Monday, February 6, 2012

Is God Male or Female?

God, is he male or female? If you read the Bible, all references to God are in the masculine form. Some have argued that this has more to do with the male chauvinism the time when it was written than an indication of what God is. Some people have attempted to rewrite the Bible in gender-neutral form. Some have even decided that God is a woman, as the author of The Shack did. The argument of some people is that since there is only one God, it doesn’t make sense to say whether he is male or female. And they have a point, if we look at gender as merely the two parts of the reproductive puzzle.

Before we decide whether God is male or female, let’s consider what it means to be male or female. Forget about the reproductive organs and the differences in appearance for a moment. Forget about the typically stronger nature of the male and the nurturing nature of the female. Let’s imagine that we have two beings that are blank slates. Essentially, they are equal in every way. Imagine that we can decide what traits they need later, but right now we have to decide which one is male and which one is female. When you think about it, that is the position God was in when he created the world. He could have made Adam look like Eve and Eve look like Adam, if that’s what he wanted to do. Before they were created, they were blank slates on which God could build the features he wanted them to have.

What then is it that distinguishes Adam from Eve? The true difference is not in the features they have, but in the order they were created. God created man first. Then, because man needed a helper, God created a woman because she came out of the man. Even if God had given Adam the features that we think of women having and Eve the features that we think of men having, the fact that Adam was created first would make him the man and Eve the woman. But God, in his wisdom, decided to give men the features he gave them and women the feature he gave them.

But what does that have to do with whether God is male or female? God can’t be a woman because he didn’t come out of anything. God is first. God is the first of all firsts. There was nothing before him. There was nothing from which he was created. God is male because he is the first of his kind.

4 comments :

Heidi Leanne said...

God is a male because he is the first of his kind? He is the creator, and he is male?

I don't buy it.

God created man and woman in His image - together he created man and woman in His image, so that means that together, when we are together - as a union of man and wife, then we are the image of God.

To me it only makes sense that God is neither man or woman. . . but together, man and woman represent the image of God.

Ok, I better stop, I think I'm repeating myself.

And maybe its because I'm female that I don't like to think that God is only male, and there is no 'female' representation in Heaven. . . or to give men any more reason to Lord over women their superiority. :/

Timothy Fish said...

Heidi,
I can’t say that your position is unexpected; I have heard that argument before. But I find that the Bible is pretty clear on the subject, so I am limited on how much I can be swayed to your point of view. Granted, the Bible does not state that the basis for God being male is that he is the first of his kind. But it seems your disagreement is more about the superiority of men vs. women. The Bible never said that men are superior to women, but it does make it clear that they are different with different roles. What it does say is “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it.” (Ephesians 5:25) In other words, husbands, your wives are worth dying for. To me, that doesn’t say that the woman is to be treated as inferior. But we must not forget the statement that came before this verse. “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord; for the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church, and He is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” (Ephesians 5:22-24)

But the strongest basis for my argument for saying that God is male because he is the first of his kind comes from I Timothy 2:12, 13, “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve.” Here, Paul is speaking to the pastor of a church and laying out how people ought to act in church. The basis Paul gives for not allowing women to teach men was that God made Adam first. This means there is something significant about the order in which God created male and female. At the very least, God created them in that order so that they could be used to show the relationship between Jesus and the church.

Heidi Leanne said...

Yes, and I've heard those same arguments before - but I don't agree with a LOT of what Paul had to say on women in the church - not because what he said was wrong implicitly - but that what he said was steeped in his culture of men-dominating and despising women. There are many, many things that the bible says to do, that we do not take to mean we should apply it today. Why? because it was written for that specific culture, and not meant for all time. Likewise, I fully believe that when Paul talked about women not teaching and preaching - that was meant for the culture that had women being treated just like slaves. After taking several courses on women in the Bible, I cannot believe that a.) Christ treated and felt about women the same way Paul did and 2.) that we should apply those statements Paul made for all times and cultures. Christ works within each time period and culture. Otherwise we'd be stoning each other, and women would be in menstrual huts and still not allowed to speak, and . . . oh the list goes on and on and on.

Is the order in which men and women made significant? Or were they created separately, one version of creation has man and woman created together and another has them created separately. They both cannot be true. Yes, the bible does contradict itself on this point.

If you take the text that Christ is head of the church just like the husband is head of the family, all I can say is that I disagree vehemently with Paul. When you read further it says that Adam was just as deceived as Eve was. WRONG. Adam ate equally of the fruit in the garden, he was with her when she took the fruit and ate it when she handed it to him. He fell just the same as she did. He could have chosen not to, but he did not. Paul was wrong, plain and simple.

Also, since I am female, and he created us in his image, it is only fair to say that God is part female too. Has characteristics of both. Yes, the father. To say otherwise is denying women being created in His image, and I cannot abide that in any way.

Timothy Fish said...

Heidi,

I’m somewhat hesitant to respond because if we can’t agree on the relevance the scriptures for today, I don’t know that either of us can form a stable argument without laying a great deal of groundwork. But central to your argument seems to be the claim that Paul would not have made the same statement if the culture had elevated women more than it did. This is an interesting statement, considering that Paul was run out of Ephesus (where Timothy was when he wrote to him) to the cries of “Great is Diana of the Ephesians.” Besides that, Paul had great admiration for women. They are sometimes mentioned in his salutations. And he spoke very highly of Timothy’s mother and grandmother.

I find it also interesting that you say that the women of Paul’s day were treated like slaves. While that may have been true of the culture, Paul says a great deal about how masters and slaves were to treat each other. One of the statements he makes to the masters is “God is no respecter of persons.”

Consider also what Peter had to say. He also said that wives are to be in subjection to their husbands (I Peter 3:1), but he goes back to Sara who called Abraham lord and says that women should follow her example.

To say that Jesus would not have said what Paul said is to say that Paul’s epistles are not part of the inspired word of God. If that were the case, then it would be easy enough to disagree with “a LOT” of what Paul wrote. The problem is that Peter believed Paul was writing under the inspiration of God. (II Peter 3:14-18)

As for two accounts of creation. That is simply a summary explanation followed by a more detailed explanation, a technique that is used frequently in the Bible. They are not in conflict. The first just doesn’t give as much detail, and in the first, like the second, male is created before female.

Concerning Adam not being deceived, I’ve got to admit that I’ve sometimes scratched my head at that one. The only way I see that it makes sense is to put the action on the serpent. You may recall that in Genesis 3:13 the woman’s statement was “The serpent beguilded me, and I ate.” Beguilded is another word for deceived. Both the man and the woman ate, and for that cause sin entered the world, but it was the serpent who deceived. He didn’t deceive Adam, but Eve. Of course, for that to have much meaning in what Paul wrote, that implies that women are more gullible than men, but I’m sure you won’t like that explanation.