William Blake, The Ancient of Days
Any fact that science truly discovers may be interpreted by philosophy as harmonious with any truth that religion proclaims. Philosophy can harmonize scientific truth with spiritual truth because all truth is God’s truth. When scientific discovery is mixed with an anti-religious philosophy, we can keep the discovery but abandon the associated philosophy. We can transplant the scientific discovery into our own garden.
For example, Sigmund Freud found that a child’s first image of God tends to come from the child’s father. Since the child’s relation with the mother is so close biologically, the father is typically the first prominent, genuinely other person that the child comes to recognize as such. The young child tends to idealize this other and to project this image in the earliest stage of religious development.
In our relationship with God, this fact is part of the story, not the heart of the story. If we replace Freud’s science-centered story with a spiritually-centered story, we may interpret the child’s early image of God as Father as a divinely designed, evolutionary scaffolding to be gradually outshone by an increasingly spiritual realization of God’s parental love. On this interpretation, the Fatherhood of God can be both an evolutionary image arising in the natural mind and also a spiritual truth. In other words, early in life, the Father concept of God is a metaphor based on the child’s experience of the father; however, in a spiritually maturing person who continues to relate with God as Father, childhood associations may be left behind. The image of the Creator as an old man with flowing white hair and beard is portrayed in the stunning painting by William Blake, The Ancient of Days. Spiritual maturity may be moved by such art, but it can freely relate without images.
Each person is free to choose the name that expresses his or her experience of relating with God; and we experience motherly love as well as fatherly love in God. There is no pressure about the name. Yet there stands a spiritual invitation, which we can freely accept without compromising our scientific responsibility. If we will relate to God as a son or daughter, we can enjoy the thrill of a personal experience and growing discovery of God as our Father.