Is God Male or Female?

God’s Gender

Grantley Morris

As much as I would like to avoid an issue that raises many people’s blood pressure, I am obligated to explore the matter of God’s gender. Why? Because it affects some people’s feelings toward God. That renders it too important to sidestep.

Before hurtling into this, we should acknowledge that it is disturbingly easy to be sincerely convinced that we are being spiritual, biblical, rational and objective when we are actually more swayed by other factors than we suppose. Let’s for a moment try to be honest with each other while I reveal my own biases and prejudices.

There are women (and some men) who have suffered so atrociously at the hands of key men in their lives that the very thought of God being male chills them with terror or revulsion, or at least leaves them cold and wanting to keep God at arm’s length. Large numbers of such people have felt drawn to me because of my writings and I confess that they have a special place in my heart.

On the other extreme, are certain men who want God to be male in order to justify them feeling and/or acting superior to women. I admit to feeling uncomfortable about such men, despite being a man myself. I urge such men to read the Husband, Head of a Submissive Wife? link below. Humbling ourselves and exalting others seems far more in line with biblical teaching.

In between these extremes are those who squirm at the thought of God being female, simply because it is a concept so foreign to their upbringing (always calling God ‘he’) that to them it ‘feels’ (i.e. an emotive, rather than spiritual, reaction) pagan. I confess to having a special affinity to such people and I suspect that a large majority of Christians congregate here.

Many of us, having been brought up to apply the male pronouns he and him to God, would recoil at using she and her, as much as if our human father suddenly declared he wants us to think of him as a woman. But is this for some deep, spiritual reason or solely because it clashes with an ingrained habit?

Language keeps changing, and the number of people brought up with gender-neutral language keeps increasing. So I cannot be sure if the study is still valid, but research not too long ago indicated that the use of the male pronoun when speaking in general terms is seen by people as being more gender-neutral than using the female pronoun. I suspect this would be particularly true of most Bible readers, unless they had been brought up on a very recent Bible version that, for example, never uses man for humanity. My guess is that this research points to a significant factor behind the reaction of many of us to referring to God as she. We find it easier to think of God as being less predominantly one gender or the other if we use the pronoun we are more familiar with, whereas the use of the female pronoun jolts us into thinking it implies not that God is in no sense genderless but specifically female.

The truth is that for many of us, God’s gender is such an emotive issue that, despite convincing ourselves we are being spiritual and theologically correct, our own fears, biases and prejudices are in danger of raging stronger than our ability to hear the Spirit’s whispers and can cloud our reading of God’s Word.

So much for sensitizing ourselves to factors that might be subconsciously influencing us: let’s plunge in.

Things I am about to say are so contrary to the Holy One’s nature that I feel apologetic about even mentioning them. Nevertheless, it seems necessary in order to drive home just how different God is from our normal conception of what it means to be male.

The exquisite but humanly flabbergasting uniqueness of God poses enormous difficulties when trying even to imagine him, let alone speak of him. One of the multitude of enigmas this poses is in choosing a pronoun to use for God. With human language being what it is, the options are only he, she, it or they. God is far too personal for it to be appropriate, and too united and opposed to polytheism for they. I would not dare accuse the God of the Bible of making a poor choice when selecting the male pronoun from these limited options but before bolting to wild conclusions, let’s remember that it does not say God is male and there are many senses in which every Bible believer agrees that he is not male.

Most of us readily admit that God is neither a heterosexual male, nor homosexual male. He is sexually attracted to no-one (for more, see the God is Not Sexual link below). Both in the sense of procreation and in the sense of being attracted to gods of the opposite sex (of which, of course, there are none) we all agree that God is genderless, though not in the sense of being neutered, since there is no deficiency in God.

There is nothing used to confirm gender in humans that applies to the divine. God has neither genitals, nor hormones, nor genes (chromosomes). Moreover, there is no opposite sex version of God with which to compare or contrast him. We cannot say he is taller, physically stronger or hairier or sweats more or has a deeper voice or flatter chest or a lower life expectancy or is less verbally proficient than his opposite sex counterpart. The very notion is, of course, ridiculous. Neither does God wear male clothing or is more likely to end up in jail, or have a receding hairline. There might be things an average woman is better at than an average man, and vice versa, but there is nothing that the God of perfection could be better at.

To say the least, a ‘male’ lacking everything so far mentioned is a very peculiar ‘male.’

Neither is God male in the sense that males are more like him than females. Right from the beginning, the God of the Bible knocks this fallacy on the head by emphatically stating that both genders are equally in the image of God:

    Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

    Genesis 5:1-2 When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them “man.”

When declaring that humanity is in God’s image, both these Scripture specifically mention both genders; perhaps hinting that there is something in what is unique about being female that is in the image of God and, likewise, there is something about what distinguishes males that is in God’s image. Perhaps, by consisting of both males and females, humans better reflect the fullness of the nature of God than either gender could achieve alone. (For more on this, see the first link below.)

It has been said that the sexes are not so much opposite as complementary. They complete each other. Christian theologians, however, have always insisted that God is complete in himself (Scriptures). Unlike Adam, he needs no helper. In fact, the Hebrew word used to describe Eve’s role as Adam’s helper (Genesis 2:18,20) is never used elsewhere in the Bible of people serving God but almost always used to describe God’s role in rescuing us (Scriptures). This makes it closer in meaning to savior or hero than assistant.

In any case, anyone trying to argue from Scripture that there is any way in which God is more ‘male’ than ‘female’ is forced to admit that it must be in an extremely limited narrow sense.

Related Pages

God as Tender as a Mother? Does God have a Feminine Side?

Gender in the Bible: God & Women

Husband, Head of a Submissive Wife?

God is Not Sexual

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