When the Preacher wrote of nothing new existing under the sun, he did not qualify the statement. I find Ecclesiastes 1:9 a sort of a challenge, an invitation, to search out something to push against the declaration. So far, I find it holds true, and so it shall continue.
A few weeks ago, pop star Ariana Grande released the single “God is a Woman.” The hashtag trended on Twitter for a social media moment and still finds use today, though with somewhat less frequency. What follows does not constitute an in-depth analysis of the song. No such analysis proves necessary; after all, no one wears scuba gear to explore wading pools. No, after a brief explanation of the song’s meaning, I’d like to ruminate on the zeitgeist of the “God is a woman” proposition and the thoughts of a Christian in response.
The song, like many pop songs, proves completely forgettable. The phrase, “God is a woman” refers to the singer’s sexual prowess. For three minutes or so, one can listen to Grande exalt in her abilities to bring another person to sexual enlightenment. Were you to experience her, you would know ecstasy on the level of spiritual rapture. Nothing new stands under the sun; another singer reveals she holds deity because of her sexual aptitude. Meh.
Part of being wise as a serpent means we refuse to be taken aback by various retreads of silly assertions. Stating “God is a woman” lives on a level with toddler temper tantrums and social media histrionics. The statement neither has originality about it, nor does it shock most of the world. Fluster us, it should not.
“God is a woman” only curries favor with those desiring to shock in the West, that is, what previously called itself Christendom. In nations and cultures with a rich history of paganism or animism, the response to referring to deity or a higher power or a spiritual being in the feminine meets with following reply: OK. If you desire to fluster someone with the phrase, their thought must rest on biblical assertions from the Old and New Testaments. This piece from The Guardian refers to “most versions of the Bible” as gendering God as male; here, “version” equates with “translation.” Any translation of the text of the Bible referring to God as female would not serve as a translation as much as an intentionally altered interpretation to suit a particular desire of a certain reading audience.
I do not purpose here to retread arguments concerning masculine language in Scripture for God. I think enough has been said on the matter to settle it. The piece from The Guardian refers to feminine language used in the Bible, and I think this piece by Tony Reinke provides a succinct treatment of it. You may not recall your literature classes fondly, but if you desire to read and understand the Bible (which is more than just a book, but certainly not less), comprehending metaphor is a must.
Instead, because the proposition of God as a woman only jolts those with a heritage of thought rooted in the Bible and Christianity, I would like to provide a rebuttal with a Christian distinctive. Why can’t God be a woman? What would be so wrong with
that? Is it just that Christians trap themselves in a patriarchal and chauvinist narrative excluding at least half of the human population?
We do not reply to the false propositions as anything other than people redeemed by God, observing the faith delivered once for all to the saints. We seek to say what those who came before us said, namely those inspired by the Holy Spirit to reveal God to us. Christianity is not merely believing in God or one God. We confess, even under threat of death, there is but one God, existing eternally in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Son of God became a man, and by the direction of God, his mama named him Jesus. His blood alone atones for the sins of man, reconciling all who reject their sin and trust in him to the triune God. We are not a vaguely religious people.
Any departure from those above tenets represents something foreign to the text of Scripture, and the historic orthodox faith for whom many suffered throughout time. Those who suffered includes men who wrote the Bible and many of the theologians who helped articulate these doctrines in the ancient world.
Why is God not a woman? One part of the answer we cannot neglect is that he is a man. Jesus Christ was and is a man. When we speak of his identity as a male, we speak not in metaphor. As stated above, metaphors run throughout the Bible, but regarding the second person of the Trinity becoming a human being, we speak in stark and literal terms, not in metaphor or analogy. The Son did not become like a man; he became a man. To speak in contemporary biological terms in a way which the early church (and John the apostle!) would appreciate, Jesus has a Y chromosome.
Novel ideas have no place in our confession of faith. When someone asks, “Well, why can’t God be a woman?” the answer cannot be “Well, I don’t know.” Notice, the question does not concern the value of women as creatures created in the image of God but the personal identity of God himself. It leads to fruitless and unnavigable speculation, not the celebration of women as image-bearers.
Failure to observe the Scriptural teaching of Christ incarnate as a man deviates from the faith. We know he had all the trappings of humanity. We may not know his hair color with 100% certainty (it was probably dark brown), but we know he had one. We do know his sex, and we know he is God. When notions of his masculinity come into question, we lose so much else.
“God is a woman” as a phrase in the West attempts to keep much of the niceties of Christianity, charity, love for one’s neighbor or the sojourner, comfort in times of grief while attempting to reinvent the foundation. It moves from the concrete realities of the Christian faith to abstract conjectures. It trades comfort in distress and doubt for assertions of “Mmmm, that’s deep.”
Brothers and sisters, hold fast to the faith confessed by our brothers and sisters who came before us. Don’t let the trivial and petty ideas and provocations of this world entangle or even confuse you. Hang on to what you know. We will not be judged on the last day according to the novelty of our thoughts but for our embracing of Jesus according to the testimony of the Spirit.
Those with assumptions based on Islam find themselves indebted to the Bible as well. The Qu’ran uses the Old and New Testaments as source material in the same way the doctrines of the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses do. The main difference between Islam and these other two faiths proves its longer tenure on the earth.