A Pox on the Doxology

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise him all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heavenly hosts:
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

This is the Doxology that we sing every week in response to the collection of the offering. For many of us (including me), we’ve sang this our whole lives as a part of worship. It is deeply ingrained in our spiritual psyche and is a natural, almost involuntary, response to the gifts we give to God.

Do you notice anything wrong with it? I guess that depends on who you ask. There are some people who have trouble with the way God is characterized in these verses. In fact, some of my minister friends and even people within our Crestwood congregation have taken issue with the words of the Doxology. God isn’t a “he” or a “him,” so why do we sing about God that way?

The concern over how we characterize God isn’t a new one, and doesn’t only revolve around issues of gender inclusivity. The Bible is full of a diverse collection of metaphors for God, everything from a mighty fortress to mother hen. I believe the authors did this because there is simply no good way to fully capture who God is. So we do the best we can. We anthropomorphize God by giving God hands, feet, eyes and ears to try and “humanize” God and make God more understandable.

But ultimately, all of our pronouns, metaphors and images will fall short. Nothing can describe God, but we have to call God something. So most often we follow the example of scripture, which most often characterizes God has masculine. Granted, there are feminine descriptions of God in scripture (the image of Sophia, the personification of wisdom, comes to mind). And as we know, the Bible was written in the midst of a patriarchal society which almost always favored men and devalued women. So even our source document for our understanding of God is flawed in this way.

So how do we proceed? Our denominational documents aren’t much help in clarifying this issue. In our Chalice Hymnal, there are three version of the Doxology printed. Along with our masculine version, there are these two:

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise God, all creatures here below;
Praise God above, ye heavenly hosts:
Creator, Christ and Holy Ghost.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Christ, all creatures here below;
Praise Holy Spirit evermore;
One God, triune, whom we adore.

Which one should we sing? I believe, in true Disciples fashion, we have the freedom to sing whichever one we want. I don’t think it really matters to God what we call him…her…whatever. I believe what matters most is that we are singing from our hearts. If the masculine imagery is troubling to you, I encourage you to sing the words that are most meaningful to you. Whatever you sing, sing it loud! The Doxology is one way of thanking God, and that’s something we should sing about all the time.

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1 Comment

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One response to “A Pox on the Doxology

  1. richard faust

    Quick somebody call the Word Police. I guess this means we can’t sing any more He or Him songs like ” And HE walks with me and HE talks with me” I guess we’ll have to throw out .”Oh come let us adore HIM at Christmas too PEOPLE I can’t believe this is even an issue. The time spent debating this could be put to much better use . There are mouths to feed . Homeless to be sheltered.Berieved to be comforted. Sick to be visited .As long as it is worshipfull , reverent. and praiseworthy .I think God’s ok with it.There’s to much witnessing to be done to waste time trying to decide the best way to say the same thing

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