Forbidden Friendships – can men and women be friends? (godly sexuality)

male and female

After reading the exceptional book Forbidden Friendships it is my absolute pleasure to have the author, Joshua D Jones, guest post on the topic of whether Christian men and women can ever be friends:

Having close friendships with members of the opposite gender is healthy, biblical and important for spiritual growth. Sadly, in the name of integrity, some churches construct walls that keep us from meaningful brother-sister friendships. These divisions are neither biblical nor in line with church history at its best. And contrary to their promise of safety, adhering to them actually puts us at greater risk of sexual immorality, not less.

Many churches employ the terms “brother” and “sister”—but they are often empty of any real meaning. Some now teach that men and women should never be close friends, believing that mixed friendships will lead into sexual sin or “emotional” affairs. Others may admit that men and women can share friendship—but then they let it die the death of a thousand qualifications. One well-known church website boasts of how none of the church staff ever “has lunch with someone of the opposite sex” or “rides alone in the car with someone of the opposite sex.” Boundaries abound. Sadly, though these rules have become commonplace over the last 20 years, adhering to them does not appear to have made us any purer.

God designed us male and female. We need each other. Marriage and family are not the only places this need should be expressed. If that were the case, single people would be helplessly cut off from the love and fellowship mixed friendship brings. And let’s be honest: we often don’t know what to do with the singles in our midst. In other centuries, Christian celibacy was viewed as a gift and a symbol of the coming kingdom of God. Jesus was single. Paul was both single and thankful for it. Now we pray for single people in hopes they find the magical one and only – giving them advice that is more Hollywood than Holy Word.

In response to the sexual revolution of the 1960s, various high-profile scandals – and the recent changes in marriage laws – many Christians have gotten defensive about marriage. It is right for us to defend the Biblical doctrines of marriage. But in doing so we have exalted the relationship to a godlike status – promising it can fulfil every social and emotional need. In the process, friendship – an institution that was once sacred to Christians – has taken a far back seat to marriage, out of fear that a friend might compete with a spouse. Friendships with the same gender are often neglected, and mixed friendships are seen as taboo.

My wife cannot fulfil the role of all of the sister/ mother relationships that my soul needs. Neither can I replace all of the brother/ father relationships that God may have for my wife in the church. We are not called to be a gathering of tightly defined families for God. We are called to be THE Family of God. It’s true that we must avoid putting ourselves in situations that bring about strong temptation – with either gender. And, yes, cross sex friendships can have pitfalls that we must be wise to avoid. We are naïve if we pretend that our fallen nature always makes this easy. But the possibility of something good being abused or misused is not a valid excuse for avoiding the good thing altogether.

Our new integrity rules are counter-productive because we have genuine needs for healthy male-female relationships. If we don’t get those needs met in healthy ways, we make ourselves vulnerable to seeking them out in unhealthy ways. The man who receives holy female affirmation from sisters in Christ is less likely to search for unholy female affirmation on a computer screen or and improper relationships. The woman who has godly fathers and brothers in the church caring for and encouraging her is less likely to be looking for ungodly masculine love through erotica and illicit interactions. By separating ourselves from healthy interaction with the opposite sex, we are not farther from sin but more open to it.

Contrary to what Freud taught, we can live happily without sex. But we can’t live happily without intimacy. Paul instructs Timothy, “Talk to younger men as you would to your own brothers. Treat older women as you would your mother, and treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters” (1 Tim 5:2). The church is to be a place where father, mother, sister, brother, aunt and uncle relationships can flourish – across biological, generational, and gender lines.

Joshua D. Jones tweets, reads, prays, and smokes pipe tobacco in his yellow arm chair in Therfield, England. He enjoys his family and meeting up with his best friends for coffee, food, and conversations about everything and nothing. He gets to pastor Therfield Chapel – a delightful church full of fun and ferocious saints. He frolics in fields of nouns, verbs, and alliterating adjectives over at his blog, sanitys-cove.com.

In addition to his book, Forbidden Friendships, he has just released Elijah Men Eat Meat – a book of short but strong readings for young men based on the life of Elijah.

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Hugh Hefner I’m sorry for what we did (godly sexuality)

Hugh Hefner

Last night Hugh Hefner, founder of the Playboy empire, died aged 91.

Many in the media are mourning his loss as he was someone who “advocated free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom” and many men are joking that it’s the only death in history where no one will say “he’s in a better place now”.  This is despite the appalling way he treated some of the women in his ‘care’ that girls like, Izabella St James and Holly Madison, are only now starting to reveal.

What are we, as Christians, to make of this man?

Too often we are quick to condemn and despise him for the way he has led so many astray. So much so, that the magazine was losing about $3m annually as its content pales in comparison to what is now available online.

The truth is slightly less black and white. It’s like the parents cursing the next generation for “going off the rails” whilst ignoring that they raised them.

Both Hugh Hefner and his contemporary Alfred Kinsey were raised in Strict Methodist Homes. Kinsey went on to publish “Sexual behaviour in the human male” in 1948 which contained biased research and promoted his view that delayed sexual experience was psychologically harmful and Hefner started Playboy in 1953 and donated millions of dollars to change sex laws and fought a series of cases that lead eventually to Rowe vs Wade and legalised abortion.

In Hefner’s “Christian” upbringing, sex was taboo—the body inherently tainted and “sinful.” Hefner, says that “There was absolutely no hugging or kissing in my family” and so he started Playboy magazine as “a personal response to the hurt and hypocrisy of our puritan heritage.”

You can see the hurt of this expressed in this quote from him in Playboy, Jan 1974:

“The Puritans thought they could simply repress man’s sexual nature, and they reaped a whirlwind as a result. Their code of sexual morality — which became America’s — was nothing more than a set of rules laid down by people who believed that all pleasure was suspect.”

In fact his parents were simply continuing the long tradition that has plagued the history of sexuality in the Church which says sex is holy but it is not good.

What is the consequence of this repression of the goodness of sexuality. Well, as Christopher West puts it so eloquently in his excellent book Fill These Hearts:

“A person can starve himself for only so long before the choice becomes clear: either I find something to eat, or I’m going to die…That’s why the culture’s “fast-food gospel” – the promise of immediate gratification through indulgence of desire – inevitably wins large numbers of converts from the “starvation diet gospel”. I don’t know about you, but if the only two choices are starvation or greasy chicken nuggets, I’m going for the nuggets”

The children rebelled and said sex is good and not holy.

Neither one is correct but we flip-flop between repression and rebellion.

Why is this? CS Lewis puts his finger on the cause:

“[The devil] always sends errors into the world in pairs–pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors.”

We as Christians need to get the balance right – it’s so tempting to repeat the same mistakes of our parents and their parents before them, especially as this world becomes more depraved.

Our God given sexuality, like fire, is powerful.  But just like a fire if we don’t light it then the house gets cold and people crave warmth from anything and if we light it outside of the fireplace then we’ll burn our house down.

We must teach our children that our God given sexuality is both good and holy and give them a vision that is so much brighter and purer than anything the world has to offer.

Hugh Hefner, I’m sorry that we preached a gospel that wasn’t a gospel at all but only man-made rules that seem wise but are powerless to bring any change to what we feared (Col 2:20-23).  I’m sorry we then condemned you when you rebelled against one lie and embraced another.  I’m sorry we preached one thing in public but did another in private and never owned up to our faults but kept it all hidden.  Forgive us.

I also recommend Christopher West’s compassionate post on this topic.

God, Gender and the Google memo (godly sexuality)

google manifesto 1

In the film Jerry Maguire, Jerry (played by Tom Cruise) has a revelation about what was wrong with the sports agency company he works for.  He writes this in a manifesto which he distributes to all employees.  However, the management refuses to accept the suggestions and he loses his job.

Last week a Google employee, James Damore, noticed what was wrong with Google’s efforts to get more women working there and realised how they could make changes to their environment to improve diversity.  He wrote a memo to all employees.  However, the management refused to accept the suggestions and he lost his job.

What was it that they didn’t like?

Well he dared to mention that men and women are different (and backed it up with extensive research).

You can read the full memo here.

Why is this so controversial?  Why was it labelled “anti-diversity” by the press and why was he fired for “perpetuating gender stereotypes”?

Despite the hype, the Google manifesto isn’t sexist or anti-diversity. It’s science (see also here and here).

A little history

God made men and women different to embody His masculine and feminine attributes.  One of the main characteristics that I wrote about in this post is that men embody the masculine transcendent nature of God (outward focussed – doing, taking action, risk taking, creating, initiating, giving, concerned with form (roles)).  Whereas women embody the feminine immanent nature of God (inner directed – being, sustaining, safety, nurturing, responding, receiving, concerned with relationship).

This means that only together do men and women make the full image of God.

This was part of the wisdom of God to ensure that men and women need each other as each has blind spots.  His design was that we honour those differences and create a unity of diversity just like God is a tri-unity.

Satan, who is the anti-Christ, seeks to distort the image of Christ – who is the perfect image of God (Col 1:15).  Adam and Eve, who were already the perfect image of God (Gen 1:27), were tempted to think that by abandoning God they could become like God (Gen 3:4-5).  They sought to create their own image apart from God.

The consequence of this was the relationship between God and man and between man and woman was broken.  The differences that were meant to unite us now divide us.

Instead of loving women as Christ loves the church (Eph 5:25) and instead of using their positions to serve others like Christ served us (Mt 20:26-28) they made women feel inferior.  They no longer valued part of the image of God.

It is no surprise that women rose up against this mistreatment. However, instead of fighting against the cause (Satan, sin and the brokenness that came from these) and therefore seeking to reclaim and restore the image of God – they created another false image.

“Contrary to the world’s view, however, the ‘battle of the sexes’ is not between the man and the woman, one trying to dominate the other – but rather between God and the self-centred desires of the ‘flesh’ in both man and woman.” Gordon Dalbey

Since gender had been used to divide people then women figured that removing gender differences would imply equality and remove division and create unity.  So they put forth the view that all differences (other than reproduction) between the sexes were merely socially constructed.

However any unity created outside of Christ is a false unity – it is partnering with the anti-Christ and so presents a false image of God*.  It also rejects the expression of differences that glorify God (and can also demonise masculine traits such as competitiveness).

It is not unity but uniformity.  It pays lip-service to diversity but as the reaction to the google memo shows, it is incredibly intolerant of any view other than its own.

The flip side to the uniformity view is that:

“If two people were exactly alike, one of them would be unnecessary.”

And one of the out workings of this logic has worked its way out in men being seen as unnecessary for raising children which children have paid a terrible price.

However, in Christ “There is neither … male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28).  Together our differences make up the Body of Christ.  Together our differences display the image of God to our children and to society.  Together we are co-workers and co-heirs bringing the Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

From a business point of view, which was the reasoning behind the Google memo (and which some have dubbed the Google manifesto), valuing the contribution that both men and women bring will help businesses to thrive.

Each brings something different, each can see the others blind spots.  For example, men tend to be goal-orientated but on its own they can lack people-orientation and end up with an ends justify the means approach.  Women tend to be people-orientated rather than goal-orientated and so can call out this blind-spot.  However, they tend to see and respond to the immediate needs rather than the long-term issues and so men can call out this blind-spot.  Together they will achieve more.  Which sounds Kingdom to me.

However, the flip side of having differences which add to the business is that these differences will mean that gender parity will not occur:

 Source: quillette.com

As Christians instead of getting caught up in these arguments, let us instead celebrate and honour the differences that God has given in men and women and together go build the Kingdom.  To the glory of God.  Amen.

Are you cursing God’s gift to you and your children?

Blessing or cursing

Would you curse a gift from God?

“Of course not!” I hear you say, “After all, every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17).

Would you curse a gift that God has given your children?

Again I’m sure you would say no.

But the truth is, we often do.

Our bodies are gifts from God.

“Ah yes John, but sin has entered the world and brought sickness”

True, but I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the correct functioning of our bodies as designed by God. Specifically I’m talking about periods and nocturnal emissions.

How often do ladies complain about their periods and say to their daughters: “You’re so lucky you haven’t got them yet!”

That is cursing our daughters. We are giving them a fear of becoming women. We are also telling them that God has made something horrible. That God is not good.

How often do us men say nothing to our sons about nocturnal emissions? How often do we leave them confused and feeling ashamed of this natural function?

We are cursing our sons. We are letting them think bad of something good. We are letting shame infect their sexuality – which causing them to either embrace shame as an identity or to reject their sexuality as horrible. Neither is blessing God’s gift to them.

We need to celebrate our children becoming women and men. We need to help them embrace God’s calling (which includes their bodies) for their lives.

But how can we do this?

As I have mentioned before the first principle* is to affirm the goodness of our bodies.
For my daughters I would have a conversation something like this:

“Would you put a new baby in a cot with dirty old sheets?”

To which my daughters would reply “Of course not!”

“Absolutely. We always give a new baby fresh clean sheets. In the same way, every month your body changes the sheets of your womb to get ready for a new baby. It throws away the old ones which come out of your ‘gina (our abbreviation for vagina) as a period.”

In addition, I want to mark their first period as a special moment in their life. And so we talk about when they have their first period daddy will take them out to a restaurant of their choice to celebrate. We often talk about this and discuss where they might go and what they might choose to eat. It creates such an anticipation in them and last week I had the pleasure of talking the second of my daughters out for her meal. She had such a blast and I have never seen anyone eat quite so much.

For my sons I would have a conversation something like this:

“Suppose you’ve got a brand new phone with GPS tracking to use on a mountain climb. Would you check that it works before you start your journey or would you just turn up and try it on the day?”

To which my son would (hopefully) reply “I’d check it.”

“Absolutely, checking it works is a good strategy to ensure that we don’t have problems on the day. In the same way, God has designed your body to check that your willy works for when you are married. When you’re sleeping it tests it out by making sperm and shooting it out. This means that you’ll wake up with sticky stuff in your pants but it’s a sign that your body is working well.”

In addition, I want to mark what could be a source of shame as a special moment in their life on their journey to becoming a man. However, my eldest son who likes food says he’d much prefer to go to a skate park to celebrate. So be it.

But as Christians we can go further than just celebrating our bodies as good. For we are made in God’s image and so our bodies are also holy.  And this was the second principle.

You see everything was made to glorify God and so that means that our bodies tell us something about the nature of our God. The aspect I want to focus on here is how our bodies reflect the redemption story.

Jesus death has brought cleansing for our sins. Specifically it is His blood that cleanses us for “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb 9:22).

This is the first part of our new birth as Christians – we are forgiven and made holy so that we are a fit dwelling for the Holy Spirit.

This is the meaning of a woman’s period. The shedding of blood symbolises Christ’s blood being shed to bring forgiveness of our sins. In fact, the Hebrew word for female (nĕqebah H5347) comes from the root word meaning pierced (naqab H5344) and we know that Christ was pierced for our transgressions (Is 53:5).

Every month women are given a physical reminder of the cost of our redemption – which is easy to lose sight of in our sanitised world far removed from animal sacrifice or killing animals for food.

After the period is complete a Jewish woman would have their mikveh, a ritual bath as the rite of purification. This is our baptism by water symbolising our repentance and death to sin and our old way of life.

The second part of our new birth as Christians is that we are born again of the Spirit (Jn 3:3). Just like God breathed his breath = Spirit into Adam to give life to his mortal body, so too Christ’s Spirit is given to us to give us new life. We receive Christ’s imperishable seed† (1 Pet 1:23) we become Children of God (Jn 1:12-13; 1 Jn 3:1,9) and ultimately receive new imperishable bodies from that seed (1 Cor 15:38, 42,44).

This is the meaning of the man’s sperm. The Greek word Paul and Peter use for seed is sperma (G4690). The ejaculation is symbolising the new life that Christ gives us. And in the same way that children grow up in the image of their parents (Gen 5:3) by genetics and can’t do anything to change that, we grow up into the likeness of God through the fruit of this same spirit (Gal 5:22-23) – it is a fruit – a natural consequence of being his children. In fact, the Hebrew word for male (zakar H2145) comes from the root word meaning remember (zakar H2142). It can mean “to mark (so as to be recognised)” which would reflect the fact that the Spirit marks us out as Christians, but it can also mean “a call to remembrance” which isn’t just a mental ascent but a call to action – which is why it is used when referring to circumcision as well as man or God taking action when they remember something. This speaks of how faith without deeds is dead – we are called to live out our new life. We are called to like our true Heavenly Father‡.

In the same way that only together do male and female make up the complete image of God (Gen 1:27), only together do they symbolise the full story of our salvation.

Father, forgive us for the ways we have disparaged our bodies because we have lost sight of the true meaning. We renounce and break off any curse that we have put on our bodies or our children’s bodies. We bless our bodies in Jesus’ name and receive them as a good and holy gift from you. Help us to celebrate the gift of our bodies, let us cry out to you in praise for how they speak to us of the forgiveness and new life you offer us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

*Click here to be taken to the overview of how to teach your children godly sexuality.

†If you want to dive deeper into this aspect, I recommend Steve Bremner’s book “The Imperishable Seed of Christ: Understanding The Believer’s Spiritual DNA”

‡I am aware that there are many other nuances in these Hebrew words but I hope this gives a glimpse into the richness of the meaning of periods and sperm.

How to stop looking at women lustfully part 2 (godly desire)

sisters and daughters

In our previous post on this topic we looked at three steps to dealing with lust:

  • Acknowledge it, but realise that the woman is a shadow of who our hearts are really looking for.
  • Realise we have a higher calling: we men are made to love women sacrificially like Christ loved the church (Eph 5:25), we are called to give (love) not take (lust).
  • Act according to our calling by praying blessing on the woman we see.  For example “Father, I thank you for this beautiful woman.  I thank you that you have made her to be loved and cherished.  I ask that you would pour out your blessing on her, that she would become aware of your presence, that she would find her value in your love and not how she looks….” 

In this second post on this topic we look at how to prevent lust entering into our relationships with women in our Church.

For three years I led an organic church which ministered to those broken by traditional church.  I had the honour of serving a number of young beautiful women.  With one woman in particular she needed much prayer, counselling and support on her journey to wholeness and I soon realised that an attraction was growing within me.

This was not surprising due to the amount of time I was spending with her and the prayer counselling process which forms a bond between spirits.  It was becoming distracting and was starting to interfere with my ability to serve her.  But yet I was praying for her like I mentioned above.  So what was I to do?

There’s this great passage in 1 Timothy that holds the key:

“Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” 
1 Tim 5:1-2 (emphasis mine)

We were family!  As someone much younger and in my care, she was my spiritual daughter and I was her father.  Once I saw this truth it started to change how I related to her.  I started relating as a father loving his daughter rather than a man relating to an attractive woman.  I started calling her my “daughter-in-Christ” to help outwork this view into our relationship and my mind.

The desire that I had felt inside me began to be transformed now I knew where it was to be focussed.  The sexual energy that God had given me as a man was now channelled to the correct godly destination.  No longer was it being hijacked by the worldly view that it must always result in physical gratification.

It was such a delight to love her as a father and seek her mature into a woman of God and the delight and pride I felt at her wedding to a godly man was overwhelming.

The phrase “brothers and sisters” occurs more than 100 times in the New Testament which speaks of the reality of our new relationships in Christ.  In addition, Paul called Timothy his son (1 Cor 4:17, 1 Tim 1:2a; 1:18, 2 Tim 1:2a; 2:1, Tit 1:4, Phile 1:10) as did Peter call Mark (1 Pet 5:13).  Paul also treated the Thessalonians as his children (1 Thess 2:11).

So may you start calling the women in your church your sisters (or if you’re much older like I was, your daughters) and see your relationships transformed as your sexual desires find their true purpose in Christ.  In Jesus’ precious name.  Amen.

Dad, are willys rude (teach your children godly sexuality)

Are willys rude

I was walking with my youngest son to the garage to pick up our car from its service when he asked:

“Dad, are willy’s rude?”

“Not at all – God made them so they can’t be rude.”

“But when I say willy at school I get told off. So they must be rude.”

I could see the logic.  I also had to do some on the spot thinking….

“OK. What’s the coolest present you can imagine?”

He thought for a while and then replied “A minion’s pizza!”

I have no idea what that is – and frankly neither did he – but it combined two things that he loves together so it must be cool.

“So imagine one of your friends gives you a minion’s pizza and you throw it on the floor. And your friend says ‘That’s so rude!’”

“So is a minion’s pizza rude?”

“NO!!!!”

“But they said it was. So it must be rude.”

“It’s not rude”

“Well why did they say it was then?”

“Because I of what I did with it.”

“Exactly. God made willys and so they’re not rude – but you can do rude things with them like talk about them in a bad way. So just like we treat a special cool gift like a minion’s pizza in a special way – we need to treat our special cool gift of willys in a special way too.”

This kind of conversation captures the two principles of teaching godly sexuality – we affirm it’s goodness and we affirm its holiness (and also here and here).

Just affirming one of these two would lead to disaster whether that be worldly hedonism or religious repression.  So it’s important to express both.

I hope this conversation proves helpful – if you want to add your thoughts below then please do so – or if you want a godly answer to a question your child has asked then do also comment below.

Why is God expressed principally as masculine in the Bible? (godly sexuality)

god male

In our previous post we saw that male and female image God’s masculine and feminine polar characteristics transcendence and immanence in 10 ways. Hence, the man is focused “outward” towards the physical world whereas the woman is focussed “inward” towards relationships .

Since this teaching follows on from that post you would be wise to check it out first.

To say which gender is more important is like saying which part of God is more important. If you take away a part you lose the full image of God – so in order to fully glorify God (that is to declare His nature fully) it is essential that both genders are expressed in marriages, parenting and society.

Masculine not feminine

If we denigrate the feminine characteristic of immanence, we end up with a distant God; one who sets the world running but is far removed from it and its day to day running. He initiates but doesn’t sustain/nurture us – we’re all on our own. Alternatively, this distant God enacts His will without regard to us or our needs. He is a God who is holy and unapproachable. We can offer our sacrifices and prayers but He’s unlikely to notice.

This is the Greek view that came as a consequence of the separation of the spirit and the physical worlds that infected the early church still holds sway now. This was strengthened by the Enlightenment’s focus on the masculine discursive reason/rational thinking that devalued the feminine intuitive way of thinking and rejected mystery. It led to an increase in those who declared themselves deists. It is the view of fundamentalist Christians, Muslims and, to a certain extent, conservative Christians.

Feminine not masculine

If we denigrate the masculine characteristic of transcendence, we end up with a God who is present everywhere, who is mothering – sustaining us and giving us life. Who is relational but is not holy or separate from us. Therefore since this God so “loving” we can do whatever we want as it doesn’t matter.

This is the view held by New Age religions, pantheists, fertility cults, liberal churches and in many ways Hindus also hold this view.

Neither masculine nor feminine

Since God’s nature contains both masculine and feminine qualities then surely to refer to God as “Him” is incorrect. Perhaps we should refer to God as “it” or, as some theological colleges suggest, “the One who is the Creator”, and thus avoid the tricky gender issue altogether ?

Whilst on the surface this appears to try and capture the fullness of God’s nature – it does so by contradicting Scripture (eg Jesus taught us to pray “Our Father”) and by eliminating the meaning behind God expressing Himself predominantly in the masculine.

So why is God referred to principally in masculine terms?

There are two main reasons. Firstly, much of the Old Testament (especially the Creation story and the deliverance from Egypt) was a proclamation of the transcendence of YHWH against the gods and goddesses of the surrounding nations. Hence, since transcendence is a masculine characteristic, God would express Himself principally as masculine.

The surrounding nations had both gods and goddesses. For example, Baal and His consort Ashtoreth, the Queen of Heaven (whose asherah fertility poles were used to ensure fertility of the land and of women). Hence, as a consequence, their creation myths were linked to the fertility of the goddess and so creation was formed out of their own bodies (eg Enuma Elish).

“Where gods are feminine, they are linked with fertility and the earth. The feminine is the fertile. It is inextricably linked with creation.” Gavin Ashenden

Whereas YHWH is utterly distinct from creation (hence “I am who I am”). Creation was made (bara) by Him from nothing.

The second reason is the God relates to us in a principally masculine way.

“God is so masculine that we all (male and female) are feminine in relation to Him.”
CS Lewis

God takes creates the world, we are tasked with stewarding it and give back only what we have been given and nurtured. God takes risks by imbuing us with free will. God initiates and we respond. God actively goes out and pursues us and woos us and we respond. He sought out Abraham, Moses and then a people for Himself. Hence, we love because he first loved us. God gives us the gift of life from without and we receive it. God gives us talents and we invest/nurture them. God powerfully delivers us from our enemies. God gives grace to the undeserving and we choose to receive this gift. God calls out our true nature. God gives His seed to Mary who nurtures it. Finally, God appears in Jesus in a male body showing that He gives Himself for us and we respond as His Bride.

“The Jewish revelation was distinctive in its exclusively masculine pronoun because it was distinctive in its theology of the divine transcendence. That seems to be the main point of the masculine imagery. As a man comes into a woman from without to make her pregnant, so God creates the universe from without rather than birthing it from within and impregnates our souls with grace or supernatural life from without. As a woman cannot impregnate herself, so the universe cannot create itself, nor can the soul redeem itself. Surely there is an inherent connection between these two radically distinctive features of the…biblical religions…: their unique view of a transcendent God creating nature out of nothing and their refusal to call God “she” despite the fact that Scripture ascribes to him feminine attributes like compassionate nursing (Is. 49:15), motherly comfort (Is. 66:13) and carrying an infant (Is. 46:3). The masculine pronoun safeguards (1) the transcendence of God against the illusion that nature is born from God as a mother rather than created and (2) the grace of God against the illusion that we can somehow save ourselves—two illusions ubiquitous and inevitable in the history of religion.” Kreeft

Since the shape of salvation is principally masculine– it comes from without and not from our own efforts – this is the reason why, unlike the religions of all the surrounding nations, there were only male priests. Their masculinity demonstrates that grace comes from without. It is not man providing animals that makes the gods pay attention and forgive him. It was the fact that the animals were symbolic of the grace that was going to come to them through the Messiah .

Common objections to God being expressed as masculine

Some suggest that God only revealed Himself as masculine due to the patriarchal culture. Whilst at first glance this seems sensible if there is only one God (instead of many), this view is disingenuous for a number of reasons:

Sociologist Dr Goldberg notes that every society ever known has been patriarchal in that men dominate in three areas – the upper hierarchical positions, whatever roles society deems as high status and in male-female interactions . Since this phenomenon is universal it must have a physiological cause. And hence this is part of their created nature.

And this is the issue with this theory: it’s the wrong way round. It assumes that humans are independent of God and so He seeks to express Himself in ways that we understand. Whereas the reality, as we have seen in previous posts, is that God has made creation, including mankind, to glorify Him by reflecting His nature.

God is the Father from whom all Fatherhood is named (Eph 3:15). He is the source of the image. It is not that we have fathers and then project that image onto God nor that He then expresses Himself as a father so we understand Him.

Marriage was created to reflect the mystery of our union to Christ (Eph 5:31-32). Jesus is the source of the image. It is not that we invented marriage and then He expresses Himself through that concept.

Similarly gender, which permeates all of creation, reflects God’s nature. Male and female are made in His image and therefore embody His masculine and feminine characteristics in both physiological and psychological ways. He is the source of the image. It is not that children are merely blank slates whose behaviour is socially constructed.

This view comes from the women’s liberation movement. Women were made to feel inferior by many men, rather than respected as equal image bearers, and so by saying there is no difference would imply equality. However, by rejecting the differences between genders this view loses the meaning behind why God expresses Himself as masculine. Therefore, this leads them to reject the differences within God and see him as gender neutral and look for another reason as to why He expresses Himself as principally masculine.

But equality doesn’t mean uniformity. If it did then we would only need one gender to fully reflect the image of God. One sex would be redundant – whereas God has designed it so both are needed to reflect His full image and therefore we are designed to be dependent on each other. Our unity expresses God’s glory.

Further, this view naturally postulates that men and their patriarchal culture are to blame and hence can lead to the demonization of masculine traits such as competitiveness and rejection all of that culture. Instead the blame should be seen to be sin which has cut men off from the source of love. Therefore the solution is the blood of Christ.

Working within this paradigm, the fact that the Hebrews have no goddesses can be interpreted to be suppression of the feminine .

We have seen already why God is principally expressed in the masculine, but in addition, ethnologists, such as Wilhelm Schmidt, Andrew Lang and E.O. James note that in all primitive cultures, a monotheistic High God is “a genuine feature of uncontaminated primitive religion” and that “the name ‘father’ is applied to the supreme being in every single area of the primitive culture when he is addressed or appealed to…” Polytheism came about as tribes met and blended or conquered each other. So the Hebrews were actually going back to the original truth.

Finally this paradigm would see that the fact that there were no priestesses as a sign of male oppression of women.

However, all the surrounding patriarchal nations had priestesses. So this would have to mean that the God was not able to stand against the Hebrew society that oppressed women. This is bizarre given that the Law was in total contrast to the surrounding nations. Therefore, we would have to conclude that God gave laws which were complicit in that oppression. Further, this would imply that Jesus was also unable to stand up for what was correct in this matter and was complicit. Which again is bizarre given that He stood up and overturned all the false traditions that did not reflect His Father’s nature and desire.

Within this paradigm the only logical possibility, if God is not a tyrant, is to say that the Bible is not actually the word of God but only of man. Men hid what God the Father and Jesus actually said and our whole faith is based on a lie.

“Goddesses have, of course, been worshipped: many religions have had priestesses. But they are religions quite different in character from Christianity…. Since God is in fact not a biological being and has no sex, what can it matter whether we say He or She, Father or Mother, Son or Daughter?
But Christians think that God Himself has taught us how to speak of Him. To say that it does not matter is to say that all the masculine imagery is not inspired, is merely human in origin; or else that although inspired, is merely arbitrary and unessential. And this is surely intolerable; or, if tolerable, it is an argument not in favour of Christian priestesses [or a gender neutral God], but against Christianity” CS Lewis

It is my hope that by understanding the meaning behind gender we see the logical outworking of that in how God principally reveals Himself to us and how we relate to Him and why it is important that both genders need to expressed in marriage, parenting, the church and society.