Mother-Heart of God
The Mother Heart of God
By Les Sherlock, posted April 2021, but originally posted c2013
“The phrase "Mother god" is becoming more popular, even among Christians. This language has several sources. In the recent years, paganism and gnosticism, with their male and female deities, have become more popular. Also feminists, who are disturbed with a God who is Father, have attempted to create a god in their own image.”
(The website from which this quote was taken is no longer available)
This is an issue that, for me, was unheard of in the context of the Christian Church during the first few decades of my life. I immediately become uneasy when presented with a ‘new’ teaching about eternal things: since God never changes and His description has been available to mankind for thousands of years in His word, the Bible, why should something ‘different’ emerge at the end of the 20th century? The more I investigate the teaching about the Mother–Heart of God, the more uneasy I become; and here are my misgivings.
My first big question mark is over the issue of the nature of man and woman. Perhaps this could best be described by a quote from Jack Frost’s book:
“The masculine heart cries out to do, to form and create, to initiate, to know wisdom, and to rationalize and intellectualize. The feminine heart seeks to be; it longs for communion and connection, to bond, and to know and to be known emotionally… Men, while predominantly masculine, have a feminine part to their natures, and to reject it they often reject compassion, empathy, nurture, comfort, intimacy, and/or the ability to receive and give expressed love.”
Experiencing Father’s Embrace, pages 129–130
I would very happily accept most of what Jack says in his Christian teaching, but in spite of him not going to extremes, quote:
“While I am not taking it to the extent that a few might, by saying that God is actually female, the nature of God does encompass both masculinity and femininity
Experiencing Father’s Embrace, page 129
…on this issue we have to part company!
My response to this is that it is a mistake to call rationalization and intellectualism “masculine,” and nurture, comfort and intimacy “feminine,” as though these factors are exclusively one or the other. This kind of notion, far from encouraging men to display more empathy or women to be more rational, is likely to discourage it! What red–blooded male wants to be thought of as displaying female characteristics; or attractively graceful female to be seen to be masculine?
For those who are professional psychologists and working in the field it may be convenient to use these labels; however, a man, when being true to his nature, is not only creative and rational, but compassionate and loving. Likewise, a woman is not only emotional and nurturing, but intellectual and analytical.
This is not to deny that some of these aspects of our natures can be seen more dominantly in men than women, and vice versa. For example, a mother, bearing a child in her womb for nine months before it is born and then feeding it from her breast for months (or years in some cases) afterwards, is quite obviously far more likely to develop a closer bond with the baby than the father, who can do neither of these things. However, to say that the father, when showing love to, and bonding with, his child, is displaying feminine characteristics is simply untrue: this is a natural part of fatherhood and an essential part of being a ‘real man’.
On the other hand we must also ensure we do not fall into the feminist trap of pretending that men and women are the same. This self–evidently is untrue. In general the observations Jack Frost makes are probably factual, and the characteristics he describes as ‘feminine’ may well be more highly developed in women than men; while those described as ‘masculine’ will be more apparent in men than women. The point I am making, however, is that all of these characteristics are neither ‘male’ nor ‘female’: they are human nature because we were originally made in the image of God and they are all a part of His character.
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
It is no more valid to say that because a woman is capable of greater emotion, empathy or compassion than a man (if she is!) these are female characteristics, than it is to say that because a man has larger, stronger and more defined muscles then muscles are male characteristics! All bodies need muscles; therefore they are neither male nor female. All humans, to be balanced, need, to a greater or lesser degree, all the psychological characteristics labelled as masculine and feminine.
This, then, brings us to the point where we can answer the question:
“How could God have created the female “in His own image” if there is not some aspect to His nature and character that is feminine?”
Experiencing Father’s Embrace, page 129.
As just mentioned, there is nothing in the character of a woman that is not, to some degree in the character of a man (and vice versa). Therefore God does not have to possess any kind of feminine nature or character for woman to be in His image. It is surely self–evident that the image referred to has nothing to do with sexuality. God is a Spirit, and it is surely primarily the spirit of man and woman that is in His image.
There are other aspects, certainly. For example, man is ‘tripartite’, being spirit, soul and body: God is ‘tripartite’, being Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Better known as trinity, of course.
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?
So the Father and the Spirit are one.
I and My Father are one.
The Father and the Son are one. Thus Father, Son and Spirit - three in one.
The soul of man, which many would consider to include mind, emotion and will, also reflects these aspects of God’s nature. However, ‘maleness’ and ‘femaleness’ are both irrelevant when considering our Creator. I am not Roman Catholic and would disagree with them on a number of issues. However, the following statement seems very balanced to me:
“In no way is God in man’s image. He is neither man nor woman. God is pure spirit in which there is no place for the differences between the sexes. But the respective “perfections” of man and woman reflect something of the infinite perfection of God: those of a mother (Isaiah 49:14–15; 66:13; Psalm 131:2–3) and those of a father (Job 31:18; Jer. 3:4–20) and husband (Jer. 3:6–19). [CCC 370]”
(The website from which this quote came is no longer available)
We must now turn to the key issue: where is the Biblical evidence for the ‘female’ side of God’s nature? It has to be said that this is very thin on the ground. Indeed, one is reminded of the Biblical ‘evidence’ for theistic evolution: it is only by the dubious interpretation of a small number of verses that anything can be found.
Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.
A plain reading of this passage makes it clear that God is contrasting His love with that of a mother and showing how much greater is His love than that of one of the strongest forms of human love – that of a mother for her baby. Her love can fail, while His never does. He is not saying,
“I have a mother’s love for you,”
“I have a love for you that is stronger and more enduring than that of a mother.”
Yet from this passage Jack concludes:
“See the mother heart of the Father God waiting for you with outstretched arms to pull you upon His breast and to tenderly shower you with the affectionate love that you have longed for. Experience Him taking you upon His knee and comforting you with His loving arms.”
Experiencing Father’s Embrace, page 138.
So from a passage that says God’s love is not like a mother’s love (it is far better), Jack concludes that His love is like a mother’s love - the opposite to what it is saying! ‘The mother heart’ is a phrase found nowhere in the Bible with reference to God. It is certainly not a valid interpretation of Isaiah 49. There is no greater love that you can experience than that of God, which transcends all human experience, and to describe it in such non–Biblical terms is to move away from Bible truth rather than to come closer to it.
Of course, the fact that ‘mother-heart’ cannot be found in the Bible is not necessarily significant. Words like ‘trinity’ and ‘rapture’ are not found anywhere in the Bible either. However, there are very many passages of scripture that together make a very clear case for the doctrines of which these words are a convenient label. This cannot be said for ‘mother-heart’ or ‘mother-God’.
Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all you who love her; rejoice for joy with her, all you who mourn for her; that you may feed and be satisfied with the consolation of her bosom, that you may drink deeply and be delighted with the abundance of her glory. For thus says the LORD: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream. Then you shall feed; on her sides shall you be carried, and be dandled on her knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; and you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”
The passage concludes with God saying He will give comfort as a mother does. However, note the earlier parts of the passage where Jerusalem is spoken of in terms of a mother:
“That ye may suck, and be satisfied with the breasts (Hebrew, shad / shôd) of her consolations…” Isaiah 66:11 (KJV).
Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries: H7699, שׁד / שׁד shad / shod. Probably from H7736 (in its original sense) contracted; the breast of a woman or animal (as bulging): - breast, pap, teat.
Brown–Driver–Briggs Hebrew Definitions: shad / shôd,, BDB Definition: 1) breast, bosom, (female) breast; 1a) breast (of woman); 1b) breast (of animal); 1c) breast (of both human and animal). Part of Speech: noun masculine
Does this therefore mean that Jerusalem is female? Of course not! It is simply poetic language making a particular point. So let us be consistent: if using this language does not mean that Jerusalem is female, then neither does it mean that God is female.
Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.
Once again we have poetic language used, by David in this case, with the focus being on him and his state of mind. So to use this kind of metaphor to claim that God is therefore female would be like using…
He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge
…and claiming that God is a bird! The same comment would apply to…
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!
Notice in the case of the above passage that while the analogy of a mother hen’s care for her offspring is used, the speaker is Jesus – a man. That is not to deny His deity, but at this time He had emptied Himself of everything He had before coming to the earth as a human:
but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
Philippians 2:7 (RSV)
However, even after His resurrection and ascension, He is still described as a man.
For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.
No–one in their right mind would suggest that Jesus was female because he used the metaphor of a mother hen about Himself!
“Nurture shares the same root word as nurse. I am fascinated by one of the Old Testament names for God, El Shaddai. El means “strong one,” and Shaddai is a form of the word for the breast. El Shaddai means “The strong breasted one. “
“El Shaddai is the mother heart . . . of God the Father. It’s from the Father we receive a mother’s heart.”
(Sue Bohlin. See here for the source of this quote.)
This sounds very convincing, until one asks the question,
“Does El Shaddai really mean the strong breasted one?”
Let us investigate.
H7706 שׁדּי shadday; shad–dah'ee
From H7703; the Almighty: – Almighty.
H7703; שׁדד; shâdad; shaw-dad'
A primitive root; properly to be burly, that is, (figuratively) powerful (passively impregnable); by implication to ravage: - dead, destroy (-er), oppress, robber, spoil (-er), X utterly, (lay) waste.
(Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries)
1) almighty, most powerful
1a) Shaddai, the Almighty (of God)
Part of Speech: noun masculine deity
(Brown–Driver–Briggs Hebrew Definitions)
“What we may expect to find God to us: I am the Almighty God. By this name he chose to make himself known to Abram rather than by his name Jehovah, Exo 6:3. He used it to Jacob, Gen 28:3; Gen 43:14; Gen 48:3. It is the name of God that is mostly used throughout the book of Job, at least in the discourses of that book. After Moses, Jehovah is more frequently used, and this, El–shaddai, very rarely; it bespeaks the almighty power of God, either,
“(1.) As an avenger, from shôdeh he laid waste, so some; and they think God took this title from the destruction of the old world. This is countenanced by Isa 13:6, and Joe 1:15. Or,
“ (2.) As a benefactor shin (for) 'ăsher (who), and day (sufficient). He is a God that is enough; or, as our old English translation reads it here very significantly, I am God all–sufficient. Note, the God with whom we have to do is a God that is enough.
“[1.] He is enough in himself; he is self–sufficient; he has every thing, and he needs not any thing.
“[2.] He is enough to us, if we be in covenant with him: we have all in him, and we have enough in him, enough to satisfy our most enlarged desires, enough to supply the defect of every thing else, and to secure to us a happiness for our immortal souls. See Psa 16:5, Psa 16:6; Psa 73:25.
(Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible)
“I am the Almighty God – אני אל שדי ani El shaddai, I am God all–sufficient; from שדה shadah, to shed, to pour out. I am that God who pours out blessings, who gives them richly, abundantly, continually.”
(Adam Clark’s Commentary on the Bible)
“The covenant in its spiritual aspect. “The Lord,” the Author of existence and performance. “God Almighty,” El shaddai. “El,” the Lasting, Eternal, Absolute. “Shaddai,” the Irresistible, Unchangeable, Destructive Isa 13:6; Joe 1:15. This term indicates on the one hand his judicial, punitive power, and points to his holiness; and on the other hand, his alterative, reconstructive power, and points to his providence. The complex name, therefore, describes God as the Holy Spirit, who works in the development of things, especially in the punishment and eradication of sin and its works, and in the regeneration and defense of holiness. It refers to potence, and potence combined with promise affords ground for faith.”
(Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)
It would seem that a number of highly regarded Bible commentators do not agree with the ‘mother heart of God’ interpretation of El Shaddai. The Hebrew word appears 48 times in the Old Testament, and every time it is translated “Almighty.” I cannot quote them in full, but for the record they are:
Gen 17:1; 28:3; 35:11; 43:14; 48:3; 49:25; Ex 6:3; Num 24:4; 24:16; Ruth 1:20, 21; Job 5:17; 6:4, 14; 8:3, 5; 11:7; 13:3; 15:25; 21:15, 20; 22:3, 17, 23, 25, 26; 23:16; 24:1; 27:2, 10, 11, 13; 29:5; 31:2, 35; 32:8; 33:4; 34:10, 12; 35:13; 37:23; 40:2; Ps 68:14; 91:1; Isa 13:6; Eze 1:24; 10:5; Joe 1:15;
‘Almighty’ appears nine times in the New Testament.
“G3841; παντοκράτωρ; pantokratōr; pan-tok-rat'-ore; From G3956 and G2904; the all ruling, that is, God (as absolute and universal sovereign): - Almighty, Omnipotent.”
(Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries).
2 Cor 6:18; Rev 1:8, 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7, 14; 19:15; 21:22.
pantokratōr is translated ‘Omnipotent’ in Rev 19:6
If El Shaddai really means ‘the strong-breasted one, why does this, or something like it, not appear in any of the Bible translations? Most translate it ‘Almighty’ with others using words like ‘the Most High (Bible in Basic English); ‘God All-Powerful (Contemporary English Version); ‘He that is in Heaven’ (1899 Douay Rheims Bible). These are from Psalm 68:14, chosen at random. I have not checked all 48 verses in all versions!
Note also the Brown–Driver–Briggs Hebrew Definitions’ point that its part of speech is ‘noun masculine deity’. Surely, the fact that there is such a consensus amongst Bible commentators and translators alike demonstrates the weakness of the case for the feminine side of God?
However, even if it were true that it did mean ‘strong–breasted One’, this still would not be evidence for God being female. For example:
You shall drink the milk of the Gentiles, and milk the breast of kings; you shall know that I, the LORD, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.
Does this mean that some kings are female? Quite obviously not, since then they would not be called ‘kings’, but ‘queens’. Once again we have an example of a female metaphor being used to make a particular point, while certainly not denoting femininity.
There may be other scriptures or points made to support the ‘mother–heart of God’ idea, of which I am unaware. However, let us finally look at what the Bible actually says about God. The word ‘mother’ is never used of God anywhere in the Bible. However, we do find ‘Father’.
Do you thus deal with the LORD, O foolish and unwise people? Is He not your Father, who bought you? Has He not made you and established you?
He shall cry to Me, 'You are my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation.'
I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men.
2 Samuel 7:14
I will be his Father, and he shall be My son; and I will not take My mercy away from him, as I took it from him who was before you.
1 Chronicles 17:13
He shall build a house for My name, and he shall be My son, and I will be his Father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.'
1 Chronicles 22:10
Now He said to me, 'It is your son Solomon who shall build My house and My courts; for I have chosen him to be My son, and I will be his Father.
1 Chronicles 28:6
Therefore David blessed the LORD before all the assembly; and David said: "Blessed are You, LORD God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever.
1 Chronicles 29:10
A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, Is God in His holy habitation.
He shall cry to Me, 'You are my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation.'
As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him.
For whom the LORD loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights.
For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Doubtless You are our Father, Though Abraham was ignorant of us, And Israel does not acknowledge us. You, O LORD, are our Father; Our Redeemer from Everlasting is Your name
But now, O LORD, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand.
Will you not from this time cry to Me, 'My Father, You are the guide of my youth? ...But I said: 'How can I put you among the children And give you a pleasant land, A beautiful heritage of the hosts of nations?' "And I said: 'You shall call Me, "My Father," And not turn away from Me.'
Jeremiah 3:4, 19
They shall come with weeping, And with supplications I will lead them. I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters, In a straight way in which they shall not stumble; For I am a Father to Israel, And Ephraim is My firstborn.
"A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence? Says the LORD of hosts To you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, 'In what way have we despised Your name?'
Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously with one another By profaning the covenant of the fathers?
This is 19 Old Testament verses calling God “Father” 20 times. In the New Testament it was Jesus, of course, who taught us that God is our Father, and they are too many to quote:
Matthew 5:16, 45, 48; 6:1, 4, 6, 8, 9, 14, 15, 18, 26, 32; 7:11, 21; 10:20, 29, 32, 33; 11:25, 26, 27; 12:50; 13:43; 15:13; 16:17, 27; 18:10, 14, 19, 35; 20:23; 23:9; 24:36; 25:34; 26:29, 39, 42, 53; 28:19
Mark 8:38; 11:25, 26; 13:32; 14:36
Luke 2:49; 6:36; 9:26; 10:21, 22; 11:2, 13; 12:30, 32; 22:29, 42; 23:34, 46; 24:49
John 2:16; 3:35; 4:21, 23; 5:17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 26, 30, 36, 37, 43, 45; 6:27, 32, 37, 39, 44, 45, 46, 57, 65; 8:16, 18, 19, 27, 28, 29, 49, 54; 10:15, 17, 18, 25, 29, 30, 32, 36, 37, 38; 11:41; 12:26, 27, 28, 49, 50; 13:1, 3; 14:2, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 16, 20, 21, 23, 24, 26, 28, 31; 15:1, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 23, 24, 26; 16:3, 10, 15, 16, 17, 23, 25, 26, 27, 28, 32; 17:1, 5, 11, 21, 24, 25; 18:11; 20:17, 21
Acts 1:4, 7;
Revelation 3:5, 21
No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is Himself God, is near to the Father's heart. He has revealed God to us.
John 1:18 (NLT)
The point has to be made that Jesus revealed who God is to us: this was a part of His earthly ministry. Yet He constantly referred to Him as “Father,” never once calling Him “Mother.” If there had been a ‘feminine’ part of God, Jesus would have made this clear; or if it is valid to call Him “Mother”, then Jesus would have done so. Surely we should be following His example?
The apostles certainly followed the example of Jesus in calling God “Father.”
John 1:14, 18; 14:8; Acts 2:33; Rom 1:7; 6:4; 8:15; 15:6; 1 Cor 1:3; 8:6; 15:24; 2 Cor 1:2, 3; 6:18; 11:31; Gal 1:1, 3, 4; 4:6; Eph 1:2, 3, 17; 2:18; 3:14; 4:6; 5:20; 6:23; Phil 1:2; 2:11; 4:20; Col 1:2, 3, 12, 19; 2:2; 3:17; 1 Thess 1:1, 3; 3:11, 13; 2 Thess 1:1, 2, 2:16; 1 Tim 1:2; 2 Tim 1:2, Tit 1:4; Philemon 1:3; Heb 1:5; 12:9; James 1:17, 27; 3:9; 1 Pet 1:2, 3, 17; 2 Pet 1:17; 1 John 1:2, 3; 2:1, 13, 15, 16, 22, 23, 24; 3:1; 4:14; 5:7; 2 John 1: 3, 4, 9; Jude 1:1; Rev 1:6; 14:1
In all there are 235 New Testament verses calling God “Father” 265 times in total (including ‘Abba’).
Surely the evidence is overwhelming: over and over again God is referred to as “Father,” and Jesus specifically instructed us to address Him in this way (Matthew 6:9). Nowhere in the Bible is He called “Mother,” and nowhere are we told to address Him as such.
God is so much greater than us in every respect, it is clear we will never in this life (or perhaps, ever) be able fully to understand Him or describe Him adequately. I can think of no better words to end this page than those from the website I quoted to begin with:
“Even though our language is inadequate to describe God, it does influence our behavior and how we think of Him; therefore, it must be as correct and precise as possible. We may never find the exact words, but we must avoid using the wrong words. As Christians, we do not have the right to personally change God's title to fit our whims.”
(Website no longer available)
Scripture taken from the New King James Version.
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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are vested in the Crown. Reproduced by permission of the Crown’s patentee, Cambridge University Press.
RSV: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education
of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
NLT: The Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004. Used by permission of
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