The Biblical Data on God and Sexuality

Image via David Hayward @ NakedPastor

(Part 2 of 4)
(continued from Part 1, “The Shack and the Gender of God”)

For some, the gender [1] of God is obvious. The God of the Old Testament is referred to exclusively with masculine pronouns, adjectives, and verbs. [2] For the New Testament, both the Father and the Son are similarly described in masculine terms, while the titles used for God in both testaments are entirely masculine as well. Many believe this alone represents enough data to show that God is an essentially male or masculine being.

Most male headship advocates [3] will assert that the Spirit is referred to as a masculine being as well. [4] In actuality, the data on the Third Person of the Trinity is less decisive. In Hebrew, the word for “spirit” is the feminine רוּחַ, so the adjectives and verbs associated with it throughout the Old Testament are usually feminine—for example, מְרַחֶפֶת for hovered in Gen. 1:3. In Greek, the word for “spirit” is the neuter πνεῦμα with most of its adjectives and pronouns matching that case. Going by gendered language alone, the Spirit is a “she” or an “it.”

The oft-cited exceptions occur in John 15-16 when Jesus is delivering his sermon on the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete, wherein he refers to the Spirit with the masculine pronoun ἐκεῖνος. At first glance this seems significant since a neuter form for this adjective exists (ἐκεῖνο) and John seems to have shunned it in favor of the masculine even though it does not match the case of the noun under discussion. However, the antecedent to ἐκεῖνος is not πνεῦμα, but παράκλητος, a masculine adjective functioning as a substantive noun. This could still be a decisive declaration on the Spirit’s sexuality if John had originated this usage of the term, but he did not. The masculine plural form was similarly used as a substantive adjective by Demosthenes in the 4th century BC. [5] John took the pre-existing masculine concept of a παράκλητος as one’s legal advocate and applied it to the Holy Spirit. It therefore follows that his identification has everything to do with the Spirit’s function in the lives of believers, not its gender.

This poses a dilemma for Christians who assert that God is wholly male or masculine: (more…)

The Shack and the Gender of God

(Part 1 of 4)

I never read the entirety of The Shack, the popular 2007 Christian novel about a man who converses with God about the murder of his beloved youngest daughter. My reasons were not theological. I had a childhood friend who was kidnapped, raped, and murdered when I was 9 and she was 11, so the subject of the novel was a little too close to home for me.

I did read enough of the novel to know that two members of the Trinity, God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, manifested themselves as women (a black woman and an Asian woman, respectively), and this became one of the many theological “problems” that was protested in the novel. For example, Mark Driscoll, then at the zenith of his megachurch pastor career, decried this as “goddess worship.” Mary Kassian, writing for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, lamented that evangelical fans of The Shack were “succumbing to the feminist pressure to image God in feminine ways.” In quite recent history, complementarians and other male headship advocates [1] got it into their heads that all three members of the Trinity are quintessentially masculine and/or male, and as such, God could not have incarnated as a woman nor could he ever manifest as one, even if he wanted to.

 

Pictured: Human beings made in the image of God who can’t image God. Makes perfect sense.

The Shack has now been made into a major motion picture starring Sam Worthington. It was released today. Its reviews have sadly gone the way of most Christian films (15% on RottenTomatoes as I write this), but in light of the film, I thought it might be worth it to revisit what the Bible says about whether God has a gender, along with some extrabiblical details and philosophical considerations.

I am of the opinion that gender is created and God does not possess one as part of any eternal nature, so God could theoretically incarnate and/or manifest himself as a woman as well as a man should it please him to do so. And I want to point out that viewing God as genderless is not some novel feminist incursion on traditional Christian theology. It is historic and quite mainstream. (more…)

The Year 2016 in Review: A Year in Reading

A Year in Reading

These were the books that I read (or re-read) in 2016, and how I rated them. I set a GoodReads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books (2 per month) and exceeded that with a total of 27 books. 24 of those books were read between August and December. What I have found is that, since completing my master’s degree and Harper classes, I have a lot more free time for reading—and I am loving it.

  • Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No, to Take Control of Your Life [1992] by Henry Cloud & John Townsend (Religion / Self-Help) – 5/5 stars
  • Essential Car Care for Women [2012] by Jamie Little (Automotive) – 3/5 stars
  • Leave a Cheater, Gain a Life: The Chump Lady’s Survival Guide [2016] by Tracy Schorn (Relationships / Self-Help) – 5/5 stars
  • Shadows of Self [2015] by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy) – 5/5 stars
  • The Bands of Mourning [2016] by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy) – 4/5 stars
  • Secret History [2016] by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy) – 3/5 stars
  • Road Rage: Two Novellas [2009] by Richard Matheson, Stephen King, & Joe Hill (Horror / Suspense) – 3/5 stars
  • After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters [2010] by N. T. Wright (Religion / Theology) – 5/5 stars
  • The Turn of the Screw [1898] by Henry James (Horror / Suspense) – 5/5 stars
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde [1886] by Robert Louis Stevenson (Horror / Mystery) – 4/5 stars
  • Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency [1987] by Douglas Adams (Science Fiction) – 2/5 stars
  • Undaunted [2012] by Christine Caine (Religion / Self-Help) – 4/5 stars
  • Watchmen [1987] by Alan Moore (Comics / Fantasy) – 5/5 stars
  • The Secret History of Wonder Woman [2014] by Jill Lepore (History / Feminism) – 5/5 stars
  • Alcatraz v. the Dark Talent [2016] by Brandon Sanderson (Young Adult / Fantasy) – 5/5 stars
  • House of Leaves [2000] by Mark Z. Danielewski (Horror) – 3/5 stars
  • Healthy Aging [2005] by Andrew Weil (Health / Self-Help) – 3/5 stars
  • Death’s End [2016] by Cixin Liu (Science Fiction) – 3/5 stars
  • The Pearl [1947] by John Steinbeck (Drama / Suspense) – 4/5 stars
  • The Books of the Bible (New Testament) [2011] – 4/5 stars (for the edition, not the actual New Testament)
  • Elantris [2005] by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy) – 3/5 stars
  • NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity [2015] by Steve Silberman (Health / History) – 5/5 stars
  • The Emperor’s Soul [2012] by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy) – 3/5 stars
  • Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? [2016] by Kathleen Collins (Short Fiction / Drama / Race / Feminism / Sexuality) – 4/5 stars
  • All About Demisexuality [2015] by Arf (Health / Sexuality) – 2/5 stars
  • Dark Matter [2016] by Blake Crouch (Science Fiction) – 5/5 stars
  • The Christmas Tree that Ate My Mother [1992] by Dean Marney (Young Adult / Fantasy) – 3/5 stars

Some “awards” for these books:

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The Year 2016 in Review: The Bad

As I said in my last post, this has overall been a really good year for me. But here are some of the bad things I’ve had to deal with.

The Bad

The Ex-Boyfriend Stalker – Had to deal with a stalking ex-boyfriend this year. Not fun. My life is beginning to look like that Elle King song, but without the sex.

My “Position Available” Suitor – See this post on Medium here.

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The Year 2016 in Review: The Good

Right after my thesis defense, 4-15-16

Everyone has been saying that 2016 has been “the worst.” For me, it’s actually been a really good year. These were the ups and downs of my year:

The Good

Completed and Defended Master’s Thesis – I turned in my master’s thesis for defense on March 16th, successfully defended it on April 15th, and submitted the final copy for ProQuest publication in early May. The thesis was called, As God is, Woman May Become?: Women and the Mormon Doctrine of Exaltation, and I was very blessed to have LDS feminist scholar Maxine Hanks serving as an outside reader on my defense committee. I had been working on my thesis off and on for years, so it was a amazing to finally get it done.

Septorhinoplasty – Yup, that’s right, I got a nose job. (more…)

My Hope is You

1st Sunday of Advent

A Reflection for the First Sunday of Advent

I’m a lucky woman.

I had thought that by my current age, I would have a husband, three healthy children, a PhD, a house, a growing list of publications, and a career that I was proud of.

I don’t. I have a divorce decree, two disabled children, a master’s degree that took me 7 years to finish, a tiny apartment I can barely afford, a small list of publications, and a job that could be much better.

I was scheduled for a job interview for a promotion last week. I was practically walking on air all week prior. I did not have the job, but I had the hope of having the job in the very near future. Hope is a powerful thing.

The interview was scheduled for tomorrow. They called me late on Wednesday afternoon, just before the holiday, and cancelled it. (It wasn’t anything that I did, it appears they decided not to create the position after all.)

"Look at that!" He decorated it himself.
“Look at that!” He decorated it himself.

I’m still a lucky woman. I had a great weekend. I went shopping with my kids, ate out several times, went bowling, and saw an amazing movie (Arrival—no seriously, it’s amazing, go see it). I had Thanksgiving with my kids, decorated the tree, and got to hear my autistic son yell, “Look at that!” for the first time ever. It wasn’t so long ago that I never would have spent a weekend like this.

It was only 3.5 years ago that I had no job, my then-husband was spending all of his time with another woman, I was pregnant and had no idea how I was ever going to take care of two kids alone, and my credit wasn’t good enough to get even a tiny apartment by myself. I wasn’t thinking of publications and didn’t believe I was ever going to finish my master’s degree. Hope found a way.

And while I mourn for my children’s struggles, I know it could be worse. I thank God they are a least physically healthy. They are beautiful and loving and like to run up to me and yell “CUDDLE PARTY!” I have great kids.

The first Sunday of Advent is the time to reflect on hope. I have a lot of it.

(more…)

My Son’s Expulsion from Daycare was the Best Thing to Happen to Us

autism_quoteAn Autism Journey

“So, we’ve decided that your son isn’t a good fit for our program.”

I froze in disbelief. A knot formed in my throat and tears welled up in my eyes.

She continued. “You should really have him evaluated for special needs. Has no one told you that before?”

I shook my head. She wasn’t mean about it, and she showed concern for my distress, but she was firm that their daycare was not the right program for my son.

It was only his second day with this new provider, and this was the second time in less than 2.5 months that my son had been abruptly dismissed from a daycare program without warning. It was the fourth time in that same time period that a childcare provider had bailed on my son.

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Anatomy of My Vote: November 2016

mail_johnsonI just cast my vote for the Tuesday, November 8th election via mail. While this blog isn’t about politics (and even my columns at The Hill should shift more to religion over politics once this election is over), I thought I would share who I voted for and why.

Voting by mail at all is new for me this year. From 2012 to 2015, I served as an election judge for the Republican party and generally took advantage of early voting so I could remain at my polling station. However, I left the Republican party earlier this year due to Republican leaders like Mike Huckabee telling us that if we weren’t going to support Donald Trump, we should just leave the party (k. bye!). I now consider myself an independent and a “conservatarian.” You have to declare one party or the other to serve as an election judge in Illinois, so I opted not to serve anymore.

Prior to becoming an election judge, I enjoyed going to the polls. However, with my lack of enthusiasm for the candidates this year, I have no desire to be anywhere near the polls on election day. As an Illinois government employee, November 8th will be a paid holiday for me, so I am going to enjoy the day off with my kids and try not to think about this horrible election.

Without further ado, here is how I voted:

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