Does God have feminine attributes? At first blush, many of us in conservative Christian circles may squirm a bit at this suggestion, but should we?
To be sure, Jesus, in his human nature, was male. It is also true that God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each consistently referred to in the Bible with the male personal pronoun “he.” As such, it is biblically faithful to refer to God as “he,” and he delights in revealing himself by way of a number of male metaphors, such as father or husband.
However, we must never make the mistake of claiming that God, in his divinity, is intrinsically male. The Bible is clear that God is spirit (John 4:24), and as such, he is not gendered. When we call him father we do not mean that he is male, like human fathers are. Rather, we mean that he relates to us LIKE a human father does. He provides for, protects, leads, and even disciplines us like the best human fathers do, only better (Matthew 6:25-30, 6:7-11, James Hebrews 12:7-10). Likewise, when the Bible speaks of God as a husband, it does not claim that God is male, but that God jealously guards his relationship with his people like a good husband loves and protects his wife (Hosea 2:16, 19)
Consider this: it is only when BOTH man and woman are created in Genesis 1 that God is fully imaged:
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” – Genesis 1:27
In fact, the first time we see God declaring something to be “not good” is when Adam finds himself alone in the Garden:
“Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that a man should be alone: I will make him a helper fit for him.” – Genesis 2:18
Why did God need to create BOTH genders before mankind fully displayed the image of God? One reason is that God is intrinsically one and yet three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (three persons) and one divine being. Especially when man and woman come together as “one flesh” we see the trinity on display: unity and diversity (Genesis 2:24). Through their diversity in maleness and femaleness, Adam and Eve displayed something of the diversity within the godhead. Yet, in their oneness as human beings, created of the same stuff, and coming together in mission and sexual union, they displayed the oneness within God.
So, what does all of this imply for God’s attributes? Just this: God has feminine attributes as well as masculine. Or, perhaps better said, God has attributes which both men and women image uniquely! There are things about God that men more directly put on display, and there are things about God that women more directly display. Here are just a few examples of ways in which the Bible reveals God through feminine characteristics and metaphores:
- God comforts his people like a mother comforts her child (Isaiah 66:13)
- Like a woman would never forget her nursing child, God will not forget his children (Isaiah 49:15)
- God is like a mother eagle hovering over her young (Deuteronomy 32:11)
- God seeks the lost like a housekeeper, trying to find her lost coin (Luke 15:8-10)
- God cares for his people like a midwife that cares for the child she just delivered (Ps 22:9-10, Ps 71:6, Isa 66:9)
- God experiences the fury of a mother bear robbed of her cubs (Hosea 13:8)
- Jesus longed for the people of Jerusalem, like a mother hen longs to gather her chicks under her wings (Luke 13:34)
Having four children of my own, I’ve seen firsthand how uniquely gifted women are to nurture as I’ve watch my wife care for each of our babies. Women are specially designed with heightened capacity for care and relational tenderness. And who would ever criticize a mother’s child in front of her? They had better be ready for mama’s wrath! Likewise, when we think of God’s love for those who are reconciled to him in Jesus, we not only think of a strong, protective and wise father, but we can also bask in his tender, nurturing, comforting care seen most beautifully in a mother’s love for her child. What a dynamic God we worship!