Just as Erlander has made no secret of the fact that he has been influenced by Liberation Theologians, so he states plainly that Feminist Theologians have played their part in his thinking and approach to Scripture.
The implication of this is that any portrayal of God as masculine is considered unacceptable and to be not merely avoided but corrected.
One can but admire the determination with which he approaches this task, as pitfalls abound on every hand.
Let’s follow his strategy:
The Bible uses the pronouns he, him and his hundreds if not thousands of times in reference to God. For example: In Psalm 136 the words he, him and his occur 31 times in 26 verses.
Erlander is at pains not to perpetuate this ‘error’, so not once throughout the M & M manual does he refer to God with a masculine pronoun. This requires considerable skill and restraint.
Repeatedly Scripture refers to the relationship between God and Israel as that between husband and (oftentimes unfaithful) wife (Is. 54. 5-8; Jer. 3. 6-14; Hosea Chs. 1-3)
Erlander studiously avoids any reference to God as husband to Israel.
In several places in Isaiah and Jeremiah God refers to himself as the Father of Israel.
Erlander prefers to see the relationship between God and Israel as that between mother and child ( M & M p. 5.) although it is with difficulty that one finds any textual support for this.
God is often referred to as King but never as Queen.
Erlander refrains from any reference to God as King.
Erlander coins the phrase, “The wombishness of Jahweh” (M & M p 44)
In fact throughout the manual Jahweh is depicted as a somewhat weepy, mothering figure.
Jesus always refers to God as Father (close on 200 times in the Gospels) and instructs us to do likewise. All the New Testament writers refer to God as ‘Father’.
In Romans 8, the evidence of the indwelling Holy Spirit is that we have a natural inclination to address God as “Abba Father” (Rom 8. 15)
Yet Erlander refuses to refer to God as ‘Father’, deeming this to be unacceptably sexist.
Priscilla and Aquila are referred to several times in the New Testament. They are never mentioned singly and present a wonderful model as a married couple of considerable maturity and stature in God. Certainly their ministry has an apostolic profile although they are never referred to as apostles.
Erlander however sees fit to promote Priscilla to the status of ‘apostle’ while making no mention whatever of poor Aquila. The reference given is Romans 16. 3 which simply refers to both Priscilla and Aquila as ‘fellow workers’ of Paul.
Finally, it is clear from the Gospels that only “The Twelve” were with Jesus at the Last Supper. (Matt. 26. 20; Mark14. 17)
Erlander considers this very sexist and remiss of Jesus, so his illustration of the Last Supper augments the 12 males (13 with Jesus) with 13 females resulting in perfect parity of the sexes.
His message to Jesus would run something like this, “Respectfully Sir, I sense that in having only twelve males at the Last Supper, you were unduly influenced by the prevailing mores and sexist attitudes of the time. It would have been far more appropriate to have both men and women at this important event. I have drawn you a picture of the arrangement we regard as being more suitable given the more enlightened understanding we have of such matters in our time.”
There can be little doubt that the overall tenor of Erlander’s Manna and Mercy manual is one of eisegesis rather than exegesis. (see our post entitled “Exegesis versus Eisegesis” of Aug 4, 2016)
As with the liberation motif, Erlander has certain points he wants to make, and he does not shrink from distorting the Biblical narrative in order to make these points.
The trouble is that the Manna & Mercy manual by virtue of its humorous and pictorial presentation, offers itself as a Biblical overview for those beginning to study the scriptures. Such ‘beginner students’ can easily be duped into mistaking Erlander’s distortion of the Scriptural account for the actual narrative of the text.
This is not to say that some of the points that Erlander wishes to make aren’t worth making.
For example, the communion table is most assuredly inclusive and not confined to men. –But this conclusion is the result of theological reflection on a number of texts and does not constitute grounds for a revision of the Gospel texts.
--A pity that Erlander couldn’t have ”played it straight.”
As mentioned in our previous post, this begs the question as to whether one who approaches Scripture in such a careless and cavalier fashion can be considered trustworthy to conduct us through it’s pages.