Women, the Church, Masculinity and the Rest Pt. 3: Is Christianity Male Oriented?

Does Christianity have a male slant? Is God more male oriented? John Piper has said yes. Well, comments on that comment have been made, and I don’t want to beat a dead horse. But I’ll say this: God made both male and female in his image: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). So God must reflect femaleness also. Now, Piper referred to this in his now infamous quote, which includes this statement: “the Father and the Son create man and woman in His image and give them the name man, the name of the male.” He is translating “Adam” as “male” or “man”. Well, the Hebrew אָדָם is not gender specific, i.e. it does not mean male human being. In chapter 2 of Genesis we are told the name Adam for the first man is given because he comes from the ground. Well, the word אָדָם is related to the word for earth, ground, land. As you may or may not know, most Hebrew word roots are three consonants. Mankind, ground and red all share the same consonant root aleph, daleth, mem. So this means the name mankind (Adam) is derived from ground. The person Adam is named after mankind, not mankind named after him. Genesis 1:27b gives us the specific male (zā·ḵār) and female (ū·nə·qê·ḇāh), neither is etymologically linked to ’ā·ḏām. Thus Genesis 1 & 2 is not male centred. Male and female together reflect God’s image. Does God favour maleness? Well, no. Christian Piatt wisely pointed to this from Jesus:

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. (Matthew 23:37, Luke 13:34)

Also, there’s:

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” Isa. 49:15

And this:

“As a mothercomforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” Isa. 66:13

This motherly image is one of many in the Bible which presents a “feminine” sort of imagery connected to God. Mankind as whole, male and female reflect God. God’s characteristics include both sides. God is mother as well as father. Bishop Kallistos Ware writes (Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way, Crestwood NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2003, p. 33):

Why speak of God as Father and Son, not as Mother and Daughter? In itself the Godhead possesses neither maleness not femininity. Although our human sexual characteristics as male and female reflect at their highest and truest, an aspect of the divine life, yet there is in God no such thing as sexuality. When, therefore, we speak of God as Father, we are speaking not literally but in symbols.

Aphrahat, a Syriac Church Father speaks of the love of the Christian for “God his Father and the Holy Spirit his Mother” and Julian of Norwich writes, “God rejoices that he is our Father, and God rejoices that he is our Mother.” (Both quoted in Ware’s The Orthodox Way, pg 34).

The male pronouns used of God are not there to demonstrate God is male, or that God wants his males to lead the way. Scripture is written in language which is imperfect, within a cultural context which is also not perfect. Culturally, at the time of the Scriptures composition deity transcending gender is a tough sell at best. When the Bible says “he” it’s a linguistic necessity. As for the Son, well, yes, he had male genitalia. But as Christian Piatt said it so eloquently, “That Jesus was male was a cultural necessity, but this does not support the case that God favors testicles over ovaries.”

We have to remember that. God speaks in our language and context. We cannot conclude based on anything in Scripture that God promotes a church or faith rooted in maleness.

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