Are masculine nouns and pronouns appropriate when we address God? Should we avoid all masculine pronouns (He/Him/His) so as to not offend those who see such things as divisive and a part of an ages-old patriarchal conspiracy against women? Should we use the word Creator in place of Father? How about Redeemer in place of Son? Instead of a prayer to Father and Son, should we instead pray to Creator and Redeemer? It is my contention that, when we avoid masculine nouns and pronouns, Catholics (and all Christians) lose the familial and personal experience of the God who chose to reveal Himself as Father, not solely as the Creator.
The Masculine Noun Elohim
We first encounter the Christian God in the book of Genesis. In Genesis 1:1, it states, “In the beginning, God (Elohim) created the heavens and the earth.” This Elohim eventually creates mankind in His own image:
So God created man in His own image,
in the image of God He created him;
male and female He created them.
As Catholics, we accept the Bible (the Old and New Testaments) as revealed truth. We cannot overlook how God chose to reveal Himself and that He did not choose to do so with gender neutral or feminine nouns and pronouns. God revealed Himself with masculine nouns and pronouns from the very start.
The Proper Noun Yahweh, the I AM
In the book of Exodus, chapter three, we learn God’s name.
13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.”[a] And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
What lessons can be learned about God when we consider that He intentionally revealed His name (YHWH) in the masculine form? God never acts accidentally or without purpose. He chose in the revelation of His very name to present Himself through masculine nouns and pronouns. Why?
Masculine Nouns and the Patriarchy
Modern gender-critical theory posits that the use of masculine nouns and pronouns in reference to God constitutes a participation in the “patriarchy” and the continued subjectification of women. Many Christians have also bought into this idea. To be clear, before the Incarnation, God had no ties to biological sex/gender. God was not male or female. God did choose to reveal Himself through masculine nouns and pronouns, but He was not a man. The Incarnation changed this reality, as God took on flesh (John 1:14), male flesh. So, in terms of addressing the second person of the divine Trinity, we can (and should) use the masculine noun He. Jesus is male and will be male evermore. If we accept God’s direct and intentional involvement in the revelation of Himself in the Old and New Testaments, we must also accept what this revelation reveals about God. The other option has God, not just as an accomplice in the patriarchal conspiracy against women, but the originator of patriarchy.
God the Father
God chose to reveal Himself through masculine nouns and pronouns for a reason—divine fatherhood. As humans, we understand relationships rooted in family, as the first relationships we form are familial. We understand the concept of father, mother, sister, brother, son, and daughter on deep and abiding levels. God created the human family and intended it as our first primer on the nature of God’s relationship to humanity. God desired the relationship with His creation to be a fatherly one. This is most reflected in the relationship between the Son (Jesus) and His Father (God). This imagery also makes the most sense out of Mary’s participation in salvation history as Theotokos (the Mother of God).
Our Father/Abba Daddy
Jesus, the Son of God (a term that appears over 40 times in the New Testament), refers to God as His Father over 150 times in the gospels. In Matthew 6:9, Jesus includes His followers in the fatherhood of God when He instructs them to pray to “Our Father,” and in Mark 14:36, Jesus goes even further and addresses God as “Abba, Father.” The term Abba denotes a level of intense familial intimacy in the likes of daddy. In the context of this passage, Jesus intensely prays that the cup of suffering be removed from Him, eventually declaring, “yet not what I will, but what you will.” Saint Paul also exhorts Christians to cry out “Abba, Father” in Galatians 4:6 and Romans 8:15.
The God of the Personal (Pronouns)
The second person of the divine Trinity cements for all time the fatherhood of God. Masculine nouns and pronouns by God are not the byproduct of a patriarchal conspiracy against women. God chose masculine nouns and pronouns because He desires to know and be known by His creation as Father. Jesus’ use of the masculine noun Father over 150 times demonstrates ironclad prove of this fact. Through divine revelation, and the words of Jesus Himself, Catholics (and all Christians) should rest assured that God has no issue whatsoever with masculine nouns and pronouns, in fact He intended it that way.
He wants us to cry out to Him, “Abba, Father!”
 The term Son of Man appears 76 times in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke and 14 times in the Gospel of John. Keyword search: Son of man. BibleGateway. (n.d.). Retrieved January 15, 2022, from https://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?qs_version=ESV&quicksearch=son%2Bof%2Bman&begin=47&end=73
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