Does it really matter what we call Him? Shakespeare’s Juliet may have declared, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet,” but the reality of toying with how we pronounce of God can have results that are sour.
In today’s universe of consumer Christianity, we are lustful of picking out what we like about the Bible and the Christian Worldview and dispatch the rest. As Jean Bethke Elshtain has forked out, we have changed from a time when God or the Church dominated the clarity of temperament to an age where we create an temperament not only for ourselves but for God as well. Unwittingly, however, in formulating God in the own image, we risk slicing ourselves off from the very boundless life we so desperately find and need.
Recently, the Episcopal parish of Washington, DC voted to inform its rite of gendered language. In this bid towards inclusivity, no longer will these churches impute to God with manly terms such as “Father” or “He.” The Church of Sweden is inching in this direction, and some major American divinity schools are enlivening identical pronoun shifts. For many people, this is not something that Christians need to get all focussed out of figure about. Shouldn’t we compensate a bit some-more courtesy to the logs in the own eyes before worrying about the splinters in others’?
As good as that sounds, what supporters of this pierce don’t seem to comprehend is that this is a flattering big splinter. When we strip the descriptions of God of biblical gendered language, we are stripping the very terms He has used to report Himself. We are substituting the picture of God of the imaginations for the God of the Bible as He has selected to exhibit Himself to us.
I know that for a lot of folks, this doesn’t seem like a big deal. God’s a big boy. He can hoop it if we select to call Him “her” or “zhe” or whatever springs to mind. Of all the things God competence be worried about, pronouns can’t be high on his priority, right? God is infinite, over the comprehension, and too confident to be worried about sparse things like pronouns.
I’ve always found this to be a obscure way of thinking. It’s the arrange thing that sounds high-minded, but nobody would try it in their personal lives. Try this. Men, when you go home, call your wife by the wrong name. Describe her as you wish her to be, rather than the way she is. Tell her you adore her for characteristics which she does not have. Better yet, call her by an ex-girlfriend’s name. Tell me how that goes for you.
Women, suppose what it’d be like for your husband to do this to you. You’d be upset, and, what’s more, you’d be right! When you’re described in ways other than who you truly are, then you are not being treated as an eccentric person but only as a available fetish of someone else’s imagination. For you to direct to be seen and desired for who you are is not about you being petty; it’s about you being a person.
It is the same with God. He is a person. That’s since it matters. God isn’t a force with no opinion about how he’s addressed. He is a person with specific characteristics, not a cloudy blob in the heavens who can be molded into any form we wish. Yes, God is infinite, but He is not indefinite. God has suggested Himself as a God of justice, a God of holiness, a God of compassion, and a God of love. It is not for us to confirm which tools of his self-revelation have turn passé.
If God is the God of the Bible, then we call Him “Him” since He calls Himself “Him.” We can get into questions of why He is “Him” and not “Her” or “It,” but the pivotal thing is that He calls Himself “Him.” If we are going to call ourselves Christians, then the perceptions of God must be driven by what God has suggested of Himself in the Bible.
Now, many will say, “Oh, we trust the Bible. And we know from His Word that God is a God of adore and ‘radical inclusiveness.’ Would the God of the Bible caring about all this?” Well, given that one of the many unchanging themes via the whole Bible is how persnickety God gets when people try to proceed Him in ways other than which He has suggested Himself, I’d say, yes, He would and does care.
This picture of God as “radically inclusive” is all good and good, but that is simply not the story you see in the Bible. You can make a distant stronger case that “radical exclusivity” is a better evil of God. How many times in the Bible does God complain about His people’s profanation and adultery? How many times does He direct comprehensive and disdainful fidelity? How many times did He grow sceptical when Israel tried to ceremony Him with their own agendas or the characteristics of the neighbors’ deities? These are not the reactions of someone indifferent to how people report Him.
To refrain from job Him “Him” is to pronounce of Him other than the way He has suggested Himself to us. It is to make Him in the picture instead permitting Him to be as He would have us know Him, as the one who has done us in His image. If the descriptions are only about the bargain of Him, then there is not really a “Him” to urge to but only the own imaginations. A God whose inlet is dynamic by the own needs and preferences will have no energy to save us over what we can do for ourselves.
Ironically, by trying to keep boundary from the inlet of God and observant that He is over all of the categories, we put on Him those same boundary we are trying to avoid. When we take divided all boundaries, He becomes only what the imagination allows Him to be. This leaves us with a God who will always pronounce for whatever we hold many dear but can never be truly counted on to pronounce against the idols of the hearts. He will always be for whatever we are for and against to whatever we hate.
We may consider that by emphasizing the boundlessness of God we are pardon Him from the chronological or moment or particular perspective, permitting Him to pull us serve than we would differently concede ourselves to go. Unfortunately, the conflicting is true. In the query to see God over the way He has suggested Himself to us, we paradoxically make Him singular to every flitting imagination we have. In place of a church council, papacy, or doctrine reigning over Christian suspicion and practice, we simply reinstate those with the Magisterium of the short-lived moment.
Fortunately, this haunt is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible does condescend to pronounce to us in the denunciation and is perpetually over what we may know in full. Yet this same gigantic and clear God is there, and, as Francis Schaeffer said, he is not silent. He has oral law to us about Himself, and by this we may truly know Him and know his perspective of ourselves and the world.
The Bible’s gendered denunciation was no collision of story but tells us something almighty of His opinion towards His Bride, the church. Our lives as gendered beings are not coincidental either, but are designed to tell us something of the biggest adore story in human history. God is the Father, Christ is the Groom, and the church is his beloved Bride, for whom He cowed death itself.
Timothy D Padgett, PhD, is the author of the stirring book, Swords and Plowshares: American Evangelicals on War, 1937-1973 and is the Managing Editor of BreakPoint.org