Objections to God’s Masculinity: Part Four

Last Updated on Wednesday, 4 January 2012 03:24 Written by Father Bill Wednesday, 4 January 2012 03:24

masculinity god BibleContinuing to examine objections to the idea that God is masculine, we come to this:

Yes, we find the Bible speaking of God in all sorts of ways that seem to predicate masculinity to him. However, we cannot take these predications as if they were literally true. They are simply a more elaborate version of a common figure of speech known as anthropomorphism – speaking of God as if he were human (or male). The Bible speaks of God as if He had bodily parts such as an arm, or or hands, or fingers, when we know that God is a bodiless Spirit.

The unknown author of Psalm 94, however, construes the relationship of Creator and creature in a different way:

He who planted the ear, shall He not hear?
He who formed the eye, shall He not see?”

God’s hearing is positively asserted here, and that very capacity – God’s actual hearing – underlies His creation of human hearing. That men see is evidence for God’s seeing, for He created men’s eyes. One could easily extend the Psalmist’s statements to the entire human body. If we did so and then summarized the result, we could say that man is the image of God!

“Image” in Genesis 1 is the Hebrew tzelem, the ordinary term for a statue. Nebuchadnezzar erects a golden tzelem of himself [the Aramaic equivalent of the Hebrew term] in the Plain of Dura. There is no question in either Daniel 3 or Genesis 1 that the respective images fail to precisely, accurately, and fully replicate those whose images they are. On the other hand, there is no doubt that either image corresponds to the one whose image it is.

The golden tzelem is, so to speak, Nebuchadnezzaroid. Nebuchadnezzar is the original, the archetypal schema, the prior reality which determines the shape of the image of himself which Nebuchadnezzar creates, such that the statue on the Plain of Dura is an image of Nebuchadnezzar instead of an image of Abdul the Beer Brewer down on the banks of the Euphrates.

To say that God’s arm or God’s hand or God’s finger are anthropomorphisms is, after a fashion, to put the matter backwards. Man is himself theomorphic. Not all God’s creatures are theomorphic; none of the animals, for example, are ever said to be created in the image of God. But man is expressly said in Genesis 1 to be theomorphic. Whatever this means in the details, the very notion of an image requires that some minimal features of the image mimic in their nature and/or function the Original on which the image is modeled. In these respects, therefore, it is legitimate to assert that any such features apply to the Original, even if we know such features only in the image.

Craig French, in a comment on a previous blog in this series, wrote this:

So if God describes Himself in masculine terms, it isn’t that He isn’t masculine…it’s that our masculinity cannot contain His. His masculinity is on an immeasurable scale.

In a sense, I guess it is better to say He *is* masculine…what we are is analogically masculine. We can only be accommodatedly masculine because He is ultimately masculine.

In this comment, French is getting at the same idea contained in the notion that we human creatures – created in the image of God – are theomorphic. And, if so, then it is not at all out of the question to predicate to God a quality one observes in the creatures created in His image.

Again, these considerations do not establish that God is masculine.  But, they do dispel the criticism of God’s masculinity, that it cannot be literal, that it must be merely figurative.

The same considerations undercut a criticism that other sex-specific predications about God are merely figurative. Among such criticisms is the claim that God’s fatherhood is merely figurative, he is only like a father. The Bible, of course, is awash in similes and metaphors applied to God.  But any objection to the Bible’s description of God as somehow defective or indeterminate because it is cast as a simile or metaphor begs the same sort of question as the claim that some statements are anthropomorphisms.  Any comparison between God and something not-God is obviously pointing to a quality or feature or aspect that is the same in both God and in that thing to which He is compared.  The interpretative challenge is to identify what those features or aspects amount to.

We say, for example, that a beautiful woman’s lips are like a rose.  Do her lips have thorns?  Roses have thorns, after all!  Are her lips colored yellow?  Many beautiful roses are yellow!  No — we mean that her lips have a deep red color, just as the rose has a deep red color.  Seeing the woman’s beautiful lips makes us think of the beautiful rose.  So, even if God is merely like a father, to say such a thing is to positively assert that fathers and God share some quality or characteristic(s) in common.

But, again, with fatherhood, Paul tells us in Ephesians 3:15 that God is the Father (as Mr. French describes in his comment linked above) while all fatherhood in heaven and earth takes its nature from Him.

At this point, a religious feminist can be expected to pounce and to say “Gotcha!! God is just as feminine as She is masculine!” The reasoning here is that man is created male and female, that both male and female are in God’s image, that this datum in Genesis 1 requires us to conclude that God is no less feminine than S/He is masculine.

Paul would disagree, of course. In fact, he does so in 1 Corinthians 11. And, that is the subject of the next couple of blogs in this series.

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Why A Male Messiah?

Last Updated on Saturday, 29 October 2011 08:00 Written by Father Bill Saturday, 29 October 2011 08:00

It’s almost blasé these days to find depictions of Christ as a woman. The saucy edginess of such a thing fomented frisson in feminist hearts 40 years ago, but one can now purchase artsy-fartsy greeting cards depicting female nudes affixed to a cross, complete with crown of thorns on their heads. I decline to give you links to them, though.

Still, is the sex of the Messiah as incidental to the Incarnation as the color of his eyes or the shape of his ears? If he would be no less the Messiah if he were an inch taller or an inch shorter, why could he not have been the daughter instead of the son of Mary? All these depictions of the Messiah as a woman, dying for the sins of the world, bluntly insist it might have been this way.

There are two answers to the sex of the Messiah arising out of the Bible, one factual, the other theological.

The Old Testament and a Male Messiah

The first mention of a savior of the world is found in the curse on the Serpent in Genesis 3:15:

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”

About the only thing one can learn about this promised serpent-crusher is that he is a human (seed of the woman) and a male (hence, he will crush …).

Without following all the references here, all additional prophecies of the Messiah reveal him to be male. To name one such prophecy, he is the male heir of King David (2 Samuel 7 and dozens of Psalms).

So, when it comes time to delineate the Messiah’s genealogy, he is “the son of ..” and “the son of …” and so forth (Luke 3; Matthew 1). From the factual forecasts of the Old Testament, Messiah could not be a female.

The Theology of Incarnation

The face of God in the Old Testament is fully and unambiguously masculine. No, God is not male in the Old Testament. For such a statement to be true would require God to have a whole raft of characteristics that constitute biological male sex. However, one could truthfully say “God is masculine.” Indeed, one would more or less be forced to say such a thing from His own revelation of Himself. Let God be true, and every man a liar.

After the Incarnation, however, one must say – in some sense – that God is male, meaning by this “humanly male” or “biologically male” as human males are male.

Jesus is male, not female. He is, obviously, masculine, not feminine (yeah, yeah, I know he’s supposed to be feminine via chickenness; but …sheesh!). He is the Bridegroom, never the Bride. He is our Brother, never our sister.

He is the King, never the queen. He is Lord of Lords, never lady of anything. He is the eternal and – since the Incarnation – human Son, never the Daughter.

And,He remains male and masculine, according to the Apostles’ reports in the Gospels, according to John’s visions on Patmos, according to author of Hebrews, according to the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and Athanasian Creed, and the Definition of Chalcedon. Orthodox Christianity has always, without reservation, confessed, taught, and defended Jesus’ eternal human maleness.

And, Jesus is God, too. Right?

A wise friend, whom I will not identify here, in a letter to me said it this way:

If we call what God is from eternity masculine, his Incarnation must be male. What we are focusing on [in this correspondence] is the nature of the event of Incarnation, which in one sense is something new and in another sense something old. God took maleness into himself at the Incarnation, but this maleness was a created expression of the eternal masculinity … from which it arose. If something arises as a wholly derivative expression of something prior, it may be called new, but in a qualified way. It is “taken up” into the Greater, but only as something that is, as its expression in another medium, already wholly its own.

Whether you approach the question from the standpoint of Old Testament prophecy or from the standpoint of Biblical theology, you arrive at the same place: the Messiah must be male.

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Is A Man the Head of His Household?

Last Updated on Friday, 28 October 2011 07:00 Written by Father Bill Friday, 28 October 2011 07:00


The   film Courageous  has gotten some religoius feminists in a tizzy over the whether or not husbands and fathers are the heads of their households. I haven’t seen the film (it hasn’t been booked into our small-town theater), but to judge by the eyes of the religious feminists who are commenting at the link above, I’d guess I would agree with the film’s fundamental premises about the responsibility married men have for the welfare of their wives and children.

Here’s how the blogger puts it:

  •  The movie implies (and explicitly states in at least one instance) that the Bible teaches fathers are to take full responsibility for their wives and children, but they do little to show where and how the Bible teaches it (actually nothing that I can remember, but correct me if I’m wrong) As egalitarians agree, there simply isn’t biblical justification for a view like this, and it is unfair to both men and women to place this extra burden on fathers alone.
  •  In encouraging men to be responsible, why does it have to be at the expense of women’s responsibility? Does the Bible not also call godly women to be engaged with their families, and to be prayerful, respectful, kind, and integrity-filled—all prominent ideas in the resolution the men sign? To me, these challenges seem to highlight the way all who follow Christ are to live—both female and male.

As usual, religious feminists can’t stand the notion that the Bible lays responsibilities on men greater than a women’s, that women and men relate in the family in an ordered way that makes the man responsible to God for the woman in a way that the woman is not responsible to God for the man. To the religious feminist, any wifely responsibility that is NOT identical to the man’s is no responsibility at all, rendering her “passive.” Such folk need to be warned against airing that sort of idea to a faithful wife and mother productively serving her family in a patriarchal marriage, lest she punch their lights out.

But, here’s the rub, something which shows how intractable the religious feminist’s plight is when he is firmly in its clutches: the religious feminist cannot see what is writ plain in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. The Bible is patriarchal to the core, and at the heart of the Bible’s patriarchy is a responsibility of the husband/father for his family that is not shared with the wife.

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