Page 9, 11th October 2002

11th October 2002
Page 9
Page 9, 11th October 2002 — Man and God

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Man and God

From the Revd John Hadley Sir, Your leading article on why Christians do not refer to God as He/She (Sept. 27) was seriously confused. Jesus Christ, God and Man, is male as man. But God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit is not male as God, despite our traditional use of gender terms.

That this is crucially important can be seen from the use St Paul makes of terms such as sonship. In Romans 8:9ff, he refers to those led by the Spirit of God as "sons of God", who are called to address God as "Abba". So it is possible for St Paul to address women as "sons" because we are all — male or female — "sons" in Christ, the Son of God. In Christ there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, for all are one in Christ (Gal 3:28).

St Paul is certainly not saying that women become "male" in Christ, but that maleness and femaleness are irrelevant to being "in Christ": this sort of "sonship" is not gender specific. Similarly, the "Fatherhood" of the First Person of the Blessed Trinity is not gender specific. Just as every other term which we can possibly apply aptly of God, "Father" is an analogical term. We undoubtedly confess God as our "Father", but not to the exclusion of "Mother".

To consider that we can call God "Father" in the same sense that we can call a human being "father" would be a serious error. C S Lewis's diatribe against the idea of a Christian "goddess" is fine so far as it goes. But it needs to be extended by a further diatribe against my idea of the Christian God as a male God. God is neither male nor female: God simply is.

Insofar as we can recognise typically male attributes in God (which I would find suspect) we should also expect to find typically female attributes: for in Genesis 1:27 we read that God created mankind in his own image "male and female": hence the female is to be found "in God's image" just as much as the male.

You add that the Son (clearly as Second Person of the Blessed Trinity) is "begotten not made", as though this also proves the "Fatherhood" as opposed to the "Motherhood" of God. A better expression is that the Son is "generated" by the Father, a clearly gender-unspecific term.

This, again, is important because there is also strong patristic support for the idea that the Second Person is the Word of God produced generated) by the Father: it would be absurd to consider this sort of generation as being gender specific.

The undoubted Catholic teaching is that God is neither male nor female: God is God (or, better, God is).

We tend to use gender specific terms of God, just as we would tend to use temporal terms of the eternal God.

But to move from that to considering that the Fatherhood of God (or the Sonship of God) implies maleness is illogical. The Son (Word) Incarnate, of course, is male: but that is an entirely different matter.

Yours faithfully, JOHN HADLEY Narborough, Leics

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