Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Gender of God: What if God is Female? (Part 1 of 4)

 What if God is female?

In many Christian spectrums, people primarily use masculine language to describe God. In other words God and the Godhead (Trinity) are referred to as he. Hence my question, what if God is female? The relevance of the question is to illustrate problems with gendered language. If God, the Father, is strictly referenced as he, how does masculine language affect ones interpretation of their faith? If one has issues with their biological father, such as, domestic violence, molestation, or abandonment, they might transfer those issues to their perception of God. This is sad – arguably unhealthy – and can create an anti-evangelistic barrier.

In analysis, what if God is female? Better still, what if God is neither male nor female? God transcends gender. This means that God is infinite and doesn’t fit in the box of our languages. In support of the thesis, I will deconstruct the opening question. Gendered language limits God to the essence of the human forms, which, sadly, limits God. One uses gendered language to understand God. In spite of this necessary obstacle, one should contend that God cannot be female; just as much as, God cannot be male because that takes the issue of gendered language and gives it a new disguise. However, there is theological value to gendered language in scripture, which will be addressed prior to concluding arguments.

The discussion continues, use this link: “The Gender of God: What if God is Female?”(Part 2 of 4).


  1. I think though I would have to hesitate with one statement you made. "God transcends gender." I want to agree with this so badly; however, I think it gets close to the point yet masks it. It is true God cannot be limited to one gender, or possibly a gender; but God did make humanity in their (trying to avoid gendered pronouns) image. Humanity is both male and female. What does it mean that we are made in the image of God if gender, which is central to our identity, is absent from God. Perhaps God doesn't transcend gender; but rather embodies it more fully than we comprehend. God is male. God is female. God is God. Thoughts?

  2. You've pointed out the problem I failed to address the first time I wrote on this in 2010. Hence, I revised my thoughts here, but had to split it into four parts. The next three parts unpack the problem of using and/or dismissing gendered language. Hopefully, by the end of part 4, I will have made clear how God's transcendence of gender redeems the language and the images the language conveys. I would agree, God is female and male, and I address this pretty heavily in parts 3 and 4.

  3. I think the best way to ammend that statement is to say, like Rob Bell does in "She" (Nooma #21), that God "includes and transcends both genders" (albeit I probably don't have that word for word). David, you are right in your critique, but I think your response falls short as well. God is neither male nor female, but something very other (to borrow from Matt Redman). God includes and transcends. The fact of transcendence means that one cannot limit, as you said Tim, God to one or even both genders. God is truly other.
    And I'll have to wait to see what you reconstruct, Tim, before I pick you apart too much.

  4. Jeff, although I can't say I've seen that Nooma episode, I approach the issue in a similar manner. It's hard to say whether you'll agree with my reconstruction or not, but I'm sure you'll find it vastly improved next to my 2010 Facebook version. I took the challenges that you and David have laid out here, the concerns of my original audience, the stronger points, and redeveloped them. I hope you guys read the remaining installments. Part 2 is scheduled to post tonight (7PM EST).

  5. I believe that a lot of the back and forth in these dialogues could be avoided by clearly defining the difference between gender and sex.

    Sex includes things such as chromosomes, genitals and hormones. The main two sexes are male and female. Male and female are not terms for gender. It is my understanding that the Trinity as a whole has no sex. I believe it would be folly to say that Jesus' sex (male) can be applied to the Godhead. God took human form, thus necessitating the choice between sexes. I do not believe that this bodily form is intrinsic, though I am aware that this could be argued.

    Gender, on the other hand, varies from culture to culture. It is a social construct. Today's definition of "man" and "woman" is very different from that of Biblical times. The agreed upon definition of these terms are surely different in Minnesota than in New York. This is not to say that the concept of gender has been tainted, but that, by its very definition, gender changes as culture changes. It is important to remember that there are not two genders, but an infinite number of genders that are created within communities, societies, and individual minds.

    To say that God transcends our concept of gender is crucial when recognizing that human constructs cannot be imposed on the divine. God has no sex. And God has no gender except hir own. Not woman, not man, not something inbetween, but gender based on God's own terms.

    Forgive me for the book I just wrote. Thanks for all of your great insights, Tim! I enjoy reading it. Keep it comin'. Did I mention that I hella miss being a theology major?

    -Chantal Friesen

  6. Hey Chantal, I think, like Jeff, you will find my further developments an upgrade from when I addressed this topic in 2010. I'm curious to see what you all will think as the remaining three parts post over the next few days. Fyi, part 2 will be available within the next half hour (I'm almost sorry I split the article up).

  7. I will hold the remainder of my comments until the conclusion of Tim's pieces.

  8. I'm excited to read the rest! Just wanted to clarify that my comment was a response to other comments and not a critique of your ideas. I apologize for getting carried away. Should have held my tongue. But once again, excited to read the rest. According to David's good advice, I shall sit down and shut up till the end. :)


  9. I'm assuming those who've commented have seen part 2. If not, the links for previous parts and upcoming parts are or will be above the videos in grey. Part three is scheduled to post tonight (7PM EST). For part two, see the link above or click here: