Not Only a Father

One of the things I have been doing recently instead of working on my thesis is reading Tim Bulkeley’s book Not Only A Father. You can, too – for free because it’s online as well as available in paper form – and the online format allows you to comment or ask questions along the way, which is fun.

Tim is a Baptist who has been a pastor in Britain, a missionary in Africa and an Old Testament lecturer in New Zealand and he has been thinking about the way we name God and its implications since he started work on his PhD in the 1970s. The book takes a careful look at what language Scripture actually uses when it talks about God (not only Father and not only male, but also Mother and female) and also at the implications of insisting that Father is the only proper title for God and that male imagery is the only proper imagery for God.

I am liking the content and I like the fact that I can make comments and ask questions as I go, knowing that Tim will read them and quite likely respond. I am not, however, a big fan of reading books on line – I still like paper, especially for reference material. The interface is a bit ‘clunky’, but the material is very, very worthwhile.

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6 thoughts on “Not Only a Father

  1. Thank-you for this recommendation, Judy. If you like it, I’ll probably like it too & I know already that I appreciate all kinds of names & epithets for God, since the Divine Reality is too great for any human language to communicate adequately.

  2. Thanks so much for the mention Judy :)

    The online interface is clunky, but it was the best I could do with no budget. The book is also available as a paperback from Amazon quite cheaply. And people could read that and then make objections, comments and questions online.

    Maybe one day if interacting with “books” catches on the publishers with money will have nice clean easy to use interfaces :)

    paulyr2. if you do read (parts of) it whether you like it or not, do please leave some comments, criticisms, questions… because too many visitors to the book seem to be affraid of being among the first to comment! :(

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  4. @Judy Redman: Thanks for the recommendation. @Tim Bulkeley: Thanks for writing and making available your book. At present, I’m pondering on the topic ‘male and female’ in early Christianity, therefore this book comes at the right moment for me :-)

    I started musing on this matter, as I had read the essay ‘The Maternal Spirit’ at the Metalogos website in 2011.

    The best definition for a uniting view, which I’ve found up to now, is in GTh 22: “make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female”. I’ve named this view ‘metagender’, also according to corresponding internet avatars or virtual persons, which can be seen from the gender aspect as modern imaginations of personal angels (see the Metalogos essay ‘Angel, Image and Symbol’).

    When I study the early writings, I can see, that all comes in pairs: Adam and Eve, Jesus and Mary Magdalene, Logos and Sophia (Hokhmah), God-Father and God-Mother (the Holy Spirit as female). God is a classical family with father, mother, son and daughter, so to speak. I said to myself questioning: Why are the female beings so often either derived from the male beings, or made male, or “made fallen”, or simply hidden?

    Meanwhile, I’ve made a kind of anarchic theology up. Sometimes, it turns “Monthy Pythonic”, what’s not to the taste of everyone, but it’s meant in the “mind-bending” sense, which can be seen already in the alternative early Christian writings, e.g. in GTh 101 and 105. I think, you know what I mean :-)

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  6. My thoughts continued: Meanwhile (already some months ago), I’ve read and commented Tim Bulkeley’s book.

    Speaking of Monty Python (with “Monty Pythonic” I meant “Pythonesque”): In chapter ‘6.1 A God for Cuddling’, Tim Bulkeley refers to a sketch, moreover that chapter contains an unusual line of reasoning. I was thinking: if only I had known this, as I was a child. If I had cuddled God, had God cuddled me back? But how could a child in need of cuddling know, that God is also a mum, when the adults teach fear of God?

    Eventually, I made my own spiritual world as a child, and I continue forming and refining it.

    At present, I’m occupying myself with Buddhism (again after pausing three decades), and comparing it (especially Mahayana Buddhism and Chinese Buddhism including Taoism) with the Gospel of Thomas I see interesting parallels (like Elaine Pagels and Edward Conze with Buddhism and Gnosticism), which deepen my understanding of the Gospel of Thomas. Likewise, when I compare the Christian mystics’ experiences (e.g. Julian of Norwich’s one described in chapter ‘4.7 The Final Flourishing of Mother-language’) and the Gnostic and Buddhist ones. I think each person describes her/his similar experience within her/his own sociocultural scope. Wouldn’t be comparative studies in this direction by more scholars an interesting topic?

    By the way, a stanza by me, following the Chan Buddhist masters Shen-Xiu and Hui-Neng:

    At first you need God and his mirror.
    Later you can hold the mirror by yourself.
    Finally you don’t need the mirror any more.
    Because your own mind is your mirror.

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