1: Is God a Woman?
Part 1 of the Truth or Error? Series.
In this post we’ll look at the following questions/objections:
· Is it right to refer to God as Mother?
· Can we use female pronouns when referring to God?
· If God made women in His own image, doesn’t that make Him a woman too?
Who is El Shaddai?
One of the Names of God that is often associated with femininity is El Shaddai, first found in Genesis 17:1. The biblical usage of this word is “almighty, most powerful” according to Strong’s definition, so most translations will read ‘God Almighty’.
We can also reference the Hebrew word ‘Shadday’ (Strongs h7706) which means “breasts”. Other scholars believe that the name is derived from an Akkadian word Šadu, meaning “mountain” (suggesting strength and power).
Something that will help us with understanding the meaning is looking at the circumstance in which God reveals Himself. In Genesis 17:1 where this name is first used, we see that Abraham (Abram) is 99 years old, and had already received the promise of a son. At this point however, he has produced Ishmael with Hagar. Considering the promise that God gave to him, it makes sense for God to reveal Himself as the Almighty, most powerful. It’s almost as if He comes to an old Abraham and says, “You’ve tried to bring this promise to pass in your own strength, now let me show you mine!”
God is revealing His strength and sufficiency.
It has been said ‘El Shaddai’ means breasty one, let’s look at that for a moment. Think about the way a mother is a source of nourishment as she breastfeeds her baby; her supply doesn’t run out whilst breastfeeding, and her body actually produces milk according to the needs of her baby. Generally speaking, breast milk alone is sufficient nourishment for a newborn. We can see how this is a reflection of the maternal aspect of God’s nature. He is also our source of nourishment; He supplies all of our needs according to His riches in Glory. He doesn’t run out of the food that nourishes our spirit and soul. He feeds, comforts, nurtures, guides and protects. In order for women to be maternal – God would need to be maternal too, since we are made in His image.
However, this doesn’t mean we begin to imagine God in the likeness of an actual woman – rather we understand that His nature and characteristics are also reflected in females (just as other aspects of His nature are reflected in males).
It’s a very fine line in semantics, but a very clear difference between knowing Him intimately as Father and Mother, and beginning to worship Him as if He were a woman.
Should we use female pronouns since He has a maternal side to His nature?
Throughout scripture the person of God is referred to with names or male pronouns. Jesus referred to God as Abba, Father, He, and Him. Since Jesus is our model we should follow suit. God throughout scripture refers to Himself with male pronouns, so for us to then refer to Him as her or she is rather presumptuous.
There is one occasion in Proverbs 8 where we see wisdom personified as ‘a woman crying out in the streets’, however, the Bible later reveals Jesus as the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:24), and He clearly came to earth as a man.
Can the creation tell the Creator who He is?
“You are My witnesses,” says the Lord, “And my servant whom I have chosen, That you may know and believe Me, And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, Nor shall there be after Me –Isaiah 43:10 NKJV (emphasis added)
What about God being a woman in the shack?
Now I didn’t write The Shack, but based off of what is clearly revealed in the movie, we see that the Father heart of God knows that Mack – the main character cannot handle a Father figure in his current state. Since Mack’s father beat him as a child, Mack was carrying a wound that skewed his perception of God as a good Father. If God were to reveal Himself as Father immediately, Mack could have easily rejected the whole experience leaving him an even worse spiritual state.
Does this mean we worship “God the Mother” or God as a woman? No, what we see in The Shack is an example of God’s revelation to Moses; “I AM that I AM” (Exodus 3:14). We see that God is so kind, gentle, and so willing to meet us where we are that He will reveal Himself to us in a deeply personal way, according to our needs, level of faith and understanding.
We must remember also that both the book and movie are based off of someone’s real life experience with God. Experiences are examples – often inspiring ones – but they must never become the standard or measurement for how we are to know God. Jesus is our standard, and He wants us to know Him and The Father because that is what is means to have eternal Life (John17:3).
Staying on track
The Bible tells us that God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. Part of this means growing in our understanding of His nature and character, and this happens through a mind that is being transformed and conformed to the mind of Christ. We cannot understand Him with our own logic and reasoning.
One of the main reasons this has become a hot debate is because of issues such as gender discrimination, gender identity crisis and the like; but this does not mean we should drag scripture out of context for the sake of cultural difficulties. God is neither exclusively male nor female; He is Spirit. He is bigger than our language, yet He still gave us language and revealed Himself through it. If we begin to worship God as we desire to see Him and not as He is, we will end up making a god in our own image and likeness, straying from the path of a true worshipper (obedient one).
When all is said and done, Jesus came to reveal God as our Abba Father. He is a Father who wants to be close to His people. He is a Father who wants to be the Source and Sustainer of His people.
This post is not seeking to minimise the maternal side of God’s nature, but to help us stay in line with scripture, and understand God’s nature more. This is important to keep us from crossing over into a kind of worship that eventually makes a goddess of femininity.
Further Reading: John 6:39-40 | Isaiah 66:13 | Luke 11:2 | John 15 & 17