Is God Male?
There’s a part of me that is surprised by this question. Well, of course. Don’t we use the male pronouns whenever we speak of God? I know I have all my life. God is Father. Jesus is a man. And in our churches (by which I mean Protestants historically more on the conservative end of the spectrum), we are very careful not to use the pronoun “it” when referring to the Spirit, but rather, “he.” We are very big on relating to a personal God, not an impersonal Force, someone who speaks, who gets involved in our lives and prayers, who reveals himself to mankind. So if you believe that God is in that sense a Person — although not a mortal like us — it’s kind of hard linguistically to avoid assigning a gender to him.
Some teachers come right out and justify this as correct. Basically, they teach that God is the Bridegroom, and we, the Church, are his Bride, by which they mean that God is the boss (a loving one, of course), and we are to submit to him. Funny how little attention is given in these kinds of church cultures even to envisioning the Church as female. If you take a look at these supposedly “female” churches, they are very male dominated institutions.
We have been steeped in a spiritual culture of masculinity.
Most Christians would agree that God is actually beyond gender. God is the Creator, the All in All, the Beginning and the End! Actually, you need look no further than Genesis 1:26a, 27 (NIV):
“Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.”
God created both sexes in his image. This is good news for women! It means that we are created in God’s image, too! I’ve always known this intellectually, but that’s not the same as really feeling it in your body, knowing it in your lived experience.
I know this must be hard for men to really understand, how women, from the time we were little girls in Sunday School, have had to constantly translate things in our heads to make them apply to us also. “Fishers of men (and women!).” “God rest ye merry gentlemen (and ladies!)” …”What is man (and woman!), that thou art mindful of him (and her!) and the son of man (and daughter of woman!) that thou visitest him (and her!)?” We’re used to it, but it takes a lot of mental energy to keep ourselves included, even in our own minds.
Let’s face it. The Bible we read, as far as we know, was written entirely by men, as well as most of our hymns, carols, liturgy, and theology, for that matter. We have been steeped in a spiritual culture of masculinity. Nothing wrong with masculinity, per se, but there’s also nothing wrong with femininity! And yet it is relegated to a small corner of the cultural room in most traditional churches.
It takes a lot of mental energy to keep ourselves included, even in our own minds.
It’s not that I question the inspiration of scripture. On the contrary, the Bible remains as precious and central to me now as it ever has, just as Jesus is my Lord and the sweetest Lover of my soul. It doesn’t make me a heretic to point out that the writers of the Bible were men, and wrote from their own perspective, which was male — in an undeniably patriarchal society. It’s not at all surprising that the female perspective is somewhat lacking within its pages.
Actually, what is rather more surprising is that feminine expressions of God are to be found in the Bible! And we will explore some of these next time.
Next post: The Female God