Sons in the Son
God and Man in Early Christianity
by Leon J. Podles
Christianity was the fulfillment of Judaism. The masculinity and the patriarchy
that Judaism cultivated were fulfilled in the revelation of a tri-personal God
who was both Father and Son. All human beings, male and female, were invited
to share in the inner life of God, to receive the Spirit and to be conformed
to the Son. The early Church knew that the vocation of the Christian was essentially
masculine. Later, the white martyrdom of the monk, the replacement and fulfillment
of the hero, replaced the red martyrdom of the early Church. Femininity also
received a new appraisal, as the godhead itself was shown to be a communion
of persons, the unity and communion of all men, and indeed of all creation,
accomplished by the divine Spirit himself. Only a few warning signs in the early
Church, especially in the West, gave any indication that masculinity would one
day find itself at odds with Christianity.
Masculinity in the New Testament
The God and Father of Jesus Christ is the same God as the God of Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob. Although gnosticism has enjoyed a rebirth in the attempts
to oppose an androgynous Jesus to the patriarchal Jehovah, such an interpretation
must be ruled out at the start. From the very beginning Christianity distinguished
itself from gnosticism. The God of the Old Testament is not the devil of the
New Testament. The Jesus who walked the roads of Galilee is the same person
as the risen Lord and Christ. His male body is risen from the dead; the masculinity
of the Son reveals the Father.
The revelation of the Trinitarian life of God maintains the masculinity of
each divine Person in relation to creation. That is, in relation to creation,
each Person is creator, redeemer, and sanctifier. In relationship to creation,
therefore, each Person is masculine, as Yahweh was in the Hebrew Scriptures.
Only God’s self-revelation in the Scriptures gives us access to an understanding
of his inner life, and the Scriptures constantly characterize the inner-Trinitarian
relationship of God as masculine. The generation of the Son by the Father has
the created analogue of parenthood. Although the human mother is more obviously
a parent than the human father, the First Person nonetheless is called Father
by the only one who truly knows him, Jesus. The First Person is Father, indeed
Father specifies what he is, because he eternally begets the Son. Paul rejects
the idea that the Father is a religious projection of patriarchal social structures.
The reverse is true: the Father is, in terms reminiscent of Platonic archetypes,
the model, and created fatherhood is the image: “Blessed be the Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom all fatherhood on earth takes its name.”
Human masculinity, which has as its purpose the protection and provision of
the community, finds its fulfillment in the one who is Lord because he is sacrifice
and savior. In their conformity to the Son, all Christians, male and female,
become sons of God, and are therefore called to be masculine. In his relationship
to the creation, the Third Person is also consistently characterized as masculine,
and in the new creation he is the Spirit of sonship, as he is within the Trinity.
On the other hand, his inner-Trinitarian function of uniting the Father and
Son explains the Spirit’s association with femininity as reflected in
the Church’s unity. Mary stands as a sign of that unity.
The Masculinity of the Father and of the Son
Aquinas touches on the question of why the First Person is called Father rather than simply a gender-free Begetter. Rather than focusing on
the paternal authority of the Father, Aquinas seems to imply that begetting,
the proper action of a father, is a single act, while the role of the mother
is a process.1 The Father is eternally not the Son, the Son is eternally
not the Father. There was never a time when the Son was not; therefore there
was never a time when the Son was part of the Father. This eternal and real
distinction of the Persons creates, as it were, a space in the Trinity. The
Son became incarnate because creation is analogous to begetting. The incarnate
Son, Jesus Christ, is an icon of the Father, his perfect image. The image does
not consist in a corporeal resemblance, since God does not have a body, but
rather in the resemblance of their modes of action. The Son does only what he
sees the Father doing; he does nothing of himself, but imitates his Father in
all things. Jesus is therefore the perfect Son, differing in no way from his
Father, although not the same as his Father. The Son, having become incarnate,
can take the sinful creation and return it to the Father. Sin is an emptiness
and a separation from God; since there is already a separation within God, that
sinful separation can be inserted into the already existent separation of the
Father and the Son, a space that is full of the Holy Spirit. In the return of
the creation to the Father, when God will become all in all, the emptiness of
sin is replaced by fullness, the pleroma.
Since the characteristic actions of God in the Old Testament involve separation,
we should expect to see the same mode of action in Jesus. Jesus enjoys a unique
freedom, unlike all other human beings, for he freely chose to enter life, as
he freely chose to leave it. He was born not of the will of man, but of God;
that is, he was virginally conceived. Born of a woman, from childhood he knew
he must leave her to follow his Father. When he is lost in the temple and Mary
expresses her distress, he answers that he must be about his Father’s
business. At the beginning of his public life, he leaves his family, insisting
that those who do the will of his Father are his brother and sister and mother.
Jesus, too, works by separating. He introduces a new principle of separation:
no longer observance of the Law, but faith in him. Thus, Jesus exercises the
divine prerogative of election. He chooses the Twelve from all those he knows
and teaches them, although they do not understand his mission until after Pentecost.
By his own account, Jesus comes not to bring peace but a sword. His presence
provokes conflict, even when he is an infant: Herod destroys all the male children
of Bethlehem in an attempt to destroy the rival king. Jesus does nothing to
avert a growing conflict with the Jewish authorities and with many of the Pharisees
and Sadducees and often speaks harshly to them: “Brood of vipers, fit
for hell.” They accuse him of being possessed by demons, and of being
a Samaritan, an apostate who mixes Judaism and paganism.
It is a misunderstanding to see Jesus and the God he manifests as masculine
simply because they are powerful and authoritative. While God and Jesus have
the right to exercise naked authority and demand obedience from creatures, they
do not. In the Old Testament, God is shown as a lover and husband, stung by
the infidelities of Israel. The prophet takes a whore as a wife, symbolically
enacting the relationship of Yahweh and Israel. God’s heart is somehow
wounded by the failure of Israel to respond to his love. In the New Testament
Jesus has no wife because his spouse is the Church, redeemed humanity.2 His authority over the Church is like that of a husband over his wife. Paul
assumes the sacrificial nature of masculinity in the passage (Ephesians 5:21–31)
that has so troubled feminists. He commands husbands to love their wives, as
Christ loved the Church, laying down his life for her. The husband
has an obligation to imitate the divine Bridegroom, who sacrifices his life
for his Spouse. The divine Bridegroom fulfills and perfects the created reality
of masculinity, which is characterized by self-sacrifice unto death for the
sake of others.3 The wife’s obedience to her husband has the
same basis as the Church’s obedience to her Savior. The Church obeys Christ,
not from slavish fear or a sense of duty, but from overwhelming gratitude for
what he has done for her. The Bridegroom has given his utmost for his Bride,
and she in turn obeys him and seeks to imitate his boundless self-giving, from
a grateful love that knows no bounds. As Karl Barth correctly observes, the
husband who is only human cannot be his wife’s savior in this full sense.4 But what Barth does not see is that the husband, by reason of his masculinity,
is also called to be a savior in the realm of created realities. He is to be
ready to sacrifice his life, whether in work or in death in battle, for his
wife. Her obedience to him in turn is not that of a slave, but that of a grateful
equal. She has no corresponding obligation to sacrifice herself for him. Her
sacrifice is for her children. She obeys her husband because she knows that
he always has her best interests at heart, that he is willing, without drama,
as part of the normal course of life, to die for her at any moment.
Of course, human sinfulness obscures this pattern, but in general it is present
to a surprising degree. As we have seen, men fill the dangerous occupations
of American society and have fought in numerous wars to protect their families.
As David Gilmore summarizes the essence of masculinity, “men nurture their
societies by shedding their blood, their sweat, and their semen, by bringing
home food for both child and mother, by producing children, and by dying if
necessary in faraway places to provide a safe haven for their people.”5 As savior, Jesus both follows the pattern of masculinity and surpasses it by
Feminists have been troubled by Jesus’ choice of men as his closest
friends, especially in light of his disregard for the Jewish restrictions on
contact with women. He spoke to the Samaritan woman, who was triply despised,
being a woman, a Samaritan, and a sinner. He praised the faith of the woman
with the flow of blood who touched him in the belief he would make her well.
She was ritually unclean, and made him unclean by touching him, but he likewise
disregarded the laws of uncleanness. He spoke intimately with Mary, sister of
the famously busy Martha. Nevertheless, he chose as his closest companions men,
the Twelve, for two reasons. First, they were to be sent as he was sent by the
Father and would meet similar fates. To be called to be an apostle, “one
sent,” was to be called to be a martyr, as Jesus made clear to Peter.
His injunction (John 21:15–19) to feed his lambs (and the authority that
flows from it) was closely joined to the prophecy that Peter would be martyred.
The apostolic office, and the presbyterial office that flows from it, is closely
allied to martyrdom. The man who offers the one sacrifice in an unbloody manner
on the altar must also be ready to sacrifice his life in a bloody fashion. Indeed,
early bishops were usually martyrs. Jesus wished to spare women that burden
and show men the true nature of the sacrificial vocation of masculinity.
But within the inner life of Jesus there is a second reason that he chose
male companions, fishermen with hot tempers, zealots ready to fight with the
Roman army. While his universal motives in his passion and death are stressed
by theology, his immediate human motives are not well explored. There is a medieval
poem that portrays a dialogue between Jesus on the cross and Mary, in which
he tells her that he dies to save her from everlasting death and hell. Hence,
his love for those he knew in his earthly life was also a motive for his obedience
to his Father, to save all humanity, and especially those he loved, from death.
The apostles are the comrades of Jesus; they were the small group for whom he
was prepared to die. When Peter tries to dissuade him from the passion, Jesus
turns and looks at his disciples before rebuking Peter. The evangelists recount
this glance because it is the fate of the disciples, their own spiritual doom,
from which Jesus must rescue them, that was a principal human motivation for
his decision to die as savior.
His death overshadows the Last Supper. Before his death, he wished to leave
his closest friends with a memorial of him. During the words of institution
of the Eucharist, his glance first falls on the Twelve, “for you,”
before it goes out to all humanity, the many. His human love for his disciples,
a love that finds its closest analogue in military comradeship, was the immediate
motivation for the Eucharist and passion. In the Eucharist, if Jesus had simply
wished to give his body to them, a single consecration of the bread would have
sufficed. It is in this way that women give their bodies to their children.
But instead, Jesus consecrated the bread and wine separately, suggesting that
they would soon be separated in his sacrifice. The body is specified as the
body “given for you,” the blood as the blood “poured out for
Jesus nurtures his disciples by his death, in the fashion in which Gilmore
describes men nurturing, achieving what women attain through pregnancy, childbirth,
and lactation.6 Therefore, incipiently in Scripture and in a full-blown
way in medieval devotion, Jesus was described as Mother. He achieves in a masculine
way what women achieve in their feminine way. The church fathers saw the Church
as born from the side of Jesus, as Eve was born from the side of Adam. Later
devotions presented the nurturing that Jesus provided in the Eucharist as the
equivalent of nursing. Jesus, because he is a man, can achieve the self-giving
that women achieve in pregnancy, childbirth, and lactation only in a masculine
fashion, that is, through a bloody death.
This dimension of Jesus’ work of redemption has led to claims that he
is androgynous, embodying both masculine and feminine characteristics. But nurturing
is not opposed to masculinity. One can confront pain in two ways: by desensitizing
oneself to it, or by courageously accepting the fullness of pain. Although many
men understandably seek to limit their pain by desensitizing themselves, their
attitude is a distortion of masculinity, not an intrinsic part of it. Jesus
was willing to accept pain without any attempt to desensitize himself. He chose
the Twelve, knowing that one was to betray him, and felt the pain of the betrayal:
“Do you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” He loved the people
to whom he had been sent, weeping over the Jerusalem that rejected him, because
he knew that this rejection would call down God’s wrath on the city and
lead to a destruction and an exile more final even than that of the Babylonian
captivity. He blessed the children and felt deep anguish at Lazarus’s
death. Even as he was led to his death he told the women of Jerusalem who wept
for him to weep instead for themselves and their children. On the cross he refused
the drug that was traditionally offered to criminals to dull their pain. He
wanted to taste the pain of human life and death to the full; he chose freely
to taste it, in an exercise of the highest courage.
His tenderness and compassion were not a grafting of feminine characteristics
onto a masculine personality, but rather a profound expression of masculinity.
Masculinity entails initiation; initiation involves pain; the greater the pain,
the more profound the initiation. Jesus called his passion his baptism, which
initiated him into the mystery of suffering. Here is one aspect of Christ’s
life that theologians have always had trouble grasping. Christ’s passion
is often seen more or less as playacting; that is, he acted out something but
did not really achieve anything that he could not have achieved otherwise. In
one sense, this seems true: How can anything be added to God? But Scripture
explicitly says that son though he was, he learned obedience through suffering.
He was never disobedient, for his sonship consisted in his perfect obedience.
Thus, he learned the price of obedience, what it cost man to repent and to obey,
through experiencing the suffering that obedience brings.
Jesus’ suffering involved not only physical pain but also a sense of
guilt, of abandonment by God, and a descent into hell. The Holy Saturday theology
of Hans Urs von Balthasar attempts to convey the meaning of this experience.
The descent into hell is a familiar motif, even in pagan literature, because
it is a part of the initiation into suffering and the confrontation with death
that all heroes, and indeed all men who wish to be truly men, must undergo.
Only by defeating Satan and death can Jesus receive the name that is above every
other name, kyrios, Lord, and be honored as king of the universe, absolute
sovereign and judge, who has the right to separate the sheep from the goats,
to make the ultimate distinctions of salvation and damnation for all beings,
human and angelic.
In the Gospels, the ultimate conflict is not between Jesus and certain Jewish
leaders, or between Jesus and an ambitious Roman governor. These men are but
unwitting tools of spiritual powers: “Father, forgive them for they know
not what they do.” The real enemy is Satan, who is behind all the machinations
of Jesus’ mortal enemies. Jesus came to confront and defeat the strong
one, the prince of this world. At the beginning of his public ministry, he fasted
like a shaman and confronted the spiritual force of evil, a real being who tried
to turn him from his mission.
The Gospels were written with an apologetic motive, to try to show the Roman
world that Jesus was not a revolutionary but was crucified unjustly. Therefore
the Jews, for whom the Romans felt no special affection, were the enemies given
most prominence. But the Apocalypse, written to comfort persecuted Christians
by revealing to them the spiritual battle that was going on invisibly behind
the events of history, identified the conflict between the Word of God and his
enemy, the dragon. The Lamb of God, who stands forever in heaven bearing the
marks of his wounds, is scarred from his celestial conflict like a man who has
gone through initiation. Jesus then, in his earthly mission, in his role as
Son in the Trinity, and in his hidden role as Lord of the universe, follows
the pattern of the masculine personality.
The Masculinity of the Spirit
The Holy Spirit is often associated with the feminine in the work of redemption.7 He comes upon Mary so that she conceives. When she visits her cousin Elizabeth,
the Word is dwelling in her womb. But the Word also dwells in Mary’s words,
and at the sound of her voice the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaps for joy
and is filled with the Holy Spirit. In the Apocalypse the Spirit and the Bride
both say “Come.” Mary, like Eve, is more sensitive than men (Zacharias
and Adam) to the Spirit, but Mary listens to the Holy Spirit rather than the
evil one. But is this association with the feminine enough to justify Maximilian
Kolbe’s phrase of the “quasi-hypostatic union” of Mary and
the Spirit,8 or of Leonardo Boff’s claim that Mary “is
to be hypostatically united to the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity”?9 The Spirit is God, and as such bears a relationship to the creation that can
only be described as masculine. Nevertheless, there is a valid reason that he
is associated with the feminine. But we must be clear about the Spirit’s
masculinity. He is masculine for three reasons: he separates (a characteristic
masculine action), he works with power, and most importantly, he is the Spirit
The Spirit is a spirit of holiness. To be holy means to be set apart. Therefore,
like the Spirit of Yahweh, the Spirit is at work in the process of election,
of setting apart. The Spirit sets Mary apart from the normal course of human
life, telling her that she had been chosen to bear the Messiah outside the course
of nature. The Spirit descends upon Jesus at his baptism, separating him from
the normal life of a carpenter that he had led. The first action of the Spirit
is to lead Jesus out into the wilderness, to separate him from society and to
bring him into confrontation with Satan. The Spirit anoints Jesus as the Messiah,
and leads him to play his role as sacrifice. Jesus is set apart from humanity
by his enemies, the unwitting agents of God, as a criminal, but paradoxically
this separation is the greatest holiness. Having fulfilled his mission on earth,
Jesus sends the Holy Spirit upon the earth, who descends on the disciples, separating
them and marking them out from the rest of Israel. The Spirit is at work in
the early Church, bringing it into confrontation with the Jews and the pagans.
Power is such an attribute of the Spirit that it is almost, like joy, a synonym
for him. Energy is an aspect of the holy; it is the wrath of God, but it is
also “vitality, passion, emotional temper, will, force, movement, excitement,
activity, impetus.”10 The Spirit, pneuma, is like the
spirit, thymos. Christ baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with fire;
fieriness and power are characteristic of the spiritedness of youthful masculinity.
A young man expresses his spirit through his combativeness, his desire for fame
and glory through displays of his power and excellence, especially in contests
and combats.11 The Spirit is jealous—one must be careful not
to offend it—but it also gives true glory. Stephen, filled with the Holy
Spirit, becomes combative, and denounces his audience, who stone him. Yet, echoing
Jesus, with his last breath Stephen forgives his murderers.
The Spirit is not simply a spirit of holiness and power, but a spirit of love
and a spirit of sonship. He is the love of the Father for the Son, and the Son
for the Father. The Son goes forth from the Father in the Spirit, and returns
to the Father in the Spirit. Thomas Weinandy, in his presentation of the doctrine
of the Trinity, states that “The Holy Spirit, in proceeding from the Father
as the one in whom the Father begets the Son, conforms the Father to be Father
for the Son and the Son to be Son for (of) the Father.”12 Weinandy
reached his conclusion from the premise that the economic Trinity, the Trinity
as revealed in the history of salvation, accurately reflects the internal, immanent
Trinity and indeed is the only path we have to knowledge of the immanent Trinity.
“Therefore,” Weinandy argues, “as the Spirit conformed Jesus
to be the faithful Son on earth, so the Spirit conforms him as the Son, within
the Trinity, so as to be eternally pleasing to the Father.”13 As the Holy Spirit acts in Jesus, so the Spirit of Jesus acts on his disciples:
“The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of sonship, transforms us into the glorious
image of God that is Christ fashioning us into sons of God.”14 Hence, though the Spirit is also properly associated with femininity, his proper
activity, the love that makes the Father a father and the Son a son, is masculine.
The Femininity of the Church
Although Christians, both men and women, are sons of God, and follow a masculine
way of life, one of struggle, of descent into death, and of resurrection, the
Church itself is nonetheless always feminine, the Bride and Mother. The meaning
of the ascription of feminine titles to the Church has been obscured by the
faulty apprehension of the meanings of masculinity and femininity. A more accurate
conception of femininity reveals the reason for the femininity of the Church,
the association of the Spirit with femininity, and the roots of femininity in
Most Christian writers, following Aristotle, see masculinity as activity and
femininity as receptivity. Mary’s role in salvation and the Church’s
role have usually been presented in these terms: Mary is receptive to the message
of the Spirit, and receives the Word first in her heart and then in her womb,
becoming the Theotokos, the Mother of God. She is the mother of all believers,
because she is the first to believe, and in a sense all other belief stems from
her assent to the Incarnation. The Church should imitate her, listening to the
Word and responding to it. A Christian should be feminine and Marian, seeking
only to hear the Word and to respond to it. God is masculine, believers are
feminine (and usually women); only those in the Church who represent God’s
activity and authority can act in a masculine fashion, and they are usually
men, the clergy.
But receptivity is not the center of femininity. Integration and communion
are at the heart of femininity, as separation and differentiation are at the
heart of masculinity. Women and men have the same openness to the outward world
and to the invisible world. Women may be more perceptive than men, but the key
to their feminine role is not precisely their responsiveness (which they share
with men). Rather, it is their tendency to integrate rather than separate. The
feminine is not responsiveness, but relationship and communion.
Mary hears the Word that comes forth in divine freedom, at the sole initiative
of the Father, and indeed responds to it, but the important thing is that her
response puts her into a relationship with God. The Church is made up of those
who have been chosen by God in his freedom and who enter into relationship with
each other because they have first entered into a relationship with God. Mary’s
response to the Word is not passivity. She does not remain in quiet contemplation,
but acts, and acts to renew and revivify a relationship with her kinswoman Elizabeth.
She celebrates in her song, the Magnificat, God’s action in forming a
people, the posterity of Abraham.
The Church stems from this first relationship. Catholics therefore honor Mary
as the Mother of the Church, and Mary is the Mother of the Church because she
is the Mother of God, with whom she has entered into intimate relationship through
the Incarnation. In images of Pentecost, when the Church is visibly born of
the action of the Holy Spirit of Jesus, Mary is put in the center of the action
of the Spirit. Thus, the Church is a spouse because the Word enters and indwells
it through his Spirit, making her a mother because he makes her fruitful in
giving birth to many sons of God.
The Spirit is the principle of unity in the Church because he is the principle
of unity in the Trinity. As Manfred Hauke says, “The movement of the Father’s
love brings forth the Son as its perfect image, and the reciprocal love between
Father and Son attains such fullness that it becomes itself a person, the Holy
Spirit, the person in two persons, in whom archetype and image are interfused
with one another. The divine ‘circular movement’ is closed in and
through personal love.”15 As Hauke points out, “relationality”16 is more feminine than masculine, and therefore the Holy Spirit is associated
with the feminine.
The Church is feminine because it is a communion, and a reflection of the
divine communion of the three Persons of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit is the
soul of the Church, and the Church is not simply an assembly, an ecclesia, but is even more profoundly a communio, a created reflection of the communio of the three Persons. David L. Schindler encapsulates communio ecclesiology: “[T]he church has its proper reality as sharer in the divine
trinitarian communio.”17 Femininity connotes union,
and the three Persons are eternally united without being confused. The Trinity
is the feminine aspect of God. It is the unity that exists in and through the
divine Persons, not apart from them. The Trinity is not a separate person, and
cannot be addressed as She, even though the Latin liturgy calls upon the sancta
Trinitas, unus Deus. Trinitas is feminine in Latin and in many Indo-European
languages. On Trinity Sunday in Russia, Christians are called to forgive their
enemies and to be reunited in love with all, for the Trinity is a mystery of
love and union, and therefore of the feminine.
Thus, God is feminine in that he is a communion, but he cannot be addressed
as feminine since we speak to him as a person, and his tri-personal nature is
masculine. The Church is a personification rather than a person; in Scripture
she is the new Israel, the new daughter of Sion, the bride of Yahweh and of
the Lamb, the Body of Christ which he cherishes. But the individuals who make
up the Church are masculine because they are called to be imitators of the Son
in his masculine action of sacrifice and expiation. Women can participate in
this spiritual masculinity, but men could be expected to have a greater natural
understanding of the pattern. Masculinity itself is part of the proto-evangelium
The Masculinity of the Christian
In the New Testament, Christians are referred to as the sons and daughters
of God only in quotation from the Old Testament. Christians are referred to
as the children of God, sometimes with an implication of immaturity, or proleptically
as the sons of God, with emphasis upon what they are destined to become. The fatherhood of God became an Enlightenment commonplace: Alle Menshen
werden Brüder. That God is our Father and we are his children was
held to be the common belief of all religions. But God is rarely described as
man’s father in the Old Testament or in paganism, and fatherhood is clearly felt to be a metaphor, in the same way that God is the “father”
of the dew. The begetting of the Son by the Father and the begetting of the
Christian by God is a revelation of something humanity could never have imagined.
The Son is truly begotten of God; he is not simply “like” God, the
closest thing to God of any creature; rather he is the same substance (ousia)
as God. He is the only-begotten; there is no other like him.
Yet Christians are also begotten in a sense that surpasses all metaphor and
is almost impossible for reason to fathom.18 The Son, by pouring forth
the Holy Spirit, creates other sons. He conforms both men and women to his own
image as Son, and by so doing makes them all God’s sons (not daughters).
God has no only-begotten daughter; he therefore has no daughters begotten of
the Spirit, only sons. There is only one pattern for both men and women to be
conformed to, that of the Son. In the Son, Christians become deiform, apotheosized,
and achieve an intimacy and union with the godhead that is beyond the categories
of natural reason. Christians are the children of God, growing into the image
of the Son, so that we may become his sons.19
1. “According to the Philosopher, a thing is denominated chiefly by
its perfection, and by its end. Now generation signified something in the process
of being made, whereas paternity signifies that something is something completed;
and therefore the name Father is more expressive as regards the divine person
than genitor or begetter” (Summa Theologica, Q. 33, Art. 2, ad
2. in Basic Writings of Saint Thomas Aquinas, vol. 1, ed. Anton C.
Pegis [New York: Random House, 1945], p. 326).
2. The central importance of the image of the Church as Bride is the subject
of Claude Chevasse’s The Bride of Christ: An Inquiry into the Nuptial
Element in Early Christianity (London: Faber and Faber, 1940).
3. As William Oddie observes, “this balance of love, obedience, obligation,
and sacrifice has not, within Christian civilization, always been observed.
What is perhaps more striking, however, is how unquestioned in practice its
acceptance has often been” (What Will Happen to God, Feminism and
the Reconstruction of Christian Belief [San Francisco: Ignatius, 1988],
p. 55). Oddie cites the behavior of the men on the Titanic. A group
of Washington media people began jokingly visiting the almost-forgotten Washington
memorial to these men on the Titanic. What began as a joke became a serious
ritual and a tribute to the “courage and sacrifice and grace under pressure”
of these men (Ken Ringle, “First Class Tribute: A Night of Remembrance
for Titanic’s Gentlemen,” Washington Post, April
16, 1996). As Oddie says, “the sinking of the Titanic remains
as a kind of modern icon of the assertion of sacrificial and Christ-like male
authority” (ibid., p. 55).
4. Karl Barth: “He is not the saviour of woman as Jesus Christ is of
his body the Church.” Church Dogmatics, vol. 3, The Doctrine
of Creation, 54.1, trans. Harold Knight et al. (Edinburgh: T and T Clark,
1960), p. 175.
5. David D. Gilmore, Manhood in the Making: Cultural Concepts of Masculinity (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990), p. 230.
6. Gilmore, p. 230.
7. Boff rightly claims that this association of Mary, the Church, and the
Spirit is widespread among Catholic theologians. See Boff, The Maternal
Face of God, pp. 266–267. See also Hauke, Women in the Priesthood? pp. 277–296 and 316–317.
8. Kolbe’s phrasing was “Spiritus Sanctus: ‘quasi’
incarnatus est: Immaculata” quoted by Leonardo Boff, The Maternal
Face of God: the Feminine and Its Religious Expressions, trans. Robert
R. Barr and John W. Diercksmeier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1987), p. 96.
See also Hauke, Women in the Priesthood? A Systematic Analysis in the Light
of the Order of Nature and Redemption, trans. David Kipp (San Francisco:
Ignatius Press, 1986), pp. 277–296 and 316–317.
9. Boff, The Maternal Face of God, p. 93.
10. Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1958), p. 23.
11. See Leon Harold Craig, The War Lover: A Study of Plato’s Republic
(Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996), p. 65.
12. Thomas G. Weinandy, The Father’s Spirit of Sonship: Reconceiving
the Trinity (Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 1995), p. 17.
13. Weinandy, The Father’s Spirit of Sonship, p. 28.
14. Weinandy, The Father’s Spirit of Sonship, p. 35.
15. Hauke, Women in the Priesthood, p. 286.
16. Hauke, Women in the Priesthood, p. 287.
17. David L. Schindler, Heart of the World, Center of the Church: Communio
Ecclesiology, Liberalism, and Liberation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William
B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996), p. 8. Walter Kaspar says, “the
Church is not only the image of the trinitarian communio but also its
re-presentation” (“Church as ‘Communio,’” Communio 13 [Spring 1986], p. 108).
18. George T. Montague says “even the category ‘metaphor’
is inadequate, for our relationship with the Father is not just like Jesus’
relationship with the Father; it is an actual, if created, participation in
that relationship (Our Father, Our Mother: Mary and the Faces of God [Steubenville, Ohio: Franciscan University Press, 1990], p. 55). The doctrine
of deification is almost forgotten by Western Christians, and its absence has
been filled by the pantheistically flavored “god(dess) within” of
19. The New Testament is also aware of the dangers of masculinity. The Pharisees,
whose name means separatists, emphasized the external codes of holiness that
separated them from pagans and Jews who did not observe the law, but neglected
the interior code of holiness.
This article is excerpted from the author’s book, The Church
Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity (Dallas: Spence Publishing Co.,