Current Page: Living | Tuesday, December 04, 2018
What is God's gender?

What is God's gender?

A Texas teacher received backlash after posting a video of her first-grade class reciting a Bible verse.

While the book of Genesis explains God made human beings both male and female in His image, throughout the biblical narrative God is revealed as a Father who refers to Himself in male terms.

For many, the default view of God as male is underscored by the fact that He came to earth as a man in Jesus Christ, the "God-man" who was both fully human and fully divine.

Yet several instances appear in the whole of Scripture where the feminine aspect of the divine is highlighted, including in words coming straight from the mouth of Jesus Christ when He was walking the earth and spoke about God and His nature.

Perhaps most famously, when Jesus was weeping over Jerusalem, as recorded in Matthew 23 and Luke 13, He cried out, "you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing."

When Jesus told the parable of the lost coin in Luke 15, it is a woman who is searching for the missing money. God in that parable is represented by a woman.

As the Junia Project noted in a 2016 post, God likens Himself to a mother in Old Testament prophecy, particularly through the prophet Isaiah.

"For a long time I [God] have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant," Isaiah 42:14 reads.

"As a mother comforts her child, so will I [God] comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem," Isaiah 66:13 declares.

Theologian Lynn Japinga observes in her 1999 book Feminism and Christianity: An Essential Guide that language about God "should help us to understand and encounter God, but we should not confuse the reality of God with the limits of our language."

She explains in the book that in the second century church, Clement of Alexandria "mixed his metaphors in his description of Christians nursing at the breast of God the Father."

Similarly, she goes on to say, medieval mystic and German theologian Meister Eckhart described God's activity thus: "What does God do all day long? God gives birth. From all eternity God lies on a maternity bed giving birth.

Nevertheless, even with all the maternal imagery, the God of the Bible is nowhere described as a woman or "Mother" in the entirety of Scripture, nor are any feminine pronouns used in relation to Him.

"This is the way God has chosen to reveal Himself to us. God is never described with sexual characteristics in the Scriptures, but He does consistently describe Himself in the masculine gender," according to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

A variety of metaphors are used to describe Him throughout Scripture such as King, Father, Master, Judge, and even Husband.

"For your Maker is your husband — the LORD Almighty is his name — the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth," Isaiah 54:5 reads. 

In recent years theological controversy over this particular issue was showcased with the emergence of the book, The Shack by William Paul Young, a fictional novel in which God the Father is portrayed as a woman as was the person of the Holy Spirit. The best-selling book was made into a movie in 2017.

Even more recently, pop singer Ariana Grande has generated discussion on this particular question in light of her hit song from this summer called "God is a Woman." To date, the music video of this song, first published on the video sharing site in June, has received over 159 million views.

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