Most of the controversy surrounding Paul Young’s book The Shack concerns the fact that he portrays God as an African-American woman who enjoys cooking. The fact that God is pictured as female raises a lot of theological hackles. God is obviously male.
Or is he?
Pam Hogeweide interviews Paul Young in her excellent book Unladylike: Resisting the Injustice of Inequality in the Church. During their discussion, Paul says this:
My journey into the nature of the Trinity actually began by my exploration of the issues of gender. I have spent about twenty-five years working on the issues of maleness and femaleness and if you spend enough time investigating such questions, you will invariably find yourself focused on the nature of God and on the Trinity. You discover, of course, that God is neither male nor female but that both genders derive their identity from the nature of God. God is Spirit, and both genders reflect the image of God. So the use of imagery, both male and female, is always going to be inadequate.
Genesis 1:27 states:
So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
God is Spirit, (John 4:24) without gender. It takes both male and female to represent God.
Obviously most of the imagery concerning God in the Bible is masculine, and God is constantly referred to as “he.” (There is no neutral gender for verbs in ancient Hebrew.) But not exclusively. God is also shown as a mother eagle (Deuteronomy 32:11), like a woman in labor (Isaiah 42:14), as a mother with children (Isaiah 49:14-16), as a mother hen (Luke 13:34).
I find it interesting that the designation of God as Father is rare in the Old Testament–he’s only described that way 15 times. But Jesus talked about God as his Father constantly. “Abba” is an intimate and affectionate term that Jesus used more than 165 times in the Gospels. And he taught us to refer to God that same way.
Just some food for thought…
What do you think?
Photo credit: leancillo sabino (Creative Commons)
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7 replies on “Is God female?”
Surely God has to be way beyond our limited human understandings of male/female, which in any case are culturally determined. How wonderful to appreciate God as encompassing all the male and female attributes/characteristics you mention above, and even more!
Val, I agree–our finite minds try to reduce God to a single gender, but he is far bigger than that.
Almost a year ago I wrote the following on Twitter, Hope you
Knowing who God is as father can only be
understood in God being mother God is not male nor female he is love in Spirit
searching to love us
Be Blessed and Be a Blessing,
I do agree. It’s quite a concept, that God is neither male nor female but Spirit.
my sister’s denomination refers to God as God. never as ‘he’ or ‘she’ specifically. they completely omit the pronoun option when referring to God. i kind of like that, though it makes talking about God a little clumsy… we really do need a gender-neutral pronoun that isn’t ‘it’….
Interesting–I’ve never heard of that before. It would certainly get around the problem but like you say, a little clumsy.
This makes me think about my recent reading of I Thessalonians. Paul said, “Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, 8 so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well,” in chapter 2. I thought it was interesting that Paul said that he, Timothy and Silas were like “a mother” to those they were serving. Surely this touches on God’s nurturing nature.