption is bound to the order of creation. We certainly know who our parents of death are -- Adam and Eve -- and more proximately our own fathers and mothers who gave us life in a world in which we will die. To escape the curse of death we need to be brought into life by the love and unity of two other parents -- namely God and the Church. The economy of salvation is a covenant between God and His people. Within this covenant, God is a true life-giving Father. But if the order of creation truly reflects and parallels the order of redemption, then God is a true life-giving Father and the Church is a true life-giving mother. Thus, male and female sexuality from the beginning of creation are the symbols by which the covenantal order of redemption is expressed. There is something about God's own being that male sexuality truly reflects and something about the Church that female sexuality truly reflects. Indeed, God is not just like a father -- God is a Father. Ultimately the essence of fatherhood -- and not motherhood -- exists in God. Again, God is not like a father -- rather, human fathers are like God. Nonetheless, the "gender" of God has been the center of theological controversy in the past forty years. While the feminine nature of the Church is still not fully understood or appreciated, at least no one denies it. At least the Church is not spoken of as a man in the way God is spoken of as a woman.

Of course, for anyone who takes revelation seriously, one of the strongest arguments for the Fatherhood of God is that God refers to Himself as a Father in both the Old and New Testaments. Jesus tells us to call God "Abba," meaning "Papa." The decisive weight of Scripture and Tradition is on the side of the Fatherhood of God. Feminists argue, though, that the word "Father" is mere metaphor, or historically conditioned language, that the Fatherhood of God is only one way of understanding God. Indeed, for the most radical feminists, that God is seen as a Father and called "Father" is the result of a sinful, patriarchal culture and Church. The feminist theological movement has been enormously effective in altering many people's perception of who God is and abolishing so-called patriarchal and androcentric theological language. It is said that God can just as well be called "mother" as "Father." However, as we shall see below, the word "Father" reveals a truth about God that the word "mother" does not.

One of the most essential insights of Judaism and Christianity is that God is Other -- the wholly Other. Unlike the ancient pagan world that blurred divinity and nature, or collapsed God into nature, the Hebrew faith understood that God is other than nature. God is outside of nature as the cause of nature. Yet this wholly Other is in relation to His creation -- in harmony with it. He is not in opposition to it. This is the God who can look at something outside and other than Himself and call it "very good." From this wholly Other God, creation has received its being. The God who is in relation to His creation and yet different from it forms the primary truth upon which the whole covenantal order of salvation itself is based -- the truth (first present in the Trinity) of differentiation and unity. This otherness quality of God's creative action is how He is a Father in relation to His creation. Human fatherhood also manifests this otherness quality. No matter how much a human father loves and cares for his children, his life-giving contribution is apart, removed, and even spatially distant, separated. A father cannot know his children with the same intimate physical bond as a mother. Fr. Walter Ong, S.J., wrote one of the most insightful books on the meaning of male sexuality in relation to the Fatherhood of God, entitled Fighting for Life. He states, "Male sexuality represents God the Father. God is likened to the masculine because he is a source of life that is 'other, different, separated' (kadosh the Hebrew word translated sanctus, hagios holy, means at root 'separated') from all his creation, even from human beings, though they are in his image and likeness."

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I'd add that terms such as miner, ditch-digger, marine merchant, steel- and ironworker, etc., are all historically conditioned words as male .

As soon as women rush to fill these dangerous, dirty jobs to balance historical gender inequities in the workplace, I'll give some creidiblity to their claims about "Father."

Every year in the U.S. more than 5,500 men die in the workplace (in other words, by October, as many men die growing our food and transporting goods for us as have died in Iraq in more than four years). We never hear about the deaths of men in the workplace because it is politically expedient to ignore, not publicize, them.

When the going gets easy, women getting going, and the mass media want us to focus on Hillary and Paris, the Trojan horses of decay and decadence. Today's lil' princesses may pay for the sins of their mothers and learn that this is a harsh and cruel world when you act as immoral role models who think that ignorance is intelligence.
Posted by: j17ghs
October 28, 2007 03:36 PM EDT
"I would also add that the Holy Spirit is always referred to with masculine pronouns ... by Jesus." I have noticed this as well (and it's even stronger in the Greek than in the English). What is Hahn's rebuttal? Has he simply overlooked this? I have never understood academics. They always choose the weakest, most tangential arguments to concentrate on, and overlook or ignore the obvious. Why does Miller bury this sentence in the middle of the article?

Kolbe's "quasi-incarnatus" idea is not troublesome at all: Hahn and Miller both make a mountain out of a molehill. All Kolbe means is that Mary is completely filled with the Holy Spirit, or something along those lines. Not bad being the wife of God, is it? If you're looking for something feminine about the Trinity, look no further than Mary.

I think that being the self-appointed interpreter of Scripture is a very unenviable position to be in.
Posted by: Andrew
May 12, 2008 11:17 AM EDT
Theoretical conditions : the book of Genesis ; the documentary sources of Genenesis ( P for priestly document ) his world not only directed from heaven but heaven centered.
The Anchor Yale Bibe series ( Genesis)page XXIV-XXV
Priestly documented in the 2 Enoch ;Slavonic Apocalypse translation - Late First Century A.D. ( Prietly documented uses numerals , P2 words, to count the components , JR do not have either ( The old Testament Pseudapigraphia volume One page 150-152 ; the commentary on " the sixth day I commanded my Wisdom to create snout of seven components. )
Hegel Philodophy the" One" in Positive Science ( Being - For Self ) differentiates as ( The ONE, The Many, Repuldion and Attraction)
Posted by: laguerre12
July 10, 2012 05:04 PM EDT
"Secular Greek usage of the meaning of the term ( Holy Spirit) The Greek noun pneuma derives from the verb *pnew and denotes air in movement , experienced as wind,breeze,or breath.Even " breath " and "wind" express only a part of the more comprehensive sense of movement implicit in pneuma. The concept itself involves a surplus of meaning which must have abetted it's spiritualization and metaphorical extension.Contemplation of the animating effect of breathing might have suggested the psychological phenomenon of inspiration .Notwithstanding such extension , the basic sense of natural energy is retained . In classic Greek texts the word pneuma is used with four discernible meanings: wind,breath,life,and metaphorically of these"( The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary : volume 3 page 261)
Hegel Philosophy: " The Kingdom of the Spirit " God and man are one their unity is now represented in this fashion,that the spirit of God is in man, not however in man as particular man,but in a community of men, the Church.The Holy Spirit is actually present in His Church. If the kingdom of the Father was the Logical Idea, God before the creation of the world; and if the Kingdom of the Son was that Idea in it's Otherness; nature; the Kingdom of the Spirit ,as the third movement,the movement of individuality,is the unity of two foregoing.For the Church is,on the one hand,the pure spirit of God,but it is Aldo,secondly,in the world ,actually present.It is the Kingdom of God upon earth"(513-514)
The best selling author : Myth of Religion by Andrew M . Greeley ( a Catholic Priest) Page 540-541 shows the four aspects of Mary : Man - woman implication
For Madona ( accept of androgyny) Virgo( Both man and woman can inspire ,renew,and surrender to inspiration and renewal ) Sponsa ( playful pleasure) Pieta ( Loss of self to another)
Johannesburg Kepler( 1571-1630) The significance of Kepker's Law,Mysticism and Empiricism , Emergence of the concept of force. Will quote from the Emergence of the concept of force ( the Encyclopedia of philosophy volume 5 page 52) " He stuck to this belief to the end of his life, as he stuck to the Pythagorean solids and the harmony of the spheres" " The sun in the center of the planets," himself at rest and yet the source of motion", continued to represent God the Fathet,and even as the Father creates through the Holy Ghost"so the sun distributes his motive force through a medium which contains the moving bodies"
August Comte(Jan 19,1798-Sep5,1857 ) Law of human progress ; that each of our leading conceptions - each branch of our knowledge - passes successively through three different theoretical conditions ( Theology or fictitious, the Metaphysical or abstract, and the Scientific ,or positive)
Posted by: laguerre12
July 10, 2012 02:37 PM EDT
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