May 23, 2019

Why Is God Identified as a Male?


The identification of God as a male (He, Him, His, Father) has become a source of some irritation and controversy.

Why isn’t God, some ask, identified as female? Does God have a feminine nature? If we were made in God’s image, as some allege, then why doesn’t God manifest a spiritual presence in both female and male forms?

Dennis Prager has created a video that explains his view of why God is identified as male. You can view it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YXzywDWc1k. Dennis bases his explanation on the idea the Bible was created by God to guide men, and by extension, boys. It therefore speaks to us as a man would to other men, and as a father would to boys.

While I admire his effort, Dennis misses the question people are really asking:

What or who is God?

To answer that question we have to examine the cultural environment within which the Bible was created and reframe the discussion in 21st century terms.

Ancient texts reflect ancient knowledge.

The text of the Bible was largely written by men who lived in a male centric agrarian social structure. The books of the Bible were selected and edited by men who also lived in a male centric agrarian social structure.  It should not come as a surprise that the resulting text is also male centric.

The men who authored the books of the Bible were influenced by contemporaneous religious beliefs. Male and female gods had human characteristics and exhibited human behavior. The Egyptians, the Greeks, and later on the Romans, believed in multiple gods who appeared in human form. Each god had a personality. Although Jewish beliefs in a single God were unique, even the male God they worshiped had a human form and a human personality.

But there is more for us to consider. Biblical authors were influenced by the contemporary human knowledge of the region within which they lived. Their perception of reality obviously incorporates ancient human knowledge. Ancient cosmology framed their thoughts about heaven. Ancient geology influenced their thoughts about Hell. Ancient physics modified their perceptions of God. Ancient medical science shaped their beliefs about the birth of Christ. Chemistry, biology, mathematics – all of the ancient human knowledge upon which they relied found its way into the texts they wrote.

Unfortunately, most of ancient human knowledge upon which they relied is obsolete. The sciences have evolved and become more sophisticated, but the text of the Bible has not changed.

God has no specific sex

While the wonderful wisdom of early doctrine will never be outdated, it needs to be expressed in 21st century terms. Since there is no neuter gender in the English language, we will probably continue to refer to God as masculine merely as a convenience and because that is our western tradition. But few educated people believe God is an old man who looks down upon us from a cloud. So what is the alternative?

Let’s start with our conviction God is a powerful, intelligent, and conscious force. God made heaven, earth, and all living things. That means God can alter the physical and not-physical Cosmos anytime and as often as he wants to do so. It also means God can present himself to us in whatever form or image he wishes. God can be male or female. God can appear in the form of a parent, brother, sister, relative, friend or stranger. God can appear to us in the being of a beloved animal, a beautiful image, or a breath of air. God will interact with us in whatever form serves God’s purpose.

When we say we humans were created in God’s image, we are acknowledging he created both the male and the female. In 21st century terms, God imagined an image of a life form he wanted to create and then awakened life in his creation. Like most of his creations - animals, plants, birds and so on - God used the female and male reproduction model to ensure a continuation of the species. We can expect him to continue using the male/female model of life as the basis of his creative efforts.

The argument about God’s sex is based on an ancient and obsolete concept: God is a person. But if God is a powerful, intelligent, and conscious force, and can interact with us in whatever form he chooses, then it is incorrect to think of him as a human person. God has no specific sex. God is neither male nor female, but God can be either male or female. We have a loving God who appears to us in whatever form he thinks will best suit his purpose.

The ultimate singularity

But if God is not a person, what is he? That remains a question for scientists, theologians and philosophers to ponder.

We cannot think of God as a material entity
or as a body of flesh.
God is the ultimate singularity,
a conscious force that surpasses
our inadequate perception of the Cosmos.

Let us be humble in our assessment of the divine.


Ron

Summa 21 includes an extensive discussion of the nature of God.
.


No comments: