Divinity and Gender in Christianity

I’d just like to float a few thoughts here related to divinity and gender in Christianity. Whilst I would affirm that God transcends gender, and assert such a view is completely biblical, based on texts like Genesis 1:27 and others, there’s no denying that the bible uses masculine metaphors for God more often than feminine ones. The question is though: masculine in relation to what? In more recent times a lot of folks have said: well, in relation to a goddess. But that’s not the impression I get from surveying Christian tradition. Rather, the answer from Christian tradition seems to be: in relation to the people of God. Now, the divine consort metaphors from the Bible are somewhat multivalent. Sometimes they seem to suggest Israel, other times the Church, other times Mary as the mother of the Church, other times the human soul, or even, the presence of the Spirit of God within the human heart. But in every case, the guiding metaphor seems to be a spiritual experience as a sacred marriage, with God being the initiator and us being the recipients. The language is often in terms of a bride and groom, or wife and husband. And nowhere is this more evident than in mystical interpretations of the Song of Songs. In light of this I find the introduction to John’s second letter quite suggestive: “To the Lady chosen by God and to her children, whom I love in the truth”. Now, such metaphors may not sit so comfortably with us today, given the implied hierarchy, but I wonder if they still have some relevance for us. After all, they require male church leaders to think of themselves as the bride.

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