This continues a short series on whether feminist theology is neglecting the everyday voice of women in the church.
It is common for the egalitarian camp to offer assurances that placing women in key roles does not amount to throwing out historic Christianity wholesale, but instead is simply correcting some misunderstandings and misapplications. Some noteworthy public examples have not been very reassuring. The PC-USA recently approved referring to the Trinity as "Compassionate Mother, Beloved Child and Life-giving Womb." Let's begin, here, with the Life-giving Womb. I can only imagine what the feminists would say if the Trinity were ever referred to as "Father, Son, and Live-giving Testicles" or something along those lines. To put it more plainly, this seems to be an example of over-stretching the study of the Holy Spirit beyond reasonable bounds, with an aim to make a merely human point. In theology -- particularly incarnational theology as we Christians practice -- there's always the careful distinction whether we sinners are remade in God's image (restoration) or whether God is remade in our image (idolatry or blasphemy on the extreme end, or petty presumptuousness and rank silliness on the low end). I don't see that referring to the Holy Spirit as a womb has any Scriptural merit, but instead it seems a fairly transparent effort to thrust our self-image onto God. I don't think it can be taken so seriously as to amount to blasphemy, but I expect it does amount to rank silliness. That an early, conspicuous contribution of the new leadership to church life is something both misguided and frivolous comes as something of an embarrassment to the average woman in the pews, possibly to women in theology in general. It comes across as a nearly childish form of the "me too!" argument, and the focus comes across as less on God and more on women seeking to call attention to themselves at a moment in the worship service when the focus ought to be on God.
It's very likely that "me too!" needs to be said. It is always reassuring of our shared human dignity that the Bible names both men and women as being made in the image of God. Still, I would be less embarrassed if this point was made with a little more tact than that, and if the image of God did not seem to be used as a pawn in the gender wars. The image of God should be one thing men and women have in common; when we use it in a divisive or narrowly sexist way (as in "Life-giving Womb"), that's an improper use of the doctrine. It is not for us to remake God after the image of only one sex.1 If the image of God bestowed on us is to be a heartening and life-giving teaching, then it is to be seen as a gift of God to us, the hope of glory, and the dignity of humanity, both men and women in common.
Which leads fairly directly to my next post on the subject ...
1 - It is likely enough that some of the people recommending "Life-giving Womb" for use in the Trinitarian formula recognize it as narrowly sexist, and see the narrow sexism (let's be charitable) as corrective, rather than such a low thing as payback or liturgical revenge. But I'm skeptical that language of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost was ever meant as narrowly sexist; adding something to the mix that is hard to interpret otherwise than narrowly sexist in its reference to reproductive organs introduces a pointed narrowness and explicit divisiveness that was not there before and is not helpful to introduce.