It seems like the strangest question to ask, and it honestly never came to my mind until the fateful day where our family went to a Mexican restaurant after my grandma's funeral. My aunt decided to lead the prayer:
"Dear Heavenly Father." She paused. "And Mother."
My eyes flew open, and I audibly said, "What in the world?"
Digging into certain denominations and beliefs of certain Christians, I discovered that many people believe there is a heavenly mother. Some will even point to passages such as Galatians 4:26 to state that Jerusalem becomes our heavenly mother. There are others who believe that instead of "God the Father" we should say "God the Mother."
So let's explore why people would believe this and what the Bible actually says.
Is There a Mother God?
As in a separate entity from the God mentioned in the Bible? No. The Bible makes it clear that there is one God (1 Corinthians 8:6). Jerusalem does not become a deity in the Galatians passage above; that's merely a misinterpretation.
Also, those who follow the belief that there is a mother god do not believe that it is Mary or the Bride of Christ. Rather, they believe it is Jerusalem. Even if it was Mary or the Church, that would be heretical.
We know that this runs contrary to Scripture. Not only is the Lord God one, but the Lord God is all-good. Jerusalem and her history is not. Often the Bible uses personification and imagery language, but that does not mean that it's a literal person or entity.
God in the Old Testament may have pined after Jerusalem and the New Testament does use the language of a bride in reference to the church. But we need to make sure to read every Scripture passage within context.
According to CARM, "The comparison of Jerusalem being our mother is an allegory which means that one should not take the comparison literally. In context, the book of Galatians is teaching about salvation by faith."
We cannot read in our own cultural interpretations into the Bible. Does God do some actions that our culture may perceive as feminine? Yes, see below in the next section. But we need to take Scripture at face value and investigate its words through exegesis, not eisegesis.
Does God Have a Gender?
Now that we've established that no mother deity exists in heaven, what about referring to God as "mother" to cover his more feminine attributes?
For great coverage on this topic, I highly recommend this GotQuestions article. As stated therein, yes, God, not having a physical body, does not have a specific gender. But we need to take into account what Scripture says. Scripture calls God "Father." We never run into the term "God the Mother" anywhere in Scripture.
God may have more feminine traits such as caring for his children like a hen shielding them with its wings (Psalm 91:4), but we need to base our belief on God on how Scripture refers to him outright, as Father.
We also need to realize why pushback against the term "God the Father" has happened, and it's not because skeptics are trying to make sure we get Scripture as accurate as possible.
Some people may have a hard time with equating God as a Father because their own father neglected them, abused them, or abandoned them. Others may say that the Bible has a chauvinistic tone, and so therefore, to topple the patriarchy, we need to refer to God as a mother.
Why Is it Dangerous to Paint God in Our Own Image?
The main issue in painting God as "mother" is that it crafts him in our own image, the same way painters did who made Jesus pale-skinned. We often like to fabricate God to look more like us, be more like us, instead of learning about who he is.
Our "you do you" culture has adopted the idea that we need to cherry-pick which Bible passages fit our views best, rather than the proper way of reading the Bible, and aligning our views with what God's word says.
So when we do that to his word, imagine what we do with God.
Christianity.com states it best, "The problem with that sort of thinking is it is only connected to human logic, which can be inconsistent. Words have meaning, and we must respond to what the Bible says, not what we want it to say. So, we are better off asking: "What does the Bible consistently teach about God?"
Why Does This Matter?
Satan prowls like a roaring lion, seeking to devour. He will have us get caught up in trivial matters such as this, and lose sight of who God is. Below are some thoughts to consider if you encounter a friend who refers to God as "mother" or claims that you have put a gender on a genderless God when you call him "Father."
How does the Bible run contrary to culture?
The Bible should run contrary to every culture. It always has. So if the Bible doesn't conflict with the worldview of someone's culture, it's entirely possible the person is misinterpreting passages or entirely reading the book wrong.
Why do they feel the need to call God 'mother'?
Do they have a troubled past with their earthly father? If so, speak with them about how although people fail, God never will. He is our Father when our earthly fathers fail us. Also, this is a great opportunity for Christian fathers to exemplify good fatherhood to their sons and daughters, so a person does not experience this disconnect.
Are they reading the verses in context?
I've heard people try to use verses like Galatians 3:28 to say that the Bible supports transgenderism and nonbinary affiliation. Arguments from that aside, we can't cherry-pick. We need to understand the historical-cultural context of the passages to know the intended audience, true interpretation, and biblical applications.
The Bible won't always fit the lens of our culture, and that's okay! It's not meant to puzzle piece well with how a fallen world thinks. So let us, brothers and sisters, cling to what is true, what is consistent, and what is right when it comes to the word of the Lord.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/diego_cervo
Hope Bolinger is an acquisitions editor at End Game Press, and the author 21+ books. More than 1400 of her works have been featured in various publications. Check out her books at hopebolinger.com for clean books in most genres, great for adults and kids.