The Gender of God, Pt. 2

A continuation of the previous post, which discussed the idea that God is pangender.

Even though nobody’s changing my mind, I decided to go looking for whatever else has been put forth on the matter and came across this quaint little blather which I started to skim over before stopping at the following quote:

As Protestant theologian John W. Miller puts it in Biblical Faith and Fathering: “Not once in the Bible is God addressed as mother, said to be mother, or referred to with feminine pronouns. On the contrary, gender usage throughout clearly specifies that the root metaphor is masculine-father.”

Not once referred to as mother, eh?  Then what do you call Isaiah 66:13, or Hosea 13:8, or Matthew 23:37?  Not enough for you?  Alright.

It’s a bit mystifying why people would be so insistent on holding onto this masculine view of God, beyond just “I grew up with it”.  According to the author of the linked page, by using different pronouns for God, we’d be disrespecting God’s will about how He likes to refer to Himself.  If that’s so, then you have to wonder why there isn’t more trans* inclusion in the Christian Church.  Presumably the argument goes that we should respect God’s gender identity because He’s God, but we shouldn’t respect the gender identity of trans* people because they’re going against the will of God — although I don’t see how trans* people asking to be treated differently, referred to differently, and altering their bodies to make themselves more comfortable is any more disrespectful to God than, say, dying your hair, acquiring a nickname, or having your tonsils removed.

As a side note, I find it a bit annoying that he speaks as if feminists are the only people who argue there was any “sexism by the biblical writers”.  You don’t have to call yourself a feminist to believe that (or any of the other positions he attributes to them).  Maybe he was thinking only of feminists when he wrote it, but it’s pretty awkward and suggests a lack of familiarity with a lot of things I won’t get into here.

The fact is, whenever the Bible uses feminine language for God, it never applies it to Him in the same way masculine language is used of Him. Thus, the primary image of God in Scripture remains masculine, even when feminine similes are used: God is never called “She” or “Her.”

Well golly, I wonder why that might be.

This is about where our path diverges into a discussion about whether the Bible should be taken as something virtually written by God Xemself or as a piece of partial journalism filtered through human hands, and I don’t feel like getting into the details of that argument right now, so for now I’ll just leave it at this: the point above can only function as evidence under the premise that everything in the Bible is written as it should be and 100% representative.  As a student of Communication Studies, I’d argue that having any written work be entirely representative of every facet of anything would be like trying to divide by zero, but that’s getting into a whole different discussion.  Back on topic — for a moment, the author seems to agree with me about God transcending gender.

The latter possess human natures in the male gender, while God, as such, is without gender because He is Infinite Spirit.

Right.  This is what I’m saying, more or less.

Even so, they [the biblical writers] speak of God as if He were masculine. For them, masculine language is the primary way we speak of God.

Um…  So what?

Scripture itself, as we have seen, sometimes likens God to a mother. Yet, as we have also seen, Scripture never calls God “Mother” as such. Scripture uses feminine language for God no differently than it sometimes metaphorically uses feminine language for men. How do we explain this?

Many feminists simply dismiss this as sexism by the biblical writers. But the real answer rests with the difference between God and human beings, between fathers and mothers and between metaphor and analogy. The Bible sometimes speaks metaphorically of God as Father. But it would be strange for Scripture so often to call God Father and so seldom to use maternal language, if the whole thing were merely a difference in metaphor. By never calling God “Mother” but only likening God to a human mother, Scripture seems to suggest that God is really Father in a way He is not really Mother. In other words, that fatherhood and motherhood are not on equal footing when it comes to describing God.

Are you trying to use logic?

What is the difference between fatherhood and motherhood? A father is the “principle” or “source” of procreation in a way a mother is not.

Whoa.  I’m going to need to stop you.  The argument being made by this guy, in the ensuing sentences, is one based far more on arbitrary cultural principles (men as active initiators, women as passive receptacles) than a thorough understanding of biology.  He’s trying so hard to back up his sexism with a solid argument, and it just comes out as more sexism.  It’s quite tragic really.

But he keeps going.

Because the father procreates outside of himself, his child is symbolically (though in reality not wholly) other than his father. Likewise, the father is other than his child (though also not wholly). In other words, the father, as father, transcends his child. Fatherhood, in this sense, symbolizes transcendence in relation to offspring, though we also recognize that, as the “source” of his child’s life, the father is united or one with his child and therefore he is not wholly a symbol of transcendence.

On the other hand, because the mother procreates within herself—within her womb where she also nurtures her child for nine months—her child is symbolically (though in reality not wholly) part of herself. And similarly, the mother is symbolically (though in reality not wholly) part of her child. In other words, the mother, as mother, is one with her child.

What are you doing?  No, really.  What are you doing?  Do you think you’re making sense?  Because that’s one thing you’re not doing.  You might be infantalizing pregnant women, though, which is pretty creepy.

This has been a very disheartening experience in that this appears to be written by a theologian who thinks himself very rational and well-educated.  This article is a big gaping mess, and this is what’s supposed to pass a logical argument within Christianity?  I’m ashamed of us.

To prevent God’s transcendence from being lost sight of and God being wrongly reduced to, or even too closely identified with, His creation, language stressing transcendence—masculine terms such as father —is necessary.

No, just stop.  Your big words and occasional references to Aristotle are not disguising anything.  Your premise is flawed, your logic is flawed, and you’re making us look bad.

Thus, in order to express adequately God’s infinite transcendence and to avoid idolatrously identifying God with the world (without severing Him from His creation, as in deism), even on the metaphorical level we must use fatherly language for God.

This is literally saying that we should call God a He because feminine pronouns would be too lowly and because masculine pronouns are more appropriate to convey Her position at the top of the hierarchy.  In other words, it’s a bunch of misogynist bullbutter.

This shows that equality and difference, and even equality and hierarchy, need not be understood as opposed to one another, as some feminists claim.

…Listen, buddy.  I think you need to get some sleep.

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