Editor’s Note: As a follow-up to the last few blog posts, Linda DeMone, Pastor of Uniacke Baptist Church and board member of ASBE, wrote in, excited to discuss the different biblical references and what it meant for her. The following is a Q&A based on a selection of our correspondence.
Some qualify exclusive masculine language for God and say, “However, God is not male. God is beyond gender.” What do you make of this statement?
As children, in Church and Sunday School, we learned that God is masculine, and that was it. Until a church pianist asked me if I thought that God could be feminine, I had not been open to this line of thinking. I have realized that there is merit in her question. This statement (God is a he, but God is beyond gender) is contradictory. God is not a one-size-fits-all Being, as if God has only one image. Those who believe in this statement seem to be unclear in their belief in the Imago Dei. It is a circuitous and contrasting route to try and rationalize God’s Being as no one has ever seen God (John 1:18), especially since God has attributes of both genders that we have overlooked in the Bible.
Why do you think male language has been so strongly emphasized?
The Trinity is described as God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This language has also been emphasized because of many scriptural references, but other Scriptures have been forgotten. A diversity of analogies of God’s nature have always been used in the Bible. However, since the Old and New Testaments are interpreted mainly by male scholars, masculine language has been emphasized and rarely questioned. Essentially, how could we not think of God as a male Being when so many of us have grown up as Christians learning about God as Father, only?
What changed your thinking on the matter?
In a word: The Bible. For me, the image of God is what really got me thinking. The creation of Adam and Eve in the Creator’s image is how our sovereign God should be interpreted as a transcendent and immanent Being, completing God’s image as having two genders of equality in God’s goodness and yet beyond gender entirely. We have put our Creator into a lone silo. Although God’s Being is often portrayed exclusively, there is no reason why we should not believe that God is all-inclusive of both genders.
Even if patriarchy has been a factor in interpreting God’s masculinity, there are still male authors in Scripture that speak of femininity in God. In various biblical passages beginning with Genesis, we describe God as creating humanity as Creator when Adam and Eve were conceived (Gen. 1:27). In Scripture, God is described as a mother, mother bear, mother eagle, woman in labour, comforting mother, nursing mother, mother hen, a woman looking for her lost coin, etc. So, attributes from both genders are used to describe God’s character.
Why do you think emphasizing the female language about God in the Bible is important?
Using exclusive male language has had adverse effects, of which I will mention two; 1) It legitimates male authority structures to a God who rules and controls everything. 2) It robs women of our dignity by distancing human nature made in the image and likeness of God from their bodily identity.
Adam and Eve were created as companions for each other and procreators of humanity. Therefore, why would Adam be the only person that God recognizes biblically? The female language so often is omitted when describing the gender and Being of God that it seems women are treated as non-entities in the creation narrative even though both sexes are made in God’s image (Gen. 1:27). God created two people, not only one person, so the feminine language should be equally inclusive. The image of God speaks of mutuality, not hierarchy.
Indeed, it is time that, as Christian leaders,’ women begin using the female images of God in the hymns we sing, in the prayers we use, and in the messages we preach. Perhaps, images of God as both genders will encourage more inclusive roles in the church. Good biblical study and theological reflection decrease our belief in God as masculine. As Christian worshippers, students, teachers, and clergy, our peers could be better equipped at upholding women and their roles as clergy equally in the sight of our Creator. As we reconsider the capacity to think of God in feminine ways, it is time to reassess how we portray God as One who encompasses the goodness of both genders.
What has this conversation looked like for your ministry?
This conversation has helped me better to explain the Genesis account of creation to more tenacious congregants. The capacity to think of God as female has helped increase my biblical knowledge of God’s creation of humanity because we were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). It has helped me biblically by reiterating that we are made in God’s image and why we should recognize women as equal counterparts biblically and equally in the interpretation of God’s language.
Linda DeMone is the Pastor of Uniacke Baptist Church and a board member of ASBE.