Language about God

Expansive Images of God

Scripture
Creeds
Theological Traditions
Theologians

"What is the right way to speak about God? This is a question of unsurpassed importance, for speech to and about the mystery that surrounds human lives and the universe itself is a key activity of a community of faith. In that speech the symbol of God functions as the primary symbol of the whole religious system, the ultimate point of reference for understanding experience, life, and the world. Hence the way in which a faith community shapes language about God implicitly represents what it takes to be the highest good, the profoundest truth, the most appealing beauty. Such speaking, in turn, powerfully molds the corporate identity of the community and directs its praxis."
Elizabeth A. Johnson, She Who Is (New York: Crossroad), 1992, pp. 3–4

Expansive Images of God in Scripture

Midwife Ps 22:9-10
Mother Num 11:12-13, Deut 32:18, Job 38:28-29, Ps 131:2, Isa 42:14, Isa 46:3-4, Isa 49:15, Isa 66:9, Hos 11:3-4, Jn 16:21, Rom 8:22, I Pet 2:2-3
Mother bear

Hos 13:8

Shepherd

Jn 10:11,14; Ps 23

Woman

Lk 15:8–10, Ps 123:2

Baker

Mt 13:33, Lk 13:20-21

Eagle

Deut 32:11-12, Ex 19:4

Hen

Mt 23:37; Ruth 2:12, Ps 57:1, Ps 61:4, Lk 13:34, Ps 17:8
Fire Deut 4:24, Acts 2:3

Wind                         

Acts 2:2, Jn 3:8
Rock Is 17:10, Deut 32:18

Water

Jer 17:13

Light

Jn 8:12; Isa 60:2-3

Bread

Jn 6:33-35

Vine

Jn 15:1

Word

Jn 1:1

Wisdom

Lk 11:49, I Cor 1:24

I Am                          

Ex 3:14

Potter

Jer 18:1-11, Job 10:8-9

Expansive Images of God in the Creeds

The Nicene Creed
God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God; Lord and Giver of Life

The Apostles Creed
Maker of heaven and earth

The Scots Confession
Eternal, infinite, immeasurable, incomprehensible, omnipotent, invisible; Messiah

The Heidelberg Catechism
Faithful Savior; merciful, gracious, righteous; Mediator, Advocate, Judge

The Second Helvetic Confession
God is One, God is Three; Just Judge and Avenger, Only Savior, True Awaited Messiah, Living God, Author of the Sacraments

The Westminster Confession
Infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body parts, or passions, immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute . . . most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering; Christ the Mediator

The Evangelical Catechism
One God is Spirit, Life, Light, and Love

The Theological Declaration of Barmen
Jesus Christ—the One Word of God

The UCC Statement of Faith
God calls the worlds into being, creates humankind in the divine image, and sets before us the ways of life and death.

Expansive Images of God from our Theological Traditions

"He who has promised us heavenly food has nourished us on milk, having recourse to a mother's tenderness. For just as a mother, suckling her infant, transfers from her flesh the very same food which otherwise would be unsuited to a babe (the little one actually receives what he would have received at table but the food conveyed through the flesh is adapted to the child), so our Lord, in order to convert His wisdom into milk for our benefit, came to us clothed in flesh."
—St. Augustine

"But you too, good Jesus, are you not also a mother? Are you not a mother who like a hen gathers her chicks beneath her wings? And you, my soul dead in yourself, run under the wings of Jesus your mother and lament your griefs under his feathers. Ask that your wounds may be healed and that, comforted, you may live again. Christ, my mother, you gather your chickens under your wings; this dead chicken of yours puts himself under those wings . . .Warm your chicken, give life to your dead one, justify your sinner."
—Anselm of Canterbury, Prayers and Meditations

 "To those infants who seek the Word, the Father's loving breasts supply milk."
—Clement of Alexandria,The Instructor

Other Expansive Images from Theologians

"God his father and the Holy Spirit his Mother."
—Aphrahat, The Orthodox Way

In Revelations of Divine Love, Julian of Norwich spoke of Jesus as the mother who gives us birth in the agonies of the cross and who nurses us at the breast in Holy Communion.


 

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Rev. Susan A. Blain
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blains@ucc.org