Estimated reading time: 5 mins.
Is God really a male?
No. God is a Spirit.
Thanks for reading!
Of course, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
(We’re about to go on a bit of a ride. I’m not asking you to agree, just to keep an open mind.)
When we ask “is God male?” what we’re really asking is, “If God isn’t male, why is the Lord referred to with masculine language in the Bible. Words such as warrior, father, king, and shepherd are all used to refer to God in the Bible, and they all use the masculine form. If God is not male, why does the Bible use this language?
Before we discuss that, we must first understand this truth. In his textbook “Christian Theology: An Introduction”, Alister McGrath explains it this way:
“The fundamental challenge is the inability of human language to do justice to the transcendent. One of the central themes of Christian theology and spirituality is that there are limits placed on the human ability to grasp the things of God. God knows our human limitations, so He discloses divine truths and enters into our world in forms that are tempered and adapted to our limited abilities.”
In other words, our finite language will always be found lacking when it comes to attempting to explain an infinite God. Because the Lord understands this, God is revealed to us in ways that we can understand. One of the earliest ways God was revealed to us was as “Father”. Therefore, some people say, since God was revealed as Father, then God must be male. There are two challenges with this…
First, when God used Father as a model to reveal himself to Israel in the Old Testament, it was not about being male. It was about the cultural context of the time and what it meant to be a “Father” back then. The writers referring to God as “Father” were not referring to “maleness”, rather to the roles and responsibilities of fatherhood that God so perfectly embodied.
God is the Father because He is the originator of all things, He protects His children, and He provides for those who rely on Him. When the Old Testament spoke of God as “Father”, these are the characteristics of God that they were attempting to get the children of Israel to embrace; it was not about his “maleness”.
The second issue is this: if using male analogs as a way to get humanity to understand His character makes God male, then God is also just as female. Even in the patriarchal cultural context of ancient Israel, God’s female characteristics were not hidden.
In Deuteronomy 32:18, God gives birth (something only a female can do): “You neglected the Rock who had fathered you; you forgot the God who had given you birth.”
In Isaiah 66:9, God is a midwife helping to give birth to Israel: “‘Would I ever bring this nation to the point of birth and then not deliver it?’ asks the LORD. ‘No! I would never keep this nation from being born,’ says your God.”
In verse 13 of Isaiah 66, God is a mother: “I will comfort you there in Jerusalem as a mother comforts her child.”
In fact, in ancient Israelite culture, the giving of bread was a distinctly feminine characteristic. This allows us to understand more fully Exodus 16:4, “Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you…”
If descriptions like “Father”, “King”, and “Lord” make God male, then certainly the ability to give birth, being a midwife, and a mother make God just as female.
There’s something else to consider as well…
God was revealed as Father to humanity so that we could have an instant and personal connection with the Lord. At that time, the word “Father” brought an instant feeling of joy and comfort. But, in today’s context, the word “Father” does not bring joy and comfort to everyone. There are some people who hear the word “Father” and all it does is bring up feelings of neglect, abandonment, fear, or even hopelessness.
Then, instead of adjusting our language to be more inclusive, we almost force those individuals to connect with a patriarchal view of God by saying things like:
“If you didn’t have a father, maybe your father abandoned you, maybe he touched you inappropriately, you have a Father in Heaven who loves you…”
The truth is, there are some people that will always struggle to connect with God as “Father” because of their personal experiences. But, if we encourage them to connect with God as a mother, they would make an instant connection! Or even as a friend as Jesus said in John 15:15, “No longer do I call you servants…but I have called you friends…”
Church: as we understand our new cultural context, I truly believe that it is time for us to become just as comfortable with female representations of God as we are with male representations of God. Let’s begin to use she/her/hers as it relates to God just as much as we use he/him/his. God is just as much our Mother as She is our Father.
Here’s a radical idea: what would it be like if we replaced all the masculine pronouns in our favorite songs with feminine ones?
“She’s an on-time God
Yes, she is!”
“Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh
“I am a friend of God
She calls me friend”
(What are some other ones? Leave them in the comments below.)
What God was able to do in the scripture was identify what Her people needed to hear, then deliver Herself to them in a way that they could receive. What if She is requiring us to do the same thing today? What if God wanted us to disrupt our preconceived notions of who He is in order to bring the world into a deeper relationship with Herself?
Does this feel uncomfortable? Good!
Check out Isaiah 66:13, “I will comfort you there in Jerusalem as a mother comforts her child.”