Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” [Exodus 3:14-15 (NKJV)]
For I am God, and not man, The Holy One in your midst. [Hosea 4:9 (NKJV)]
My teenaged granddaughter mentioned that her high school is considering a policy regarding a “gender fluid” bathroom for those students unclear about their gender. Being old-fashioned, I always thought one’s plumbing determined which restroom to use, but the discussion got me thinking about our inclusive society. Today’s political correctness requires us to live in such a way that doesn’t isolate any race, gender, religion, sexuality or ethnic background. As a writer, I try to use inclusive language and avoid words that might be thought of as exclusionary of any group. While I understand using “police officer” instead of “policeman,” other words are more problematic. Using “humankind” instead of “mankind” seems unnatural and I’ll never refer to a “manhole” as a “personhole” or my sophomore grand is an “underclass person” rather than an “underclassman.”
By today’s standards, much of the Bible’s language is politically incorrect. Rather than “gender neutral” images, more often than not, male metaphors are applied to God: father, spurned husband, shepherd, or king. Occasionally, feminine metaphors are used: mother, laboring woman, and even a hen. Politically correct inclusive language would refer to God only as a caregiver, spouse, keeper of sheep, royalty or poultry parent. Using gender neutral metaphors is a lofty goal but there are only so many times we can refer to God as our Creator or a Rock. Moreover, eventually we need a pronoun and most pronouns are gender specific.
With Jesus, it’s easy to know the correct pronouns; according to Scripture, He was a man. Yet, there are now a small number of global Bible translations in which words other than “Son” and “Father” have been used for Jesus and God. Apparently, by using those words, some translators fear that people may assume some sort of sexual relationship between God and Mary. This issue has caused a rift between those Bible translators who remain firm about using the original words and those who want to use something else. As to using the word “Son,” God made that clear when He said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” As to the use of “Father,” Jesus made that one equally clear when He said, “Our Father in Heaven, Hallowed be Your name.”
If God is the Father, does that make God is a man? No—God is God. God is the great I AM. God is a spirit and a spirit has neither flesh nor bones. Without a physical body, God has no gender; God is neither male nor female. As a spirit, God did not have sexual relations with Mary and doesn’t need to worry about which bathroom to use! Without a gender, there are no perfect pronouns for God and the Holy Spirit. Clearly our Supreme Being is not an “it” nor is the Holy Spirit a “they.” Hebrew didn’t offer “gender neutral” pronouns and the Bible’s writers used the male “he.” Although some women writers refer to God as “she,” lacking a better solution and, in deference to those original writers, I will continue to refer to God or the Holy Spirit as “He.” While not perfect, it’s the best we’ve got. Something tells me that God is far more interested in having us talk about Him (or Her) and pray to Him (or Her) than what pronouns we use when doing it.