As one whom his mother comforts, so I (God) will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. Isaiah 66:13
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. While some may overly emphasize the motherly images of God found in the Bible. As an aside, "Mother god" can be confused with Mary's title, "Mother of God" which is a different topic.
One example that promotes "Mother god" is a book, entitled Heart Talks to Mother God. This book claims to be based on the motherly images of God in the Bible. It is written for children so that they may experience another metaphor for God - "Mother God, who loves them unconditionally." Unfortunately this seems to imply that fathers, including God the Father, cannot love unconditionally. The book reduces Creation to "birthing" where God no longer creates out of nothing but has a womb. Also Jesus appears to have two mothers: Mary and Mother god! This title for God has many strange implications. An important question to ask ourselves is: Do we have the license to change the revealed titles of God to fit our opinions and feelings?
Now we must realize that God is not in our image, but we are made in God's image. We may reject God, but we cannot change or redefine God. Gods of our own making are simply idols (CCC 2779). The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states:
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]
Elsewhere in the Catechism:
By calling God "Father," the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that He is at the same time goodness and loving care for all His children. God's parental tenderness can also be expressed by the image of motherhood (Isaiah 66:13; Psalm 131:2), which emphasizes God's immanence, the intimacy between Creator and creature. The language of faith thus draws on the human experience of parents,...[CCC 239]
The Catechism continues by reminding us that God transcends both sexes, parenthood and even creation. The language of faith being rooted in human experience can never express God completely (CCC 40ff).
In the Bible the title "Mother" is never used for God. In the Old Testament (OT), God does use the title "Father" for Himself, but only rarely:
He (King David) shall cry to Me (God), "Thou art my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation." [Psalm 89:26; RSV; cf. 2 Samuel 7:14; Psalm 68:6]
The OT titles for God are mainly political (Lord, King, Master) or military (Fortress, Rock, Shield). It was Christ who first fully developed the title "Abba" for the God of Israel. "Abba" is Aramaic for father and not mother or parent (Mark 14:36). Jesus in the Gospel refers to the God of Israel as "my Father" [Luke 2:49] and "Our Father" as in the Lord's Prayer [Matt. 6:9; 23:9]. In the New Testament (NT) Epistles, the titles "God the Father" [Gal. 1:1; Eph. 5:20] and "God our Father" [Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3] are frequently used. God may at times describe His actions in terms of motherhood, but Moses and St. Paul liken themselves as mothers too (Num. 11:12; Gal. 4:19).
The Divine Nature is pure Spirit (John 4:24), but the second Person of the Trinity (Matt. 28:19) also took upon Himself a human nature. This doctrine is called the Incarnation. God the Son came in the flesh as Jesus Christ. As it is written in the Gospel:
...the Word was God...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us... [John 1: 1 & 14]
(A few references to the divinity of Christ are: John 5:18; 10:30; 20:28-29; Acts 20:28; Col. 2:9; Titus 2:13...) Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, was born of Mary as the Son of God:
But when the time had fully come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman... [Galatians 4:4]
The God of Israel is Jesus' Father (Matt. 11:27), while Mary became Jesus' human mother (Luke 1:43). [This is why the Catholic Church calls Mary the "Mother of God" (CCC 495) since she is the mother of the second divine Person, God the Son. Mary is not a "Mother god" since she is only human - a creature of God. She is not the feminine side of God. Nor is she the mother of the Persons: God the Father or God the Holy Spirit.] Jesus was not ashamed of claiming the God of Israel as His Father. He was accused of blasphemy and eventually died for this claim (John 5:18; 19: 7-8).
Some feminists claim that the Bible is biased since it was copied through the many centuries by male scribes. But this claim does not account for the verses that show God in maternal terms (Isaiah 42:14; 49:14-15; 66:13). Surely male-biased scribes would have been scandalized by these and should have eventually removed them. These metaphors, being so few, could have been easily glossed out of the Bible. At least in the OT, the title "Father" is used only rarely for God. Once again we would expect patriarchal scribes to have used that title more often in the OT. Now if Jesus did not really call the God of Israel as His Father, then later scribes would have had to falsify many of Jesus' words in the Gospels. Since the Gospels come to us through many manuscript traditions along with surviving ancient manuscripts, this radical revision would have been made very early in the first century when Christians, who personally heard Jesus, were still alive. Also the Apostles would have had to lie and later be martyred for that lie! Actually these scribes were more motivated in preserving the Word of God than in promoting male chauvinism. In fact, these scribes were scrupulous about transcribing the Word of God exactly.
The political promoters of "Mother god" understand the power of language. The words that we use in our speech influence how we think and act. For example, if I use impure language, I am more prone to commit sins of impurity. Likewise, if we use language that opposes the teachings of the Church and Bible, then we are more likely to reject those authorities. A good book to read concerning power, authority and the politics of language is The Church and the Culture War by Joyce A. Little (Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 1995).
On page 148 of her book, Joyce Little discusses God as Father. Now the God of Israel is Holy (Psalm 99). The word "holy" is rooted in the word "separated" (1 Chron. 23:13). God, being pure Spirit, has a certain "separation" or otherness to His material creation. This otherness of God is further revealed when He sent His only Son to the world instead of Himself. Even though we are created in His image, God the Father keeps His distance from matter to a certain extent. For this reason, the title "Mother" is not appropriate for God, since the words: "mother" and "matter", are etymologically related (Latin root: mater-). God is not Mother Nature or Mother Earth. Also mothers during pregnancy are biologically joined to their child, but fathers are physically separated. Even though fathers love their children, there is still a certain degree of distance as compared to mothers. Once again this "separation" of father from child is related to the "separation" (Holiness) of God from creation. The God of Israel is called Father not because He is male, but because He is Holy.
Our human words can never adequately express God, Who is both Holy (Psalm 99:9) and Love (1 John 4:16). Unlike human words, Jesus Christ is the Incarnate Word, Who can express God completely (CCC 102; Heb. 1:1-3; Matt. 11:27). Christians can call God "Father" because Jesus gave us permission (Gal. 4:6; CCC 2780). Otherwise we would be committing a sacrilege or even idolatry.
In the Bible, God is described by many metaphors including that of motherhood (Deut. 32:18; Matt. 23:37), but never called "Mother" per se. In describing God, we must recognize the problems of our language. 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.
Printed with permission from A Catholic Response, Inc.