“Is God a guy? Or can he be a girl?”
“I always just assumed God is male.”
“Dunno, but does it matter?”
You may have noticed there is a great deal of confusion about what gender means today. The idea of human gender as male or female is now being replaced (at least in some areas of soci - ety) with the view that gender is a social construct, and that there can be many more genders.
Gender is an important part of our identi - ty. If we want to understand God, it makes sense that we also want to know about God’s identity. Is God male? Female? Both? Neither? When thinking about this question, we need to recognise that it is impossible for us to fully understand God. But what we can know about God has been revealed to us in the Bible, so what does it say?
The Bible teaches that human beings are made male and female. Genesis 1:27 says: “So God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” This verse tells us that all human beings, both male and female, are made in the image of God. So does this mean that God is both male and female? This can all get very confusing!
It is important to bear in mind that the terms ‘male’ and ‘female’ are used for human beings, not for God. Despite what we might think, God is not a superhuman or a bearded old man up in the sky. The Bible paints a different picture. The Westminster Confes - sion of Faith (a church document drawn up in the 1600s to set out what the Church believes and how to act on that) says that God is “without body, parts, or passions”. In other words, God doesn’t have the things that make up gender. God is genderless.
However, the language used for God in the Bible is often male. God the Father is not ‘it’, but ‘he’. Some would argue that, in an age where we are told to respect the pronouns people wish to use, perhaps it is best to use the personal pronouns through which God has revealed himself.
Some people may understandably struggle with the idea of God being male or a father because of difficulties they have faced with male figures in their own lives (see ‘The Good Father myth’ by Tim Gough in January’s Premier Youth and Children’s Work ). However, we must remember that God is not like us. God will not fail or disap - point us. God loves us unconditionally and is there whenever we need.
The fact that male pronouns are used does not mean God is male. The Bible also uses female analogies and language to describe God. For example, God is spoken of as a mother in Isaiah 66:13: “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” Some people describe the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spir - it) as like a human family: God is the father, the Holy Spirit is the mother and Jesus is the son. While God is closer to us than our own family members, using this analogy for the Trinity imposes a 21 st Century concept of the family on the Bible and creates a God in our own image. God is so much more than just a father, mother or child.
As well as being revealed in the Bible, our understanding of God is also revealed in Jesus. Hebrews 1 tells us that Jesus is the exact representation of God’s being. When we look at Jesus we see what God is like. Jesus came as a male human being, but he came to Earth for all of us: male and female.
Perhaps we sometimes overemphasise the differences between men and women, as though we are from different planets. We are all made in the image of God – not in terms of our gender but in that we are logical, moral and holy beings. Focusing on gender may cause us to misunderstand who God is. The more important thing is to know God through Christ, so that we can become better more renewed human beings regardless of our gender.
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