Should We Use Gender-Inclusive Language For God?

Would it be wrong to describe God as feminine? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I recently got into a discussion on Facebook on if we should use gender-inclusive language for God. Would it really be a problem if we used more feminine language to describe God? Could it help men and women to better relate to God?

The motive is good I am sure, but that does not mean that the action itself is. We know there are many ideas that are tried today that have excellent intentions, but they do not produce excellent results. What we would need to know is if there is any data that would help.

Fortunately, there is. This is in a book I am currently going through (Though I have paused to read Bart Ehrman’s newest that came out today) called Why Men Hate Going To Church. It is by David Murrow and I have found it to be incredibly eye-opening. For my own part, I can relate to much of what he says.

Murrow says that there are many men who believe in God and hold orthodox beliefs, but they just don’t care for church. I can say there are many times I can be sitting in a service and my mind is more on a game I’d like to play when I get home. Why? Because in much of church there is nothing challenging and you often hear the same kinds of messages over and over which is pure application. There is little wrestling with the text, serious exegesis, going back to the historicity of the accounts, etc.

One exception to this was a church we attended in Knoxville called The Point. I remember still texting a friend of mine into apologetics during the service and saying “I can’t believe I’m hearing a sermon on the Conquest in the Old Testament.” Some of you might be aghast at texting during church. Don’t be. ours encouraged it. They wanted us to let people know what we were doing and also to text in our questions which the preacher would answer afterward and if it was a lengthy response, he would put up a video message of it during the week.

Murrow says that we have in many ways feminized the church. This is not to say that women are unimportant, but when women dominate a church, the church doesn’t often get the benefits that men often bring, which is greater risk-taking and such. We become internally focused about the family of God instead of externally about the kingdom of God.

Murrow has no thoughts of changing the Gospel. Absolutely not. Instead, remove the feminine focus. Some sayings that guys have a hard time with that he gives as examples are intimacy with God and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Intimacy in the Bible refers to sex. Men don’t want to think about sex with God. We love to think about sex and to have it, but not that way. We also don’t talk about personal relationships. If I called a male friend or they called me and one of us said we wanted to talk about our personal relationship, we would be asking if the other was gay.

Jesus does do many things that are not seen as masculine today, such as weeping openly, and no doubt some of our ideas about being a man are wrong, but not all. Jesus is not just the Lamb of God. He is the Lion of Judah. We have often turned Him into Mr. Rogers.

Years ago I read Five Views on the Historical Jesus. One view presented was John Dominic Crossan’s. He talked about how John the Baptist preached a fiery message and got arrested for it and put in jail and executed. Jesus saw this and decided to tone His down to a much greater message of love. Big problem with this theory. This Jesus is a mamby-pamby weakling. This Jesus is not a threat to anyone. This Jesus would never be crucified.

Unfortunately, the data is in and men do not really like going to church when church seems too feminine. The solution again is not to change the Gospel, but to make it a place where men feel they belong. They need to be in a place where they’re not ashamed to tell their fellow men where they are. Men need a place where they think masculinity is accepted and welcomed.

How is this going to be helped by speaking of God as feminine? Men look to other men to be leaders and having God described as a woman won’t help. Yes, I know there are some passages of Scripture that speak of God in some feminine terminology, but these are the exception. Most of it is masculine and needs to be emphasized.

We can also be assured that when men start going to church, women will go more too. Women will go more because wives and children often follow the husbands. Not always, but generally if you want to win a family to Jesus, you start with the father. Women will also go if single to find a good and godly man as well at a church where real men are gathered.

While I can understand the desire to help people feel more comfortable at church, I can’t support the idea of changing language for God. If God has described Himself in terminology that’s largely male, maybe we should leave it at that and consider that God can describe Himself better than we can. A little idea can have disastrous results down the line.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

  • Kshos23

    This just makes me wonder…how would this problem be solved, if, for example, some Protestant churches who struggle with such issues were to adopt the Mariology that exists within the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic churches?

    How would accepting ideas such as Mary being the mediatrix of graces, conceived immaculately and being the Queen of Heaven and a constant advocate in Heaven that we could ask to pray for us to God on her behalf, affect this problem that exists in the modern American church?

    I’m just theoretically proposing this, but it seems maybe a lot of the problems with both desiring to be inclusive to women and wanting to preserve masculinity would be more balanced if there was a feminine model that we could know of so that a relationship with Jesus / serving Him wasn’t as feminised as it right now is, since femininity would have another outlet then.

    • If Murrow’s research is accurate, it was when a high Mariology came in that the problem really started to happen.