Is God a Man?

A number of years back, I was at a parish for mass on Sunday when I heard something that shocked me to the core: the priest, referring to the Holy Spirit, said “she.”

Gasp!

At this point I can’t remember when exactly this was or when I first heard it, but I remember being very confused, even offended by it. Who did this priest think he was? God is not a “she.” He’s just trying to be hip or go with the trends of the world. Stick to the faith father and stop pushing an agenda.

Over the years, I began to hear this more, both by priests within Church and by other faithful Christians in other contexts, and I began to question my feelings on the matter: why does this offend me? I remember someone asking me one time, “You believe that God is neither male nor female, right? God is above gender? Then why does it offend you when we use the analogous language of “she” but not when we use “he”?

Fair question. God is not masculine by nature. God is not an old guy with a beard. God is pure being, completeness, beyond any particulars or potencies. Sure, God is often depicted in Scripture in traditionally masculine terms (most notably as “father” by Jesus), but God is also described in traditionally feminine terms as well. We tend to latch on to one, but not the other.

So, what’s my response today? Am I an advocate for beginning prayer “In the name of the Mother…” or “following her word”? Not necessarily. But I am more conscious of the fact that our language is wildly insufficient. I fear, sometimes, that we forget that we are using an analogy and begin to deify the wrong aspects of God. I fear, sometimes, that the title “Father” has become less of a term of endearment and more of an idol. For what is an idol but making something that is not God into God? If we believe that God is beyond gender, then what does it mean when we insist that God only be referred to through one gender?

Interesting questions for sure, and hopefully something that we can continue to approach with humility in the future!

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7 Comments on “Is God a Man?

  1. If Jesus is God and calls upon The/His Father I think we leave well enough alone🙏

  2. Since God encompasses all things that are good especially the Virtues, then “She” is often used to refer to as “Lady Wisdom” in the Scripture. God indeed is our wisdom. This comes from ancient philosophy of the Greco Roman “Virtues” and were an ancient philosophy all their own before Christianity was cemented. God is indeed genderless but is referred to as He, male, a King as these are top dominance figures of authority. Even though Adam and Eve were equal and Eve taken from the side, not above or below, it says in a verse that woman will war against the authority of the husband after the fall. Even so, God is genderless but does use words painting as the utmost authority of all things. He isn’t a mother, yet says he longs to gather us as little chicks under his wings as a mother hen which is a motherly attribute. So He fills all our needs as the one Supreme being.

  3. I agree with Richard. Jesus called him Father and that is His choice of address as male even though he has no need of gender.

  4. Most religious beliefs asign images to their gods. The Old Testament (as far as i can recall) never gives us an image of God. Angels ? are found with human bodies. Christ probably gave us the first image, when He used ‘Our Father’ but that is New Testament.

    My personal image of God is not a tangible entity. He/She not being .physical does not have sexual identity.
    I feel that every living thing has a soul, and God creates the soul, that upon death we are absorbed back to God.

    Is this what inferred when “we are created in His image… not the body but the SOUL.

  5. I think there is a serious theological mistake underlying the appeal to calling the Holy Spirit “She.” The problem is confusing natural and revealed knowledge of God, and essential and personal names of God. It is certainly true that all our language, whether revealed or not, is limited by our cognitive capacities and modes of speech; everything we say of God is inadequate to express His essence. So it is entirely appropriate also to say God has no gender, because God does not have a body and is not an animal. But it is an entirely different thing to jump to the conclusion that we can speak of God however we wish, especially with gendered terms. This is because God revealed Himself to us in certain terms in Scripture, and those terms are personal terms. The confusion is treating them as essential rather than personal terms. In Scripture, God is referred to personally as “He,” as Christ referred to His own Father, and our Christian prayers are supposed to imitate those modes of address. Scripture also refers to God in feminine terms or descriptions when it talks of God essentially (“As a mother hen…”) but those are not personal modes of address. Nowhere do you find God spoken to as “Mother,” or “Daughter” or whatever. Our ability to understand what “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” mean in God is limited by our cognitive capacities, but those terms were employed by God (not by humans) and so it is part of theological faith to stick to those very terms. So I would think one should NOT encourage people to address God as “Mother,” as if that term were convertible with “Father,” etc.

    • Stmichael71’s statement is probably true to Catholic theology (I’m a layperson with only some study of our Faith) and is to be commended. Language does limit God since God is a Spirit i.e., genderless. However, Christ Himself referred to His Father as Abba. All Biblical scholars will agree. Why question the First Person of the Blessed Trinity’s Fatherly role when we have Christ’s words to guide us? To refer to the First Person in terms of “she”, is going against the Bible and many saintly theologians.

  6. For the unconverted or babes in faith, to call God “Mother” or “She” as an entity and not as an aspect of character or virtue, confuses His identify as an archtypical Goddess in the pagan sense of the word. It just isn’t who He is in a spiritual sense. There is a certain connotation of power, majesty, omnipotence, authority in the masculine descriptive. When I pray to be rescued I feel totally engulfed in the God of all powerful as in Psalm 18:13-19. That is the God I think of rescuing me. Nevertheless, this same masculine God has a tender side. But when power is needed, there is no substitute.

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