Why is God a He?

(Eva Swanson) #1

The latest question on my mind is: why is God referred as a “He” in Scripture? I understand that Jesus came to earth as a male, and he refers to the godhead as Father - which is masculine. I understand that the evidence is there in the Bible, and it doesn’t bother me in the way it used to as a female questioning her faith. I trust Him. But I’ve been pondering more about the “why” behind this… as a friend of mine doesn’t believe God is gendered. To an extent I agree with her because God is God, men are a derivative of God. But on another level, there’s something distinct in the Bible about God being ascribed to as male. Does anyone have thoughts on this? I think it’s too simple to say: God is male. And it’s also too simple to say: God doesn’t have a gender of any kind.

(SeanO) #2

@Eva_Swanson Good question! It is never a good idea to remove a fence without first understanding why it was put there in the first place. It behooves us to take time to reflect on what purpose God may have had in using masculine imagery before people go trying to remove it or alter it.

God is spirit - He does not actually have a literal gender. While the Bible occasionally does use female imagery to describe God’s care for His people, it is the clear example given to us by Christ and the apostles and the prophets that we are to refer to Him in masculine terms. So we refer to God as we have been taught, since we believe the Scriptures are indeed inspired and not simply an artifact of an ancient culture.

I actually tend to lean more towards mutual submission than the authoritarian camp when it comes to how a husband and wife ought to relate to one another, but I also recognize that men and women were designed by God to fulfill different roles. I think that on some level this reality of difference in role, which some seek to eradicate though it is as plain a fact as the rising and setting of the sun, may be at play in the way we refer to God.

I thought the following article made some good points worth considering and had a few thoughtful quotes. The connection between feminine deities and nature religions / fertility cults - versus a God who is truly transcendent - was one I had not considered before… Christ grant you wisdom as you study :slight_smile:

Goddesses have, of course, been worshipped: many religions have had priestesses. But they are religions quite different in character from Christianity… Since God is in fact not a biological being and has no sex, what can it matter whether we say He or She , Father or Mother , Son or Daughter ? Christians think that God Himself has taught us how to speak of Him. To say that it does not matter is to say either that all the masculine imagery is not inspired, is merely human in origin, or else that, though inspired, it is quite arbitrary and unessential. And this is surely intolerable: or, if tolerable, it is an argument not in favour of Christian priestesses [or changes in biblical gender language] but against Christianity. It is also surely based on a shallow view of imagery. Without drawing upon religion, we know from our poetical experience that image and apprehension cleave closer together than common sense is here prepared to admit; that a child who has been taught to pray to a Mother in heaven would have a religious life radically different from that of a Christian child. And as image and apprehension are in an organic unity, so, for a Christian, are human body and human soul. C. S. Lewis (1970, p. 237, emp. in orig.).

As Kreeft and Tacelli noted: “One issue is whether we have the authority to change the names of God used by Christ, the Bible and the church. The traditional defense of masculine imagery for God rests on the premise that the Bible is divine revelation, not culturally relative, negotiable and changeable” (1994, p. 98)

The Jewish revelation was distinctive in its exclusively masculine pronoun because it was distinctive in its theology of the divine transcendence. That seems to be the main point of the masculine imagery. As a man comes into a woman from without to make her pregnant, so God creates the universe from without rather than birthing it from within and impregnates our souls with grace or supernatural life from without. As a woman cannot impregnate herself, so the universe cannot create itself, nor can the soul redeem itself. Surely there is an inherent connection between these two radically distinctive features of the…biblical religions…: their unique view of a transcendent God creating nature out of nothing and their refusal to call God “she” despite the fact that Scripture ascribes to him feminine attributes like compassionate nursing (Is. 49:15), motherly comfort (Is. 66:13) and carrying an infant (Is. 46:3). The masculine pronoun safeguards (1) the transcendence of God against the illusion that nature is born from God as a mother rather than created and (2) the grace of God against the illusion that we can somehow save ourselves—two illusions ubiquitous and inevitable in the history of religion (1994, p. 98, emp. in orig.).

Thread on Women in Ministry

Sometimes these topics get linked together - so here is a thread where this issue is discussed.

Is that men superior to women as per bible. Why is it that there is no gender equality in bible
(Matt Western) #3

My daughter asked this of me too about a year ago (she’s 15 now), and I said well God is not a male, and she rightly pointed out well Jesus is a man and Jesus is God.

I responded to her by saying both men and ladies are created in God’s image, with complementary, not competitive roles. I liked the ‘image of God’ video https://thebibleproject.com/videos/image-of-god/

Also, to add to Sean’s subject of the equality and specifically value of men and ladies before God, I really enjoyed and got a lot out of the post below by Mike Day, who points out that men and ladies are equally co-image bearers, co-labourers, co-inheritors. Equality does not equal sameness.

Interestingly God invites us to address him as our Heavenly Father in the Lords prayer. If a boy or a girl had a failure of an earthly father, I imagine it would be very difficult to understand and relate to God as a Heavenly Father who loves perfectly and unconditionally. I know as a husband, with a responsibility to love my wife as Christ loved the church, it’s a huge thing. Same with being a father, I try to show unconditional love, but fail many times and have to say sorry to my daughter, and to focus on her perfect Heavenly Father when her earthly father mucks it up.

just a few thoughts, hopefully helpful. :slight_smile: