“Women are worth less than men.” “Women are not made in the image of God.” “Women are a necessary evil in society.” Sadly all of these sayings were held and still held by many in society even women themselves! Is male dominance the reason God is called a “He” in Theistic Scriptures? Was it the by product of a patriarchal society dominating its people with it male-centric and chauvinistic ideas? I attempt an answer to this question in this article!
First : We must acknowledge the misogynistic abuses of male dominated culture from history and even Church history.
Spend 5 minutes of watching Youtube music videos, MTV or of a NetFlix show; watch the covers as you shop on the magazine rack; or stand for one minutes at the beach and it becomes obvious, except to those who are inoculated to it that our society has very little respect for women in general.
This is not new! Go back 2300 years ago to Plato and Aristotle. In the Laws , Plato writes that women have less potentiality for virtue than men (781 b 2-4). And he wrote: ‘Human nature being twofold, the better sort was that which should thereafter be called man’ (Timaeus 42 e). He does not stop there: “Evil and cowardly men are reborn as women, that being the first step downward to rebirth as animals” (42 b3c4; 90 e 6-91 a 4). Aristotle also sees women as a “misbegotten male” (De Generationel IV 6; Metaphysics X 9) See this link for more info.
In the US alone it was not till August 18, 1920, that the 19th amendment granted women the right to vote.
History is filled with men who have abused their roles as leaders in the communities that can take up volumes of books.
Clement of Alexandria, Theologian and Greek Father, 2nd century wrote:
“Every woman should be filled with shame by the thought that she is a woman. . . . the consciousness of their own nature must evoke feelings of shame”
Origen, Theologian and Greek Father, between the 2nd-3rd centuries, wrote:
“Men should not sit and listen to a woman . . . even if she says admirable things, or even saintly things, that is of little consequence, since it came from the mouth of a woman.”
–Fragments on 1 Corinthians
So then it is understandable for atheists and skeptics, who assume God does not exist, to think man creates god in his image! But what if it is the other way around? What if we are abusing the standards God sets?
Let me say this, if you are a woman, you of of infinite worth to God. You are more valuable than all the ideas, money and gold in the universe! Think about it. When you ask God “how much am I worth to you?” He would respond not with words but with his arms spread over a cross indirectly telling you…“this much..this much my daughter.”
Second: Sex is not artificial and God is not Androgynous
John 4:24 states, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” So there is a sense where God is greater than our sexuality. But he is not less than it. In a famous novel a few years back, called the Shack, the idea of the masculine nature of God was flipped -causing a stir.
This is how Mary Kassan summarized how the Godhead is viewed in a creative way.
In the Shack, God the Father, called “Papa,” is a She. An Aunt Jemima pancake cooking Mother. Think Whoopee Goldberg in an apron. And Sarayu, the Holy Spirit with an Assyrian name, is a wispy, ethereal female. Think life-sized Tinkerbell emitting rainbows and sparkles. Jesus is a human “male” – the one the three members of the Godhead collaboratively spoke into existence as the Son of God (umm… go figure). Then, in a bizarre twist that defies the orthodox image of the pre-incarnate Christ, another woman, “Sophia” appears as the divine personification of God’s wisdom. And in the end, Papa contributes to the gender-bent confusing mess by setting aside his/her female cross dressing persona for a slightly more familiar masculine one- a grey haired man with a hip ponytail.
So although God can make an avatar of himself as a female–he is omnipotent of course–So then why did choose to reveal himself as a man-like figure? It is not just because he was dealing with a patriarchal society. It is not just because the male dominated world which he came would not have accepted him, it is a lot more than that because he could have made them accept him, or her!
God the divine being, is, primarily a masculine figure, a King, Father, Judge, Husband, Master, and Father. The Biblical names and titles of God: Yahweh, Elohim, Shaddai, Sabbaoth, Adonai and Kurios are grammatically masculine for a reason. We use the masculine pronoun of He or Him because of these names.
I follow the work of Professor Peter Kreeft here and much of what I say is inspired by him. See Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Heaven: But Never Dreamed of Asking (San Francisco CA : Ignatius, 1990)
God made sex. He made us Male and Female. We are made in the image of God.
In Genesis chapter 1 we are told that man (mankind; as opposed to “a man”) is created in the image of God, both male and female…
And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27)
We should not be shocked to find that God has both a “maleness” and “femaleness” qualities in Him. God is both caring and nurturing, yet powerful and strong. But he is primarily masculine and secondarily feminine.
We, both males and females are the very image of God because he has both qualities.
God made sex, could it be because he is a sexual being? Having a sex, need not mean one must a body. It can be a trait. A nun is as much a woman as a prostitute is. Sex is a noun not just a verb.
Of course, God is so far beyond us, that God the Father is certainly not a man or a woman. But he is not less than a man either or some type of impersonal pantheistic force.
Jesus used some feminine images of God:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:37)
Also, God’s wisdom in the Proverbs is personified as a female (e.g., Proverbs 1:20, 8:11, 9:1), yet we are told in the New Testament that Jesus is the Wisdom of God (1Corinthians 1:24). More examples? Sure. See, Deuteronomy 32:18 and Isaiah 42:14 where God is given the likeness of a mother giving birth to Israel; Psalm 131:2, Isaiah 49:15 and 66:13 again compares Him to a mother caring for her child.
However, read this passages carefully, and you will find that although they compare God to a feminine entity, the texts do not claim he is essentially feminine. It is never stated that God is female or androgynous. To claim it does is to do eisegesis on the passage. But does the Bible call him male? No. It does not. But it does refer to him as a masculine figure primarily.
Though we, both male and female, (Gen 1:27) are made in His image, and reflect some of who God is, we as humans certainly don’t represent all that God is. Even if an artist were to paint a self-portrait, the artist himself is greater than his art.
Peter Kreeft argues that the First Person of the Trinity has chosen to reveal himself to us as Father. This is a category which transcends human biology (male and female), and of which human fatherhood is a shadow (cf. Eph 3.14).” …we must distinguish “male” from “masculine.” Male and female are biological genders. Masculine and feminine, or yang and yin, are universal, cosmic principles, extending to all reality, including spirit. All pre-modern civilizations knew this. Male and female are only the biological version of cosmic masculine and feminine created by and drawn from the Absolute One Himself.
(Peter Kreeft, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Heaven: But Never Dreamed of Asking (San Francisco CA : Ignatius, 1990), 119.)
Three: God is masculine because of Jesus.
Professor Bruce Ware’s article, “Could Our Savior Have Been a Woman?” is very helpful in showing the relevance of Jesus’ maleness for his mission, and indirectly how our sexuality matter to God. Ware offers twelve important reasons “for concluding that the male gender of Jesus was essential both to the reality of his incarnation identity and to the accomplishment of his incarnation mission.” [Bruce A. Ware, “Could Our Savior Have Been a Woman?,” Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood 8/1 (Spring 2003): 33; cited in “Reconsidering the Maleness of Jesus,” by Micah Daniel Carter, presented at the Evangelical Theological Society Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA November 14-16, 2007.]
Below are three of the twelve reasons (with scriptural references from Micah Daniel Carter):
- Second Adam: Jesus came as the Second Adam, the Man who stands as Head over his new and redeemed race (Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:21-22).
- King: Christ came also as the glorious King of Kings, reigning over the nations in splendor and righteousness, and to be this King, he must be a man (Isaiah 9:6-7; Hebrews 1:8 [reflecting Psalm 45:6-7]; Matthew 19:28; Revelation 19:11-21).
- Bridegroom: Because the risen Christ is now presented to the Church, not only as her Lord and King, but also as her Bridegroom, the Savior to come must have been a man (Ephesians 5; Revelation 18:23; 19:7; 21:2, 9; 22:17).
These reasons reflect the importance of Jesus’ sexuality, and indirectly tell us, whether we are male or female, that our sexuality is also important to our God.
However, human beings alone among living organisms, bear the imago Dei. “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him” (Genesis 1:27). The imago Dei has been prominent since its inception in the Torah. There are many view points on what exactly it encompasses. See my post on “What does it mean to be human?” here
Paul K. Jewett writes: “The reason why the concept of the divine image has become so prominent in Christian anthropology is obvious: it confers on the human subject the highest possible distinction, leaving the world of animals far behind. . . . In other words, Christian anthropology is done from above, not from below.”[Paul K. Jewett with Marguerite Shuster, Who We Are: Our Dignity as Human (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1996), p. 54.]
Kreeft and Tacelli, in their Handbook of Christian Apologetics, addressed this matter when they wrote:
The Jewish revelation was distinctive in its exclusively masculine pronoun because it was distinctive in its theology of the divine transcendence. That seems to be the main point of the masculine imagery. As a man comes into a woman from without to make her pregnant, so God creates the universe from without rather than birthing it from within and impregnates our souls with grace or supernatural life from without. As a woman cannot impregnate herself, so the universe cannot create itself, nor can the soul redeem itself. (1994, p. 98, emp. in orig.).
Finally, we call God Father rather than Mother because he tells us to.
The bottom line is not what we want, but what God wants. If God exists, and inspired the Bible, then we are obligated to listen to it. C.S. Lewis addressed this point in his book, God in the Dock:
Goddesses have, of course, been worshipped: many religions have had priestesses. But they are religions quite different in character from Christianity…. Since God is in fact not a biological being and has no sex, what can it matter whether we say He or She, Father or Mother, Son or Daughter? Christians think that God Himself has taught us how to speak of Him. To say that it does not matter is to say either that all the masculine imagery is not inspired, is merely human in origin, or else that, though inspired, it is quite arbitrary and unessential. And this is surely intolerable…We have no authority to take the living and semitive figures which God has painted on the canvas of our nature and shift them about as if they were mere geometrical figures…. It is painful, being a man, to have to assert the privilege which Christianity lays upon my own sex. I am crushingly aware how inadequate most of us are, in our actual and historical individualities, to fill the place prepared for us. But it is an old saying in the army that you salute the uniform not the wearer…. A given man may make a very bad husband; you cannot mend matters by trying to reverse the roles… (Lewis, C.S. (1970), God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).1970, pp. 237-238,
What is remarkable is that God has condescended to reveal himself to us. God became one of us, in the person of Jesus Christ and desires to draw us into a relationship with him, which he made possible.
But let us not come away with a patriarchal nonsense that men are superior to women!! Nothing could be further from the truth. Both are made in the image of God. See the first page of the first chapter of the Bible for that.
Yes, God could reveal himself as anything (A burning Bush, a gentle whisper, a storm) but a male is what he choose, a broken man who was beaten and broken for us. He suffered just like we can, what means the most, is that he really understand when we suffer too.
Some great articles to consider on this issue are below–and some I don’t agree with. But I am still learning and willing to be corrected on this issue, as I am for the others as well!
Inclusive Language Debate
Why Call God the Father?
Is God Male or Masculine
Is God Masculine?
Is God Male?
Why God is Father and not Mother