Monday, July 15, 2013

The Gender of God

We don't really know exactly what God is, but it is generally agreed that there is a power or intelligence behind the universe, and this power, or principle of harmony, we commonly call God.

We are aware that this power is not a person and that it has no gender—yet we commonly refer to God as "He." Beyond questions of historical tradition and social mores of the times, the issue of God as "gender-neutral" being is actually part of a full understanding of the divine character of the Supreme Being.

At heart is the accessibility of God's "godness" for all people, regardless of our individual gender. Some people argue that God is historically referred to in the masculine, so they are used to it and naturally "translate" the gender in their heads as they read. Others become actually angry when the idea of God's "masculinity' is challenged, claiming that the Bible uses the masculine, so it is how it must be.

Let's try some examples:

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." This sounds "normal" to most of us. It's what we've heard all our lives. In fact, we've heard it so much that we barely question that God is He who gave His life.

But examine how you feel when you read this:

"For God so loved the world that She gave Her only begotten Son." This statement almost sounds comical, as if we were making a joke to prove a point. But in truth, why is it not as valid as the previous male-centric version? If God is beyond gender, than we might just as well refer to God as "She" than as "He!"  (The historical Jesus was a man, so for this example's sake we'll keep him as such!)

Now here's another way of adjusting the language:

"For God so loved the world that It gave Its only begotten Son." Gender-wise, this is probably the most accurate way of pronoun usage for referring to God. "It" is undoubtedly gender-neutral! Yet though most accurate, this version connotes God as something inanimate, without personality, maybe even without "life." In the English language, we mainly use "it" to refer to inanimate objects, so it somehow seems wrong to use this form when referring to the Source of all things!


"For God so love the world that God gave God's only begotten Child." Now here's a sentence we can relate to quite well, even though it is a bit awkward in its repetition. It jars our sensibilities a bit because it doesn't flow in the way we know it from our past, but it is not bad, and it is certainly accurate and inclusive.

(Notice also the change of "Son" to "Child." Even though the historical Jesus was male, using the word "Child" suddenly makes the Jesus-as-Child concept more broadly accessible without taking anything away from the historical figure, whom we know from our reading was male, highlighting the love of a parent for that parent's child.)

The Supreme Being—First Cause—is beyond gender, beyond ethnicity, beyond time and anything we can imagine. Using gender-neutral forms, though not perfect, is one of the more effective ways for us to understand the breadth and scope of our Creator.

Newt List is a resource for metaphysical and spiritual ebooks that incorporate gender-neutral forms, for a new way to experience New Thought!

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