I believe in God, the Father...Christians believe in a "personal" God. That is, Christian believe they are "in relationship" with the Creative Force of the Universe. Consequently, Christians deploy a variety of anthropomorphisms to grasp what this "relationship" looks like. One of the most common anthropomorphisms is that God is a "parent" and we are God's "children." Generally, God is understood to be "Father," but God is also metaphorically experienced as "Mother." Some of the parental--paternal and maternal--images in the bible:
[God speaking to his people:] “As a mother comforts her child so I will comfort you.” (Isaiah 66:13)Although there is a mix of parental metaphors in the bible, the Apostles' Creed "genders" God: God, the Father. This is perhaps understandable as the paternal metaphors for God in the bible greatly outnumber the maternal metaphors.
[Israel speaking to God:] “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father.” (Isaiah 64:8)
[Jesus teaching his followers how to address God in prayer:] “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (Matthew 6:9)
[God comparing his love for his people with a mother’s love for her child:] “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has born?” (Isaiah 49:15)
[Jesus comparing his love for the people of Jerusalem to the protective behavior of a mother hen:] “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…how I have often longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…” (Luke 13:34)
[God comparing his love for his people to a parent teaching her child to walk:] “When Israel was a child, I loved him…it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them in my arms.” (Hosea 11:1,3)
I'm sure we all realize that these metaphors are hotly contested. Rightly so, in my opinion. By gendering God in this way we marginalize femininity. Worse, when we have a woman introducing sin into the world we have a toxic brew on our hands. In my opinion, if Mariology has any appeal to Protestants it is as a theological prophylactic against a latent misogyny within the Christian faith.
(To lay my cards on the table, I attended a Catholic middle and high school and, as a result, have a soft spot in my heart for Mary. After years of Mass, although I never said it out loud as a child and adolescent, I remain able to recite the Hail Mary by heart. Such is the power of liturgy. Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee...)
Beyond issues related to gender and power, the gendering of God also creates problems for those who struggle with their fathers. That is, "father" is a relational schema that might be happy and healthy or unhappy and unhealthy. Consequently, when we deploy relational anthropomorphisms we can create emotional obstacles for those who have toxic associations with those metaphors. For many people "God as Father" is like sand in the mouth. Too much hurt and abuse is packaged into the notion of "father." True, God might function as an adopted Father for these persons, but we should be sensitive to their initial and possibly lasting distaste for the metaphor found in the first line of the Creed.
And in those cases, how strongly should we insist upon the gendered metaphor?