March 19, 2008
It's important to note that in proper English, "he" and "his" and "him" can all be used in a gender- (or sex-) agnostic way. It is the traditional way of referring to anyone without butchering the language (e.g., "Anyone can cast THEIR vote" is an abomination; it is proper to say "Anyone can cast HIS vote" without indicating any gender either way).<br><br>Under the usage note for "he" <a href="http://dictionary.com" rel="nofollow">dictionary.com</a> states:<br><br><blockquote>Traditionally, the masculine singular pronouns he, his, and him have been used generically to refer to indefinite pronouns like anyone, everyone, and someone (Everyone who agrees should raise his right hand) and to singular nouns that can be applied to either sex (painter, parent, person, teacher, writer, etc.): Every writer knows that his first book is not likely to be a bestseller. This generic use is often criticized as sexist [...]</blockquote><br><br>I criticize that criticism as absurd, and insist that referring to God as "He" makes no claim whatsoever as to HIS gender or sex. :-P<br><br>This comment has little to do with ysmarko or his objections, but rather the relative lack of merit of the discussion as a whole. Or maybe it's just me...
I find it challenging to interpret dismissal of scripture as "helpful and good" (rather than revering it as something like "definitive" or "authoritative") as a "genuine search for the best". Who among us knows better than God? Jesus called him Father. What more need one know?<br><br>Not only so, but what is the world that we should measure God against it? Shouldn't it be the other way around? Are the words 'father', 'judge', etc. metaphors for God or are actual fathers, judges, and rocks metaphors for God put in this world by him so that he can use them to help us better understand who he already is?
First, the theology. Gender is part of God's creative order; it is NOT part of God's nature. God is NOT eternally male. Jesus, as part of the Godhead, was male on earth, but according to Paul there is neither male or female in heaven, so the jury is still out for me on that issue. God created us as male and female, and because that is language we can understand, he has revealed his nature to us in analogical gender terms. He wants us to know him as Father, which we understand from our created order, because that best represents his nature to us in terms we can comprehend.<br><br>Point being: It seems entirely pointless and futile to second-guess God, and to suggest we need to somehow correct his divine oversight of how he communicated himself to us. I call him "Father" because that is how he (the King of the universe, btw) chose to reveal himself. It's what Jesus called him. There is no justification for redefining what God has clearly defined simply because gender issues are the current hot topic in our culture. It's no longer about interpreting God's Word, but about changing it.<br><br>Full disclosure: I am, for want of a better term, a recovering complementarian. I am a conservative, and trying hard to be a progressive, evangelical, but the abuse and misuse of Scripture (from my perspective anyway) required to be associated with any part of "egalitarianism" really leaves me cold. Violating the clear teaching of Scripture is not the way forward.
I've discussed this recently with someone and still don't quite know how to convey God as anything other than male. I don't believe that it is theologically correct, but I look to Jesus' use of Father in the Bible. However, I think we all know that God is beyond gender.<br><br>My church has also had discussion online about the topic, which can be found here: <a href="http://www.stpixels.com/view_page.cgi?page=discuss-debate-theology-mrsgod" rel="nofollow">http://www.stpixels.com/view_p...</a>
For what it's worth, as an academic, a relatively new one but still an academic, the use of "he" as a gender neutral pronoun doesn't cut the mustard anymore. While it can be chalked up to traditional use, it is not the standard that is taught within higher education and unless there is a sudden fundamental shift won't be any time in the future. Call it an abomination if you must but that is the way the language is changing, that is the way my generation has been taught to write and that's the way it will be in the future. Furthermore, I fail to see how the use of the misuse of number is any more of an abomination than the misuse of gender. Last I was instructed the only proper way to write unknown gendered pronouns was through the inclusion of both (a rather exhausting effort in my opinion).<br><br>In reference to God, I like the Father metaphor and find it useful. It expresses Intimacy , stability, guidance to me. But I also like a mother metaphor brings up a whole new set of images and reminds me that God isn't male. I particularly enjoy the image of God as a mother hen gathering HER chicks (Mat 23:57), as a image to offset my (and our culture's) attempt to visualize something divine and inhuman in human terms. Imagery of God as father is surely just that after all...
There is neither male nor female in Christ (Gal 3:28) but there sure as hell is male and female here on earth and in our language and cognition. God as Father may be a metaphor but Jesus of Nazareth was manifestly not metaphorically male. Can we really assume that this Jesus, our Lord, arbitrarily chose "Father" as the metaphor for his heavenly, er, father? Let's not get so modern that we demolish what little understanding we have received in the name of feminism or political correctness.<br><br>Here's Lewis in the Cosmic Trilogy:<br><blockquote>Our ancestors did not make mountains masculine because they projected male characteristics into them. The real process is the reverse. Gender is a reality, and a more fundamental reality than sex. Sex is, in fact, merely the adaptation to organic life of a fundamental polarity which divides all created beings.</blockquote>
A few thoughts... How does the author "cognitively assent' to the mother metaphors (read: references) for God as equally valid? I see no attempt at scriptural or theological justification for that assertion. God is repeatedly referred to in scripture, including and especially by Jesus, as Father (or "abba"), while at most God is compared to comforting "as a mother comforts a child" (Isa 66:13). There's a qualitative difference between "being" something and "doing" something like someone.<br>Jesus' use of "Father" and not mother is significant, some argue, not in assigning God gender but rather in indicating the authoritative role God the Father has in the trinity, as a human father has headship in a family. <br><br>The wisdom/Sophia reasoning seems spurious. Wisdom is indeed female in Proverbs, and we hear "her" talking. But her antagonist, female Folly, is also talking - are we to take that as the devil has a female aspect? Though God is all-wise and the source of all wisdom, it's not supported in those Scriptures to extrapolate God in general, or the Holy Spirit specifically, as being wisdom personified (as a female).<br><br>God is also metaphorically referred to in scripture as our "husband" (Isa 54:5), never our wife. Once again, this is neither to suggest a gender for God nor a literal marital relationship between Him and us. Rather, it connotes that - like a traditional husband - God takes the initiative to "betrothe" His people to Himself.<br><br>So the bottom line, while God does not literally have gender, the use of the masculine gender in scripture is not mere accident, convention, or linguistic limitation. It conveys meaning for readers regarding God's nature, His role within Himself, and the manner in which He relates to us.<br><br>P.S. Christian M you make some good points and I mostly agree with you, but you said that Paul wrote "in Heaven there is no male or female". Actually Gal 3:28 refers to our "oneness" and equality before God, not the complete removal of gender distinction. As I understand it, born-again men and women will be resurrected as eternal, immortal men and women in Heaven.
I've never had a problem with thinking of God in the masculine. He obviously transcends gender, but He chose to refer to himself in that sense, for His own reasons. It's not our right to refer to Him otherwise. Attributes of God, perhaps, but that's it.<br><br>Call me a grammar nazi, but his use of all lower case and other grammar issues ("ascent" should be "assent") made it hard for me to want to read it. Can't the kids write properly anymore?
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