In our day of great sensitivity to the abuse that many women have endured in the past, there is a tendency to over-react and add other issues to protect women’s rights. Is God masculine or feminine?
The Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Washington D.C. passed a resolution to stop using masculine pronouns for God in future updates to its Book of Common Prayer. The phrase “Heavenly Father” will be changed to “Heavenly Parent.” Gender neutrality also involves mistranslating specific biblical words to fit a female gender image. The Reverend Linda R. Calkins, an Episcopal Church minister, has a different interpretation of Genesis 17:1. God said to Abraham, “I am El Shaddai.” That is normally translated as “God Almighty.” Calkins maintains that this phrase means “God with breasts.” There is no scholarly support for that claim according to Dr. Michael Brown who is a specialist in Hebrew words and meanings. He wrote that “There’s not a stitch of scholarly evidence to support this.”
An Episcopal bishop in New York even defended a crucifix with a female Jesus called Christa. Other groups have replaced “God as Father” with ‘God as Creator” in their hymns and publications. The God of Israel identified Himself with male pronouns and masculine verbs, so we should also. When God took on human flesh, it was as a man, not a woman or transgender person. That is not to deny that both women and men are created in God’s image, but that is not a physical image.
God is not physical. God is a Spirit (John 4:24). He does not have a sexual identity–masculine or feminine. Sometimes the context of the passage makes mention of God in a female gender manner. An example of this is Luke 13:34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to you; how often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her chicks, and you would not have it.” That is certainly not a male image!
Is God masculine or feminine? The correct answer is that God is complete with the best of masculine characteristics and the best of feminine characteristics. Trying to re-write the Scriptures to fit our biases is to miss much of the message God has for us.
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2018