Language of God

l have been following an interesting debate on another blog concerning the use of gender-inclusive language in reference to God. Interestingly, some in the Vineyard in Australia seem to be asking questions about this too, but from the less radical perspective of wondering about gender-inclusive biblical translations. I am a big fan of gender-inclusive language. I am not a brother! And I am certain that not being a brother does not let me off the hook. I have not really thought much about gender neutral references to God. My personal view is that God both reflects and transcends maleness and femaleness. Neither image (especially from our limited perspectives) captures all that God is. The bible is rich with names for God that reveal character, from names of power to tenderness, provider to judge, Almighty to 'abba', or 'daddy'. What does emerge is that no one word or expression captures the essence of God. Hidden in the book of Job is the occasional use of female pronouns in the original Hebrew to refer to God – not reflected in any translation I have read. Whoever penned the book (unknown) used language in a couple of instances to reflect God in a way that is probably troublesome for many people now.

I refer to God as 'he' in my writing and speech. In my prayer life 'father' is one one of my terms of address. This is more about reflection of intimacy than application of earthly images of fathering that can only fall short. We just do not have adequate language. We cannot reduce God to any human concept, image, or set of words. My closest times with God render words (gendered or otherwise) uneccessary – the 'wow' of waves in an endless ocean, the magnificent palette of a sunset, sunshine streaking through the forest, the tenderness of God's heart revealed through the ministry of others…

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