How to talk when we talk about God

word-balloons

What kind of pronouns should we use when we talk about God?

We typically default to the masculine “He,” but should we?

Is there anything wrong with referring to God as “she”?

While the answer might seem obvious, it is worth considering. After all, as Christians, we want to speak of God in a way that is pleasing to Him. So, here are a few things to keep in mind when considering how to to talk when we talk about God:

1. God is not a man but is spirit (Numbers 23:19a; John 4:24). Simply, human gender does not apply to God. God is neither male nor female. God is spirit and we are wise to remember this, even as we hold to the necessary tension of things like the eternal sonship of Jesus as the second member of the Trinity.1

2. God uses masculine and feminine terms and attributes when describing Himself. God is likened to a “dread warrior” (Jer. 20:11) and a faithful and long-suffering husband (Hosea—all of it!), a “mighty man” and a “woman in labor” (Isaiah 42:13-14). Wisdom is personified in female form (Proverbs 1:20-21). Jesus even emphasizes the feminine when He laments over Jerusalem, “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Matt. 23:27; Luke 13:34) Without being too reductionistic, God is quite comfortable referring to Himself using or inspiring the use of both feminine and masculine characteristics, even if it makes some of us uncomfortable.2

3. God reveals Himself as “our Father.” But regardless of God’s comfort with taking on feminine attributes, how does God reveal Himself? As our Father. When Jesus teaches us to pray, He tell us to pray like this, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9). Seven times in Matthew and Luke, Jesus calls God our “heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:48; 6:14; 6:26; 6:32; 15:13; 18:35; Luke 11:13), and another 17 times in Matthew, Mark and Luke “our Father in heaven” or “our Father who is in heaven.” This is something that’s continued into the epistles, with God being called “Father” at least nine times by Paul and Peter.

This should tell us something very important: While God is very comfortable attributing feminine characteristics to Himself, when He does so, it is typically in the form of a simile—God’s love and longing for His people is like that of a mother hen’s for her chicks. His anguish over sin is like that of a woman in labor. But when God chooses to reveal Himself, and when He gives us context for our relationship with Him, He does so in the masculine—as Father.

So, how should we talk when we talk about God? We should talk about Him the way God Himself does. Embrace both masculine and feminine characteristics as He does, but pay close attention to how God speaks of Himself. He is our Father, and He wants to be referred to as such. Let’s make sure we honor His wishes.

Links I like

You won’t waste your life

In this short video, Jared Wilson, who moved from the buzzing metropolis of Nashville to a small town in Vermont, contrary to those who think giftedness is wasted in smaller contexts, encourages young men and couples to consider ministry in less notable areas.

Caring for a parent with dementia

Dave Jenkins:

The last time I saw my father was six and a half years ago in that exact office. On Father’s Day, 2012, (one month before the phone call from my brother) the Lord placed it heavy on my heart to pray and intercede for my dad, which I did. As tears streamed from my eyes, little did I know the Lord would bring my dad back from Eastern Washington to Seattle one day in the near future. So on that day in July 18th, 2012, while I was shocked to get a phone call from my older brother, I was at peace as I spoke to my father on the phone for the first time in six and a half years. As I choked back tears, I said, “Do you know who this is?” and he said, “Yes, I do, it’s my son, David.”

A Thirst for Knowledge, A Thirst for Porn

Mike Leake:

Knowledge is a good thing. There is nothing innately wrong with someone settling an argument by Googling the 1984 World Series MVP. In fact it can be quite helpful.

The problem is when we believe knowledge is a right. And it becomes a big problem when that foolish belief collides with our sex-crazed culture.

Many young men are introduced to pornography out of curiosity. They simply want to know what those forbidden parts look like. And then that curiosity gets more pointed. They want to know what certain celebrities look like naked. It never satisfies.

Like, totally, whatever, y’know

This has been floating around for a while, but it’s pretty awesome:

Christianity is a Crutch for the Weak

Matt Chandler:

So when I hear someone say that Christianity is a crutch, I agree. I’m a guy whose legs are broken. I need that crutch. When I hear someone say Christianity is for the feeble-minded, I agree. I have a feeble mind. I need the gospel to give me a right mind. When I hear someone say Christianity is something that weak people need, I agree. Weak people need it. I’m weak, and so are you. You just don’t know you’re weak.

The Best Way To Live

Tim Brister:

Ironically, the very “don’ts” that unbelievers present as objects to their freedom and pleasure in the world hold out the true and greater freedom and pleasure found in knowing God and doing His will. God is not against your freedom. He is for it enough to purchase it at the cost of His own beloved Son. God is not against your pleasure. He is for it enough to place the curse of sin on the only person with whom He has ever been well-pleased so that we might know the pleasure of salvation and the riches of His loving acceptance.

Links I like

links i like

A very important lesson in grammar

Who Can Baptize?

Kevin DeYoung:

Christians are used to debating the question “Who can be baptized?” But much less ink (digital or otherwise) has been spilled debating the question “Who can baptize?” Should baptism–and the Lord’s Supper for that matter–be administered only by ordained pastors (and possibly elders), or can any church member in good standing preside over the sacraments?

Get The Work of Christ in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get The Work of Christ by R.C. Sproul (hardcover) for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Ultimate Issues teaching series by R.C. Sproul (DVD)
  • The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther by Steven Lawson (ePub + MOBI)
  • Welcome to a Reformed Church by Daniel Hyde (paperback)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

How to preach with biblical fullness

Ray Ortlund:

My brother pastor, to preach with biblical fullness, rising above ourselves and our biases, let’s just preach through the Bible, passage by passage, letting each passage make its unique contribution, confident that over time the fullness of it all will serve people well with a massive vision of the Triune God.  But let us never force a passage to say what we think it ought to say and, in effect, correct God.

Kill Your Jesus Talisman

Jared C. Wilson:

I can win any slam dunk contest through him who gives me strength. If I will ask God for the ability to do so “in Jesus’ name,” of course.

When I was a kid I had a poster of Philippians 4:13 — “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” — with a photo of a guy dunking a basketball. You can bet I thought long and hard about how Jesus was gonna help me dunk on some fools.

Seven Characteristics of the Antichrist

David Murray:

Sorry to disappoint you, but I’m only following the Scriptural precedent of describing the characteristics to look out for rather than the Antichrist’s name and address.

But stay with me because you need to know what to look out for and, who knows, maybe someone will read the seven characteristics and think, “Hey I know that guy!” And remember, although THE Antichrist may not yet have arisen, John warns us that there are many antichrists already in the world. So what are we looking for?