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 fulfilling it.
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 you.”
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 of sonship.
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 God.
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 of creation.
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 feminism.
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., 1999).
Leon J. Podles holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Virginia and has worked as a teacher and a federal investigator. He is the author of The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity and the forthcoming License to Sin (both from Spence Publishing). Dr. Podles and his wife have six children and live in Naples, Florida. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.
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“Sons in the Son” first appeared in the January/February 1999 issue of Touchstone. If you enjoyed this article, you'll find more of the same in every issue.
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