In the last few weeks, the Religion News Service (RNS) ran two wholly serious stories on what God’s proper pronouns should be. If you believe raising such a question is just plain silly, this news outlet specializing in religion presents a cavalcade of really smart people who beg to differ with you. Yes, RNS appears to believe God’s pronouns are very much up for serious debate.
The first article asserts in its title, that “our preferred pronoun for God should be ‘They.’”
This is not just bad theology. It wholly fails to understand the new gender orthodoxy itself. So-called “preferred pronouns” exist for the benefit and protection of the one being referred to. So that we don’t “misgender” them, God forbid. But the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has never been unclear about His gender. Never. His Only Son was never confused either. In fact, He referred to His Father in a genderless way only once, and that itself was a dramatic crisis of actual fatherhood.
But RNS categorically dismisses this, holding that “‘God the Father’ should be treated as a metaphor” because of “the embedded misogyny of the tradition” and it is offensive to “post-binary folks.” This misogyny claim is as tired as grandma’s slippers. The post-binary one was created late yesterday afternoon and refers to precisely no one. To be human is to be male or female. There is no other option. God has always been quite clear on this.
The second article talks to an impressive handful of liberal theologians who contend that any assumption about the maleness of God should be replaced with things like “‘Godself’ — an attempt … to portray the Almighty as beyond gender, neither a ‘himself’ nor a ‘herself.’” It also suggests adopting the gender free “Kin-dom” over the male dominated Kingdom.
Of course, such talk is not rooted in any kind of serious theology, liberal or otherwise. It is rooted in a wholly new and anti-scientific gender ideology. And it undermines God and common-sense in one move.
If Christians have a scripture that is worth reading and following, we also have a God who knows what He is talking about. These two things go together. And God has never been the least bit unclear about who He is. Nor was His only Son who regularly called Him FATHER. If calling God “father” is bad idea, then Jesus is a bad person. If Jesus is a good person – who was known and loved by the Father from the beginning – then referring to God as Father is not only true, but also good. These innovating de-gendering theologians must reckon themselves and their thinking with this inconvenient fact.
Is God Male?
This is a very important question and one that is not as easily answered as it might seem. The answer is a firm “yes” and “no. And that is not because the question of God’s gender is unclear. Not at all.
It has everything to do with the fact that humans are sexual creatures and thus, have physical male and female qualities, right down to their chromosomes. God is Spirit, and does not. But this also does not mean that maleness is just a “role” or “image” that God takes on and that we are free to change it because we think it best. God, the fount of all wisdom and truth, unapologetically refers to Himself in the masculine “He” “Father” and even “Husband.” And most important, God literally delights in revealing Himself as such. Why? Because it corresponds precisely with what is true about Him. And let us be clear, these RNS theologians are necessarily saying God is wrong to delight in such a thing.
In speaking of God’s proper gender, we obviously recognize that He does not have human genitalia. He is not embodied male in the ways that half of humanity is male. But Jesus, God’s only begotten Son who is fully God and fully man, has XY chromosomes and full male reproductive organs. In fact, the first shedding of the Savior’s most holy blood, the first precursor of that saving flow some 33 years later, intimately involved his maleness as scripture makes clear.
What About God’s Feminine Attributes?
Yes, God does describe Himself to us in scripture with feminine qualities:
- God comforts his people like a mother comforts her child (Isaiah 66:13)
- Like a woman would never forget the nursing child of her womb, God will not forget his children (Isaiah 49:15)
- God can show the fury of a mother bear robbed of her cubs (Hosea 13:8)
- Jesus longed for the people of Jerusalem, like a mother hen longs to gather her chicks under her wings (Luke 13:34)
But these wonderfully feminine characteristics do not make Him female. God is not a sexual being, but He is the divine life-giving and nurturing Being.
In Christianity, Fatherhood is the Core of the Universe
The great C.S. Lewis has famously said that he does not know of any Christian writer who has influenced his thinking more intimately and deeply than George MacDonald. In Lewis’ rich anthology of and tribute to MacDonald’s work, he makes this very curious observation of MacDonald, the man and the Christian, “From his own father, he said, he first learned that Fatherhood must be the core of the universe.”
Lewis adds, MacDonald “was thus prepared in an unusual way to teach that religion in which the relation of Father and Son is of all relations, the most central.” This is an important, reality-shifting observation.
In the Christian understanding of reality, everything flows eternally from a Father loving a Son and a Son loving a Father. Thus, fatherhood is the core of the universe. And that love is so real, so mighty that it is eternally manifest in the third member of the divine Trinity: The Holy Spirit. As Augustine explains in On the Trinity (Book 8, Chapter 10), “There, then, also are three things: he that loves [Father], and that which is loved [Son] and love [Holy Spirit].”
Of course, that religion is distinctly Christianity.
God’s pronouns are He, Him His. This is His first revelation of Himself to us, one that He never amends or changes. This is an altogether lovely and comforting truth. To suggest anything else picks an existential fight with God’s own self-revelation and Jesus’ own understanding of His Father.
That is something no good theologian ought do.