Monday, April 17, 2006

Metasememes and God the Father

I submit that metasememic constructs are as-if structures.[1] Metasememes evidently do not predicate metaphysical or literal properties of a subject, but only affirm tropically that “S is P.” Consequently, even though the appellation “Father” may be reality-depicting, it does not necessarily delineate the mind-independent properties of God the Father.[2] Paternal metaphors for God may speak to the deity’s relationship with his people or the manner in which the divine one functions vis-à-vis the Son of God and creation as a whole.[3] However, imagery couched in masculine terminology does not necessarily disclose anything substantive about God quoad se (Poetica 25). Tropes depicting a paternal deity are as-if structures that affirm unfamiliar identity syntheses (i.e. father/God); conversely, they are not metaphysical pronouncements.[4] When Scripture refers to God as a Shepherd, King, Warrior, Lord or Father, it is employing metaphorical speech to predicate X or Y of God in a figurative manner. It does not seem that one can rely on metaphorical locutions in Scripture to discern whether masculinity or femininity are immanent divine categories of being.[5]

[1] Von Bernhard Debatin, Die Rationalität der Metapher.

[2] As an illustration of metaphorical speech applied to divinities, Aristotle writes: “Hence Ganymede is said ‘to pour the wine to Zeus,’ though the gods do not drink wine” (Poetica 25). A similar claim is being made in this study with respect to “Father” as a divine appellation. When ascribing paternity to God, it seems that Scripture and a number of pre-Nicenes do not mean to say that God is inherently masculine. Rather, the Bible refers to God as “Father,” even though the infinite God evidently transcends gender categories (Bloesch, Is the Bible Sexist, 80) in order to depict his relationship with the Son or creation as a whole.

[3] Clement 1.19.

[4] See Caird’s work on Biblical Imagery.

[5] Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way, 33-34 argues “there is in God no such thing as sexuality.” An infinite God by definition cannot be male or female, masculine or feminine since a limitless God transcends these categories of being. Yet, Ware maintains that “Father” is a divinely given symbol. However, why should Christians continue employing masculine symbols if they do not tell us what God is immanently? Ware’s answer is that God has revealed and vouchsafed the symbol “Father” to Christians; moreover, it is rooted in being itself.

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