Sunday, September 18, 2011

Why Is God A "He"?

So, lately I've been thinking a lot about this particular issue. It's come up in several of the books I've had to read for school. But the tipping point was this video with Mark Driscoll and Doug Wilson*:

So, this does raise the question: Why is that - The Shack not withstanding - God is consistently referenced as male in the Scriptures? It's God the Father and God the Son. Likewise, male pronouns are always used to describe God the Spirit. For our family members who believe that gender is merely biological this makes absolutely no sense. After all, God is a spirit. He doesn't have an anatomical structure and therefore speaking of God in terms of male or female is ludicrous. Right? Well, apparently the Holy Spirit doesn't think so, because He inspired the holy men to portray God in male terms.

So, how do we explain this? Well, it becomes a lot easier when recognize that gender is a symbol for something greater. After all, God loves matter, as C.S. Lewis said, and He uses matter to convey truths about Himself.

Elisabeth Elliot, the wife of martyred missionary Jim Elliot and one of the greatest writers and speakers of her generation, does an excellent job of arguing this position in her classic The Mark of a Man:

"Psychologists sometimes describe belief in God as a father as nothing more than a projection of the sterotyped father. It never seems to occur to them that if two things are alike, one ought to ask whether the first is copied from the second or the second from the first. Why should it not be at least as logical to assume that human fathers are copies of the Original? Those who take the Bible as their rule see God as the archetype. From Him are derived all ideas of what fathers ought to be."
The argument goes that the genders are symbols of something much greater than biology. The functions of the genders actually reflects the nature of God. Within the Trinity there is equality, love, unity and other-centrality but there is also structure, order, submission and, yes, authority (I know, that's a naughty word in our culture but just bare with me). Therefore, this same dichotomy is mirrored in the relationships between the genders.

Those who hold to this view
also recognize that consistently throughout Scripture - literally from Genesis to Revelation - men are given the responsibility of initiation. That brings us back to original question of why God is always portrayed as male.

C.S. Lewis said, "God is so masculine that all creation is feminine by comparison." What could he possibly mean by that? He meant that God is the Ultimate Initiator. He initiates our salvation, our sanctification - shoot! - He initiated our very existence. The fate of every human being is decided by how we respond the initiation of God. Therefore, we are all feminine (responders) in comparison to the Initiating God.

But I can almost hear people saying, "What a chauvinist! He actually thinks that men are like God!" No, no, no! Sure, lots of men think they're God, but God knows better. This isn't about men, this is about God. My goal in this post is not to spark a debate over gender roles. If I wanted to do that I would have started off with loads of bible passages and quotes from Greek experts. What I want to do is point you to marvelous design of God.

When men act like men and women act like women, we're actually displaying the very nature of God. It's a like a painting, showing the majesty of the Real Thing. Or a song that causes emotions to rise up unbidden. Or a monument which testifies to the greatness of an awesome God. Gender is a work of art, giving us hints at the beautiful character of the Artist. Praise His name!

I know that this has been a very quick summary of very deep and intense issue, but if you get nothing else out of this, pay attention to this: Gender isn't about biology. Like everything else, it's about God.

*I always feel the need to say that just because I link to someone doesn't mean I necessarily endorse everything about that person.


  1. Good article Josh. I totally agree with what your saying. And another fact of God's "gender" (if I may) is John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that HE gave HIS only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Now I could be wrong and this just might be the author's personal view, but the author was God through men. So its personal preference if you take it or not.

  2. Thanks Hunter! Yeah, at the end of the day it was ultimately God who inspired the words.

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  4. Thanks for commenting, Nathaniel! I'm glad you've enjoyed the site. I always enjoy getting insights from different people, so I'll certainly check out your site. :-)