by Deborah Malacky Belonick

[Deborah Malacky Belonick is a lay theologian who teaches at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, New York. She is the author of Feminism in Christianity: An Orthodox Christian Perspective and is a member of the Orthodox Theological Society of America. "Testing the Spirits" is an essay written for the 1999 revision of WOMEN IN THE PRIESTHOOD, edited by Thomas Hopko. The entire book is well worth reading, if only to get a feel for the debate within the Eastern Churches. (It is at Google Books HERE, although with a number of pages missing from Belonick’s essay.)]


We Orthodox Christians are bound by Jesus Christ to enter this debate because of the apostle John's admonishment: 'Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world.' (1 John 4:1) Our Church must decide whether women priests are the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

However, the question of women's ordination should not result in an endless quarrel about whether women are 'clean enough,' 'good enough,' or 'smart enough' to perform sacraments, preach, and lead a Christian community. To be sure, women are. The question is much deeper than that. 

The point is, anthropological and theological arguments supporting the ordination of women often reflect a secular, feminist philosophy. Furthermore these arguments rely on doctrines almost always opposed to the Christian faith and teachings about salvation. (p. 190)

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When the feminist movement began, proponents envisioned a new human community. They advocated the avoidance of culturally determined roles. ... Life would increasingly require that 'individuals know how to take the initiative and to be receptive, to be aggressive and sensitive, to discipline and to nurture, to be both strong and gentle...combining what have been defined in American society as masculine and feminine qualities. ...

Unfortunately, the idea of one person possessing all human traits came to imply that psychologically there are no distinctions between women and men. Masculinity and femininity came to be regarded as mere cultural labels with no basis in reality. It came to imply that anatomy alone distinguishes the sexes, and human being denotes a person who is beyond the categories of masculine and feminine. 

Those advocating the ordination of women imbedded this extreme anthropology into their theology. They believe that there are no psychological differences between women and men. They theorize that the anatomical differences between women and men will be annihilated in the heavenly realm. They promote the effacement of sexual distinction on earth as a cooperative work with the Holy Spirit. (pp. 191-192)

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In a traditional Christian sense, a complement as well as common human nature is assumed between the sexes. (p. 197)

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However, masculinity and femininity are not traits, but the modes by which human traits are expressed. (p. 198)

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Further, this created complement is permanent, even after death. Humans are not 'saved' from sexual distinction in the resurrection. The feminist expectation that the soul and body will be dissociated in the heavenly realm is foreign to the Orthodox Christian Tradition. The resurrection of the body and its reunion with the soul is an essential Christian tenet. (p. 199)

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The traditional Christian believes sexuality and gender are psychological, biological, significant, and permanent. (p. 200)

Since the Christ became human, His sexuality and gender likewise are psychological, biological, significant, and permanent. Jesus Christ had to possess a deep, personal sexuality, or He would not have been fully human and could not have saved humanity (Hebrews 4:15). However, it is the permanent male gender and masculinity of Jesus Christ that disturbs proponents of women's ordination. (p. 201)

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Christians favoring ordination of women downplay the biblical images of Jesus that depict him as Bridegroom (Mt 9:14-15, Jn 3:28-30), as Head (Eph 52-23), King (Lk 19:38), and as Son (Jn l:l8). Rather, they focus on metaphorical images, as when Jesus says he is like a mother hen (Lk 13:34). Nevertheless, Jesus is not depicted in Scripture as bride, bod); queen, or daughter, though he may have a tender heart.

Fourth century theologian Gregory of Nazianzus notes that Jesus was heroic, courageous, sacrificial and authoritative. Certainly, humility mercy, compassion and love were among his qualities, but, according to Gregory, these made Jesus the perfect male," not the perfect combination of masculinity and femininity. Males today could learn about perfect masculinity from Jesus. Masculinity is not a toolbox Filled with tough, aggressive supplies, but a way of expressing human qualities and a way of relating to others.

More importantly the sex of Jesus was not temporary He rose from the dead in a male body. It is true that St. Paul identifies the risen Christ as a "spirit" (1 Cor 3:17 and l5:45). Yet, according to Paul's Jewish mindset:

"This Christ is certainly no impersonal fluid. Even when St. Paul is considering Christ or his body as the sphere of life in which the believer is born and grows, he does not think of that body as an immaterial substance: it always remains in his thought the physical body of the Savior.

"The Resurrection is produced by a divine action indicated by the verb 'to rouse from sleep'. He who 'rises up', he who is woken up, is the same as he who lay down in the sleep of death: 'He was buried and rose the third day.'" (F.X. Durwell)

Jesus rose in his body. The tomb was empty (Mt 28:6; Mk 16:6; Lk 24:5; Jn 20:2). He invited the doubting disciple, Thomas, to 'Put your finger here and see my hands'; 'and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing' Jn 20:27). His flesh was now imbued with the Holy Spirit, incorruptible and immortal. Although Jesus' spiritual body looked different to many of his disciples after the Resurrection (Jn 20:15; Jn 21:12; Lk 24:31), he did not appear as a woman.

The doctrine of the bodily Resurrection is essential to the Christian faith. If Christ had not risen and taken his glorified humanity into the Kingdom, we humans would still be slaves of death. St. Paul wrote, 'If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins' (1 Cor 15:17).

Theologians who accept a feminist-infused view wrongly assume the resurrected soul alone is God's plan of salvation. Rather, God's plan was for our perishable human nature to put on an imperishable nature (1 Cor 15:52-53). The body falls asleep in the hope of the Resurrection. The dead person will not lose the status of being male or female, but rather, his or her body will become quickened by the Spirit. As 1 Corinthians 15:38-54 notes, the dead will rise in new bodies, spiritual bodies. These spiritual bodies will be immortal and incorruptible, but there is no suggestion that the gender of the person will change in the kingdom. WE will not transcend gender and sexuality; our gender and our sexuality will be transfigured.

The disunity of soul and body is death; the reunion of soul and body is the hope of all Christians. The risen Christ accomplished this reunification. A vision of the resurrected soul without a resurrected body is not within traditional Christian bounds, and such a vision distorts the salvation effected by Jesus Christ.

In addition Jesus possessed an eternal masculine mode. All ancient writers insist Christ did not become 'Son' of God by taking a male Body. Christ was Son before the Creation. He was Son before the Incarnation. He remains Son after the Resurrection. He has an eternal relationship as Son to the Father. Athanasius wrote:

[The heretics] will take refuge in another pretext, saying...that the Word was Word indeed simply in the beginning, but when he became Man, then he was named Son; for before his appearing he was not Son but Word only; and as the "Word became flesh," not being flesh before, so the Word became Son, not being Son before. Such are their idle words... (Discourse IV, 22)

The insistence on Christ's eternal sonship and his risen male body especially grates on those who argue that women cannot be saved by a 'male' Jesus. They often quote a statement by Gregory of Nazianzen: 'that which is not assumed cannot be healed.' (Epistle 101)

They reason that if Jesus did not incorporate into himself the feminine and female, and raise her to heaven, then women have not been saved or redeemed by Christ. However, this argument is simplistic and confuses the differences between Jesus Christ's 'person,' 'nature' and 'mode of existence.' Christ, as the second person of the Trinity, the divine Son of God, assumed human nature, a body and soul. Jesus' masculinity and male body, however, were a mode and characteristic of his human being, not part of his nature or person. Jesus did not have to assume every human characteristic and mode to assume human nature. He could not have simultaneously been female and male; he could not have simultaneously had blue eyes and brown, straight hair and curly; black, brown, white or yellow skin. When we say our human nature rose to the heavens with Christ, we do not imply every human person arose, or that every human mode or characteristic arose. We confess only that our human nature did so via the person of Christ who hypostatically assumed it. (John of Damascus, Orthodox Faith: Book Three, 6.)

Many contemporary theologians extend this confusion to the Holy Trinity. Just as they deprecate the masculinity and maleness of Jesus Christ and his divine Sonship, so too do they disparage the Fatherhood of God. In the area of language and imagery for the Holy Trinity feminist theology has become particularly disconcerting.

The Holy Trinity

Many modern Christians deem the terms 'Father, Son and Holy Spirit' and icons of a male Jesus Christ to be dominant patriarchal images that are '...detrimental to the mystery of God and the well-being of the human community.' (Elizabeth A. Johnson, She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Discourse) They want to balance hierarchical, patriarchal and filial images with cosmic, maternal images. If males and females are made 'in the image of God' (Gen 1:27), contemporary Christians reason, why is not Cod imaged and spoken of in feminine, as well as masculine, terms? If God is incomprehensible, why do we insist on calling Cod our Father? To balance perceptions of God, they suggest terms like Rock, Fire, Mother, I Am, Creator, and Sophia, among others. Some theologians have tried to show how classical tradition may serve 'as a starting point from which feminine metaphors can flow.' (Johnson, 9) Still others have dispensed with the idea that classical theology and feminist theology can co-exist. (Mary Daly, Beyond God the Father . . ., 184)

There also is a backlash against naming or imaging God at all. Listen to Bill Moyers interview Joseph Campbell about the Hindu belief 'that God is beyond name and form.' (The First Storytellers, Program III) Listen to Oprah Winfrey tell Dr. M. Scott Peck that 'God is too big to have a name.' (The Oprah Winfrey Show Feb 1994) My personal sensitivity toward this trend heightened ten years ago when I attended a Mass at my children's parochial school in which God was referred to as the 'Great Spirit' in honor of Kateri Tekakwitha, a North American Native saint.

In any case, one current standard for judging a divine name or image is this: does it result in or encourage the "self-actualization of women" and an egalitarian human community where life goes on in harmony with the environment? (Daly, 157, 183) If so, the image is deemed godly. If not, the image needs to be balanced with feminine imagery, reprised from a woman's perspective, or discarded as ungodly. (p. 204-208)

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Nor by gifts for preaching, healing, teaching, prophesying or counseling are priests chosen. Rather, to be ordained a priest means to have the Holy Spirit come upon him and confirm him as the one in the community who presents the priesthood of Jesus Christ to the rest of the community. It means, by the mystery of the Spirit, to bear the presence of; not to represent, the priesthood of Jesus Christ at the altar and in all the sacraments of the Church. This "bearing" is not something the priest can 'own' or call his 'gift,' since it is a gift by the Lord to the Church and for the Church 'until the Lord comes again.' The priesthood entails bearing a certain mode of existence toward the Church, a relationship dependent on a certain sexuality.

Such an explanation may seem unjust or ludicrous to those who seek the ordination of women. Yet, the Orthodox Church, in view of the theology propagated by advocates for a priesthood that includes women, must stand against this trend. The Church instead must defend truly biblical definitions of God, woman and man. She must defend the biblical image of Jesus Christ and the meaning of ordination, and she must walk according to the light of the Lord (1 Jn 1:6-7). The Orthodox Church cannot defend a phenomenon that has caused such distortions in human anthropology and Christian theology. (p. 222-223)

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by Deborah Belonick

This essay first appeared in Pastoral Renewal, April 1986.

The last few years have seen vast changes in many churches in liturgical rites and educational instruction in regard to proper language for God. The United Church of Christ, to give just one example, has published "Inclusive Language Guidelines" urging members to "avoid the use of masculine role names for God, such as 'Lord, King, Father, Master, and Son"', and instead to "use nonexclusive role names, such as 'God, Creator, Sustainer, Mother/ Father'. Or use non-sex-specific words relating to the qualities of God, such as 'Spirit, Holy One, Eternal One, Rock"'. Feminist theologians chide those using the traditional terms as being sexist, ignorant of feminine images for God in Scripture, or unaware of the "oppressive patriarchal structure" which "invented" these terms for God.

A study of history proves that questioning language for God is not a new pursuit. We must not think that we in the twentieth century are the only ones who ever wrestled with the traditional doxology for God: "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit". The ways that the issue has been raised, and the ways Christians in the past have responded to it, have much to teach us today as we seek to respond to accusations by feminist theologians that patriarchalism and human imagination are responsible for the traditional trinitarian terms for God.

Specifically, Christians of the fourth century have much to teach us. The fourth century was the period of the all-consuming questions: Who and what is Jesus Christ? His humanity, divinity person, and nature were the topics of great debates, which examined his relationship to humanity, as well as to the other members of the Trinity. During these fourth-century debates, the traditional doxology for God–"Father, Son, and Holy Spirit"–was also challenged and debated.

A study of the Christian controversies of the fourth century leads to two important conclusions. First, the terms "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" have a precise theological meaning which is not communicated by any other terms for God. Second, the traditional doxology did not emerge as a reflection of patriarchal culture.



On the first point, two fourth-century theologians who were embroiled in controversies over the proper terms for God, Athanasius and Gregory of Nyssa, are especially worthwhile for our study.

Athanasius was defending the traditional trinitarian names against the Arians, a group which preferred to call the First Person of the Trinity "Creator" rather than "Father". Arians claimed that Jesus Christ was not the Son of God but merely a superior creature; therefore, "Father" was a fleshly, foolish, improper term for God. In reply to the Arians, Athanasius tried to explain the importance of the biblical divine names, "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit".

Using a term such as "Creator", said Athanasius, makes God dependent on creatures for his existence. If creation did not exist, he asked, would this Creator-God cease to be? If creation had never existed, what would be the proper term for God?

In addition, Athanasius argued, the word "Creator" could be used to describe any of the members of the Trinity. It would be wrong to refer to the Father alone as Creator because the Bible states:

"In the beginning God created the heavens and earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters" (Gen 1:1-2).

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made" (Jn 1:1-3).

According to Scripture, the Trinity acts in concert. They all create; they all save (Jn 5:21; Acts 2:24; Rom 1:4); they all sanctify (Eph 5:26; 1 Th 5:23).

Athanasius argued that the names of God had to describe more than God's action toward creation. There are, as it were, two different sets of names which may be used for God, explained Athanasius. One set (Creator, Savior, Sanctifier) refers to God's deeds or acts, that is, to his will and counsel. The other set (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) refers to God's own essence and being. Athanasius insisted that these two sets should be formally and consistently distinguished.

In Athanasius' view, we should use the terms "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" when speaking about the existence of God as three persons in a community of love, when speaking about the relationships among members of the Trinity without regard to their acts toward creation. God's "being", Athanasius reasoned, has priority over God's action and will: "God is much more than just 'Creator'. When we call God 'Father', we mean something higher than his relation to creatures" (Against the Arians).



Gregory of Nyssa faced similar problems when dealing with a sect known as the Eunomians, who believed that Christ was unlike God the Father by nature and instead was a "created energy". For this reason, Eunomians refused to call God "Father". In response, Gregory sought to explain the character of the Holy Trinity, and the Church's insistence on the traditional terms, "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit".

First, said Gregory there was no more adequate theologian than the Lord himself, who without compulsion or mistake designated the Godhead "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" (See Mt 28:19).

Further, Gregory said, these names are not indications that God is a male or a man; for God transcends human gender. Rather, these names imply relationships among the Persons of the Trinity and distinguish them as separate Persons who exist in a community of love. The names lead us to contemplate the correct relationships among the three Persons; they are clues to the inner life of the Trinity.

Gregory wrote: "While there are many other names by which the Deity is indicated in the historical books of the Bible, in the prophets, and in the law, our master Christ passes by all these and commits to us these titles as better able to bring us to the faith about the Self-Existent, declaring that it suffices for us to cling to the titles 'Father, Son, and Holy Spirit' in order to attain to the apprehension of him who is absolutely Existent" (Against Eunomius, Book 2).

Gregory states that it is with the terms "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" that men can enter into the depths of God's life, somewhat equipped to understand the inner relationships and Persons of the Trinity.



Of particular interest in our own day is Gregory's explanation of the term "Father", which is under scrutiny by feminist theologians as a harmful metaphor that resulted from a patriarchal church structure and culture.

The name "Father", said Gregory, leads us to contemplate (1) a Being who is the source and cause of all and (2) the fact that this Being has a relationship with another person–one can only be "Father" if there is a child involved. Thus, the human term "Father" leads one naturally to think of another member of the Trinity, to contemplate more than is suggested by a term such as "Creator" or "Maker". By calling God "Father", Gregory notes, one understands that there exists with God a Child from all eternity, a second Person who rules with him, is equal and eternal with him.

"Father" also connotes the initiator of a generation, the one who begets life rather than conceiving it. and bringing it to fruition in birth. This is the mode of existence, the way of origin and being, of the First Person of the Trinity. He acts in trinitarian life in a mode of existence akin to that of a father in the earthly realm. Before time, within the mystery of the Holy Trinity, God generated another Person, the Son, as human fathers generate seed.

Nowhere does Gregory, suggest that this "Father" is a male creature: "It is clear that this metaphor contains a deeper meaning than the obvious one", he notes. The deeper meaning, is found in a passage of Paul to the Ephesians:

"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family (patria, fatherhood) in heaven and on earth receives its true name" (Eph 3:14-15). This passage implies that God is the one, true, divine Father, whose generative function human fathers imitate in a creaturely imperfect way. When God generates a Child, the generation is eternal and transcends time and space, unlike human fathers, who imitate this generative function but arc bound in time space, and creaturely "passions," as Gregory notes (Against Eunomius, Book 4).

All the patristic writers insist that God is not male, but God possesses a generative characteristic, for which the best analogy in the human realm is that of a human father generating seed. Hence, the word "Father" for God is the human word most adequate to describe the First Person of the Holy Trinity, who possesses this unique characteristic.

The divine Father is as different from earthly fathers as the divine is from the human. Nevertheless, it is fatherhood and not motherhood which describes his mode of life, his relationship to the Second Person of the Trinity, and even his personal characteristics. The First Person of the Trinity does not just act like a father (though he sometimes acts like a mother!). Rather, he possesses divine fatherhood in a perfect way. That God's fatherhood transcends and is the perfection of human fatherhood is part of the meaning of Jesus' statement in Matthew 23:9: "And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven."

Clement of Alexandria, another fourth-century Christian teacher, expressed this idea most aptly: "God is himself love, and because of his love, he pursued us. [In the eternal generation of the Son] the ineffable nature of God is father; in his sympathy with us he is mother" (How Will the Rich Be Saved?).



In his explanation of the term "Son", which is also a term often considered non-inclusive in our era, Gregory of Nyssa reiterates that this also is a precise theological term leading one to the inner relationships of the Godhead. It has primacy over other scriptural terms. He says:

"While the names which Scripture applies to the Only-begotten are many, we assert that none of the other names is closely connected with reference to him that begot him, for we do not employ the name 'Rock' or 'Resurrection' or Shepherd' or 'Light' or any of the rest, as we do the name 'Son of the Father', with a reference to the God of all. It is possible to make a twofold division of the signification of the divine names, as it were, by a scientific rule: for to one class belongs the indication of his lofty and unspeakable glory; the other class indicates the variety of providential dispensation" (Answer to Eunomius' Second Book).

All sorts of epithets for God are available to man through revelation–goodness, love, mother, fire. But none of these is exchangeable or comparable to the revelation of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These are the terms by which man enters trinitarian life to discover the unique Persons of the Trinity and their distinguishable marks.

The traditional trinitarian terms arc precise theological terms, not easily exchangeable for any others. They lead us to the Persons of the Trinity, as well as defining relationships between them. To be unbegotten, begotten, and in procession are characteristics of the Persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Paternity, generation, and procession are the unique marks of the respective Persons.



What about the feminist allegation that the traditional doxology is the product of a patriarchal structure, of a "male" theology? Did the patristic writers harbor animosity toward women or femininity? Did they use masculine terms for God, the source of all life, because they mistakenly thought that human fathers are the sole source of human life? Indeed, the opposite appears to be true.

First, some women did have opportunities to express their understanding of the Godhead. Macrina, elder sister of two of the greatest theologians of the fourth century) Basil the Great and the aforementioned Gregory of Nyssa, was referred to by her brothers as the "teacher". It was she who raised them in the Faith and instructed them in the theology of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. She defended these titles as revelations recorded in Scripture (A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church. second series, eds. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Vol. 5: Gregory of Nyssa: Dogmatic Treatises, etc, [Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 1892], pp. I6).

Likewise, Nina, the evangelizer of the Georgians, converted that nation by her teaching of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Trinity-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. She did so by her own will; she was not commissioned by the bishops (Lives and Legends of Georgian Saints, by David Marshall Long [Crestwood, N.Y.: SVS Press, 1956], pp. 13-39)



Second, the most accurate way to describe the Church Fathers' attitude toward women would not be animosity but ambivalence. One can indeed find passages in their writings deriding women for their weak wills and for leading the human race into sin (John Chrysostom writes that "the woman taught once and ruined all"). But one also finds Passages extolling women for being of great character and teaching the gospel better than men. Gregory of Nazianzen, in writing of his parents, explains that his father's virtue was "the result of his wife's prayers and guidance, and it was from her that he learned his ideal of a good shepherd's life.... They [his parents] have been rightly assigned, each to either sex; he is the ornament of men, she of women, and not only the ornament but the pattern of virtue" (Funeral Oration on His Sister Gorgonia).

Jerome says his reader may laugh at him for so often "dwelling on the praises of mere women. . ., [but] we judge of people's virtue not by their sex but by their character and hold those to be of the highest glory who have renounced both rank and wealth" (Letter 127, To Principia).

It must also be noted that 'in several instances the Church was much fairer toward women than the surrounding culture. Gregory of Nazianzen exemplified this by upbraiding the men of his flock in regard to a civil law which meted out strict punishment for wives committing adultery but disregarded husbands committing the same crime: "[Let me discuss] chastity, in respect of which I see that the majority of men are ill-disposed and that their laws are unequal and irregular. For what was the reason why they restrained the woman but indulged the man, and why a woman who practices evil against her husband's bed is an adultress (and the legal penalties for this are very severe), but if a husband commits fornication against his wife, he has not account to give? I do not accept this legislation; I do not approve this custom. Those who made the law were men, and therefore the legislation is hard on women" (On the Words of the Gospel).

Fourth, it appears that it was not unknown to the leaders of the fourth-century Church that mothers as well as fathers contributed as sources to the making of a child. John Chrysostom wrote:

"A man leaving them that begat him, and from whom he was born , is knit to his wife. And then the one flesh is, father and mother, and the child from the substance of the two commingled. For indeed, by the commingling of their seeds the child is produced" (Homily 20, On Ephesians 5:31).

Yet, even with this knowledge of mothers and fathers both acting as "sources" in the life process, the Church insisted on using the exclusive term "Father" for God.



Perhaps even more interesting, patristic writers never excluded the ideas that women were made in the image of God or that human femininity had some relationship to God. In many texts, there appears the idea that women, with their femininity, are closely associated with the Person of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit's mode of life. In the patristic period, the Fathers compared the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father with the "procession" of Eve from Adam.

Later, in the seventh century, Anastasius of Sinai wrote: "Eve, who proceeded from Adam, signifies the proceeding Person of the Holy Spirit. This is why God did not breathe in her the breath of life; she was already the type of the breathing and life of the Holy Spirit" (On the Image and Likeness). Especially in Syriac hymnody, the association between human femininity and the mode of existence of the Holy Spirit was stressed. Therefore, the "masculine" terms used in the trinitarian names are not the result of disdain for the feminine.

With this evidence, it is clear that the patristic writers were interested in preserving the scriptural terms of "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" as revelations from God rather than reflections of patriarchal culture. This is evident from their frequent appeals to Scripture for the bases of their arguments.



In view of this historical background, it appears the arguments supporting "non-exclusive" language changes for God are untenable–incompatible with Scripture, apostolic teachings, and Christian experience. Against the historical backdrop of Church life, the terms "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" appear not as exchangeable metaphors, human imaginings, or pillars of a patriarchal culture, but rather as precise terms revealed by Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit and preserved in the canon of Scripture.

The challenge to Christians today compares to the challenge to Christians in the fourth century; to preserve these names as gifts from God which give us clues to his inner life, for us as adopted children through his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.