Difficulties with Gender Neutral Translations

            This is a major hotbed of debate within evangelical circles, particularly since the new revision of the New International Version (NIV), Today’s New International Version (TNIV), has gone this route.  Most evangelicals consider this move to be a sell-out to the liberal feminist movement, but some hotly argue that it better reflects current language usage.  Currently, the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), Today’s New International Version (TNIV), the Revised English Bible (REB), The New Century Version (NCV), the Contemporary English Version (CEV), and the New Living Translation (NLT) are the translations that have opted toward gender neutral language.

            The philosophy behind gender neutral translations is that the use of the masculine “he” as a generic term to refer to both male and females is no longer the commonly accepted usage in the English language.  The solution that they propose is to make the language plural.  “He” becomes “they” and “his” becomes “their.”  References that are specific to a particular person are left alone, only the general references are changed.  Admittedly, there is a move within the liberal community to incorporate gender neutral language to refer to God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, but to the best of my knowledge, none of the above translations mentioned as gender neutral have adopted this philosophy.

            The danger of pluralizing the language is important to discuss.  In some instances, the change is quite harmless.  For example, James 1:26 reads in the NIV:

“If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”

In the TNIV, it reads:

“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. “

Yet, in many cases, the gender neutral language either obscures doctrine or the personal nature of salvation, allowing for a reading that is more acceptable to the Roman Catholic church.

            For example, John 14:23 reads:

“If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (RSV)

Yet, the NRSV reads:

“Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them and we will come to them and make our home with them.”

This may seem to be a slight change given the overall intention is that this verse is addressed to both men and women, yet it has profound implications.  First, Jesus did not speak in plurals, he spoke in singulars.  He wanted to make a point of emphasizing the personal nature of salvation.  Salvation is an individual thing, not a corporate thing as the Roman Catholic church would teach.  Jesus did not generically die for every believer, he died for each believer, and pluralizing the language obscures this important fact.

            Making the pronouns plural also obscures many of the Old Testament prophesies about Jesus.  For example:

“He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.” (Psalm 34:20, RSV)



The gender inclusive version renders this verse:

“He keeps all their bones; not one of them will be broken.” (Psalm 34:20, NRSV)

This completely obscures the messianic prophesy that David is making in this psalm.

            At times, changing the singular to plural completely changes the meaning of the verse.  For example, Psalm 19:12a is changed from “who can discern his errors” (NIV) to “who can discern their errors” (TNIV).  At first glance, with this verse entirely out of context, this change does not seem too threatening.  Yet, when you realize that the preceding verses of Psalm 19 are dealing with the perfection of God’s law.  Verse 12 is taking that law and then applying it to the individual, as Paul does in Romans, to remind us that we cannot know our errors without God’s good and perfect laws.  Yet, the TNIV, when “he” is translated “their” shifts the meaning of the verse to look as if God’s laws are the ones that have errors.  The TNIV reads like this:

“The Law of the Lord is perfect…,The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy…, the precepts of the Lord are right…, the commands of the Lord are radiant…, they are more precious than gold…, who can discern their errors.”  (Psalm 19: 7-12, TNIV)

            Oftentimes, the word “man” is simply omitted.  In verses where the text reads “men and brethren,” the TNIV simply omits the term “man” altogether.  Also, of the 61 times that the term “Saint” is used in the New Testament, the TNIV has omitted 53 altogether in favor of “God’s people.”  The term saint carries connotations of holiness and being set apart.  It is a term of endearment given to the saved people of God.  The change does two things.  First of all, it reduces changes the emphasis from personal salvation to a corporate sense, as the Roman Catholic church likes to teach.  Secondly, it emphasizes the Roman Catholic belief that “sainthood” is only for a privileged few.

            Our salvation comes from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, not membership within the church.  The church is a sacred institution because individuals who make up the body of Christ are saved and sanctified by the work of Christ.  Christ did not die to save an institution, but to save a people who gather together as part of an institution.  As Martin Luther cried out, we are saved by grace and grace alone!  There is no coincidence that the gender neutral translations are accepted by the Roman Catholic church, for these gender neutral translations obscure many of the holy doctrines that the protestants fought and died to proclaim.

            There are nearly 2000 citations that evangelical scholars have addressed showing the dangers of gender neutral translations.  In terms of casual reading, these changes may or may not be particularly noticeable, but for serious Bible study, they are a definite stumbling block.  We need to hold translators to the highest standards of translations and be very careful of the biases that they bring to the table of interpretation.  We also ought to ask ourselves, has the English language really changed that much as to make terms like “mankind,” that use the masculine in an inclusive way, offensive to the average person?  Personally, I don’t think so.



This philosophy is not restricted to the liberal left, but is even sneaking into more respectable circles.  Thomas Oden, the general editor of the highly acclaimed Ancient Christian Commentary on Scriptures wrote in his book on pastoral theology, “taking special note of the maternally nurturing images associated with the third person of the Holy trinity in its classical, orthodox, ecumenical formulation, I will speak of the Holy Spirit in the feminine …”  See:  Oden, Thomas.  Pastoral Theology: Essentials of Ministry.  San Francisco:  Harper, 1972.  It is worth noting, that the ancient texts not only refer to the Holy Spirit in masculine terms, but there are a number of times that the personal pronoun “he” is used to refer to the Holy Spirit.  Yet, as I mentioned above, theological interpretations will enter into any Bible translation.  Sometimes for good, sometimes for ill.

About preacherwin

A pastor, teacher, and a theologian concerned about the confused state of the church in America and elsewhere...Writing because the Christian should think Biblically.

Posted on April 19, 2008, in Pastoral Reflections and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 29 Comments.

  1. With regard to obscurity in Jn.14:23, as the language changes people change therewith. I personally don’t read obscuration of the personal, one-on-one dimension, in that text you mention or others. Just as one ‘unpacks’ texts when preaching so one could easily ‘unpack’ that text among others.

    Psalm 34:20 – This is one example, among others, that becomes slightly trickier. With regard to Messianic prophecies and texts where gender specific language is important there needs to be a bit more work. However, I see no reason in principle to reject a project based on these kinds of problems. Translations go through revision in order to reduce translation errors. How do you feel one could minimise these errors?

    For example, Psalm 19:2a could easily have “own” thrown in between “their errors” in order to avoid the confusion you refer to.

    Scripture, like the English language until recently, has used masculine language for the general to include men and women. It is no longer proper to do so. In the past one could say “policeman” or “fireman” without a problem, but our language demanding specifics has to adapt to the fact that these roles are no longer exclusively or predominantly considered the province of men. We now demand clarity – Are you referring to a police- or fire- woman or man?

    Where a specific gender reference is important to keep one should do so, and footnote why they haven’t changed it. But where there is a generalisation based on a masculine inclusive then surely there is no harm in changing it?

    If Godde chose “male” and “female” singular and together to reference Goddeself, then surely it is appropriate to use masculine and feminine language in reference to Godde. After all, Godde transcends gender while being fully reflected in the masculine and feminine. If we’re cutting off feminine references then surely we’re biased toward Godde as masculine or predominantly masculine?


  2. Thanks Tim, we obviously have some very different presuppositional starting points based on your comments, but I do appreciate your thoughts. Here are some responses to your points:

    Your initial rejection of my comment on John 14:23 misses the point that I am making (though I confess that I need to add some punctuation in the sentence in question, as it is awkwardly worded, sorry, my bad). Your objection is that a natural reading of the text would cause one to still interpret the gender inclusive use of plural pronouns as still referring to Christ having relationships with individuals. I disagree. We bring our presuppositions to the table when we read God’s word and through those presuppositions, our interpretation of the text is colored. There are some schools of theology, like that of the Roman Catholic church, which emphasize that salvation comes through one’s membership within the institution, not through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. A gender-neutral translation here, as in other places, will reinforce bad theology, not function as a corrective.

    I am aware, from looking at your blog, that you are involved in a translation project yourself that has as its aim a more “feminine” use of language, for a lack of a better description. Yet, the question must always be asked, when translating, how do you balance the literal and the readable? How much to you interpret as a translator, in other words. My bias is that the translation be as literal as possible, so long as good English is maintained. Sure, this can be dicey when idiomatic language is used, though that is what footnotes are for. I would prefer to have the literal idiom in the text and the interpretation of the idiom as a footnote, not the other way around.

    If you wanted to insist on a gender neutral translation that did not obscure the individuality of the passage, you would have to translate it something like: “If anyone loves me, that person will keep my word, and my Father will love that person, and we will come to that person and make our home with that person.” While this is a legitimate translation, it is not literal because the text uses “autos” the Greek masculine pronoun.

    One thing that I find interesting is that I never hear anyone fussing about the use of the universal masculine pronoun by Shakespeare, Chaucer, or Twain. These are all classic authors who were writing using the literary conventions of their day, and people of our day understand that when they are reading what these authors wrote. Yet when the Biblical authors use the writing conventions of their day, why can’t we just understand it in the same way. The Bible is a living document, indeed, for it is God’s word and applies to every generation, but at the same time, it is an ancient document that uses literary conventions that were common to the day–my suggestion is that we simply recognize that and not be bickering back and forth about translation philosophy.

    Indeed, today we use Fireman and Firewoman I presume–though I have never heard of anyone being called anything but a fireman. In some fields, woman have intentionally sought to be addressed with male-specific terms, for example, in Hollywood women are seeking to be called “actors” and not “actresses.” So take your pick, which way do we go? Call all firemen “firemen” regardless of the gender, or do we split the two. Let’s just move toward consistency in that sense.

    In Psalm 34:20 and Psalm 19:2a, I would again emphasize that it is better to be more literal in the body of the scriptural text and footnote anything you would deem valuable interpretively. That way the reader can make those decisions as they read the text. The reality is that most Christians will not study Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic, so they rely on a translation of God’s word to tell them what God spoke. Let’s tell them what God spoke as exactly as possible and then seek to understand and interpret.

    I want to make one more note about your use of Godde to reflect both the masculine and feminine qualities of God that you note in scripture. While I know that this concept is nothing new, and that others have sought to speak of the Holy Spirit with feminine pronouns, but this is not accurate to the Biblical text, which uses masculine pronouns to speak of all three members of the Trinity. It also makes light of the Biblical analogy that speaks of the Federal Headship of the husband and compares that to the relationship between Christ and the church as well as to God and his people.

    Your view also, I would suggest, does not treat the notion of sexuality fairly in terms of the doctrine of the Imago Dei. Indeed, both males and females reflect the image of God. While many theologians would argue on this basis that the Image of God resides only in our intellectual and spiritual aspects. While this is true, I think that one must also be reminded that Christ came to redeem our fallen flesh as well as our fallen spirits, which implies to me that there is something of the Imago Dei in our physicality. This would lead some to describe God as being a-sexual, but this is also wrong as the Bible consistently uses masculine pronouns of God. God indeed nurtures his people, but he does so as a loving father, not as a mother. I think that to come up with a term that is half-way between God and goddess is not only misleading to many, but also downright wrong.

    Thanks for your thoughts and I would be happy to dialogue further on this matter if you like.




  3. With regard to the passage you refer to, have you read the NLT versions of those texts? I don’t for a minute believe there’s any confusion in the John passage in the gender inclusive there. English is not a static language, indeed there are a variety of Englishes. I feel that one has to speak from a bias to read a lack of clarity or personal reference in that translation.

    With regard to the bias toward a literal translation. I agree that there is a place for it, but not in every situation. I personally don’t expect anyone to read Wuest’s NT translation or biblical Greek and Hebrew because I believe formal equivalence to be important! Do you? In my mind that would be absurd. In situations Peterson’s translation is clearer and requires no further clarification whereas using the KJV is not. The latter is, however, considered literal but presents problems to people far removed from that version of English (along with errors in translation). The only time I ever use it is with Strong’s Concordance attached.

    Why literal translations do you use? Do you ever use a middle of the road translation (e.g. NIV) or a free-er translation (e.g. The Message or The Voice)? The reasons as to why you’d use a variety of translations it the root behind the desire for another translation.

    I personally maintain that the whole person (whether using a “body, soul and spirit” or “body + spirit = soul” or other formula) is the image of Godde rather than a component or aspect and that this image persists even after the Fall. And as both male and female are Godde’s initial self-expression of choice, and as both masculine and feminine imagery gets used in Scripture in reference to Godde, I comfortably hold that it is appropriate for us to make use of feminine imagery and references in addition to the masculine.

    Though Scripture uses masculine pronouns for Godde questions related to why this is the conception are important to answer. And the answer is not rooted in the masculinity or maleness of Godde! The insistence many have around this issue seems like there is a stake in the maleness of Godde that must be accounted for (there is in fact feminine imagery (along with animal, vegetable and mineral) of Godde in Scripture but that can be the subject of another conversation).

    It is in light of that that we should carefully consider the implications of arguing for the masculine language of Godde being solely valid in relation to Godde. Are women somehow not the image of Godde or lesser images or less appropriate images?


  4. Tim,

    Let me address the personal question you ask first–no, I do not use paraphrased translations as my interest is in what God did say, not in what Peterson or another paraphraser happens to think that God said-I want to make that decision for myself. Thus, when I prepare sermons and do personal devotions, I do so from the original texts.

    When I preach in church or go visiting someone, I do use a translation–the ESV. It is a far more literal translation than the NIV in most places and while not as literal as perhaps the NASB, has a flow and cadence to the language that makes it easy to read.

    I am not a KJV person both on textual grounds and on exactly the grounds you mention–language has changed considerably in the past 400 years, not only in grammatical conventions, but even definitions of terms have changed in some cases. While I recognize that this is essentially the heart of the argument that Gender neutral translators are making, I am not convinced that the matter is as widespread as the PC crowd would wish us to believe, else we would be having this discussion about every literary work that is taught in school, and to the best of my knowledge, we are not.

    Now, do I expect that my congregation or my students would read Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic? Of course not, though I do think that they should be ready and able to do some footwork at least in something like Vine’s, Strong’s, or Zodhiates’ references if they are doing serious Bible study. Do I tell my congregation never to read a gender neutral translation or a paraphrase? No. My philosophy is that God will bless even that which approximates his Word, so if the Message is all they will read, then I bid them to read it. My desire is to educate them as to the problems that make some translations better than others with the hopes of steering them toward a better, more literal translation for their study.

    My biggest issue not only with the Gender Neutral translations, but your Feminist translation is that these ideas will have consequences in people’s theology, and not for the better. You are right in that there are many maternal aspects attributed to God (though more often to the Spirit, which drove Tom Oden to refer to the Holy Spirit as “she” which drove me to conniption). Yet, there are animalistic and materialistic aspects that are also applied to God. God is referred to as a rock and as a lion, and except for those flirting with pantheistic ideas, no one is suggesting the inclusion of these aspects in the pronoun usages–a move to “it” rather than “he” for example. In all of the case of the masculine/feminine characteristics, they are anthropomorphisms being employed to describe different aspects of God’s perfection.

    We do agree that the Imago Dei is expressed in human physicality at least on some level, though it is predominantly in the spiritual/intellectual sense as God is Spirit and has no body. Yet Christ came and redeemed the flesh and offers a fleshly resurrection, which implies that there is something about the flesh that does reflect the Imago Dei and needs “straightening” to use CS Lewis’ analogy of the Fall causing us to be “bent.”

    So, the fact that both men and women bear the Imago Dei is a reminder to us that in a sense, our marriages actually (as the two become one flesh…) help us to better reflect the Imago Dei as we are no longer two, but one, in God’s eyes. Two who are ontologically equal, but for whom God has set aside different roles in the economy of the house.

    It is here where the ramifications of what you are arguing with the use of “Godde” are very serious. God uses his relationship to the church as a model for our relationship within our marriages. Not only is the masculine pronoun used to refer to God (all three persons of the Trinity, even the Spirit), but in addition, the masculine economic role of spiritual head of the household is applied to God. God is husband to the church and her head, just as the husband is the head of his household. When you blur the language of God’s masculine economic role, you destroy the economic roles that the Bible sets for the household (something that has been going on in American culture for more than a generation).

    Of course, it also makes nonsense out of other important aspects in the Bible. Jesus calls God, “Father” using a term of respect in doing so. Also, much in contrast with the popular myth that floats around from time to time, “Abba” was not a term that was applied to signify intimacy and it was not a term that could be applied to either parent, but it distinctively was applied either to a Father or to one who was a priest, hence the Roman Catholic use of “father” for a priest. The Holy Spirit also impregnates Mary, which is a minor point, I grant, but it still needs to be part of the discussion.

    The point is that ideas have ramifications and oftentimes some of the messiest theologies and heretical statements come from someone who has good intentions but don’t think through the ramifications of their actions. Even Pelagius had good intentions having been confronted with the debauchery of Rome in his day–where he took those intentions, though, led to heresy and the denial of God’s clear teachings on the nature of sin.

    I would also raise the question of motivation. Why does one propose such a radical change in language, for surely you are not suggesting that the English language supports the common use of “Godde” as it is not even an English word, but an artificial construct. Even the most liberal groups are quite comfortable using the term “God” or “El”, so why the fuss? My experience tells me that when folks intentionally seek to shake things up in the way you are doing, there are underlying and less noble motivations, and that grieves my spirit to see–and do not think that I am speaking of you or of liberals alone, as this kind of activity is endemic of fallen human nature. The fact that there have been so many splits in my own Presbyterian circles is an example of that. So do we never change? Of course not. But change must be driven by humble motives and not political agendas.

    One more note for you to chew on, as we are on the subject of sexuality and its expression in the Godhead. CS Lewis makes a compelling argument that sexuality is more than just physical, but that it runs and shapes the spiritual as well, and that the physical is only the expression of a deeper spiritual reality. On some levels, this might go to support your argument. In an ethical sense, though, the ramifications of such an idea would not sit well with the liberals (who are going to be the only ones sympathetic to your use of “Godde”), for this would mean, for example, that it is impossible to change one’s sexuality–the operation simply would serve to mar or disguise the spiritual reality. In addition, as many males reflect the maternal instincts that God is described as having, it would again reinforce the idea that God can be described in the masculine and yet demonstrate said maternal aspects.

    Something to chew on.




  5. I think to clarify one at the outset – I’m not busy with a feminist translation. Often Christians ignore hermeneutics and exegesis in current dialogue and eisegete way too much! Similarly, it is not a PC aid and ends up being quite the opposite; then again, it isn’t status quo either. I’ve often asked people to remove the notion of “feminist agenda” from the equation and begin the conversation again, listening to what is being stated from the outset rather than responding based on a priori bias and assumption. Can I ask you to consider again what I’ve actually stated in reference to the topic rather than bringing in what you feel others are stating?

    I personally feel and have witnessed that the masculinity of Godde raises as many concerns as the femininity of Godde (for surely and of necessity Godde is both and yet neither, transcending all?). Just as people are in need of redeeming the masculinity of Godde so too are they in need of redeeming the femininity of Godde.

    You are correct in understanding that changing the language toward gender inclusivity does open the potential role women may play in leadership and teaching within the church. Some understand that to be a good thing while others see this as negative.

    However, I disagree with you with regard to the usage of “Godde”. All language may be argued as “artificial construct” just as the English “God” is not found in the Bible, rather it is an approximation. I’ve explained my personal preference for and usage of “Godde” on my blog. In that article I’ve also explained the point of origin for my openess on this subject and hinted at my personal journey along these lines. Once again, what I hear you injecting in the conversation does not coming from hearing me out but is based on a priori assumptions – assumptions and agendas I don’t personally share. Is the big bad wolf of “feminist agenda” so large that we jump at her shadow when she’s not there?

    Our gender – male and female – runs throughout our very being and I believe we make an assumption that this is primarily related to one aspect as opposed to the ‘being/person’ as a whole (once again again to whichever formulae). Our emotions and spirit are creations just as our bodies are. Hence, the deeper roots to masculinity and femininity lie beyond creation, i.e. in Goddeself. The usage of masculine language and imagery does not make Godde male or primarily masculine. Do you feel that this does? Can you put into words what you taken away from including (and please note this word!) feminine references in addition to the masculine?

    The world is large enough for any number of different groups to exist and the English language is similarly broad enough. Where the masculine inclusive is acceptable that’s great and well. But where it isn’t, what do we do there? Do we insist of changing the language and culture of the people or rather translate the Scripture into their language?

    It is in light of this that the issue ought to be divided into two issues:

    1.) The translation of Scripture: including the appropriateness and challenges with feminine references replacing masculine ones – in large part because not every reference is masculine inclusive and the multi-layered nature of Scripture ought to be carefully preserved even in such an endeavour.
    2.) Contemporary references and usage: including post-biblical cultural developments toward unhealthy masculinity and unhealthy femininity and the need for men and women as integral persons to re-connect with Godde, themselves, each other and nature.

    To date, much of my thinking relates to point 2.) and I’ve only recently started opening up the conversations to incorporate point 1.). Ironically this stems from the reactionism of male Christians toward the shadow of feminism and feminist agendas rather than to point 2.) as something on its own terms.


  6. With all due respect, Tim, whether you like it or not, you are advancing a feminist/PC/liberal agenda with your translation. Not only are these groups the only groups that will support your project, but it really is their agenda that you are advancing. Let’s call it what it is and not beat around the bush.

    For you to say otherwise is something even more sinister, let me explain. The essence of what you are arguing is that because God is described as carrying certain nurturing, typically maternal, attributes, He should not be referred to with masculine pronouns or names, hence the employment of “Godde”-a combination of the word god and goddess.

    This discussion goes far beyond the gender-neutral translation question as here you are dealing with the language of God, not a change in current English usage and grammatical conventions. You are presenting an idea that challenges not only 2000 years of Christian interpretation, but also an additional 1500 years of Jewish literary tradition and 2500 years of Jewish oral tradition before that. In other words, what you are claiming is that Christian and Jewish scholars for the past 6000 have been wrong about the language that they use to describe God. My friend, that is hubris. It is one thing to point out that modern commentators or translators may be missing a particular nuance of a given word, it is entirely another thing to go across the grain on a theological question this significant. This is what CS Lewis calls “chronological snobbery.” Though we may not always agree with the men and women that God has raised up as commentators in the past, it is wise for us to take counsel from them lest we slip into heresy.

    With that in mind, it is not eisegeting the text to use masculine terms to refer to God, in fact, the burden is upon you to demonstrate that you are not eisegeting to promote your particular agenda. If you are going to put forward that the “masculinity” of God needs redeeming, you must proffer reasons as to why it needs redeeming and how the Bible supports such views in context. This you have not done. The only thing that you have done is to suggest a problem based on your observation. To do such, I am sure that you are aware, is a logical fallacy. The other thing that you have done is to suggest that the use of gender neutral language opens doors for women in traditionally male-held roles in the church and in the family and that many think that this is good. Once again, you are basing your argument on preference, not exegesis. To advance your point, the burden lies with you to present that point with solid exegetical work, not supposition and personal observation.

    No, I have not read your “personal journey” on your blog, I am focusing on what you have said here. And honestly, in this matter, personal journey is not so much what I am interested in as solid exegesis. We all have presuppositions that we bring to the table-even God has presuppositions, they are not bad things and it is intellectually dishonest to pretend to approach a question with absolute neutrality. God does not approach us with neutrality, look at how God handles Job or how he speaks through the Old Testament prophets.

    You make the argument that since the word “God” is an English construct which seeks to translate the Hebrew words El and Elohim (as well as the Greek word Theos), that you are within your right to make up a new word to use to refer to him. This really is a silly argument on several levels. First of all, the purpose of translation is to communicate what is said in one language in an accurate way into a new language. To make up a new word when there is a perfectly good word in the target language only adds confusion, not clarity. Secondly, when God inspired the Biblical writers, He did not cause them to use neuter Greek pronouns, but masculine ones. In addition, God is referred to with explicitly masculine pronouns in Hebrew, not with feminine ones–in other words, God was choosing to reveal himself as masculine (which makes sense theologically, as I mentioned above, with the models of the home and the covenantal headship of the husband in the family–your view makes nonsense of the Biblical structure of both the family and the church). Indeed, language is a construct, but for that construct to be of value, it must convey with some degree of precision what is intended to be understood. One of the great problems with the post-modern culture that we live in is that words are often used with no precision whatsoever and meaning is considered a preference, not intrinsically held within the word itself. Unless we choose to return to Babel, we must fight this trend in the use of language.

    Yes, the world is large enough for lots of groups to exist, granted. Yet, if we are going to follow Biblical conventions, there are really only two kinds of people in the world–Christians and non-Christians–the redeemed and those who are on a pathway that will lead to eternal condemnation. What I object to is people putting forward non-Christian ideas and labeling them as Christian. We are called to judge a tree by its fruit, the fruit that I see coming from your proposed use of “Godde” is fruit that will lead many into error.

    I will grant you this point, though. There are many who have, within history, confused ontological difference/equality with economic difference/equality and used it to subjugate a female spouse within the home or within the culture. This is not a universal, but it has taken place. But you do not invalidate the principle that God has given because we have failed to faithfully implement it. Submission is a good thing–Jesus submitted to his Father and because he was willing to do so, eternal life is granted to all who would repent of their sins and turn to him as Lord and Savior. We are commanded to model this example in our lives, in our families, and in our churches.

    Bottom line is that the burden is in your lap to prove that 6000 years of Biblical tradition (both oral and written) has been grossly misunderstood, especially in references where God refers to himself with masculine pronouns and names (like Father). I am going to be honest with you, Tim, I don’t think you can do it without falling into heresy.




  7. I will have to read through your response in a bit more detail and then respond in detail as the first two paragraphs need to be dealt with. In them you’re clearly articulating assumptions. Before continuing the dialogue please consider and respond to the following:

    1.) Feminists and people promoting a feminist agenda are not the only people responding to this topic – rather, there are a variety of persons responding in different ways.

    a.) I’ve dialogued with many a post-Christian and a number of post-New Agers, many of whom are in transitional stages of faith, who have found gender inclusive language to enable them to reconnect with Godde.
    b.) I’ve dialogued with many a Christian who simply cannot see anything but “feminist agenda” despite point 2.) below.

    2.) I’ve never argued that “Godde should not be referred to in masculine terms” and am on record elsewhere as stating, restating, emphasising and reemphasising, that I’m adding feminine references and imagery in complementary and supplementary senses to the masculine.

    Even my rougher attempts (i.e. those not intended as definitive or final but certainly intented as work-in-progress) exploring this include the following statements:

    a.) I’ve stated by way of that “Godde is fully masculine and fully feminine while transcending gender”
    b.) We use the spelling “Godde” and “He” and “S/He” to speak of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The spelling reminds us that male and female along with masculine and feminine have their origin and fulfilment in and through Godde…
    c.) The English “God” has frequently come to represent western post-biblical patriarchy, something culturally and historically distinct from OT and NT.
    c.) …The English “God” is also often used for references to Godde that are gender neutral. The English does not capture the biblical incorporation of female and the feminine. Additionally, the spelling reminds us that Godde transcends our categories and definitions though S/He uses them reliably to make Goddeself known through them.”

    Please clarify how you see the above as “feminist agenda”. Rather, this is a bit of the actually putting into practice of our doctrine of Godde.


  8. Fair enough, let me explain.

    Feminism has become something far more than women wanting equal pay for equal work and is something that seeks to challenge the notion that there are God-given roles for both men and women. To a feminist, the very concept of gender roles is abhorrent.

    Yet, the Bible presents a very different view. The Bible presents certain roles in society as belonging to men and others as belonging to women. In turn, I would argue that men and women are “wired” differently so as to properly fulfill these roles. Given that at the heart of your argument is the idea that God demonstrates both masculine and feminine attributes, I can safely assume that you recognize these differences (at least in design if not in function), so I don’t need to go into detail here as we are in principle in agreement.

    Herein lies the problem. The analogies for the family and for the church are based on the concept of a male head and in turn, God’s male headship. Now, when you erase this principle, then you also erase the principle of male headship within the family and within the church. Whether you like this or not, doing so feeds into the feminist agenda. In addition, the only support that you are likely to find for your view is going to be from the feminist, the liberal, and the PC crowds, not from conservative evangelical Christianity. Label things any way you will, but if you are advancing the agenda of a particular group, while not blatantly part of the group, you have chosen to align yourself with that group’s views. The very fact that you have “dialogued with many Christians who cannot see anything but a feminist agenda” ought to tell you something right there. Eventually the Emperor must recognize that he is not wearing clothes.

    Next, you offer the point that a variety of people are addressing this question in different ways. This is a statement without any backing. What kind of people? People who are educated in Biblical Exegesis from the original tongues? People who are respected conservative theologians? The burden of proof is in your court. It does not matter if lots of people are thinking on this topic if those people are not credible Christians.

    Similarly, watering down the language of the Bible to make it more palpable to post-Christians and new-agers is not an acceptable approach to witnessing Christ. Where is the Biblical model for that? In fact, the Biblical model is just the opposite-the Biblical faith is not compromised, watered down, or compromised to become acceptable. The Gospel is a stumbling block and folly to those who are perishing, but life to those who are willing to repent and humble themselves before it–we are not given permission to tailor it to our preferences.

    To artificially create a term as you have done is not a legitimate translation technique. If you feel that the English term cannot capture the fullness of what the original language conveys, then the proper technique is to simply transliterate the Greek or Hebrew term into English (as was done with “Baptizo”). Thus, you can write “Theos” to your heart’s content and it will not raise an eyebrow. Of course, Theos is a masculine term, Thea is the feminine, which is never applied to God.

    Yet, this very fact reminds us that you are back to your original problem. Were you to take every name applied to God in the Bible in the Old and New Testaments (and there are lots of them), and simply transliterate them so that the limitations of the English word, “God” no longer hinders our understanding of God, you will find that you are still working with a body of names that are given entirely in the masculine. And here you are working with the very names and words that God used to convey his truth to us through his prophets and apostles. Certainly you are not implying that God chose the wrong names to refer to himself.

    Now, since God certainly has no problem referring to himself in the masculine, it begs the question as to why we should have a problem with it. Does cultural preference drive the interpretation of scripture? It shouldn’t. Instead, scripture should inform cultural preferences (sadly, in American culture, they do not). To do what you are doing requires a motive, and nothing that you have stated above makes any real sense unless you are approaching from a feministic or otherwise non-Christian (the new-ager for example) perspective.




  9. Surely you value the importance of tone in a conversation? Tone shows where you’re leaning – both in terms of where you’re coming from and in terms of where your going. Clearly you’re biased ahead of any conversation around this subject.

    Where I say in 1.) a.) that ‘gender inclusive language enables and helps people who’re post-Christian and post-New Age to connect with Godde’ you respond by saying I’m ‘watering down the language of the Bible to make it more palpable’.

    I feel that such an accusation is completely off-sides and inappropriate to a conversation. Your essentially accusing me of something without knowing how gender inclusive language is being employed in any of the conversations I’ve had.

    The gospel containing offense to some is one thing but when Christians choose to be offensive, taking license from the gospel, is another.

    What you are essentially doing is closing conversation around this particular and relevant point ignoring Post 5.) above wherein I distinguished between pure exegesis on one hand and contemporary conversation on the other. Eisegesis in this conversations certainly carries through to eisegesis in your reading of Scripture. However, that’s not the subject of this conversation.


    1.) Are you in any way familiar with contributions from missiology, particularly input into cross-cultural ministry?
    2.) Do you have any experience in cross-cultural missional endeavours?

    If you answer yes to 1.) then I fail to see how, in any way, your applying such to western people of differing culture to you. If you answer yes to 2.) then I ask whether you’ve had any success at reaching people in their culture or do you require that they adopt yours instead as a necessary prerequisite to the gospel?


    You keep responding as though masculinity in general is being threatened along with Godde. How many times do I have to repeat that it is not? Rather “complementary” and “supplementary” and “in addition to the masculine” are phrases I’ve used over and over.

    Even further:

    “Godde” is not an artificial term, but rather akin to “christ” and “logos”. The former is a term and concept present in contemporary culture just as the latter were present in their culture prior to the origin and spread of Christianity. All are pregnant with meaning.

    In light of your conclusion, should I similarly question your motives and label you an MCP?


  10. Well, first of all, I guess that I need to ask the question as to what an “MCP” is before I decide whether I should take it as a compliment or an insult. I am usually pretty good with the acronyms, but you got me with this one.

    On a more serious note, I do recognize and am very conscious of tone. I also will agree fully that I am biased and don’t try and hide those biases, to do so would be intellectually dishonest. While I am open and up front with my own biases and motives, I have not felt the same transparency from your side of our exchange. There are motivations that are underlying your argument for the use of “Godde.” Whether you like the bedfellows or not, you are advancing an agenda put forward by the feminists and going against 6000 years of scholarship and tradition–to me that seems to be a rather headstrong move. So yes, my tone has stiffened some, because I do not think that honest exegesis is your motive, but that there is an agenda that you are putting forward.

    In terms of my cross-cultural experience, yes, I have done so, though not extensively. I teach theology in Ukraine, which is a bit of a change of pace, though there is still the western-European influence there. My most significant cross-cultural ministry experience came in seminary when I spent 3.5 years working with homeless men in downtown Jackson, MS. While still in America, it was a huge cultural shift as I come from a predominantly affluent, educated, white home and I was working predominantly with inner-city, impoverished, predominantly black men, many of whom had spent as much time in jail as I have spent in college. Language was different in slang and idiom, the culture was different, and their pressing needs were different–yet the Gospel was still the same. As I put forward with translations, you translate the language in a way that provides a literal, though understandable, communication of what is being said. We are not given the liberty to change the message. If God uses masculine terms to communicate an important truth about how we are to understand him and his relationship to the church, then, as God uses masculine terms, we are bound to the text to use masculine terms as well. I am not eisegeting the text if I communicate what the text says and maintain the integrity of the God-given text.

    Finally, the use of the term “Godde” is not like the use of Logos or Christ. Both words existed in the Greek language (both found in the LXX, for example) and carried with them rich meaning whose meaning was interpreted by the rest of the Christian canon. In other words, the Apostle John did not say, “I will take the idea of logos and import it into Christian thought.” Instead, John recognizes that there is some truth that the idea of Logos is pointing to, but that the truth is misguided. Thus he demonstrates that the true meaning of the term is found in Christianity. Godde is a term that you (or someone else) created, that makes it artificial.




  11. John did, however, import the word “Logos” and inject Christian meaning into it. Not only did he, and others, set an example by that but it’s equally one we can and should follow today. The word “Logos” was also a term created by someone at some point. It did not drop out of nowhere fully loaded with meaning but picked up meaning as it got used through time by a variety of people.

    Personally I feel that if such a practice was good for those who authored the Scriptures them I’m happy to put it into practice today.

    With regard to the proper usage of masculine. There are times and places where masculine imagery is applied intentionally to Godde – but this does not make Godde male. Often the authors used what was comfortable for them – a masculine inclusive. Becoming aware of the distinction between the two and is important in some parts of the world today.

    Surely as one who exegetes you understand that there isn’t always a one-to-one relationship between words from one culture or context to another. Using a non-Christian term (sufficiently neutral here I suppose) like “reincarnation” means different things to different people. I’ve spoken to Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus and Neopagans who all use the word and it has a different meaning in each context. In fact, even among Hindus who reside in India versus those who reside in Cape Town who allegedly hold to the same tradition there is a diversity of interpretations – one being arguably more authentically Hindu and the other more western.

    Now, do you feel that the usage of the male pronoun in reference to Godde has the same meaning from Genesis through to Revelation and that there’s a one-to-one relationship today?


  12. Yes, John did import an existing word with meaning and allow the Christian tradition to define the term properly. And that is exactly my point, he did not make up a word as you have done.

    Now, exegetically, though, your comment raises a very good point. You say that if a Biblical author can take and import a pagan idea like Logos and redefine it, so too ought we. And this is where we will once again diverge greatly in our approach to the Bible. The big difference between us and the authors of scripture is that we are not inspired to write. Our writings are neither inerrant nor infallible–the writings of scripture are. There are many things that the scripture writers do that I do not believe we have the liberty to do, one of which is to do something like import the Logos from Greek thought and say, no, this applies to Christ. Another example is how both Jude and Paul cite parts of non-canonical texts as inspired and authoritative. Certainly, I value tradition, but I do not hold them to the same level of authority and reliability as I do scripture because of the authorship. One more example is Paul’s allegorization of the mountains–again something that I do not believe we have the liberty of doing, yet, being inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Biblical authors could do so.

    Your analogy of reincarnation is correct, there are different understandings of the term. But what I believe that you are doing is essentially saying that since many pagan cultures have the idea of reincarnation in their vocabulary, but not resurrection, we ought to use the more familiar term of reincarnation and say, “this is what we mean by it.” I believe that if we follow a practice like this, we will spread confusion and synchretism, not light. I do not believe that we have the liberty that the Apostle John had because we do not have the Spirit speaking through us in the same authoritive way.

    True, there is often not a one-to-one relationship between words from culture to culture and this gets into the debate over literal translation, Dynamic Equivalence, or paraphrase, and we have both talked on that elsewhere. The principle, though, of making as literal a translation as possible, that still makes good sense given the grammatical and linguistic constructions of the day is the key, with footnotes to shine clarity on idioms that are not equivalent. Now, I personally grant that I am not rigidly literal in my own translations, because sometimes a rigidly literal translation is nonsensical, so some wisdom and discernment needs to be employed especially in the area of idioms.

    But what we are talking about here is not the same as changing God to “Godde” and applying feminine pronouns to him in places. The reality is that while grammatical conventions have changed in such a way as to make the universal use of “he” outdated, those conventions really have not changed with respect to God except for in the liberal and feminist circles. Whether you are intending to support their position or not, you are certainly aligning yourself with their arguments.

    Yet, referring to God as a “he” is still not a matter of grammatical convention, it is a matter of plain interpretation–it is what the text says and that should be preserved. God does not refer to himself as a “he” just because of idiomatic Hebrew or Greek, but he did so to teach some very important theological concepts in terms of the economic roles of men and women in culture.

    So yes, I do hold that with respect to the use of the masculine pronoun in the Canon does have a one-to-one relationship to us today, just as it does so cross-culturally (male is male). I guess that were we to find a tribe of hermaphodites somewhere who have never found a non-hermaphrodite, then we would have a bit of a challenge, but to the best of my understanding, there is no culture that has so blurred the gender roles that the difference between “he” and “she” no longer carries meaning.




  13. Errr… I said absolutely nothing about using ‘reincarnation’ instead of ‘resurrection’. Where on earth do you get that idea from? That’s precisely what I’m trying to clarify – how much of this conversation are you present for and how much is based on assumption and a priori bias? I also don’t believe I can be credited with creating the reference “Godde” as I adopted it from others. It has been in use for a while and came preloaded with layers of meaning.

    I don’t agree that every usage of the masculine singular is intentionally cast and necessary to preserve as such. A number of purely masculine inclusive according to convention. Personally, I feel no need to preserve these as masculine only and am more than happy to find gender inclusive references.

    I don’t have any motivation to hold on to or preserve literal only translations. They certainly have their place, however, more dynamically equivalent texts equally serve a valuable role.

    As said elsewhere (if not here), where the masculine is deliberately intended and necessary I have no problems preserving it. However, where a masculine inclusive gets used I’m happy finding a gender neutral alternative as the OT & NT masculine inclusive does not translate one-to-one into some parts of the world we live in (and that’s the ‘hidden agenda’ you refer?).

    I’m not so sure that Godde felt that He was discrediting Himself by creating Eve in His image. Rather, engaging Godde as feminine allows us to engage Godde more fully. Just as I’ve seen people receive an incredible amount of healing through engaging the Father heart of God so do I foresee people receiving healing through engaging the Mother heart of Goddess (and this is the other ‘hidden agenda’ you accuse me of).

    However, it does sound like you have a bias against the feminine or rather that our bias requires a bit of clarity for me to fully grasp it (few are willing to dialogue around this). Do you feel that Godde somehow undermined Herself by creating Eve in Her image? Do you feel that we somehow undermine Godde by speaking about Her in non-masculine terms? In what way do you understand Scripture and the Church threatened by feminine language in reference to Goddess?


  14. No, you did not explicitly use the illustration of using the term “reincarnate” to replace “resurrect,” but you miss my point. In context, you were making the point that the term reincarnate carries different nuances when used with different people groups, and thus, you argued, cultural contexts dictate the adaptation of new meanings to existing words even if there is not a direct one-to-one correlation. To use reincarnate as a substitute for resurrect is abhorrent to Christian theology, I am glad we agree on that area, but what you are doing with Godde is no different–it presents God almost as a hermaphrodite, able to be either male or female based on preference or the situation. Yet, God has chosen, in his self-revelation, to use masculine pronouns and names, we ought not alter what He has presented as true and right.

    So, yes, I am biased against the use of the feminine pronoun to refer to God in any way. Sure, God does carry the nurturing attributes that are typically applied to females, yet males can be nurturing when necessity dictates. The fact that God demonstrates some traditionally female attributes at times (like being the nurturer) does not rob him of his masculinity, but compliments it.

    Ultimately, this is not a question of cross-cultural linguistics, male and female are both understood clearly in every cultural enclave-the only ones seeming to have a problem are those where the influence of feminism has been at its strongest. Whether you overtly support them or not, you are aligning yourself with them by pursuing this project.

    In terms of the Imago Dei, calling God “she” is not the way to address the fact that females bear the image of God. To start with, Jesus is presented in scripture as the perfection of the Imago Dei. I don’t suppose then, that you are about to suggest that Jesus was both male and female and I also don’t suppose that you are willing to suggest that women can never perfectly reflect the Imago Dei because they are not males like Jesus. In addition, I expect that you are not prepared to suggest that if you are not a middle-easterner you also don’t reflect the Imago Dei perfectly.

    These are silly and extreme examples, but they shed light on what you are doing. You are redefining God in such a way that he fits your theological definition of male and females in the image of God. God has presented himself, we are not given the liberty to adapt him to ourselves–instead, we are called to adapt our understanding to his revelation.

    You mention your two “hidden agendas” that you have. The first (that of replacing the universal “man” with “person”), I find rather unnecessary and fraught with problems, but it is not the end of the world. Though I would prefer people to read more literal translations, I understand the value of dynamic equivalence as well as paraphrase-especially for those who have a hard time reading or for pleasure reading. Literal translations should be used for study, though, unless you start taking up Greek and Hebrew, blessing as that may be. 😉

    The second agenda is where I have the greatest problem. You speak of the “Mother heart of Goddess.” This is not Christian language. Sure, I do want people healed of problems, abusive relationships, etc…, but I will not do so by watering down or, more accurately, subverting the truth. I am telling you this as graciously as I can, calling God “Goddess” for the purpose of making someone feel comfortable or welcome is downright heresy because God does not refer to himself with feminine pronouns or names, but He refers to himself in the masculine. Good translation and good exegesis demands that such a distinction be preserved.




  15. I’m curious to know whether you’ve read The Shack and what your thoughts were on the book in terms of heresy?


  16. Oh boy, now that is opening a can of worms. 😉

    I did not read the shack all of the way through, though I have read sections of it as too many people in my care were reading it. The book is rife with theological errors, the whole portrayal of God as a female being one of the more innocuous of them because it is just presented as a facade and not an essential part of his being.

    I am sympathetic with the desire to write an allegorical story to present the truth about pain we face in this world–I am a huge fan of CS Lewis (though Lewis is also guilty of some glaring theological errors in several places). Yet, the book, the Shack, is presented as God giving a theological statement about himself, which means that the author needs to be held to a higher standard of Biblical accuracy than someone just writing a story. A lot of ink has been spilled demonstrating these theological errors, and I have been part of that at least within the leadership of our school, which found itself divided over our responses to the book.

    The answer, I believe, is not a bunch of books in refutation, but for someone to write a compelling story, like the shack, dealing with pain and suffering in this world, but with sound theology.

    At least in America, we live in a culture (sadly) whose theology tends to be more shaped by the pop culture than by scripture. Many people will take the Shack to be an accurate picture of God as he expresses himself in this world and will follow those errors into heresy. Some of the statements that Young makes, in their context, are statements that have been shown to be heretical in ages gone by. And though I do not think that Young is intentionally setting out to propagate heresy, his lack of understanding (or willingness to press the envelope without thinking through ramifications) of Systematic and Historical theology will lead many down a path of error, and he will be held accountable for that. Ideas have consequences, and we need to honestly think through those consequences before we put our ideas forward into the open market to influence the world.




  17. It seems like you’re heavily focused on neat theology. I once was too.

    To me that’s akin to arguing for technical drawing as the only pure form of art. What about pointalism, abstract, cubist, etc. all of which are art but not 100% focused on exact perspective?

    In one of Steven Katz’s books (I can’t remember if it was him or a contributor) he speaks of the use of language as being literally correct while misconstruing the reality. The example of a game of soccer being described as only a leather ball being kicked through posts. Though literally correct the description is inaccurate and misleading (space precludes expanding on the image too much).

    Words are similar, especially those related to the gender debate. Even in the strictest literal-literal translation the translators insert additional words to make sentences flow in the language they’re translating to. Further, a mixture of theological decisions and the language as understood and used by the translators and their audience affect the choice of words.

    It seems to me that you’re putting a lot of effort toward expecting that others ignore something that is part of their culture and context on the basis that it’s not a part of yours? And in so doing your forgetting the lived meaning of abstractions.

    Though “he” is the same in terms of what they reference the word does not carry the same meaning in every situation. There’s a world of meaning that goes along with that.

    Male and female, masculinity and femininity, all find their origin, meaning and fulfilment only in and through Godde. Irrespective of what you’re arguing against feminism and for a literal translation you’re missing out on the broader reality.

    I hear your reservations, but don’t feel that you’re hearing the need for a remedial use of language or the point of what we’re doing and why we’re doing what we’re doing.

    That said, I’ll be looking forward to interacting you in more detail around our finished work 🙂


  18. Tim,

    To begin with, thank you for the compliment. Yes, I am very interested in “neat” when it comes to theology, for the other option is sloppy, which I have no interest in. God is rational, and though we as fallen humans are far from being able to grasp the extent of God’s infinity, we should expect that the things which God reveals are rational and not a chaotic jumble of ideas. As God is the author of all scripture, we ought to expect an orderly rationality to mark his revealed word. So, yes, “neat” is something that I strive toward, though I confess that I am far from as clear an understanding of God’s word as I desire-that will be a quest that I expect to continue into glory.

    The reference to Katz is what CS Lewis describes as “looking at” versus “looking along.” For Lewis, “looking at” reflected objective observation while “looking along” was the subjective experience. Neither tells all of the story. Granted, in some cases, one is more helpful than the other, but both are necessary to get the fullest view of a situation or event. The key, though, is that properly viewed, Objective and Subjective should not be found in antithesis, but should be complimentary toward one another.

    One of my concerns with what your venture is that you are allowing your subjective experience (the inclusion of female pronouns to refer to God) with post-christians and new-agers to cloud the objective truth of what is being conveyed. You are right, that often in translation words are inserted or deleted from the text to make it fit grammatically into the target language. But the addition of a preposition or the removal of an extra pronoun or even the changing of a double negation is not what you are proposing. Your proposal changes the very way that God has communicated himself to us.

    I have suggested before that males often portray stereotypical female characteristics when the necessity arises. There are times, for example, when my son is sick, that Mom just won’t do and that I need to provide the nurturing that he needs at the moment. Yet, at no time would it ever be proper to describe me as “Mom” or “she.” Granted, that is a weak example, but others come to mind where single parents are involved, for example, and one parent must largely seek to fill both roles. Again, that does not cause the single parent to be called by both titles or with both masculine and feminine pronouns. Instead,it is simply understood that one is demonstrating some of the characteristics of the other.

    My suggestion is that this is what we find when we see God demonstrating some of these Characteristics. As God has chosen to reveal himself with masculine pronouns and names, it is not proper to alter that as we translate it into a target language. To insist on masculine pronouns is not foisting my culture on theirs–it simply is translating the text as God has given it to us.




  19. I reckon from the 1 + 1 + 1 = 1 thing that Godde transcends rationality. It was not so much a compliment as a pointer to the fact that language gets used in a variety of ways and that not every way is suited to every situation.

    Have you ever read the TNIV’s responses to critics under their explanation for the changes they made? You can easily find them online http://www.tniv.info/bible/sample_resultsingle.php?rowid=55&category_select=MOST&order_by=biblicalorder&up_down=ASC.

    What you’re arguing for is the masculinity of Godde. Is Godde male? I argue that a cultural normative does not amount to a deliberate and precise usage – especially when the creation narratives clearly indicate that the “He” and “them” evidences that masculine inclusive in reference to Godde is not an argument for masculinity but a linquistic construct.

    It sounds to me, reading between the lines, that you would have a complementarian agenda skew our rendering of the masculine inclusive toward masculine. If the masculine inclusive is operationally the same as a feminine inclusive then it comes down to a mere choice. If an MCP agenda is applied then one has to, of necessity, choose a masculine rendering. Correct?

    Remember, we’re here talking about the employment of language in communication rather than the literality of translation. One can be literally correct while being actually incorrect.

    Based on your logic I can assume that Paul was supportive of slavery? Right? Surely Godde could’ve chosen to deal with slavery once and for all. Onesimus and Philemon presented more than an equal opportunity for dealing with the issue. Was Wilberforce wrong in his interpretation of Scripture? Did personal experience force him to unfairly interpret and apply Scripture? Was he being led by another godde? Or was Paul merely addressing unfair labour practices and unreasonable employment expectations?


    • You are creating a false dichotomy in assuming that because God is infinite he transcends rationality. Infinity may be beyond our feeble ability to comprehend, but God’s infinite existence is infinitely rational. In a very real sense, rather than saying 1+1+1=1, we ought to say, infinity+infinity+infinity=infinity. I knew that your comment was not meant as a compliment, but I do take it as such because God is neither irrational nor is he insane. God is rational and our rationality is derived from the fact that we bear his image. Just because variety of ways does not give one license to use it however you like. Your assumption that language of communication is completely divided from literalness in translation. Indeed, idioms need some work, but a pronoun for the name of God is anything but an idiom, but is a plain one or the other.

      And yes, I am arguing for the masculinity of God in a sense, as God has chosen to reveal himself using masculine terms. As I have been saying over and over, God does not refer to himself with feminine names or pronouns. How do you justify changing the language entirely from what the original text states? Again, we are not talking about an idiom here, we are talking about plain pronouns.

      I am a complementarian in my theology, and I believe that this is what we find scripture presenting to us. The submission of the female in an economic sense is plain in scripture in both testaments, while the ontological equality is affirmed in the same breath. This, of course, is the same way within the Trinity. Members within the Triune Godhead are ontologically equal but the Son chooses to subordinate himself to the Father and the Spirit chooses to subordinate himself to both the Father and the Son.

      Okay, now, this is the second time you have used the term “MCP” without defining it, so I am not sure how to answer your question. You keep going back and forth, though, between an inclusive, like “mankind” or taking a generic “him” into “a person” (in application to a non-descript person) and then applying the same logic to God, who is a specific person–one who describes himself with masculine terms.

      Well, I am not sure why you changed the subject on me, but Paul did not condemn slavery, nor does Old Testament law do so. Of course, slavery was applied in a very different way in ancient times than it was in the American south. Sure, there were always abuses, but we have employers who abuse their employees in similar ways even today, don’t we? In ancient culture, slavery was a way to pay off debits and sometimes a way to become upwardly mobile. Would I advocate slavery today? No, Paul was functioning within the culture of his day and slavery is one of those things that we have as a result of the fall and continued sin. Do I advocate an end to slavery where slavery raises its head? Yes, I do on multiple levels, but primarily on the basis that human beings are all bearers of the image of God and should thus be treated with dignity.

      You are changing the subject entirely from a question of translation to a matter of interpretation and hermaneutics. Your theological application of scripture should not be very visible within translation. Obviously, there are times when it is necessary (where words have multiple meanings depending on context, for example), but once again, pronoun use is not one of those areas. Don’t allow your theology to ruin your exegesis.

      Again, scripture is God’s word. He chose the men to use to write it and so inspired them to write not by their own fancy but by a movement of the Holy Spirit (see 2 Peter). Every word and letter is in perfect accord with God’s will. Being that is the case, there is no good reason to translate the text otherwise, and whether you are willing to admit it or not, you are laboring to advance the liberal, feminist agenda. The allies for your project will come from their camp, not the camp of evangelical Christians.




  20. PW,

    Oddly enough I’m not changing the subject entirely. Slavery is something abhorent in any culture which Godde could’ve dealt with directly. Why did S/He choose not to do so?

    Rather than separating the subject of slavery and the role of women there are numerous instances in both topics that point toward a kingdom-oriented trajectory. Just as ethically the “eye for an eye” was a progressive statement in context it is often used regressively today. Similarly the progressive elements in the passages referencing the submission of women (rather than the giving of a man to his wife) are emphasised over women acting equally as Judges and Prophets within the OT and NT periods.

    Clearly, Godde could’ve dealt with slavery directly but rather dealt with it indirectly. I believe there’s a similar trajectory with regards women and a more egalitarian perspective along with the environment.

    Clearly in Genesis we have evidence of a gender struggle resulting directly from the Fall along with the affirmation of our role, together, in dominion over the environment. It would seem that you’re not acknowledging the diversification happening within the postmodern westernised parts of the world.

    Many eyes are now opened to the environmental crisis we’re facing. In Scripture Godde could’ve more directly dealt with our responsibility as stewards of the earth. Dominion has came to mean, and distorted to mean by Christians at that, a domination and exploitation that lies beyond Godde’s mandate. The so-called ‘liberals’ and ‘earth muffins’ have for a long time been more in tune with Godde’s purpose for humanity and will regarding the environment in this regard than evangelical Christians. Re-reading Scripture in this light, informed by our context, presents us with a stark critique.

    It is within the design specs of humanity to name and distinguish and recently we’ve started doing that in relation to gender. Would you have us ignore a proper hermeneutic on these subjects?

    To affirm that “Godde is not rational” is by no means arguing that Godde is irrational. Rather, it is one of the ways language is used to affirm that Godde is not to be confined to, nor the meaning of Godde exhausted by, our language constructs.

    And so, I ask, quite plainly:

    1.) What is wrong with using feminine pronouns in reference to Godde in current language?

    To argue that “Well that’s the way it’s always been done” does not mean “That’s the way it shall forever be.”

    To say, well Godde could’ve done something different on this score is also not quite a relevant statement. As Godde could’ve very directly deal with slavery and yet S/He didn’t.


  21. Again, Tim, you are trying to obscure the argument. This is the problem with most debates that take place today, everyone brings in tangental issues that are emotionally charged and the question being addressed is never dealt with. The question at hand is not the legitimacy of slavery (which is an interesting debate to be had when you start to define what slavery means). The question at hand is the legitimacy of changing a pronoun from “He” to “She” to fit your theological view of God. The second, and related question at hand is the legitimacy of creating a new term for God that is deliberately designed to undermine what scripture plainly presents. I hold that both of these views are illegitimate and you hold otherwise.

    I have pressed the question all through our dialogue about the legitimacy of changing the pronouns. God divinely spoke his word and it is without error. If God chose to reveal himself with masculine terms, faithful translation demands that we do the same. You ask at the end of your statement “what is wrong with using feminine pronouns…” and this is my response. God does not refer to himself with feminine terms, but uses masculine terms, we do not have the liberty to change that. Eve took the liberty to alter God’s word in a desire to communicate to the Serpent and see all of the problems that such an act brought us.

    This is not a “that is the way it has always been done” argument, nor have I ever put that argument forth. It is plainly a question of whether you with be faithful to what God has revealed about himself. Were God to have used female pronouns on occasion, that would be different, but he does not. It is no more appropriate for you to call God a “she” than it is for me to start calling you or any other male a “she.” We plainly are not.

    If you cannot see how women can bear the image of a “masculine” God, then you need to look at parents and their children. My daughter bears quite a bit of my image, though she is quite female and I am quite male. If such is apparent on such a limited scale, it should be obvious that such can be on the larger scale of God and humans.

    This is not about being “progressive” in your use of language, nor is it really even a matter of being inclusive. It is a matter of whether or not you will faithfully render the text. Indeed, there are segments that view “an eye for an eye” as regressive in our culture, though I would argue that such a principle of retributive justice is a much better system than the system of humanitarian justice that is practiced today, but again, that is a separate subject.

    Okay, let’s go back to the original point. Then, once we have addressed the point at hand, we can address these many tangental differences that we have. Since you are the one who is promoting stepping out of the bounds of traditional orthodox Christianity on the matter of handling the question of God’s gender, the burden of proof lies with you: upon what basis do you alter the pronoun from male to female when God has explicitly applied said pronoun to himself?




  22. PW,

    I would argue that by continuously referencing “feminist agenda” that you’re introducing issues not relevant to what I’m suggesting.

    You’re arguing that Godde specifically chose masculine exclusive rather than masculine inclusive language, i.e. to say that Godde is male or primarily male and to be referred to in masculine only. This differs drastically to my reading of the text (and the language) which implies rather Godde is a person.

    The issue of slavery is actually not tangental. Rather, there was a clear opportunity in the NT, let alone the opportunities in the OT, to directly deal with the issue and as opposed to doing so we find that Godde rather deals with issues of character and respect. Why is this the case? Godde breaks social convention but does not clearly abhor slavery?

    Similarly with regard to women. Both in the OT and NT we find that women play similar roles to men in terms of prominence. Whether Judges or Prophets there is no distinction and in the NT women are called co-workers with the apostles. (Remember, you’re the one that brought in the question of women’s roles in church. I hadn’t even touched on that because it is not the direct concern of what I’ve been saying).

    Hence, things culturally progressive in the OT and NT context may be culturally regressive now according to a kingdom-oriented perspective.

    So, hermeneutically speaking, it is clear that Godde works from within social convention and points toward a kingdom-oriented conclusion. It is the trajectory that we’ll have to concern ourselves with rather than clear-cut statements.

    I’m very comfortable with seeing women as the image of Godde just as I’m comfortable with men as the image of Godde. Why would you question that and imply that I cannot see that?

    In fact, I’m comfortable enough with men as the image of Godde and so am happy to reference Godde in the masculine as well as being equally comfortable with women as Godde’s image and hence happy to also refer to Godde in the feminine.

    I’m hearing you as being very stuck on a literal-literal rendering of the text. I have no interest in producing a literal rendering of the text. That has been done and done well by many. I’m interested in a translation on the dynamic-equivalence end of the spectrum in terms of language usage. Here the idea is to have the language clear in the culture/audience’s terms.

    Sure, the authors of Scripture use masculine language (and I would argue in a default masculine inclusive sense) even when using animal, mineral, and feminine imagery. Just as referencing me as the bride of Christ does not make me female so too does a referencing of Godde in the masculine-inclusive not mean that Godde is male. The Genesis narrative clearly illustrates this – moving from the Spirit brooding over the waters (feminine image) to “God creating man (in the sense of humankind) in His (masculine-inclusive) image: male and female (hence pointing toward humanity (the word man ‘used to’ perform this same function but no, in some circles we distinguis) as male and female) He created them (i.e. Godde is perfectly comfortable with man as His image and female as Her image).

    Starting from that point we can elaborate further… just as we take that further ourselves with regard to monogomy, heterosexuality, etc. This text is as rich (or as thin they’d same in some circles) on this issue as it is on the others. Or would you say otherwise?


    • Tim, I continually refer back to the feminist agenda because whether it is intentional or not, you are advancing their position. I am simply calling things what they are, not trying to make a loaded statement. Your adamant denials that you are part of their movement are heard and understood, but they give the impression that you have some ulterior motives that you would prefer to remain below the surface. It is like the electronics manufacturer who makes radar detectors. Their product is sold to help people break the law. That is the purpose of a radar detector. They don’t like to admit it and come up with 101 reasons why they should not be seen as aiding people in their breaking of speed limits, but a toad is a toad no matter how much you kiss it and it will taste like a toad no matter how much lipstick you use. The princes are only in the fairy tales.

      Yes, I am arguing that when God is referring to himself, he specifically chose masculine pronouns. Demonstrate where he did otherwise and I will back off on this. Now, you cannot say that this was just a cultural convention of the day as there were many pagan goddesses in the cultures that surrounded Israel. Point being, it was not such a strange thing to worship a female deity-even apart from her consort. Thus, if God wanted to present himself as a female, he could have. Yet, he chose not to, and I would argue that there is theological significance to that choice in terms of the ordering of our homes and our churches. That, though, is tangental to our discussion, though BTW, one correction, you were the first one to bring this matter up in your very first comment on my blog. Now, I did follow it up more, but it was introduced by you that some would see the opening up of female leadership in the church as a good thing. I simply followed up.

      You need to clarify what you mean by “God is a person” in the context of rejecting masculine language of God. I am a person and I am male… Personhood, when theologically defined, deals with one’s personality, individuality, and ability to communicate with other persons. I am not sure how what you said makes any sense, so please explain.

      In terms of slavery, it is tangental. You deal with slavery only in the context of its abuse. Slavery, as God defined it in scripture, is not really that terrible of a thing. It was a means by which one could get a second chance on their finances after making bad decisions (6 years of slavery and your debts are all paid off–that is significantly better than those of us who have credit card debt–that takes 20 years). More importantly, the Apostle Paul refers to himself as a “slave” a “doulos” to God. This is not language of service, but slavery. Fallen man has, as we have done with so many things, taken a good principle and perverted it–and that is why slavery needs to remain outlawed. God addresses the sins of men who abuse the principles.

      Now, I don’t know where you are getting that there are no distinctions between men and women in the testaments as to their service. Yes, there are female prophets, but very few and they are introduced in connection with their husbands or other authoritative make family member, thus Deborah is introduced as the wife of Lappidoth and Miriam was introduced as sister of Moses. The pattern continues–God uses these exceptions to shame the men during that particular period of time. You do not set the norm by the exception, but rather find the purpose of the exception.

      Next, you are making a hermeneutical leap that would make Superman look like a slug. To suggest that God is culturally progressive in Biblical days means that the church always has to be culturally progressive even to the point of changing the message of scripture, is not right nor does it logically follow. In many ways, is appropriate to move “regressively” when dealing with the culture for the things that our culture tolerates are far outside of the ideal of God.

      Yes, I am “stuck” on as literal a rendering of the text as possible. It is not my role as translator to import into the text something that is not there beyond simply making it good English. I have no problem with footnotes and commentaries, these things are necessary (and I have written several commentaries of my own, so obviously, that is not an issue with me), the issue is translating in such a way that you present your theological idea of a dual-sexual god into the text as if it were God’s very word. Remember, when you translate, you are saying that essentially these words came out of God’s mouth. I understand the value of Dynamic Equivalence at times, but more and more I see its value as that of commentary, not of translation.

      You make a statement here, though, that we completely agree upon, but baffles me as I hear you say it. You say, “the idea is to have the language clear in the culture/audience’s terms.” Yes, you want what you are communicating to be clearly understood, but in doing so one must be careful not to misrepresent the text. The fact is that “Godde” is not a term that is clear in anyone’s terms today.

      Finally, when God creates man and woman in his image, that does not make God man and then woman depending on whose mirror is being looked into. Both carry His image in their person/personality. As I mentioned before, my daughter bears my image (poor girl!), but that does not make me female nor does it imply that female pronouns should be applied to me when speaking of that context. Yet, you are applying that flawed hermeneutic to God.

      Certainly principles of hermeneutics and application apply (monogomy, hetero sexuality, etc…), but I am suggesting that you are taking them out of context.




  23. Win,

    I can’t help but muse at your choice of language? Where have I ever suggested that we reject the masculine in reference to Godde? If so please reference. Once again I state: “feminine language in addition to the masculine” and “remedial use of feminine language“.

    The reference to “Godde” is perfectly clear my end of the world and with any number of people I converse with. Further, apart from those resolutely refuse to understand (including Liberal Evangelical Christians), it takes about 30 seconds to clarify what is meant and no further complications (including Conservative Evangelical Christians).

    So here are some options by way of clarifying the conversation:

    Please pick an option:
    1.1.) Godde has a penis and is male
    1.2.) Godde has a vagina and is female
    1.3.) Godde is Spirit, but makes use of similes, metaphors, creation and the like as a Self-Revealing Person

    Please pick a rendering of the text:
    2.1.) God made a man in his image, and then God extrapolated a bit and made woman
    2.2.) Godde made humans in Godde’s own image; male to reflect some of Godde’s image while female reflects the rest of Godde’s image
    2.3.) Godde made humans in Godde’s own image; both male and female are the image of Godde in their own right and capacity as well as together

    Please pick another:
    3.1) Godde set up the Hebrew language and culture
    3.2) Godde made use of the already developed language and culture
    that most accurately represented Goddeself
    3.3) Godde made use of an already developed language and culture to reveal Goddeself and tweaked it along the way, challenging social, cultural and political norms in order to conform them toward representing Godde’s kingdom

    Please select one of the options below, remember in hermeneutics that consistency is required:
    4.1.) Godde wholeheartedly supports slavery
    4.2.) Godde supports humanitarian slavery
    4.3.) In Godde’s kingdom there is no slavery and Godde intervenes in history where there is slavery in order to shift culture and society away from slavery


    • Tim,
      However you wish to label it, you are indeed rejecting the masculine language. You say that when you are doing so, using the feminine “in addition to the masculine,” that it provides a “remedial function.” Remedial for whom? You have suggested that such language is compelling for those in the “post-Christian” world. Yet, in doing so, you are allowing those who are outside of orthodoxy to define your translation technique. That would be like including a Mormon or a Jehovah’s Witness on the translation committee for a new translation of the Bible–it is simply nonsense. Because translation contains a degree of interpretation, those who translate must be versed in the theology of scripture as a whole. The alternating use of gender pronouns adds confusion, not clarity, almost implying that God is not one, but many. In addition, it offers a handshake of agreement to our society as a whole which has opted to reject the traditional patriarchal model for family and the church that is clearly presented in God’s word. Once again, you are allowing modern conventions to interpret scripture where scripture should be challenging modern conventions. Note, that you are not the only one doing this, the much of the broader church has failed in this as well, thus allowing for female church leadership, homosexuality in the church to be condoned, abortions to be treated as viable alternatives to life, teaching of evolution to their kids, divorce as normative and expected, and the list goes on. Except for pockets of our society, the church has allowed itself to become irrelevant and non-essential to life, and that is a trend that needs to be changed. I sympathize with your desire to see more people embrace the Scriptures, but one must not do so at the expense of the Truth.

      Now, regarding your several “multiple choice” questions: you are making several errors in presenting your views in this way. First, you are creating some false dichotomies, in suggesting one over another. Second, you are also using definitions in different ways to suit your ends, and that is a logical fallacy. Allow me to illustrate:

      Your first question has to do with God’s “anatomy.” Your assumption is that one’s anatomy is what makes one male or female and that given that God is Spirit and thus the use of similes and metaphors is designed to communicate ideas that transcend genders. Something that I agree with. Yet, your point 1.3 fails to serve your argument because you have shifted how you are defining gender. If we agree that God does not have a masculine anatomical body part (which we do–apart from God the Son) nor feminine ones, then God’s choice of pronouns must communicate to us theological truth and changing how you use those pronouns alters or obscures the theological truth that is being conveyed. In addition, we both agreed earlier on in our discussion that gender even in humans transcends physical anatomy, but as CS Lewis described in his book Perelandra, our anatomy is simply the outward expression of an inward reality. Thus, one need not have physical body parts to be male or female–hence, I would suggest that we remain male and female when our spirits go to heaven and while our bodies remain here on earth, kept by Christ, awaiting his return.

      This line of reasoning also addresses the second question that you pose. We may bear the image of another spiritually as well as physically. Now, while most theologians hold that it is only the spiritual/intellectual aspect of mankind, which separates us from animals, that bears God’s image (as God is Spirit), I do hold that our physicality also bears the image of God both because God redeems the flesh as well as the spirit of mankind and because when demons attack humans, one of the things that they seek to do is to distort the image of God in the flesh as well as in the spirit. So I am confronted with a little larger challenge than most theologians (in how one God’s image can be reflected in people not only of two genders, but also of such variation (skin tone, body type, hair color, etc…).

      Regardless of how we discuss the topic, we are told in scripture by the Apostle Paul that Jesus is the perfect image of the invisible God, but certainly we all don’t look like Jewish men. Nor is anyone seriously suggesting that Jesus was really an androgynous person of nondescript skin tone, body type, and hair color. That would be silly. Thus, we must hold that God’s image is primarily kept on a Spiritual/intellectual level, and as Lewis suggests with gender, our physicality is the expression of that reality. So, do men and women both reflect God’s image? Absolutely. Does a married couple better reflect God’s image? I would say, yes. I suggest in other places that the marriage is the only Biblical analogy we have of the Trinity–to persons becoming one flesh, bound by the Spirit of God. Does this then logically mean we should be free with our pronouns? You would say, yes. I would say, no. Again, God has given us pronouns that reflect some deeper theological realities for a reason. In addition, this principle may also reflect why God often uses the plural of El–Elohim to refer to himself.

      At this point, I am beginning to belabor the point, but I do believe that God did set up the Hebrew language and culture as he defined their culture by calling them apart and guiding them into Canaan. He is not making the best use of existing conventions–he defined those conventions. You keep on getting back to slavery, and again, without a clear definition of slavery. Most people’s understanding of slavery is based only on the abuses of the institution. Does God approve of slavery as we see it today or even as it was employed over the last 300 years or so? No, that is horrendous and we need to bring it to a swift end for many reasons, not the least of them being the way that those who bear God’s image are being treated as expendable commodities (noting also that by all statistics, there are far more slaves being trafficked today than there were in Wilberforce’s day). Is God repulsed by the idea of slavery by every definition of the term? No. Christians are called “Slaves” to Christ and to righteousness. The term doulos does not mean “servant” as some modern translations would render it, it means “slave” in every sense of the term. So one must be careful in terms of what you mean when you refer to “slavery,” define your terms. That is a huge part of the hermaneutical technique that people largely miss in our post-modern culture where precisely defining terms is no longer considered a virtue.

      A suggestion. There are two debates going on simultaneously as we discuss this (along with several tangental discussions). The first is that of translation technique–how literal or how “dynamical” should you be. There is a second one, though, that is really driving the first one, and that is to the expression of God in terms of his pronoun usage and names. It seems like, with the second discussion, that you are creating a new “Doctrine of God” at least in terms of his self-expression, but to communicate your doctrine, you are doing so through a revised translation of the Bible. That seems a little underhanded to me, as a Bible presents itself as God’s word, not your understanding of God’s word. A better approach for you would be to write a Doctrine of God and humbly present your arguments in their fullness for peer review amongst the broader theological community. Surely you can see the value of this as we can all be in error and we do benefit by pressing iron against iron. Another suggestion is that to communicate the transcendence of God you need not create an entirely new word, but can stick with the Hebrew word Elohim with an explanation at the beginning of your translation that the transcendence that the term reflects also reflects that God is transcendent even in the area of sexuality and that he has chosen to refer to himself with masculine pronouns to convey a theological truth that you will either debate for or against. That is my two-cents worth at least.




  24. With regard to the question about gender as embodied versus not. Your failing to account for erasing the femininity of Godde and rooting that in your complementarian viewpoint. I argue that I’m deliberately not erasing the masculine (and I’m not, after all I’m male and perfectly happy this way).I happen to come from an egalatarian church stream and don’t share the same fundamental bias you do. Rather, I share another fundamental bias. Which is preferable? That’s entirely a matter of opinion.

    I, like you, hold that the physical part of us also bears Godde’s image and that S/He explicitly created both male and female as Godde’s image. It would seem that we’re agreed on this as a point of departure – Godde chose masculine and feminine repesentation of Goddeself and not one rather than the other.

    Where we disagree is with regard to contemporary culture and language. WRT paragraph one, I really don’t agree with you at all. It’s as though when going to Rome you expect English (your version) and to Greece also English (your version again) and then saying you’re allowing them to dictate the language. That’s an odd train of thought your insisting on. Your really apply my references poorly as far as exegesis and hermeneutics goes IMHO. That’s akin to my referencing your views as those of an MCP (it comes from a movie, I think, and refers to a Male Chauvenist Pig).

    You are actually entering into categorical confusion with your elaboration of slavery, but that’s beside the point, and again by referencing the masculinity of the historical Jesus as synonymous with the masculinity of Godde. The issue is not a reasoned view on the issue but rather the direct availability of an issue Godde could’ve address once-for-all but did not and rather addressed in a roundabout manner. Akin to this it is not just the role and function of women being limited or opened up in other parts of the world that counts, in my opinion, but the fact that Godde seems to happily ignore the church in this regard and works significantly through both men and women, in some situations over and against their pre-determined social place and in other situations in keeping therewith. I guess Godde could be making a mistake by doing so but even Jesus had a reputation for hanging with the ladies in culturally inappropriate ways so I guess He is like His Father in that regard too…

    What you seem to have overlooked in my construction of the above questionaire is that they all move from simple dualisms toward a more involved viewpoint. My intent was to illustrate that this is not a simplistic issue. It is, as you say, not about whether we refer to Godde in the masculine or the feminine. I would have us do both but it seems that you would have us only do the one. Though I hear your reasoning for it, it seems that those reasons cover up the heart of the issue for you.

    I’m glad to hear that you acknowledge that you can also be in error on this issue and I acknowledge similarly. I would argue that one would have to distinguish between that which is biological, ovaries versus testes, fathering versus mothering, etc. from that which is a social construction – men as rulers, men as business owners, men as providers, etc. much of which exists due to social construction and not due to any pre-definition related to biology (or bio-neuma-tology for that matter). It would appear that traditionally male role have, in many instances, been socially determined as ‘proper’. Fortunately this has shifted.

    But, honestly, it sounds to me like those are issues that you are bringing to the topic. My issue is our understanding and relationship with Godde – a Godde whose image is not exhausted by the masculine and whose image is distorted when the masculine-inclusive is taken to be ‘masculine only’.

    Let’s expand the references beyond El-Elohim to include Ruach and Shekinah and even Wisdom. Are we still in male only land or have we suddenly turned toward feminine for further clarification? Is such the contribution of humans alone or an explication from Godde to us?


  25. It would seem to me that this conversation is not about the project I’m working on but rather other issues. I would suggest reflecting on them and deciding whether you’d like to converse around what I’m working on or about one of the topics you default to?

    And so I propose the following topics:

    1.) language usage and responsible translation
    2.) feminism and feminist agenda
    3.) complementarianism and egalitarianism
    4.) the DFV (divine feminine translation)

    Alternatively we could choose to end the conversation here as we’re speaking indirectly to each other rather than directly on any given topic.

    Kind regards,


    • Tim,
      You are right, we are covering the same ground over and over again. Some is due to our presuppositional differences, that of your egalitarian interpretation of scripture and my complimentarian view. Our dialogue has illustrated for me how far apart the two views happen to be on many issues. I do believe, though, that you are pressing the egalitarian view too far by applying feminine pronoun to God as well as constructing a new name for God that combines the masculine and feminine language. You are certainly not the first, I know, I had a conniption fit when I read Thomas Oden’s Pastoral Theology and he chose to refer to the Holy Spirit as “she.” Your logic of referring to Shekinah as an example of a feminine name does not fly either as that is descriptive in use, not meant as a personal name/title. Ruach/Pneuma are a little different in that nouns of the feminine gender are used, though we must remember that gender for nouns (spirit or wind) that are not names is simply a grammatical convention and speaks nothing of the individual. Otherwise the fire on my grill in the summertime is a girl. As a side note, there are instances where Pneuma is used in conjunction with a masculine pronoun. Interesting.

      At this point, though, as I am not convinced we are making any progress, but simply sparring over the same territory repeatedly, your last option is likely a most sensible one. I am not against continuing our dialogue, though, if you have a burning desire to do so. It is always a learning experience to interact with folks who have some radically different views than my own, so your call and dealer’s choice on the topic if we can make progress with an exchange of ideas. We have directly/indirectly touched on each of the four areas you mentioned above, though, for what that is worth. Probably the area that we are closest to finding a common ground in would be that of the Imago Dei applying to the physical as well as to the spiritual/intellectual, and I would not be averse to continuing that dialogue, particularly with respect to what makes one masculine/feminine and how are these features worked out in the Imago Dei? Your call, though.

      A final thought: While I cannot guarantee that I have never been called a Male Chauvinist Pig, particularly behind my back, I cannot remember ever being called that at least in my adult life. Interestingly enough, the word “chauvinism” was originally used to refer to an extreme patriotism. So, no, I do not strive to be a MCP, as you referenced, but I do believe very strongly that God has given men and women different economic roles in the family and in church despite their ontological equality. Some take a great deal of offense at that statement, but one cannot deny that it is true at least in terms of the plain reading of the text, now how you bridge the 2000 year gap, that is a different matter and begins the disagreement all over again.

      So, if we can build up, then let’s continue this dialogue; if you feel that we have pretty well exhausted the ground that is between us, then my prayers go with you (if not with your particular translation).




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