Misgendering God

Misgendering God September 20, 2023

The Church of England is considering adopting “inclusive language” for references to God.   Mainline liberal protestants in the United States have already taken this step.  It involves cutting out references to God as “Father” for gender-neutral terms such as “Parent,” or even “Mother-Father.”  Other expressions referring to males–such as “King,” and “Lord”–would be avoided

The pronoun “He” to refer to God would be no longer be used.  What some are doing is to avoid pronouns altogether and instead to just repeat the noun.  “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten-son” (John 3:16) becomes  “God so loved the world that God gave God’s only begotten-child.”

What puzzles me that the same people who wish to use inclusive language for God are surely supporters of our other gender sensitivities, especially in light of transgenderism.

By those principles, gender is not biologically determined; rather, it is a matter of personal identity.  Whatever that gender identity is, we must respect.  Part of that is honoring and using the individual’s preferred pronouns.  Sharing those pronouns–whether on name tags, signature lines, or in casual introductions–has become a new ritual in many circles.  To refuse to use a person’s preferred pronouns is to be guilty of “misgendering,” which in some cases is grounds for dismissal from a job or in some jurisdictions is against the law.  (See this government document, which defines “misgendering” as harrassment and a violation of the Civil Rights Act.)

So why are not these same principles applied to God?

God has shared His pronouns.  For example, consider these repeated words in Isaiah 43 (my emphases):

“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord,
    “and my servant whom I have chosen,
that you may know and believe me
    and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
    nor shall there be any after me. 
I, I am the Lord,
    and besides me there is no savior. . . .

Also henceforth I am he;
    there is none who can deliver from my hand;
    I work, and who can turn it back?” . . . .

“I, I am he
    who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,
    and I will not remember your sins.  (Isaiah 43:10-11, 13, 25)

This is not oppression; rather, God is connecting His name with His works of saving and forgiving.

Furthermore, God identifies as male.  “I am the Lord,” He says here.  “God is the King of all the earth” (Psalm 47:7). “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9).

But God is not a human being, the inclusive language advocates would say.  God is a spirit, neither male nor female.  It’s idolatrous to think that God has a human body.

To be sure.  God has no sex.  But, as the inclusive language advocates would say in a different context, sex is different from gender.  It doesn’t matter what the biological sex of a person might be.  Gender is an inner identity.  Whatever gender a person claims is the gender that the public must recognize.

Why aren’t these principles applied to God?

The underlying reason, of course, is that the promoters of inclusive language for God do not believe the Bible to be God’s Word.  That is evident in the reasons they give.  (For example, the fact that Jesus calls God “Father” and uses masculine pronouns for Him is here explained with a bogus invocation of the historical critical approach to the Bible:  “In the midst of great strides to include women begun by Jesus, the writers and editors of the Gospels wanted to ensure that a masculine vision of God safeguarded men’s prerogative and that women would remain secondary.”)

But if Scripture is really God’s Word–that is, His language–we must accept what He says about Himself.  That doesn’t mean that what other people say about themselves is equally valid, much less that the transgender assumptions are true.  Human beings are embodied, so their biology means something.  We can’t be “born into the wrong body,” as if we too were pre-existent spirits.  God is embodied too, actually, in the Son’s incarnation in Jesus Christ, which is another reason to respect God’s pronouns.

Inclusive language misgenders God.


Illustration from Free*SVG, CC0, Public Domain


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