The names of God cause consniptions in Britain
Gfrom yes very clear on many things. He said, I am the Lord. He said: “I am… the Almighty.” He said: “I am Alpha and Omega.” But perhaps because he tended to communicate with angels, divine inspiration and tablets of stone, rather than by signed e-mail, he did not specify his agents. Now there is an argument going on among some in the Church of England (c from e) as to whether it is better to be called E/Him or whether it can also be called i/i; or not at all; or all of the above. Omnipotence allows the non-binary to be much broader.
Not to mention confusing. All discussions of agents run the risk of becoming disingenuous; debates about what pronouns to use for a bodiless, genderless, omnipresent deity that exists outside of time are even more absurd. Naturally this does not prevent theologians from using them. While c from E traditionalists want to keep it as E, some want an additional liturgy to be developed to allow them to talk about God in a non-sexual way. The debate is unlikely to be settled soon: the c from E he officially started considering this in 2014; a joint project on sexual language will begin this spring; and estimates that it will be years before it is resolved. Aeternitatis subspeciesthat is fragile: Anglicans started talking about cross-foundation 500 years ago and the issue is still not settled.
Gender and God are currently causing conniptions in other ways in Britain. When Kate Forbes, a Scottish politician and Christian, said that she would have voted against gay marriage, it almost resulted in her bid to become leader of the Scottish National Party being lost. In February, when c from E he said he would start allowing gay marriages to be blessed in churches, which led to a split in the Anglican Communion (a club of churches) and – a sure sign of Anglican oppression – merciless declarations from bishops around the world – world that they were praying for each other.
Both debates tend to make traditionalists spout nonsense. (Vladimir Putin is among those who disagree.) Actually the most surprising thing about the debate about the nature of God is its antiquity. Christians have been talking about the nature of God for centuries in ways that do LGBTQI+ divisions look conservative. There are ancient texts in which the Holy Spirit is referred to as “she” and “mother” and others in which God has breasts that are milked by the Holy Spirit. It’s hard to have sex with Trinity.
Both sides of these debates tend to turn to the Bible as authority. Not without reason: the Bible is the inspired word of God. The problem is that God inspired many words – today’s editions run to 1,000-odd pages in tiny font – and many of them disagree with each other or with current Christian teaching.
Anglicans today may argue that God is neither male nor female. But the Bible offers enough evidence to the contrary. In its pages, God is a “male and masculine” deity, says Francesca Stavrakopoulou, professor of Hebrew Bible at the University of Exeter. In the Bible there are verses detailing everything from God’s (big) muscles; for the generations (also great). But these verses tend to find their way in less c from E press releases.
In fact, Christians have long practiced a godly pick’n’mix approach to their disputes. “Homosexuality is the question du jour,” says Diarmaid MacCulloch, emeritus professor of church history at Oxford University. But this question “is a new one, which seems to threaten the masculinity of many Anglican bishops around the world. ” Debates like these affect antiquity but are often more prominent today. A concept called politicomorphism argues that instead of things being done on earth as in heaven, the reverse is often true. Many of the bishops who separated from the Anglican Communion come from conservative countries such as Sudan, where homosexuality is illegal.
But every Christian has limitations. Anglicans are in a nasty dispute about which pronoun to use for God, but it can be said that there is a word that solves their debate perfectly. The pronoun “they” is not only neuter in gender but can also, much like the trinitarian God, be both singular and plural at the same time. But its use in the singular is frustrated by the type of grammar and, as one Christian theologian observes, “Perhaps Christian theology did not accept [its] modern practice.” It is obvious that there are some tactics that even Anglicans cannot adhere to. ■
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