God as Masculine and Feminine… This Isn’t Goddess Worship

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A certain pastor doesn’t like a certain best selling book because God appears at one point in the book as a woman. He says that such a depiction of God is the equivalent of some kind of goddess worship, making God the Father into something other than what scripture reveals.

Orthodoxy in his view requires a masculine God.

But I find such a take troubling because it conveniently overlooks a small, but no doubt important element of scripture: God’s feminine side.

We have our first clue in Genesis where God creates man and woman in God’s own image: male and female (Genesis 1:27).

Isaiah picks up on God’s desire to comfort Israel, “As a mother consoles a child, so I will console you, and you will be consoled over Jerusalem” (Isaiah 66:13).

Jesus shares a similar feminine sentiments, but adds the twist of a chicken, “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).

This teaches us that our language for God will always be inadequate, as the masculine pronoun “he” should always remind us. I can’t think of any workable way around the limitations of our pronouns in the English language, but our theology should leave room for this side of God rather than branding as heretical or new age any suggestion that God has feminine traits.

“He” does.

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13 thoughts on “God as Masculine and Feminine… This Isn’t Goddess Worship

  1. Heather

    I agree. While I have other problems with that certain book, this was not one of them.
    Out of curiosity: did this pastor have a problem with the Holy Spirit being presented as a woman, or only God the Father?

  2. ed Post author

    Ha! Good point. No mention of the Spirit… resisting harsh joke right now… OK, the temptation has passed.

    Yeah, the main point was that God is the “FATHER”. So anything feminine is goddess worship. That sounds like I’m being too simplistic in presenting his view, but I’m afraid that’s his fault.

  3. Tony Whittaker

    I recall a story I heard a long while back – a preacher felt strongly constrained to change his message to speak about the mother-love of God, using verses such as you mention. Turned out, visiting the church was a woman who had been badly damaged by an abusive and over-strict father and who therefore could not respond to any sort of message about God as father. But God as mother was something she could relate to, and came to faith as a result.

    I also by chance saw a blog posting yesterday, highlighting the point that the Hebrew word used for the Holy Spirit is feminine.

    Blessings

    Tony

  4. ed Post author

    Thanks Tony. Powerful story. I didn’t get into the Holy Spirit here, but you’re absolutely right. Just another way that God is beyond our comprehension.

    Blessings,
    Ed

      1. ed Post author

        That doesn’t settle things for me. If that’s the absolute, final word on the matter, than God must have screwed up by making Deborah a leader of Israel, using Huldah as a prophet, and Junia as an apostle. And then there’s this:
        Genesis 1:27
        So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

        It’s not a clean and neat issue. It’s messy, so I think we need to beware becoming too dogmatic in quoting one scripture to settle the matter. The Bible presents different perspectives on women, Paul being just one of them.

  5. SteveW

    I just want to say that I am glad I stumbled on this post. I read this book and heard this critique from the “certain pastor” as well. I felt that by becoming so defensive of God depicted as a woman, a broader view of God is missed. This may sound dumb, but in my journey with (God), I have discovered an authentic love for him in a new way by comparing how I conduct my relationship with him, to how I would conduct a relationship with a girl. All too often I find that I fall short in the former and could put so much more energy into my relationship with God.

  6. ed Post author

    Thanks Steve. I think you’re simply dealing with the full revelation of God and finding life there. That’s a wonderful thing!

  7. Kristine McGuire

    God is “spirit” therefore God is “genderless”. I agree that because of the limitations of language and our finite understanding it can be hard to wrap the mind around God being representative of both male and female. Jesus did, however, address God as “Father” and the Holy Spirit as “He” (correct me if I’m wrong because I’m no scholar) so I imagine this is where the idea that God can be only “male” enters in. I personally don’t see the issue with understanding God as genderless. I do think we have to be careful not to divide God into god and goddess can that just gets sticky.

  8. ed Post author

    Good point Kristine. There are some references to the Spirit using feminine words, but it’s not something I’d stake my faith on.

  9. E

    The texts you used to show God’s “feminine side” aren’t saying anything about God and genre but about His kind of love and character (by closest comparison with human life and relationships).

    For sound biblical theology, one needs excellent exegesis and hermeneutics – otherwise, you fall into all kind oh heresis and false teachings.

    And whatever our wounds are (abusive father or mother), we cannot change Truth tohelp others relate better to the Real God. If He says He is our Father, then He is the Father and only the FAther!

  10. Katie

    “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.”

    I love this verse from Isaiah 49, since I nursed a couple of my own. This is an older thread, but I happened upon it and appreciated its message. The new testament says that in Christ there is no male or female. This points back to Genesis and how we carry the image of God. Men are not given a different Holy Spirit than women, nor are they given in greater measure. In Christ Jesus we receive our identity. Character attributes of the Spirit (fruit for every believer to bear) have nothing to do with gender. Call out to him, and he will show you deep and unsearchable things. Women were formed in Christ long before they were taken from man’s side. All people need this connection to the Father. Biologically, my husband determined which of our children would be male or female, and I brought that life into fullness. God is complete, not just a mere man or woman.

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