Another “don’t miss” according to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s website is a blog from Kristin Berkey-Abbott, a lifelong Lutheran and college professor. It is entitled “Reforming our metaphors for God.” In recent years it has become “enlightened” to get rid of the Bible’s “offensive” metaphors for God. For some this means getting rid of the “sexist” language of God as Father. Some would also like to get rid of any military language the Bible uses for God. Berkey-Abbot has written about getting rid of God as “mighty fortress” found seven times in the Bible (Psalms 18:2, Psalms 16:1-3, 2 Samuel 22:2, etc.). It is also found in Luther’s most famous hymn “A Mighty Fortress”.
She writes of the Bible’s “problems”:
"Earlier this August, our congregation’s sending hymn was “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”…The imagery is fierce and militant. While some might find that comforting, I wonder if it’s the best metaphor for God. I know the history of the time period in which Luther lived, work and wrote. I know that God as fortress, as bulwark (to use the older language), as sword and shield might have been remarkably effective for those listeners.
But I am weary of wars of all sorts. I’m weary of the horrific images from wars fought in other countries….I’d like different imagery.
I realize that the Bible is full of rich imagery, but it has problems, too. I think of all the agricultural metaphors and bread metaphors. Do they speak to people who have never made a loaf of yeasted bread? …If I were to write a hymn or a poem or a parable to explain my understanding of God to a person who has yet to meet God, what metaphors would I use?…
A quilt would make an obvious metaphor for both God and the church. I like the idea of a crafter taking scraps of cloth and making them into a larger item that has both beauty and utility. The God I know would combine fabrics into new patterns. The God I know would delight in bits of lace, ribbon and some interesting buttons as adornments."
Berkley-Abbott lists other metaphors that she would like to use for God and concludes with this:
"I could go on and on, but let me stop here. It’s a fun exercise to do alone, and I imagine it would be an even more interesting exercise to do in a group. It’s a different way to talk about God, and if the metaphors work, it’s a different way to know God."
My response: Since when are we free to invent new metaphors for God? God has revealed Himself in the Bible as “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” and also as “Redeemer, Rock, Fortress, etc.” If we do not like these metaphors for God, it is not that something is wrong with the Bible, it is that something is wrong with us. We would be putting our own opinions and imaginations above the authoritative truth of Scripture. I love worshipping God as my Father and Fortress. I have no desire to worship God as my quilt.
Pastor Tom Brock
(read the ELCA article here)