God’s Masculine Names: Misogyny, or Mystagogy?

Why is God a he, not a she or an it? Could Jesus have been a woman? What if the Lord’s Prayer began not with “Our Father,” but with “Our Mother”? Reading modern commentaries, you’d think a female goddess invited Sarah out under the stars and promised she would be the mother of a great nation … but then Abraham hit her over the head with a club and said, “I’m the man of the house! It’s my covenant now!” and the Judeo-Christian God has been known by the masculine pronoun he ever since. The only reason the Second Person of the Trinity became incarnate of the Virgin Mary as a man was to capitulate to this misogynistic mishap.

Whether it’s male “headship,” birth control, or the question of ordaining women—there are so many controversies where the Church is accused of sexism, even misogyny. But every controversy eventually comes back to our basic presuppositions about the nature of God’s triune self-disclosure as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19; John 14:26; 15:26). If God is “Spirit” (John 4:24), why does God reveal himself in masculine terms? Why is God a “he” and not a “she” or an “it”?  My experience has been that Christians receive the Bible’s masculine names for God with skepticism, if they receive them at all. The Trinity might be a paradox, but what the Bible teaches about God and gender seems murky and frightening.

Do we have to bow before all those texts that refer to God in masculine terms mindlessly and with resentment, or can we affirm them happily? I would like to suggest to you that God is a he, and that this is a cause of joy. The maleness of Jesus and the masculinity of Jesus’ name for God—“Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”—is not a misogynistic mind-game but mystagogy, an initiation into the mysteries of the most adorable Trinity.

Open your Bible to the pages where Jesus Christ is hanging on a bloody cross, asking this simple question: is Jesus on a power trip, or a love trip? Behold the God-Man who takes away the sins of the world. This is not misogyny; this is mystagogy. This is the story of God who is love (1 John 4:8).

The Son Loves His Father
Three key steps can help us appreciate why God reveals himself in masculine terms.

First, we start with Jesus. “No one comes to the Father except through me…. Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:6, 9).

As the eternal Son of the Father now incarnate of the Virgin Mary, Jesus wants to make the Father known to us: “Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known” (John 17:25-26). It was because the Father loved the world so much that he sent his only Son into the world so that whoever believes in him might have everlasting life (John 3:16). It was for the Father’s glory that Jesus was obedient unto death: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so that your Son may glorify you” (John 17:1). Jesus loves the Father (John 14:31).

We understand the Father through the Son, who loves the Father, obeys the Father, and was sent by the Father to us to reveal the Father to us—and all for the Father’s ultimate praise.

Second, we trust words. God uses words to make himself known. Although words do not describe God in his entirety, we can trust words to describe him accurately.

Have you ever screwed in a light bulb? It’s a great way to see electricity without having to see all of it. If you could see raw electricity, you’d need sunglasses and rubber gloves. The raw light. The unmediated power. It would zap you dead. But you can handle a light bulb. Divinity is beyond the wattage of language. But language is a viable way to see divinity without dying. The Light has shone in the darkness. The Word has spoken. So why is it that when we talk about God, we assume rolling blackouts ought to darken our brains?

Words are a great way to see God without seeing all of God. When Jesus calls God “Father,” he is using God’s words for God. “The words I say to you are not my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work” (John 14:10). The Bible only uses words “breathed out” by God (2 Tim. 3:16). When Paul talks of God, he speaks “words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:12-13). And the words the Spirit uses to describe God are: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

So “Father” is not a metaphor. We do not baptize people into the metaphor of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus commands us to baptize “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). God by any other name would not be God.

These are not just words. These are God’s words, God’s words for God. We did not name God. So we do not get to change the words God uses to make himself known to us. “For us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist” (1 Cor. 8:6).

Third, we admit it’s a mystery. Even though God the Father does not have male body parts, he is still supremely Father. Although “God is Spirit” (John 4:24), he is “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:3). He would be Father even if he never created the world. His Fatherhood is not a borrowed idea from his creation. It is essential to his eternal Person, and that’s a mystery.

Gerard Manley Hopkins notices that by mystery most people mean an “interesting uncertainty,” but for the Christian, a mystery means an “incomprehensible certainty.” God’s Fatherhood is a mystery that hides more than it reveals, but it still reveals a lot. His Fatherhood communicates his self-existence, independence, self-sufficiency, eternality, and unchanging character. There is no one like him. He is in a class all by himself. God is Father in his absolute uniqueness. Everything else belongs to creation. He alone creates. All else begins. He alone always was. He alone is self-sufficient. All else depends on him.

And this is why he is not “Mother.” Motherhood depends on an outside source to conceive. In order to be fruitful, a woman’s body is passive in its receptivity of an outside action. But the processions of the Trinity need no outside source. God the Father does not “give birth” to the God the Son. He does not receive seed from some external spring into himself. He generates the Son from within the processions of the Trinity.

Jesus says we have one true Father in Heaven (Matt. 23:9). God is not like a human father. If that were the case, his Fatherhood would get more real if he imitated your dad. But it’s the other way around. Our dads get more real when they imitate God. From eternity, God alone possesses the essential attributes of Fatherhood.

So “Father” is not a metaphor because God is not firstly our Father: he is first and foremost the “Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Col. 1:3). Paul says all paternity in heaven and on earth comes from God: “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom all fatherhood (patria) in heaven and on earth derives its name” (Eph. 3:14-15). God’s Fatherhood is not an “anthropomorphic expression.” God is the deeper, prior reality to all earthly fathers. God is first and foremost “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:3; John 3:35; Mark 1:11). So God’s Fatherhood is not a metaphor, but our human fathers are.

Have you ever heard a cell phone ringtone of your favorite song? The ringtone is simpler, but it’s still the song. You wouldn’t recognize it if it wasn’t. Our human fathers are like a cell phone ringtone of the real song, which is God the Father. God might not have physical parts, like a man, but God’s Fatherhood is “masculine” enough for the author of Hebrews to say that Jesus is “the exact imprint of [God’s] nature” (Heb. 1:2-3). As a male human being Jesus was still “in the form of God” (Phil. 2:6). When we see the new Adam and Last Man, we see the glory of the Father (John 10:38), and the image of the Father, “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15).

We Can Love Our Father
Why is it important to be stunned by the Fatherhood of God? Why are God’s masculine names not the byproduct of a misogynistic culture but mystagogy? God’s Fatherhood is the great ground of the Gospel. It is the foundation of his deity, the means of the Son and the Holy Spirit, who both proceed from the Father.

God is not a blob somewhere in the sky. God is not simply the Great Spirit, the Gitchi Manitou, the First Mover, the Ultimate Force.  He has a name. He is personal. And he invites us to personally know him. “Those who know your name put their trust in you” (Ps. 9:10). To know God’s name is to know … God. And his name is Abba, Father. “Father” is God’s name for God.

This is not misogyny.

This is mytagogy.

In Christ, we can call God “our Father who art in Heaven” (Matt. 6:9).“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are … Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:1). This is the love story that’s been coming for you since the very beginning:

But when the time had fully come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son an heir (Gal. 4:4-7; cf. Rom. 8:15-16).

Jesus died for you so that he might live in you. He doesn’t just put a fresh coat of paint over your old nature. He imparts an entirely new nature—one that is completely united with his. Even if you are a woman, you are a “son in the Son” because you are participating in the eternal Son’s Sonship. You’ve been totally renovated, re-made, “born again.”

God is not a dead white bigot from the late Bronze Age. This is the audacity of Christianity: in the Son, the Holy Spirit fills our hearts with a prayer to the God we can know as Father. In so many ways and in so many settings we have relegated the Fatherhood of God to just another choice in the cafeteria line of world religions—mother goddesses, blob gods without names, Allah instead of Abba. But God is committed with all his infinite and eternal might to display his Fatherhood and to preserve the honor of his name. The audacity of Christianity is that we can know God’s name.

What an incalculable gift! To call God by name? To call him our Abba? As sons in the Son, we are made heirs of God’s Kingdom and the hope of everlasting enjoyment of God (John 14:2-3; Tit. 3:5-7)! The eternal Son calls us “brethren” (Heb. 2:11-17). By grace, we are one family in the household of God (1 Tim. 3:15). It is all grace that we may say, as the Son to the Father, Our Father who art in Heaven.

I, too, have been afraid biblical sexuality would turn out to be misogynistic and disgusting. But when I turn the pages of the Bible, I catch a glimpse of eternity. I am invited to savor the aroma of the God who has revealed himself as love (1 John 4:8). Although no human words describe God entirely, the words given to us by the Lord are the most adequate and loving that can be found. When we discuss male “headship,” birth control, the masculinity of the priestly office, we must keep this basic presupposition in the back of our minds: the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit—all of it is love.

Knowing God as “Father” and “Son” is not the result of a misogynistic sub-culture. God’s invitation to call him Father is the fresh invitation your soul is looking for. Whatever security or happiness you have ever known elsewhere—it is nothing compared to the utter freedom of knowing God as Father. For our Father is gracious hearted and bending low: “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).

Editor’s note: The image above is a detail of “God Almighty,” the altarpiece in the Ghent cathedral, painted by Jan van Eyck in 1426-27.

Tyler Blanski

By

Tyler Blanski, a Catholic convert, is the author of When Donkeys Talk: Rediscovering the Mystery and Wonder of Christianity (Zondervan, 2012) and Mud & Poetry: Love, Sex, and the Sacred (Upper Room Books, 2010). www.holyrenaissance.com

  • Thomas

    I enjoyed reading this, Tyler.

    The Trinity is a difficult subject, and I still don’t really understand when people say Godhead as opposed to God. My guess is that Godhead refers to the Trinity, whereas God is the Father in the Blessed Trinity.

    I also enjoyed reading Bishop Sheen’s “Three To Get Married” a few years ago. This gave me my first real introduction to the Blessed Trinity, the Triune God. It also made me realize just how futile any male-female relationship can be without the third and most important piece, or leg of the stool: the Trinity. For some men and women, they get along fine without this focus on the Trinity. For me, any prospective she, and I, must focus on God in order to properly focus on each other.

    I am afraid I’m a bit too embarrassed to go deeper into this, but my hat goes off to anyone who can write so clearly on this mystery.

    • fredx2

      I agree – I ran across a copy of “Three To Get Married” and found it to be excellent. However, today, the title leads people to believe it is about polygamy.

      • Thomas

        Funny.
        Some Catholics, sadly, think Bishop Sheen is outdated. Sad.

    • musicacre

      I think that many things can go awry in a marriage without a conscious relationship with the Trinity, just one of those problems -we were reminded of by an excellent priest, Fr. Ryland- is that idolatry can set in and actually is what destroys a lot of less-grounded marriages. How is that? It made sense when he explained it; the husband and wife may focus on each other to the point of each being the center of their universe….and leaving God out. No one can fulfill that role of a God for very long and eventually disappointment and bitterness takes the place of over-sentimentality. Only God can fulfill our biggest yearnings, and to put that on a human predicts a bad ending.

      • Thomas

        What was it that Dante said about Beatrice?
        Her eyes are on God, and mine are on her.
        Something like that. I think if mine and hers are both on God, we will have a permanent bond. Sometimes people get caught up in the dogma part of morality, which is all true, but fail to explain the practical effects of morality in bringing people into a solid union. I tell my kids the low down dirty side of sin and how it corrupts our relationships. Kids get it more than if I said, “Well, it’s against God and the Church.”

        • musicacre

          I think that’s a good strategy, and with hindsight I also think that each child perceives differently. What works for one often doesn’t for the next. I think if I had to raise my 6 again I would use a lot more classic literature…it pretty much contains everything.

  • This is an incredible and exhilarating read!

  • The mistake that is made, and not at all innocent, is to project the human onto God. It should always be the other way round: God who IS and man whom he makes in his image and likeness. God (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) making man (male and female) in his own image and likeness.

    • Amen!

      • Aloha @tylerblanski:disqus
        Another great article and thank you! May God bless you and all near and dear to you and may He bless His Work at your hands.

  • Mike Smith

    I liked this article, but this section is semi-questionable:

    “And this is why he is not “Mother.” Motherhood depends on an outside source to conceive. In order to be fruitful, a woman’s body is passive in its receptivity of an outside action. But the processions of the Trinity need no outside source. God the Father does not “give birth” to the God the Son. He does not receive seed from some external spring into himself. He generates the Son from within the processions of the Trinity.”

    Truthfully, Fatherhood depends on an outside source to conceive as well. Women are not just incubators. They are a full half of the equation and only appear passive in their receptivity because their procreative function at the level of conception is not tied to such a pysically visible action. To say Motherhood relies on Fatherhood, but Fatherhood is somehow self-reliant, doesn’t make sense to me.

    In order for any human to be fruitful, they depend on the opposite sex to conceive. So, not necessarily arguing with you, but I think that might not be the greatest example for defining God’s Fatherhood.

    • jammin

      Yes, and there is a lot that the female body does to take up, nourish and guide the sperm to the fallopian tube… where the egg and sperm approach each other. The ancient and erroneous assumption was that the woman merely acted as soil and the man provided the seed, because we couldn’t see the female body working. It scares me how many times I still see this myth today.

      • Jammin, thank you so much for reflecting on the active role the woman’s body plays in procreation. I would like, however, to defend the symbolism of the woman’s body as “soil,” and do not see it, as you say, as an “ancient and erroneous assumption” and “myth.”

        It is not a myth or assumption: it is a symbol. Symbolically, the woman is the place, the “soil,” of growth. Symbolically, the man is the sower. Even if the woman is the psycho-sexual dominant partner, her ovum is fertilized by a male seed.

        Anglican priest Fr. Capon once observed that a mother does do not “make” a home; a mother IS home. He said, beautifully, that a mother is “geography incarnate.”

        Now, obviously “soil” does a great deal to protect and provide for the seed. But symbolically, soil is receptive, passive, nurturing, fruitful, rich. I’m thinking on the realm of allegory and symbol. I’m reminded of—quite apart from his life and beliefs!—Pablo Neruda’s “Body of a Woman” where he writes:

        “Body of a woman, white hills, white thighs,
        you look like a world, lying in surrender.
        My rough peasant’s body digs in you
        and makes the son leap from the depth of the earth…”

        I hope my celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s active role in conceiving the eternal Son of God in her womb in my article for the Catholic Exchange will help shed light on the woman’s body as “soil:” http://catholicexchange.com/marys-invitation-god-bearing-life

        On a different but related note, symbols—especially those signifying God’s self-disclosure as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—are always bigger than we are. We are given them and must respond to them, as to any gift, with love and reflection. God has set his seal on certain symbols, and male-and-female creation is one such symbol. Human sexuality is a parable of heaven.

        Ultimately, the polarity of the sexes are a symbol, a sacrament, an efficacious sign of Christ and his Church. May we all be, like the ever virgin Mary, rich soil for the seed of God to take root and grow! Mary pray for us!

        • Mike Smith

          The soil/seed analogy is highly ancient and erroneous, and I think it is even poor symbolism based on a medieval understanding of biology.

          The seed is the life. It is the thing that grows into a new plant.
          The soil only nourishes and protects. It doesn’t provide life, it feeds it. It is, as you say, the location.

          Soil is to plant life as food is to animals. The food plays no role in reproduction other than nourishment. In reality, women aren’t the soil. The womb is the soil, but the womb is not the woman, only inside the woman. The woman and man both have half of the seed, and together they sow. Symbolizing the man only as the sower is again overemphasizing the male role and putting way too much emphasis on the role of the sex act in procreation.

          • Obviously, a woman is not a flower pot. But,
            in a way, babies are like flowers.

            • Mike Smith

              Oh, I agree. But seeds are the beginning of life. Soil is lifeless. Saying the man is the sower and the woman is the soil is placing the entire generation of life within the realm of the man and implying the woman only protects and nourishes.

              It quite literally beckons me to the ancient understanding of human biology where the entirety of life was placed in the male reproductive function through the act of intercourse. Most of our language still revolves around that (beget being a perfect example). And the seed/soil metaphor directly ties into that ancient understanding and overemphasis on the male function.

              Sower/soil I can see as a good metaphor for the sex act. Men quite literally release something from their body into the woman. But to use it as a metaphor for the creation of life falls far short. It would only make sense if what the sower sowed combined with something in the soil to create the seed, and certainly not having the seed already existing before it got to the soil.

              • “since feeling is first
                who pays any attention
                to the syntax of things
                will never wholly kiss you;

                wholly to be a fool
                while Spring is in the world

                my blood approves,
                and kisses are a far better fate
                than wisdom
                lady i swear by all FLOWERS. Don’t cry
                –the best gesture of my brain is less than
                your eyelids’ flutter which says

                we are for each other: then
                laugh, leaning back in my arms
                for life’s not a paragraph

                And death i think is no parenthesis”
                —E.E. Cummings

    • Richard A Imgrund

      The important conceptual element differentiating ‘fatherhood’ from ‘motherhood’ is that fatherhood involves generation outside of oneself, and motherhood involves generation within oneself in a manner of receptivity. So the Father begets the Son, Who is not the same as Himself, and the Spirit proceeds from them, Who is not the same as either the Father or the Son. Creation receives existence from God, Who is different from it. Adopting mother-language for the Godhead, we could not swiftly avoid pantheism.

      • Mike Smith

        Don’t mistake what I said as somehow arguing for feminine language to describe God, which is not my intention. The problems I had were with the language used in the article, namely 1.) that reproduction on the part of the woman is “passive” and 2.) the implication that the woman’s part in reproduction is dependent upon outside action, but fatherhood is not dependent on anything, i.e. man is the actor conducting the action, and the woman is nothing but a receiver of said action.

        Both men and women are “passive” in terms of reproduction because neither can reproduce without the other. One does not simply allow some action to occur to them. Both have very active responses. While the male action in reproduction is obvious and visible, the female is also active in the process, but it is just not as visible. Diminishing the woman’s role in the procreative function is kind of misogynistic, and it detracts from the larger argument about how God’s masculine role is not.

        That being said, to piggyback off a below comment, projecting human sexual reproductive functions onto God to explain his masculinity is probably not the best way to describe his masculinity. Oddly enough, there is no discussion in the article about the feminine pronouns we use for the Church (the bride of Christ) and its relationship to God. And I doubt we have to explain the Church in terms of wombs and reproduction in order to assert or explain the use of feminine pronouns.

        • Richard A Imgrund

          You were, I think overly distracted by the word “passive”, when the operative concept was “receptivity”. The father begets outside himself; the mother conceives within herself. The father gives something of himself; the mother receives what the father gives so as to conceive.
          Our Savior spoke a momentous truth when He told us to “call no man on earth your father; you have one Father, the one in Heaven.” Only God is a father, properly speaking; human fathers are only so by analogy in some way to God. We don’t “project human sexual reproductive functions onto God to explain His masculinity.” God bestowed human sexual reproductive functions on us so that we could better understand His fatherhood.

          • Mike Smith

            You see, you claim I’m distracted by what is ostensibly a poor word choice, but then go and use words that are kind of proving my point. When you are talking about giving and receiving, it is ultimately implying that the one party (the woman) did not have something to start with but rather has to get it from someone else.
            The truth is that the sexual act is entirely cooperative. Each party GIVES to the act of procreation. Each party is active. Each party is giving of themselves, and neither party by themselves has the whole. Biologically, each is quite literally giving 50% of themselves. The notion of men giving and women receiving is quite literally hung up on the sex act itself and not really dealing with the true nature of procreation.

            • Interested

              You seem to be only seeing this through a utilitarian type lens. Stating the the women is receptive does not negate the physiology involved at all.

              • Mike Smith

                I’m actually arguing against a utilitarian type lens and I think that some of the language being used is being overly utilitarian.

                Receptive can mean something completely different depending on the actor(s), the receiver, and which action you are actually looking at. It may not negate physiology, but it can certainly overemphasize one function over the other. The language is the article and the insinuations (motherhood “depends” on action, fatherhood “generates”, and later discussion of giving/receiving) are seemingly focused purely on the action of intercourse, which is a very utilitarian way of looking at procreation and certainly not looking at it through the lens of the entire process.
                If we are just looking at sperm via intercourse, sure, the man gives it and the woman receives it. There is, however, a third party at the end of all of this: the new life being generated. And from the perspective of the new life being generated, the end result of the entirety of all of the actions in the process, the woman “gives” just as much as the man does, and the new life is really the one being receptive to the action of the mother and father (both of which would not have that title if the new life had not been generated and quite literally receiving 50% of itself from each of the other two parties).

                That’s really a long-winded way of saying that over-emphasizing the male role in a new life is venturing down the path of being misogynistic, so using that overemphasis in trying to explai nthe masculine nature of God is seemingly problematic to me.

    • I share your concern about the word “passive” Mike, and thank you for sharing. I agree with you, as you say below, that in reproduction both men hand women “have very active responses.”

      In lieu of “active-passive” language to describe God’s Fatherhood, perhaps I should have used “subject-object” language. The climax of male-and-female creation is the Incarnation, where “the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary.” In this sentence, the third person of the most adorable Trinity is the subject, and Mary is the direct object. But “subject-object” language is also clunky.

      Now, the Incarnation was entirely a divine work, but I think we would agree that it involved the real co-operation of a human mother. In Christ’s conception, seen from one angle, God was active and Mary was, by grace, “passive.” Yet, seen from another angle, Mary was not merely “passive,” for grace does not abolish the freedom of human will.

      Luther should not have said, “Mary does not nothing, God does (all).” I agree with St. Augustine: “God who created thee without thyself will not save thee without thyself.” So Mary played an “active” part in the incarnation by her faith and “Yes!” to God. But God does the ultimate work.

      Regarding my choice of the word “passive” more directly, the female ovum is fertilized by a male seed. Even if the woman is the psycho-sexually dominant partner, this biologically involves female “passivity.” Likewise, in the incarnation, the initiative came from the “outside”—from God.

      Perhaps my new piece for Ethika Politika will complement what I’ve written here? http://ethikapolitika.org/2014/05/07/male-female-perfect-pairing/

      Thank you so much for such a thoughtful response, and God bless.

      • Mike Smith

        I greatly appreciate your response, Tyler.
        I guess my confusion revolves around a substance/accidents philisophical issue. Fatherhood can have social/relationship connotations (substance) and purely biological ones (accidents). I can completely agree that the nature of the virgin birth has Mary in a passive, receptive role. She surely completes no action upon God, and to use your words, “God does the ultimate work.”

        So, to try and understand that as defining his masculinity and then imparting that masculinity to humans, it implies that, through sexual reproduction, the human father “does the utlimate work.” And I disagree with that, because on a purely human relational level, procreation is an entirely equal endeavor and neither party “does the ultimate work” in the creation of a new life. So to paste the virgin birth over our own relationship we are imparting an overemphasis on the human father.

        • A husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church, true; but it does not follow that a husband IS to a wife as Christ IS to the church—that is, as Creator to creature.

          With some provisos, I agree with you Mike. Thank you for sharing!

          My goal in writing this article was to enjoy and to worship God as “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” better. The writing of it was an act of praise, a prolonged meditation. Why has God revealed himself in no uncertain terms as Father, and not Mother? In what ways is God’s Fatherhood essential to his Person? How can we together savor and share the beauty of the most adorable Trinity?

  • tamsin

    Abba not Allah not …
    Thanks for the great view!

  • Inquisitor

    You said “What an incalculable gift! To call God by name?”

    Great line. I was hoping you would progress that thought and actually tell us what name Jesus actually used when he called his name? Do you know?

    • Jesus’ name for God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19; John 14:26; 15:26).

  • hombre111

    Welcome to the Church. I would like to point out that, in the Old Testament, there are some feminine images for God. And in Hebrew, Ruah, the word we translate as “Holy Spirit,” is feminine. So is Shekinah, the mysterious divine presence first mentioned in Exodus.

    • Objectivetruth

      Ruah= feminine.

      Actually, in the New Testament and the Church’s definition, no. For example:

      From the Nicene Creed:

      “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
      who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
      With the Father and the Son, HE is worshiped and glorified.”

      The Holy Spirit is Mary’s spouse.

      And to correct your error further, “ruah” actually translates as “wind” or “breathe.”

      • Objectivetruth

        …excuse me….not “outlets”, “apostles”…..typo…..

      • hombre111

        You make a good point about the history of the word, which unfolded in its cultural context. I don’t think your comment about parakletos is really relevant because, by then, the feminine “breath” in Hebrew had vanished into the neuter “pneuma,” in Greek. “Spirit, of course, is simply the repetition of the sound of the Latin word “spiritus,” which literally means “breathing, breath, exhalation, a sigh, the breath of life, life, inspiration.” (Casell’s Latin-English Dictionary). Notice the verb-like reality, which is lost when we simply bring forward the sound “Spirit,” but not the meaning. We do a lot of this. For instance, “Messiah, Christ, the Anointed One.” We would understand more clearly if we simply said, “Jesus, the Anointed One,” instead of Jesus Christ. Anointed, of course, by the Spirit. Anointed as the New David.

        As you know, I am a faithful disciple of Don Gelpi, S.J., America’s Thomas Aquinas who turned to American philosophy to explicate Christian beliefs. In his “The Divine Mother,” he has a long discussion about ruah, following it through the Old Testament. He then drops the term “Holy Spirit” in favor of the “Divine Breath,” a word that is more of a verb than a noun. He then stresses the word as feminine and, situating the Divine Breath within the Trinity, calls the Breath the Mind of God.

    • Objectivetruth

      Also, hombre….

      The gender of a word does not make that thing, person or place either male or female. It is simply a grammatical “pointer”. ALL nouns in Hebrew have a masculine or feminine gender. For instance, the word “altar” is masculine. That does not mean all altars are male.

      • hombre111

        Excellent. Studied Greek instead of Hebrew, so I take your word for it. The same is true with all the inflected languages I have studied. (Latin, Greek, Italian, Spanish). In Spanish, which I speak fluently, there is some kind of logical connection. For instance, tree (arbol) is masculine. Its fruit, (manzana, or apple) is feminine. It is interesting to follow the word “spirit, or breath). In Hebrew, it is ruah, feminine. In Greek, it becomes pneuma, neuter. In Latin, it becomes spiritus, masculine. It is interesting to see what happens to sophia, in the book of Wisdom. Feminine, with God at the beginning. Sapientia in Latin. Feminine. Neuter in English.

  • H. Reed Armstrong

    The problem arises in part due to the English language use of male and female in regard to individual reproductive capacity. In Greek, Latin, French, Spanish and most other languages the whole cosmos is divided into male and female according to given characteristics, For example, in Spanish God is masculine “El Creador” or active principle, and Creation is feminine “La Creacion,” or passive principle. In Latin, the Indo-European “Ma” (Feminine earth principle) underlies such feminine words, as Von Balthasar pointed out, “Mater” (Mother) “Materia” (matter) “Matrix” (womb) and of course “Maria” (Mary) who received the “Divine Word” in her womb.

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  • DJ1960

    “We are the
    objects of undying love on the part of God. We know: he has always his eyes open
    on us, even when it seems to be dark. God is our father; even more God is our
    mother.” Pope John Paul I, September 10, 1978

  • cestusdei

    God is Father and Jesus the Son of God uses the masculine in reference to Him. Radical feminism is simply heresy.

  • OmegaPaladin

    Here’s an interesting curveball – if maleness is an inherent element in God, how exactly does the feminine remain in the image of God? From what pattern did motherhood arise – don’t try to claim the Virgin Mary, she did not exist from the beginning of the world – she herself had a mother.

  • Dwight Lindley

    Great article, Tyler, and congratulations on making your way to the RCC! If you’re ever passing through Hillsdale again, give us a holler.

  • Steve B

    This article complicates the issue. The simple answer to why God is portrayed as a male figure is that men wrote the bible in a male dominated ancient world. Not one book of the bible was written by a woman and until modern times there was rarely any level of equality between men and women. Therefore God had to be a male figure. Catholicism holds the old status quo of the traditional family with the father as the leader/provider and the mother subservient. This traditional mindset is the same mindset used to continue the policy of not ordaining women. It is not the Catechism of the Catholic Church but rather the upholding of an ancient society structure by a non-progressive institution that maintains misogyny in the Church.

  • Couple of observations:

    1. Gender belongs to created beings, not spirit beings. God is neither male nor female – however we envisage Him as Father, that must not be forgotten.

    2. Don’t perpetuate common Western ignorance about Allah. It means God in Arabic. Christian Arabs pray to Allah, and describe Jesus as the Son of Allah.

  • adevar@hotmail.com

    On the catholic calendar there are more men saints than women saints.
    Is it because God is a man , and not a woman?

    • Interested

      Which calender?

      • adevar@hotmail.com

        Any calendar : on-line or printed. Just count for any one month, men versus women.

        • Interested

          You do know there is a universal calender and then particular calendars. I point this out as your charges are juvenile and silly.

  • adevar@hotmail.com

    Up to mid 1970s, almost all women saints in the catholic calendar, were called “virgin”.
    But no man saint was called “virgin”.
    Is it a requirement for men, in order to become saints, not to be virgin?

    • Interested

      Can you get your facts correct?

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