Deletes My Post Questioning the Gender of God Deletes My Post Questioning the Gender of God March 9, 2009

As you might know, most everything I post on this blog appears simultaneously on, the largest Christian website in the world (with 3 million views a month, and some 250,000 subscribers).

In the two years I’ve been writing it, Crosswalk has only twice asked me to remove something I published on my Crosswalk blog. Yesterday’s piece, Do You, “Average Christian Reader,” Need God to be a “He”? is one of those times.

Crosswalk has always treated me very well, and I have zero problem with them asking me to remove from their site something I’ve published on it. It’s their site. When I worked as a magazine editor, it seemed like half my life was telling writers their stuff didn’t work. It’s nothing. The truth is I greatly appreciate Crosswalk’s patience with me. To say I’m not exactly like the other bloggers on their site is like saying a gorilla isn’t exactly like an earthworm. Twice in two years is nothing.

But this latest episode does, at least, prove what a hot-button issue the whole question of a gonadally-defined God still is. Who (besides, apparently, everyone but me) knew?

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  • Russ

    The way I see it, the fact that we refer to God as “he” has nothing to do with gender and has everything to do with order. God has placed man as the head of the household and the family. This does not mean that the woman is less important or less valuable, it simply means that God has placed the man in the head position within the family and within the church. Therefore, to refer to God as “she” sends the wrong message concerning God’s authority for He is not under the authority of another.

  • It's 'cuz you said gonad.

  • FreetoBe

    🙂 "gonadally defined God" 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Skerrib: I don't know if you're kidding (you kidder, you), but no: It was Raising the Question as If It Were Valid that offended. (And again, that's fair enough: you don't get more conservative than the Salem Web Network, of which is the flagship.)

  • Russ,

    But didn't Jesus make it clear that servanthood is actually the highest form of godliness? So even if the man/woman roles aren't just cultural, and still apply today, perhaps the female pronoun would be more appropriate anyway?

    This has been a big struggle in bringing Christianity to other countries. In Japan, for instance, most citizens don't feel too warmly to the father identity, based on cultural norms. But describing God as a loving mother has made great inroads there.

  • Hi Russ,

    Being from South Africa I always get a bit nervous around issues of censorship.

    This is a hot-button issue isn’t it? I guess if it weren’t it wouldn’t be so fun to blog about it. Or comment about it for that matter.

    Casting my lot I’d say God the Father couldn’t be defined as male or female in the human sense of the word as He is clearly spirit. But He certainly has chosen to personify Himself as masculine in Scripture (wisdom literature and those pesky figures of speech in Psalms aside). God the Spirit is the same. God the Son, well that’s clear cut, isn’t it?

    I guess be careful what you say on because… "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!"

  • Teresa

    Yikes! That is so reactionary – or progressive…I'm not sure which is which in the whole censoring ideas arena anymore. It was thought provoking… too bad more folks' thoughts won't be provoked. Rock on.

  • I was most definitely kidding.

    Russ the interesting thing is that, in the original post, John didn't at all suggest we start referring to God as "she."

    Redlefty, I like your insight about the Japanese culture–very cool. I would argue with your first point, however, that God's intent with the whole man-headship thing was that of servant leadership, rather than servanthood OR leadership.

  • I just tasted blood. I think it must be coming from an unintended self-injury to my tongue.

  • Anita: Why bite your tongue?

  • Uh because it was either that or unleash my thoughts on this whole topic and the propensity of religious systems to censor not just religious belief they consider controversial or heretical but to go so far as to censor questioning and reflections around our faith. What a fragile fragile faith they make Christianity into by their incessant need to "protect" it from individual exploration and questioning.

    Ergo, the toothmarked tongue tip.

  • Hippy!

    Articulate hippy!

  • arlywn

    Or, we live in a sexist world; where just because a god makes the man first means the man is more important. Whereas, the way I see it- a god made the man… then made the girl so the man would have someone. Which makes the girl just as important, and not something to take so lightly.

  • My fellow on Facebook shared this link with me and I'm not dissapointed at all that I came to your blog.

  • Oh, thanks a lot. That's very nice to hear.

  • Jill

    I stumbled upon your blog while I was searching the gender of God. Let me start by saying that I believe in God, His son, Jesus, and have received Jesus as my savior.

    The issue has come up, for me, partly as a result of having read "The Shack", and being largely unable to find any criticism for this book that went beyond God's capacity to portray Himself as a woman, simply in order to go over the wall of relationship for one man.

    That, and I remember hearing, or reading, an essay by Dr. Dobson who was arguing that God is male, and part of his argument being that God is "penetrating". There were a number of other generally masculine-sounding adjectives he attributed to God, but that one stuck with me, in part because it is a rather indelicate reference in a largely one-sided argument. There are plenty of ways to be "penetrating", the sex act probably being the least of them. And women are capable of the rest.

    Within my heart, I have decided that a "gonadally-defined" (LOVE that phrase) God is fairly ridiculous. If God's doctor gave him an exam, would it include a prostate exam and testicular cancer check? Sorry, I don't mean to be irreverant, but isn't defining God in the box of gender irreverant as well?

    As a woman and a Christian, I believe that I am made in the image of God. Though I may joke about the 'design flaw' of external genitilia that was 'corrected' in the formation of woman, in truth I have nothing but honor for the representations of God that have been given to men, and I would very much like for the favor to be returned.

    My answer? I don't need God to be a He. I need him to be God, and I need me to not pretend or wish or act as though I were a mini-god. That includes receiving God to the best of my human-limited ability, augmented by the Holy Spirit, in His fullness, and not rejecting the parts that don't appeal to me, or point out my error simply to limit my shame.

    I'm very sorry Crosswalk did not see fit to allow this discussion – for some reason it's a very testy issue among Christians. But I have never seen anyone discuss the gender of God, as represented in the Bible, exegetically, and I'd love to know more. I don't speak any dead languages, so I must rely on others to do some of my intrepreting for me and I guess it is up to me to select those who submit themselves to the Truth, as a sacrificial act. Or perhaps I could do a word or phrase study.

  • Snork. You said “testy.”

    Maturely yours,


    (No: beautifully said, all of it. Wonderful. One of the best comments ever on this blog.)


  • Jill

    I just asked this question – well, a similar one, on Yahoo Answers (link:;_ylt=Ar2z….
    Interesting. Here is the text of the *most* interesting answer – from a woman:

    "God is a male, names are as follows: The Ancient of Days, Jehovah, Jah, Yahweh, Yahovah. Goddess (she) name as follows: Venus. I'm sure you have heard them all of your life. You hit my pet peeve. Maybe you should watch what you read. You sound jealous."

    Jealous? Seriously? Watch what I read? Really? Legalistic much? I'd agree that filling your mind with crud is a bad idea, but as a Christian, reading something millions around the world are reading isn't a bad idea. Even if The Shack isn't the world's most biblically accurate book, it's still a good idea to know what ideas are going through the heads of people around the world, especially as it pertains to God, and if necessary, to help people understand Him better. Answers like that really peeve me.

    Thanks for listening to me vent.


  • Jill

    I was just re-reading this, and I snorked too! Perhaps I should have said “teste”?

    Indelicately yours,


  • Danielle

    Jill, I too, stumbled upon John's blog and have been a lurking reader ever since.

    As for "The Shack," I read it also and wish I had it back from lending it out so I could read it again. I cried throughout the book, as it reminded me of how truly genuine, loving and real Jesus had once been for me. John's personal story had the same effect.

    I have no idea what gender God is. My guess is that God doesn't either. I can only surmise that because I do believe in God's omniscience – the power to know everything infinitely, so it probably isn't a "mindful" awareness. John heard God's voice in a cartoonish tone. How sweet is that, given John's intrigue with cartoon characters? I heard it in the masculine-feminine voice – which is, looking back, precisely how I needed to hear it.

    And so it was in "The Shack." It was a story of a God that has no bounds when it comes to questioning, searching or even doubting with such angst, no human comfort was possible . That, I found, was the very essence in nature with the God-Christ-Holy Spirit that I had found. In fact, when I stopped questioning, searching and bringing my doubts to the ONE sure, and often, illogical Responder, all of my logical dependencies returned and sucked the life right out of my soul.

    Still, it rocked me when I lost an evangelical, christian client over my reading of "The Shack." She literally ran away from me as she was shaking her hands at me to "get away from her" while saying over and over, "That's a satanic book! It's full of lies!"

    Interestingly, I find John's story of his "conversion encounter," mine, as well as, the father-character's in "The Shack" intriguingly similar: one of a God that knows us far better than we know ourselves, at any moment, in any given situation.

    It's the constant struggle of thinking that I, or another, should know me better that seems to always trip my switch into questioning things like 'what gender God is' or, 'maybe my identification with God isn't patriarchal enough?' It's as if I have to get it all right in order to trust my faith in the mystery of it all?

    And, that is exactly what moved me to tears throughout the reading of "The Shack" (and John's story.) The author obviously knew how to tell the story about, not only the "all-knowing of God" but, God's capacity to encounter us in a way that no human being can – man or woman. I feel for any of us that still perceives God as "sexist." I did, until we met "face-to-face" and I missed out on experiencing so much that I had never imagined God could be.

    Too long winded, but I've wanted to jump in for a while now! I really love your site and work, John, and your commenters are just as refreshingly candid! Thanks for doing what you do!

  • Diana

    Thank you!

  • Diana

    "Still, it rocked me when I lost an evangelical, christian client over my reading of 'The Shack.' She literally ran away from me as she was shaking her hands at me to “get away from her” while saying over and over, 'That’s a satanic book! It’s full of lies!'"

    I so look forward to the day when we will be made perfect in love and thus not be controlled by fear. (1 John 4:16-18.) It's fear that makes us need to control how God presents his/herself to us, rather than just accepting that God is God.

    Oh well. Someday.