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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Trinity: One God in Three Persons

Don Stewart :: Do We Have to Describe the Trinity in Masculine Terms?

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Do We Have to Describe the Trinity in Masculine Terms? (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)

The Trinity: One God in Three Persons – Question 27

In recent years, there has been the tendency, in some circles, to shy away from using masculine terms to describe the members of the Trinity. Instead of the First Person of the Trinity being called God the Father, He is now called “the Originator.” Jesus, instead of being called “the Son,” is now called “the Child.” This, it is argued, more correctly explains the nature of the God of Scripture.

Some also argue that it is proper that the members of the Trinity should be called such things as the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. They insist that using these biblical terms to describe God does honor Him for who He is.

In addition, these terms avoid wrongfully equating God with maleness. Names for God should be masculine and feminine, or, at the very least, gender-neutral. This is the position of those who see the terms as “too masculine.”

Arguments for Feminist or Gender-Neutral Language

It is argued that masculine terms give the wrong idea of God as well as of the wrong idea about human beings. This description of the Trinity, it is argued, relieves the Trinity of its masculine overtones. Since no one argues that God is a male as opposed to a female, it should be allowable to refer to God in feminine terms.

Therefore, the language referring to God should be revised as feminine or it should be made gender-neutral. The following points are usually made:

1. God Is Not a Male

God is not literally a male, or a king, or a Father. All agree that He is a “sexless being.” This being the case, we should not insist on using sexist terms for Him.

2. Using Male Terms Gives the Impression That Males Are Superior to Females

There is something else. Using male terms to name God gives the impression that males are somehow superior to females. This wrong impression has led to countless examples of abuse. This needs to be stopped.

3. Israel Was Affected by Surrounding Cultures in Using Male Dominated Names for God

There is also the argument that the Bible reflects the patriarchal or male dominated, attitudes of the ancient world. These attitudes were cultural in nature, they are not divinely sanctioned.

Therefore, it is concluded that God the Father could be referred to with such names as “Mother” and Jesus should be called the “Child” not the Son.

This sums up some of the more recent objections to the historic description of God as well as the doctrine of the Trinity.

Response to Feminist or Gender Neutral Language for God

Should this be an acceptable practice? Is this an option? The answer is, “No.” There are a number of responses that we can give to those who argue that we should change the terms of the Godhead to either feminist or gender-neutral. They include the following:

This Is a Different God and a Different Faith

The God that is portrayed in the feminist, or gender neutral language, is not the God of the Bible. Rejection of masculine language presents a different God and a different Christian faith.

This is not because God is masculine or that males are superior to females. There are a number of reasons as to why this is so. They can be summed up as follows:

1. Father and Son Are the Terms Scripture Uses to Describe God

To begin with, we should use the same terms to describe God that the Scripture itself uses. We should not revise our explanation or description of God to fit the changing mood of the times. Basically, if we change either the function, or content of the Trinity, even in the slightest bit, we are changing the Christian faith.

In Scripture, God has revealed Himself in masculine terms. The first Person of the Trinity refers to Himself as the Father. In fact, God is called Father more than 250 times in Scripture.

Indeed, God never uses feminine language to describe Himself; He is never called “Mother.”

Neither do we find any of His specially chosen spokesmen, the prophets, ever using feminine descriptions to name the God of the Bible. He is never referred to in feminine language.

Since the Bible does not do use feminine terms to describe God, believers today do not have the right or the freedom to alter the way in which He has made Himself known to us. Since the living God has chosen to reveal Himself in this particular way to the human race, Christians are in no position to revise, in any way, that which He has divinely revealed.

We should not name or characterize God in ways in which He has not named or characterized Himself. In other words, we should not do what the Scripture does not do. Indeed, we do not have that freedom.

The Bible also warns about despising God’s name. In the Book of Malachi we read the following statement of the Lord:

“This is what the LORD of Armies says: A son honors his father, and a servant honors his master. So if I am a father, where is my honor? If I am a master, where is my respect? You priests despise my name.” (Malachi 1:6 God’s Word)

We have no right to alter the designations He has chosen for Himself. God has warned us about this ahead of time.

2. Masculine Terms Do Not Express Greater Value

It is also incorrect to assume that the use of masculine terms for God means that God gives greater value to males than to females. The Bible is very clear on this matter. Paul wrote about how males and females are all “one” in Jesus Christ:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29 RSV)

According to Scripture, males and females are of equal value in the sight of the Lord. Employing masculine terms for God does not alter this fact.

The Apostle Peter said that the wife is considered to be a fellow heir, or equal partner, with her husband. He wrote the following:

In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat her with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. If you don’ treat her as you should, your prayers will not be heard. (1 Peter 3:7 NLT)

While the husband is the head of the wife, this does not imply that he is somehow superior or that she is inferior. They simply have different roles and functions. The Bible says that God the Father is not superior to God the Son although the Father is called “the head of Christ.” The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are coequal members of the Holy Trinity; they are equal in person, or nature. The differences between them concern the roles and functions in which they perform.

3. The Father Is the Name Jesus Called the First Person of the Trinity

There is more. When Jesus Christ, God the Son, came to earth He revealed the First Person of the Trinity as God the Father. In fact, Jesus used the word Father more than any other description or name in referring to Him. Furthermore, Jesus taught believers to address God in the same way. For example, He specifically told believers to address God as follows:

When you pray, don’t talk on and on as people do who don’t know God. They think God likes to hear long prayers. Don’t be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask. You should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, help us to honor your name. (Matthew 6:7-9 CEV).

Jesus chose to address God as Father. He told us to address Him in the same way.

Thus, we address God as Father because He has revealed Himself to us as Father and not as Mother. Indeed, the vast majority of metaphors in Scripture speak of how God relates to us as a Father.

Furthermore, the first Person of the Trinity uses the term Father to describe Himself. It is a term that has a specific meaning. It means that He is an actual person, not some vague, impersonal force. There is someone who has a distinct personality. This Person can give and receive communication, can relate to others. Referring to Him as “Father” reinforces this truth.

4. Titles like Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer Incorrectly Describe the Trinity

There is something else which needs to be mentioned. These formulas such as Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer lose the meaning of the relationship within the Trinity. God is a Father.

If we merely call Him the Creator we lose the significance that He has loved the Son for all eternity. Indeed, these substitute names for God such as the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer simply do not imply the same things as the personal names of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, are we to assume that the Son alone the Redeemer or that the Spirit alone is the Sustainer? The Bible says that each of these actions is accomplished by all three Persons of the Holy Trinity as they work together.

Much more could be added. Suffice to say we should not substitute the traditional descriptions of the members of the Trinity, the biblical descriptions, for some modern trendy terms. Enormous problems will result it we do this.

Summary – Question 27
Do We Have to Describe the Trinity in Masculine Terms? (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)

There is the modern objection that the language about the Trinity it incorrect since it wrongly suggests that God is male. Instead of using the familiar and biblical terms for the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, it has been argued that we should either use feminine terms for the Trinity or, at the very least, gender-neutral terms such as Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer. This, it is argued will provide a more accurate view of the Trinity.

However, this is definitely the wrong way of going about things. To begin with, we have no right to alter, in the slightest way, the terms that God has chosen to explain Himself to us. The Bible is very specific in the language used to describe God; it is always masculine never feminine.

However, this does not mean that God is a male or that males are superior to females. Scripture teaches neither of these things. This must always be kept in mind when we have this discussion. Nevertheless, God revealed Himself as “the Father” and Jesus as “the Son.” Indeed, Jesus taught us to address God as the Father in the same way as He did. In obedience to Jesus this is exactly what we should do.

Furthermore, such substitute titles for the Trinity such as Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer remove the personal aspect of God. These are titles which explain what these members do more than who they are. The biblical terms emphasize that the God of the Bible is a personal loving God.

In addition, the Son and Spirit are likewise Creators, the Father and Spirit are Redeemers, and the Father and the Son are Sustainers. One title for each member of the Trinity is thus a wrong way of describing them.

In sum, these modern attempts to redefine the Trinity should be soundly rejected.

Is God an Absolute Unity? ← Prior Section
Why Do Some People Argue There Are Two Trinities? Next Section →
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