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Thread: Should We Use Gender-Inclusive Language For God?

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    Department Head Apologiaphoenix's Avatar
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    Should We Use Gender-Inclusive Language For God?

    Is this a good idea or not?

    The link can be found here.

    ----

    I recently got into a discussion on Facebook on if we should use gender-inclusive language for God. Would it really be a problem if we used more feminine language to describe God? Could it help men and women to better relate to God?

    The motive is good I am sure, but that does not mean that the action itself is. We know there are many ideas that are tried today that have excellent intentions, but they do not produce excellent results. What we would need to know is if there is any data that would help.*

    Fortunately, there is. This is in a book I am currently going through (Though I have paused to read Bart Ehrman's newest that came out today) called*Why Men Hate Going To Church. It is by David Murrow and I have found it to be incredibly eye-opening. For my own part, I can relate to much of what he says.*

    Murrow says that there are many men who believe in God and hold orthodox beliefs, but they just don't care for church. I can say there are many times I can be sitting in a service and my mind is more on a game I'd like to play when I get home. Why? Because in much of church there is nothing challenging and you often hear the same kinds of messages over and over which is pure application. There is little wrestling with the text, serious exegesis, going back to the historicity of the accounts, etc.*

    One exception to this was a church we attended in Knoxville called The Point. I remember still texting a friend of mine into apologetics during the service and saying "I can't believe I'm hearing a sermon on the Conquest in the Old Testament." Some of you might be aghast at texting during church. Don't be. ours encouraged it. They wanted us to let people know what we were doing and also to text in our questions which the preacher would answer afterward*and if it was a lengthy response, he would put up a video message of it during the week.*

    Murrow says that we have in many ways feminized the church. This is not to say that women are unimportant, but when women dominate a church, the church doesn't often get the benefits that men often bring, which is greater risk-taking and such. We become internally focused about the family of God instead of externally about the kingdom of God.

    Murrow has no thoughts of changing the Gospel. Absolutely not. Instead, remove the feminine focus. Some sayings that guys have a hard time with that he gives as examples are intimacy with God and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Intimacy in the Bible refers to sex. Men don't want to think about sex with God. We love to think about sex and to have it, but not that way. We also don't talk about personal relationships. If I called a male friend or they called me and one of us said we wanted to talk about our personal relationship, we would be asking if the other was gay.*

    Jesus does do many things that are not seen as masculine today, such as weeping openly, and no doubt some of our ideas about being a man are wrong, but not all. Jesus is not just the Lamb of God. He is the Lion of Judah. We have often turned Him into Mr. Rogers.

    Years ago I read*Five Views on the Historical Jesus.*One view presented was John Dominic Crossan's. He talked about how John the Baptist preached a fiery message and got arrested for it and put in jail and executed. Jesus saw this and decided to tone His down to a much greater message of love. Big problem with this theory. This Jesus is a mamby-pamby weakling. This Jesus is not a threat to anyone. This Jesus would never be crucified.

    Unfortunately, the data is in and men do not really like going to church when church seems too feminine. The solution again is not to change the Gospel, but to make it a place where men feel they belong. They need to be in a place where they're not ashamed to tell their fellow men where they are. Men need a place where they think masculinity is accepted and welcomed.

    How is this going to be helped by speaking of God as feminine? Men look to other men to be leaders and having God described as a woman won't help. Yes, I know there are some passages of Scripture that speak of God in some feminine terminology, but these are the exception. Most of it is masculine and needs to be emphasized.

    We can also be assured that when men start going to church, women will go more too. Women will go more because wives and children often follow the husbands. Not always, but generally if you want to win a family to Jesus, you start with the father. Women will also go if single to find a good and godly man as well at a church where real men are gathered.*

    While I can understand the desire to help people feel more comfortable at church, I can't support the idea of changing language for God. If God has described Himself in terminology that's largely male, maybe we should leave it at that and consider that God can describe Himself better than we can. A little idea can have disastrous results down the line.*

    In Christ,
    Nick Peters

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    Oops....... mossrose's Avatar
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    So much of the culture is creeping into the church that soon we shall be Laodicea........


    Securely anchored to the Rock amid every storm of trial, testing or tribulation.

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    tWebber NorrinRadd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Apologiaphoenix View Post
    Is this a good idea or not?

    The link can be found here.

    ----

    I recently got into a discussion on Facebook on if we should use gender-inclusive language for God. Would it really be a problem if we used more feminine language to describe God? Could it help men and women to better relate to God?

    The motive is good I am sure, but that does not mean that the action itself is. We know there are many ideas that are tried today that have excellent intentions, but they do not produce excellent results. What we would need to know is if there is any data that would help.*

    Fortunately, there is. This is in a book I am currently going through (Though I have paused to read Bart Ehrman's newest that came out today) called*Why Men Hate Going To Church. It is by David Murrow and I have found it to be incredibly eye-opening. For my own part, I can relate to much of what he says.*

    Murrow says that there are many men who believe in God and hold orthodox beliefs, but they just don't care for church. I can say there are many times I can be sitting in a service and my mind is more on a game I'd like to play when I get home. Why? Because in much of church there is nothing challenging and you often hear the same kinds of messages over and over which is pure application. There is little wrestling with the text, serious exegesis, going back to the historicity of the accounts, etc.*
    This has bothered me for decades -- basically, ever since I got past the place where everything about Christianity and the Bible was "new" to me. Many churches deal with it by having small-group Bible studies where that kind of in-depth study, ideally in a somewhat interactive format, can take place. That's great -- for people who have the time and interest to attend.

    I don't think this particular aspect is masculine vs. feminine.

    One exception to this was a church we attended in Knoxville called The Point. I remember still texting a friend of mine into apologetics during the service and saying "I can't believe I'm hearing a sermon on the Conquest in the Old Testament." Some of you might be aghast at texting during church. Don't be. ours encouraged it. They wanted us to let people know what we were doing and also to text in our questions which the preacher would answer afterward*and if it was a lengthy response, he would put up a video message of it during the week.*

    Murrow says that we have in many ways feminized the church. This is not to say that women are unimportant, but when women dominate a church, the church doesn't often get the benefits that men often bring, which is greater risk-taking and such. We become internally focused about the family of God instead of externally about the kingdom of God.
    This seems counter-intuitive, given the heavy predominance of male leadership in churches.


    Murrow has no thoughts of changing the Gospel. Absolutely not. Instead, remove the feminine focus. Some sayings that guys have a hard time with that he gives as examples are intimacy with God and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Intimacy in the Bible refers to sex.
    This is overstated to the point of being untrue.

    And no, "guys" do not have a problem with the idea of a "personal relationship" with Jesus, unless they are victims of some toxic version of masculinity. He is our Brother and Friend as well as our Lord, and we have the same Abba. These are important "personal relationships" we should embrace.

    Men don't want to think about sex with God. We love to think about sex and to have it, but not that way. We also don't talk about personal relationships. If I called a male friend or they called me and one of us said we wanted to talk about our personal relationship, we would be asking if the other was gay.*

    Jesus does do many things that are not seen as masculine today, such as weeping openly, and no doubt some of our ideas about being a man are wrong, but not all. Jesus is not just the Lamb of God. He is the Lion of Judah. We have often turned Him into Mr. Rogers.

    Years ago I read*Five Views on the Historical Jesus.*One view presented was John Dominic Crossan's. He talked about how John the Baptist preached a fiery message and got arrested for it and put in jail and executed. Jesus saw this and decided to tone His down to a much greater message of love. Big problem with this theory. This Jesus is a mamby-pamby weakling. This Jesus is not a threat to anyone. This Jesus would never be crucified.

    Unfortunately, the data is in and men do not really like going to church when church seems too feminine. The solution again is not to change the Gospel, but to make it a place where men feel they belong. They need to be in a place where they're not ashamed to tell their fellow men where they are. Men need a place where they think masculinity is accepted and welcomed.
    I don't know that I've ever been to a church that felt "feminine."


    How is this going to be helped by speaking of God as feminine? Men look to other men to be leaders and having God described as a woman won't help. Yes, I know there are some passages of Scripture that speak of God in some feminine terminology, but these are the exception. Most of it is masculine and needs to be emphasized.
    I don't look for leadership based on gender, and I find that whole perspective carnal and unbiblical.


    We can also be assured that when men start going to church, women will go more too. Women will go more because wives and children often follow the husbands. Not always, but generally if you want to win a family to Jesus, you start with the father. Women will also go if single to find a good and godly man as well at a church where real men are gathered.*
    This is just patriarchalist speculation in the absence of supporting data.


    While I can understand the desire to help people feel more comfortable at church, I can't support the idea of changing language for God. If God has described Himself in terminology that's largely male, maybe we should leave it at that and consider that God can describe Himself better than we can. A little idea can have disastrous results down the line.*

    In Christ,
    Nick Peters
    I agree that the large majority of the language used in Scripture to describe God is masculine, and we should honor that. But if we are really going to "wrestle with the text," we should also point out the feminine aspects when they occur -- e.g., the hen gathering her chicks, or the (admittedly more convoluted) linkage of the feminine "wisdom" with the Word, and thus (in John) Jesus.
    Geislerminian Antinomian Kenotic Charispneumaticostal Gender Mutualist-Egalitarian.

    "Everybody is somebody's heretic."

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    Evolution is God's ID rogue06's Avatar
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    There's been a discussion about that going on this month in the thread Don't Call God "He..."

    I'm always still in trouble again

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    tWebber Faber's Avatar
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    There doesn't seem to be much of an effort to use gender-inclusive terminology for Satan.

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    tWebber Christianbookworm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Faber View Post
    There doesn't seem to be much of an effort to use gender-inclusive terminology for Satan.
    No one likes or cares about that guy! And spirits don't have a biological gender, so they can be what they want to be called. Don't know if angels go by he or not. Angels can take the form of a young man, so maybe 'he' is a generic pronoun?
    If it weren't for the Resurrection of Jesus, we'd all be in DEEP TROUBLE!

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    Professor Zymologist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Faber View Post
    There doesn't seem to be much of an effort to use gender-inclusive terminology for Satan.
    Well you know what they say...the devil, she's in the details.
    Hofstadter's Law: It will always take longer than you expect, even if you take into account Hofstadter's Law.

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    tWebber Faber's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zymologist View Post
    Well you know what they say...the devil, she's in the details.
    Hillary Clinton.jpg

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    tWebber
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    I follow my church's approach (PCUSA). Jesus is a male, so male pronouns are appropriate for him. Jesus called God father, so we use that language. We also try to use other images to the extent we can. In practice father tends to be more common because it's that way in Scripture and our language in worship tends to be based on Scripture. We try to avoid using "he" with God when it's not specifically Jesus, and we translate Biblical references that include everyone in a gender-neutral way.

    We don't go to extremes like changing all hymns that call God father. We baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

    I very much doubt that this approach would affect men's relationship with God. Since this is the direction language is going anyway, probably most people don't even notice it.

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    tWebber tabibito's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hedrick View Post
    I follow my church's approach (PCUSA). Jesus is a male, so male pronouns are appropriate for him. Jesus called God father, so we use that language. We also try to use other images to the extent we can. In practice father tends to be more common because it's that way in Scripture and our language in worship tends to be based on Scripture. We try to avoid using "he" with God when it's not specifically Jesus,
    Contrary to the political misinformation, "he" is only a gender specific pronoun when it refers to a specifically masculine antecedent - otherwise it is gender neutral. "He" dates to Old English and had continued unchanged through the centuries until uneducated persons with axes to grind got altogether too much press during the 1970s. The reason that "he" was the Old English term equally applicable to male and female arises from "man" and "woman" being masculine nouns in that language. "She," by contrast is not so ancient a word (technically) and always had been specifically feminine.

    and we translate Biblical references that include everyone in a gender-neutral way.
    Has anyone considered the possibility that gender specific terms, such as "all believers are sons of God," might JUST be more appropriate than gender neutral language? In that particular example, "sons and daughters" or "children" doesn't eliminate inequality. If (as we are repeatedly assured is the case) sons are considered superior to daughters, neither "sons and daughters" nor "children" eliminates the option of sons being superior to daughters. If a woman is a "son of God" there is no basis for assuming any superiority of male over female.

    Then there is the neutering of such passages as "any man aspiring to be an elder ... must be the husband of one wife." The author is referring to men who want to be elders - the passage has nothing to say about women who want to be elders. So we emasculate (sorry, "neuter") the language to what avail? (aside from having to dream up a whole swathe of invalid excuses for why the neutered passage remains a faithful translation.)

    I very much doubt that this approach would affect men's relationship with God.
    Interesting phrasing.
    Since this is the direction language is going anyway, probably most people don't even notice it.
    At one time, "men's relationship" would automatically have been read as meaning "people's relationship" - now, it must be considered ambiguous, particularly if it is stated by an advocate of "gender neutral" language.
    Last edited by tabibito; 02-14-2018 at 04:39 AM.
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