Holy Syntax! – Respecting God’s Chosen Pronouns

In recent years, there has been a growing trend among some Christian circles to use feminine terminology when addressing God and the Holy Spirit. While this perspective seeks to promote gender equality and inclusivity, it raises serious theological concerns. There is no biblical precedence for this practice, and indeed, there is ample biblical support to the contrary.

First and foremost, objections to using feminine terminology stem from a commitment to biblical authority. While God is Spirit (John 4:24) and does not possess physical gender qualities, the Bible almost exclusively portrays God in masculine terms, emphasizing His role as our heavenly Father. The Lord’s Prayer, given by Jesus, instructs us to address God as “Our Father” (Matthew 6:9). Furthermore, throughout the New Testament, Jesus consistently addressed God as His Father. God is depicted as a loving and protective Father who provides, guides, and cares for His children. This masculine imagery is not arbitrary; it is rooted in biblical revelation and shapes our understanding of God’s relationship with humanity. 

Introducing feminine terminology in addressing God could inadvertently diminish the biblical portrayal of God’s Fatherhood and potentially disrupt the theological understanding of the Trinity—a foundational doctrine for evangelical Christians. The Father-Son relationship within the Trinity is central to our understanding of the Godhead, reflecting the eternal love and unity between Father and Son. Altering this language risks altering our understanding of this divine relationship and the nature of God Himself, as it has been understood by Christians since Adam.

Likewise, In each instance where the Holy Spirit is addressed with a gender pronoun in the Bible, it consistently utilizes masculine terms. For example, in John 16:13, the Holy Spirit is referred to as ekeinos, the Greek form of the masculine He pronoun. For She, the word would have likely been ekeinē, and for “It” the word would have been ekeino: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he (ekeinos) will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future.” It is true that in Hebrew, the word for ‘spirit’ (ruach) is grammatically feminine, while in Greek, the word (pneuma) is gender-neutral. However, these grammatical genders of words function as aspects of language structure rather than reflections of the gender identity of the entities they describe.

When we explore linguistic aspects of gender in the context of Scripture, we encounter occasional feminine analogies used to depict God’s actions and sentiments toward us. For example, in Isaiah 49:15, God’s compassion is likened to that of a nurturing mother. However, we must not use this as justification for inappropriately addressing God with feminine pronouns. These analogies serve as symbolic language aimed at helping humans comprehend various facets of God’s character in relatable terms and underline the multifaceted nature of His being.

While the desire for gender inclusivity and equality aligns with present-day cultural norms, addressing God or the Holy Spirit using feminine terms raises significant theological and hermeneutical problems. We must not compromise in our commitment to biblical integrity and its consistent use of masculine language in Scripture. Neither should we assume that grammatical gender in Hebrew and Greek has any bearing on the gender identity of the Holy Spirit. Additionally, we must recognize that the occasional references to feminine qualities in God are analogies, not literal descriptions of His gender identity. Therefore, preserving the biblical and theological integrity of God’s self-revelation in masculine terms remains paramount.

2 thoughts on “Holy Syntax! – Respecting God’s Chosen Pronouns”

  1. God created us in “THEIR” image. You left that one out. It’s pretty comfortable for you, as a man, to defend what is your normal. I ask, though, would it be so terrible to imagine God, even for a moment, as having female characteristics? For 50% of the population, those of us who have no choice in our womanhood, those of us, continually considered 2nd class behind the “stronger” male half of the population, and especially in the church, this could come as a refreshing balm. “God sees me!” is what one woman cried out. Would it kill you to let the rest of us in on your uber-privileged status?

    1. Bonnie,
      Thanks for reading my article. I’m not aware of a scriptural passage where God is referred to as “THEIR”. Genesis 1:26 says, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.” suggesting that there is more than one. Traditionally we have interpreted this as speaking of the Trinity; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. “Our” in this passage is not an attempt at gender neutrality as some people today use the term “their.”

      God identifying Himself in masculine terms has nothing to do with maleness. God of course is neither male nor female. Gender isn’t how we reflect the image of God. It boils down to simple obedience to the Word of God. Scripture identifies God as Lord, Jesus told us to identify God as Father, there is no question to the gender of Jesus, and He also address the Holy Spirit as He/Him. Rejecting the example set by Christ for the sake of conforming to shifting cultural norms and feeling better about ourselves is not an option.

      Getting back to the Genesis 1:26 passage, both male and female were made in the image of God. There is no hierarchy mentioned or implied. Anyone who believes that because God is addressed in masculine distinctions throughout Scripture means that human men are of a higher status than women is grossly misinformed.

      “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, nor male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *