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Language about God

In Sunday’s email, I started working through how we talk about God using gendered language. I say “started” because that’s a long conversation and I have much reading and research still to do myself. For example, I want to know how languages that do not have gendered pronouns handle this issue. This book is also coming out in the fall and I have already preordered it. 

However, at the very end of the email, I mentioned that some of my professors at Fuller use “Godself” to reflect back on God instead of “Himself.” This is probably tagged as a progressive move by many and, honestly, I have not dug into the roots of this idea or anything yet. However, what I like about it is that the language reminds me that God is not a single person. God is not an entity or being who lives alone, out in eternity. 

Instead, we believe that God is a Trinity: one in three and three in one. We believe that the Trinity exists in love and fellowship that is perfect and that love overflows into creation and our relationship with God. Using “Himself” allows us to draw conclusions that do not match what we believe.

A.W. Tozer once said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” When we think about God, do we imagine a single being or a Trinity existing in a community that we are welcomed into? I am all for language that helps us reshape our imagination about God in more accurate ways, even if that means changing our language. 

Do I use “Godself”? Only occasionally in school papers for now. But I think it’s worth considering the detractions and merits of the language that we use. Everyone does not agree though; I had more unsubscribes after that email than any other email I’ve sent out. But my husband responded and said that he didn’t know any of the things I discussed so mission accomplished in my opinion. 

*one of my goals for this space is to share what I’m thinking about, even before I have arrived at conclusions. I want to look at different aspects of an idea, include a lot of nuance, recognize that maybe we need to alternate between ideas. Think along with me, ok?

10 Discussion to this post

  1. Diane M Jamison says:

    Some thoughts to ponder from Scripture
    “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”
    ‭‭John‬ ‭4:24‬ ‭KJV‬‬

    Man is a three part being just like God. He has a body, a soul ( mind, will, and emotions) , and a spirit. God made man out of the dust of the earth and then breathed into this earthly body His own breath. All of the animals were made from dust as well. Only man received the breath of God. Only woman was formed and created from a rib taken from within man. Hebrew word (yatsar) was used in making man as he was molded from dust like clay in a potter’s hand. The Hebrew word (barah) in creation of woman means skillfully formed. Adam named Woman Eve (Genesis 3:20) God created woman to be a helpmate – to come along side. The Hebrew word is ezer – used 21 times in the Old Testament. Twice in referencing woman and 16 times in referencing Yahweh as our helper . Ezer implies someone who fights in behalf of another not simply someone who cooks dinner. God intends for the two to be partners.

    In relation to the gender of God, Jesus called God Abba – Father. Abba implies His authority and His position.

    I have never really been too concerned about God’s gender but I love to co sided His names – Jehovah Raphe (my Healer), Jehovah Jireh (my provider), Jehovah Tzidkenu ( my righteousness) are just a few. He is the Lord God Almighty – El Shaddai – the all sufficient One.


  2. Carli says:

    I always enjoy hearing your thoughts as you think through them. It helps me to slow down and thoughtfully consider these things as well. Nuance is a wonderful thing. Don’t let the muggles get you down. 🙂

    • lisah says:

      “the muggles” almost made me choke on my coffee. Thank you for that. Honestly though, sometimes all of us just aren’t ready to consider things. I don’t take it personally. I am glad to hear that you enjoy considering these things with me!

  3. Aurora says:

    I’m sorry to hear there were a lot of unsubscribes. I am intrigued by this exploration of language and excited to see what you discover.

  4. Sarah says:

    Thank you for doing this work. I am excited to read every time your name pops up in my inbox. Spaces like this one are the main places I feel I can ask and ponder difficult, honest questions about God and theology. This is especially true when coming from a background that, while not necessarily legalistic and fundamentalist, is not welcoming of the questions I have. So thank you, again. Grace and Peace. ❤️

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