God’s Pronouns

There is a trend – perhaps it can be called a movement – for people to identify the pronouns that they prefer to be used for themselves.  If I was going to identify which pronouns I prefer, I would out (he/him) after my name.  To be clear I am using this to illustrate the issue and not to indicate that I will start  doing this.  This probably means I am not ready to begin doing so at this time.  I may start doing this at some time in the future but I am not at that place yet. 

That raises for me, the issue of what pronoun we should use when referring to God?  It has been the practice throughout the history of Christianity to refer to God as him (sometimes capitalized Him).  This use is, of course, supported by Jesus Christ himself (note the pronoun), when he referred to God as Father (at least in translation), or his heavenly Father, especially in the prayer that he taught us – the Lord’s prayer. 

I raised this issue in a sermon I preached this past Sunday when I raised the issue of our tendency to put restrictions on our idea and understanding of who and what God is.  To think of God as Father, and use the pronoun He for God, is to put God in a box and to restrict our understanding of God.  As I noted in my sermon, God is beyond anything that we can do to describe or identify God.  We are limited by our humanness so; however we think of God, God is beyond our definitions or descriptions.  Theologians have been exploring this for millennia in more ways than most of us can imagine.  Indeed, if we look to the Bible, we will find innumerable ways in which the people of God have described God.  Here are only a few examples: Abba, Adonai, El Shaddai, Elohim, El, Yahweh.  Of course, we can describe God as The Force a la Star Wars to move beyond the bible.

Beyond names, God is also given characteristics that can be seen as feminine (I found these on the internet):

  • God comforts his people like a mother comforts her child (Isaiah 66:13)
  • Like a woman would never forget her nursing child, God will not forget his children (Isaiah 49:15)
  • God is like a mother eagle hovering over her young (Deuteronomy 32:11)
  • God seeks the lost like a housekeeper, trying to find her lost coin (Luke 15:8-10)
  • God cares for his people like a midwife that cares for the child she just delivered (Ps 22:9-10, Ps 71:6, Isa 66:9)
  • God experiences the fury of a mother bear robbed of her cubs (Hosea 13:8)

It is not wrong to describe God as masculine and use the pronoun Him and all its derivations.  God can be described as masculine.  However, in doing that we need to remember that we are limiting God just as we do if we describe God as feminine (Her) or in any other way.  God is beyond any description we can use for God.  He/She/It…and so on, is perhaps necessary for us limited people to try and understand God.  However, let’s try not to put God in a box and limit God for convenience or any other reason.  It’s not fair to God or yourself or others.