Far from being ‘genderless’ however, this mystical union undergirds the very notion of gender – including the basis on which we call God ‘he’. As CS Lewis once put it, “What is above and beyond all things is so masculine that we are all feminine in relationship to it.”While I do not have sufficient expertise in relation to CS Lewis to know what point he was trying to make, John Richardson’s comment did make me reflect about God as solely male - so ‘male’ that we can only call him ‘He’.
Many women have, of course found this difficult to accept, particularly since the rise of feminism. The Christian faith has come under attack from some feminists for our male only hierarchy and male God, while others have sought to redress the balance with prayers addressed to ‘Mother God’ or ‘Our Mother who art in heaven’.It reminds me of a joke I once heard about someone who had died and gone to heaven.
He was met by St Peter at the Pearly Gates and given a tour of paradise. After being shown rooms for different Christian Traditions each with their own appropriate decoration, trappings and ornaments, the new arrival finally asked if he could meet God now. St Peter hesitated, and looked unsure. Finally he said, “Well I suppose so, but you will have to be prepared for a shock”.The new arrival tried to assure St Peter that he was ready - that he had read his Bible and knew that he would almost certainly be overcome by awe, wonder, and godly fear at the sight of the omnipotent, great “I am” whose presence has struck fear and trembling into people throughout human history.
St Peter eventually agreed, but as they came to the door into God’s presence, he whispered to the new arrival, “It’s not those things that will shock you – you see, She is Black!”The biggest problem with those who would want to keep God as solely masculine however, is that it simply isn’t Biblical.
Alongside the feminine pictures of God which appear in the Bible, (like that of a mother comforting her child or a hen gathering her chicks ) there is the clearest indication in Genesis 1 that we cannot restrict God in this way.At the creation of human beings in Genesis 1:27, we read that
So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
For me the Word of God here is very clear – both women and men, in all their fullness, are made in the image of God. Anything less would be to subtract from the Scriptures - and in a way which then affects our view of everything which follows, from Genesis 1 all the way to Revelation 22. For God to create male and female in his image, God must be both male and female in a way which transcends our limited human understanding.But that does not imply a ‘genderless’ God anymore than same-sex marriage implies ‘genderless’ marriage. What it actually implies is a 'genderful’ God who is able to relate to both men and women fully, and with whom both women and men can relate fully without having to set aside part of their gender or sexuality in the process.
For me personally as a man, I have always been comfortable in calling God Father (while recognising that others find this difficult) but I have felt equally comfortable relating to the Holy Spirit as female and allowing Her to enrich my Christian life and faith.She has filled my life with the presence of God, and She has made the reality of God more real in my life. She has led me in the Truth of Christ, given me Her gifts, and enabled me to grow in Her fruit. In all of these things, I am indebted to God, who is both male and female - Father Son and Holy Spirit.
I believe in a Genderful God.
(You might also like to see the response to this post on Significant Truths which expands and develops the idea of a Genderful God in a very helpful and creative way)