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Can we use names for God other than Father?


The United Methodist Church encourages the use of "diverse biblical images and titles for God, including masculine/feminine metaphors." (Biblical Language, 2016 Book of Resolutions)

The names we use for God both reflect and shape how we think about God. They help us to get to know God and to introduce others to God. Each image points to a quality of God that helps us understand God better.

Despite our efforts, we realize that our language falls short in our attempts to describe God. Our language can never contain God or give a comprehensive description of God. The names we choose suggest attributes of God but cannot express God's nature completely.

"We acknowledge that the concept of God as father is a rich and meaningful one for many Christians, and we affirm its use in the Lord's Prayer and the [service of baptism] as an important part of Christian tradition." However, exclusively using one kind of terminology limits our images of God. (excerpt from Words That Hurt, Words That Heal)

Early biblical writers, drawing from human experience, used a variety of words to express their understanding of God. They speak of God as shepherd, judge, rock, light, warrior, and fortress. "The Book of Isaiah has many images which may be used: a woman in labor (Isaiah 42:14), a woman giving birth (Isaiah 46:3-4), a loving mother (Isaiah 49:15) are but a few. In the New Testament, Luke 15:8-10 portrays God as a woman looking for a lost coin. In Luke 13:34 and Matthew 23:37, Jesus alludes to himself as a mother hen gathering her chicks. God may be addressed as Compassionate One, Nurturer, Counselor, Guide, Lover, Seeker, Helper." (excerpt from Words That Hurt, Words That Heal)

Rev. F. Belton Joyner, Jr. explains in United Methodist Questions, United Methodist Answers: Exploring Christian Faith,

"Biblically, names are so important that often a person's name changes when some major characteristic in his or her life changes (Gen. 17:5; Gen. 17:15; Gen 32:28; Acts 13:9). Names are not chosen at random (Jer. 33:16; Matt. 1:21).

So then, what name shall we use for God? When Moses asked that exact question, God answered, "I AM WHO I AM." In fact, God said, "This is my name forever" (Exodus 3:13-15).

Jesus sets the model for us in using a variety of images and names for God: most frequently Father (John 17:21), God (Matt. 4:4), Lord (Matt. 4:7), Power (Matt. 26:64), Presence (Matt 12:4); and numerous metaphors: shepherd, woman looking for lost coin, mother hen, waiting father.

The very array and range of ways of referring to God reflect the "otherness" of God and our human fraility in trying to talk about and to talk with God."

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Tags: Worship