The Expository Files


God: Blue or Pink?

Throughout the Old and New Testaments, whenever reference is made to God, a masculine pronoun is used (He, His, Him, etc.). Especially today, when the world is so gender conscious, often seeking to remove all gender distinctions as if both genders can do all things equally well, it goes against the tide to employ masculine pronouns with reference to God.

Some social and religious leaders and writers have attempted to adopt a more gender neutral way of referring to God. Using “He/She” is distracting and quite awkward. “It” certainly does not work and is inaccurate. The U.S. Council of Churches changed the word for Christ's relationship to God from “Son” to “Child.” That's O.K. as long as one does not have much faith in the Bible as God's revelation to begin with, but it just does not work for those of us who believe that all Scripture is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16,17). While it is true, as shall be explained, that the masculine pronouns referring to God are not for the purpose of establishing gender, we should be aware that to speak of Him differently than He has revealed Himself is a dangerous thing. In fact, it would not be the first time people have sought to exchange God as He has revealed Himself to be into something of our own choosing. God does care about that!

What God Has Revealed
We must not simply accept that which is politically correct at the expense of Biblical loyalty. Remember the Proverb: “There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25). Speculation and presuming what may be pleasing to God is unnecessary and dangerous. We can know for certain what pleases God in this regard without having to guess. If we just refer to God the way the Scriptures do, then we know we are right (1 Corinthians 2:10-14).

Remember; God is far beyond our abilities to grasp all that He is, so we must not give Him attributes we wish or think He might have, else we give Him attributes He neither possesses or desires (Isaiah 55:8,9; Psalm 50:21; Romans 1:21-23).

Of the proper names with which God has identified Himself to us, every single one of them are masculine. There is Yahweh (or, Jehovah); Elohim, Shaddai, Sebboath, Adonai; Kurios and Theos). There are no Scriptural exceptions to this.

Also, masculine metaphors are frequently applied to God, such as “Father” or “King”. Jesus likened God to a loving father. And Jesus, Himself, God incarnate, is the Son; Prophet, Shepherd, King, Priest and Bridegroom. However, it must be admitted that in describing His attributes (such as His ability to comfort) sometimes feminine metaphors are used (“like a mother”). But again, the pronouns (He, His, Him) are exclusively masculine when used referring to God outside of metaphors describing His attributes.

Those Feminine Metaphors
The Bible plentifully uses all kinds of metaphors. For example, Jesus is the Lamb of God (John 1:29). This is a metaphor. Jesus is not a literal Lamb. He is also the door (John 10:9). We understand that though a door is an “it” that referring to Jesus by the metaphor does not mean He is an “it”. Metaphors do not work that way.

In the Civil War, there was a confederate general called “Stonewall” Jackson. A stone wall is an “it” but that did not mean the general was an “it”. He was still a “he”. A single parent might be referred to as “both mother and father” to a child, but this does not tell us the gender of the parent.

Metaphors are not used to identify gender in everyday life and neither do they in the Bible (see Isaiah 42:14; 46:3; 49:15; 66:13 and Luke 15:8-10). We remember Jesus lamenting over Jerusalem and saying: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.” But Jesus was not here identifying Himself as female poultry. But that is the reasoning some use today who want to refer to God as “she”.

Gender is Biological, Not Spiritual
Gender is a strictly biological characteristic. God is not biological. He is not male. The use of masculine pronouns are not for the purpose of establishing a sexual identity. God is neither male nor female, God is God. He is eternal. He is our eternal spiritual uncreated Creator (Deuteronomy 33:27; Psalm 102:27; 1 Timothy 1:17). He is not of flesh and bones (Luke 24:39). God is not a man (Numbers 23:19).

So then, why does God so consistently describe Himself with masculine pronouns? And why are other masculine terms so often used, and masculine proper names always used? God has determined that “Fatherhood” best describes in human terms what He did in creation. He did not “give birth to” creation, but “begat it.” It was not created within Him, but He created it.

Honoring God By Accepting His Choice
“He” or “She”… Does it matter? Absolutely. Why? Because faith accepts the things of God as He gives them. It is entirely accurate for me to say that God comforts His children as a mother comforts her young ones, but not for me to refer to God as “she.” It is not man that chose to use masculine pronouns and names for God, but God has done so. It is a matter of Divine inspiration! It is God breathed! God has revealed Himself on the pages of Divine inspiration with these names He has chosen and with the use of masculine personal pronouns.

Something else here: God did not choose masculine pronouns for Himself because men were better than women. Men of faith understand that we are sinners in need of a Savior in exactly the same measure as women. Neither gender can save themselves and neither are without need for the grace of God. There is no room for pride that God chose “He” and “Him” to refer to Himself. This is not a commendation of the goodness or worthiness of men as opposed to women.

One final point: Jesus is our example. We are to follow Him as His disciples. We are to learn from Him how to please God. It is correct to address God and talk of Him the way Jesus did. It is right to go to God in prayer with the words, or ones similar to them: 'Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.” (Matthew 6:9; see also Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42; John 16:25-28).

The best defense I can make for referring to God with these names and pronouns has nothing to do with gender recognition but rather with inspired revelation. One of the greatest evils is to take God as He has revealed Himself and change it to something else. That is where idolatry came from, and the worship of sun, moon and stars. Far better to worship the true and living God (1 Thessalonians 1:9).


By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 13.2; February 2006