Is God He or She?


This article first appeared on Catholic Stand.

A couple of months ago, U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell, while addressing the House of Representatives about a second President Trump impeachment trial and the GOP’s unwillingness to convict him, stated, “So we could have called God herself [as a witness], and [the impeachment trial] would not have happened.”

An article posted on the website, Christian Feminism Today (CFT), asserts God can be referred to as “she/her” because God is pure spirit and does not have a gender. Referring to God using feminine pronouns, it continues, “serves as a bit of an antidote to the venomous anti-female bias inherent in Judeo-Christian history.”

No Gender Fluidity in God

What Swalwell fails to see, and the CFT article fails to explain, is that God reveals Himself to us as Father, not as male or female. His Son, incarnate with a male body, exclusively refers to God as “Father”. The pronouns we use when referring to God are the result of His revealed Fatherhood rather than His gender or lack thereof.

God is pure spirit and does not have a gender. God the Son assumed a male human nature because the male body reflects His eternal Sonship, not a preexisting gender. Thus, gender, as it relates to this discussion about God, has nothing to do with using masculine pronouns. Rather, God’s self-revealed Fatherhood is why we refer to Him using masculine pronouns.

St. Thomas Aquinas, in his Compendium of Theology, articles 37-42, aptly explains why God reveals Himself as Father.

Why God Is Father

Using bodily conception as an analogy for mental conception, Aquinas begins with explaining how humans conceive. He states,

A being is said to be conceived in a corporeal way if it is formed in the womb of a living animal by a life-giving energy, in virtue of the active function of the male (sperm actively entering the female) and the passive function of the female (ovum passively receiving the sperm) in whom conception takes place. The being conceived shares in the nature of both parents and resembles them in species.

Similarly, as humans begin to learn about and understand the world around them, countless objects enter their minds through their senses, and their minds form mental conceptions. Like bodily conception, an object (active principle) enters our intellects, and our intellects (passive principle) receive the object.

When we receive the object, we form a spiritual image and generate a concept. The mental conception has qualities of both the object understood (e.g., shape, color, etc.) and the mind that understands (i.e., an understanding of the object’s essence through the spiritual image generated).

For example, when a child sees a bird for the first time, that bird actively enters the child’s intellect and his/her intellect passively receives the bird. The child wonders what the bird is and observes its behavior. Through observation and reasoning skills, the child’s intellect begins to understand what the bird is, what it does, and why it does it (i.e., its purpose and essence).

Consequently, the child conceives a spiritual image and understanding of the bird, which is a conception. This newly formed concept is a likeness of the bird in the child’s intellect.

Aquinas explains that the object understood is a kind of “father”, analogously, and the human intellect is a kind of “mother” to the newly formed conception. This is due to their respective active and passive qualities. In the above example, the bird, due to its act of imprinting its image on the child’s intellect, is the concept’s father. The child’s intellect, due to its passive receiving of the bird’s image, is the concept’s mother.

At this point we are discussing objects outside the understanding mind. But what happens to this mother/father relationship when the intellect understands itself?

The Intellect Understanding Itself

Aquinas explains that “when the intellect understands itself, the [concept] conceived is related to the understanding person as offspring to father,” not mother. When this occurs, the passive principle does not exist because the intellect actively engages and understands itself as the active object of its own conception. In other words, the intellect causes itself to be understood. As such, there is no passivity in this act.

When understanding your own intellect, your intellect causes itself to understand itself. You do not need to wait for your intellect to enter through your senses to initiate conceptualization. Consequently, by understanding your own intellect, your intellect generates a conception of itself and is the “father” of its own conception.

Although humans cannot perfectly understand their own intellects, God can perfectly understand His. Therefore, God’s intellect eternally generates, or begets, a perfect spiritual conception of His perfect spiritual self, which is why He is the Father. This eternally generated Concept of all that God knows, including Himself, is the eternal Image of the Father. Since He is the perfect Image conceived, He is fittingly called Son, and is distinct, yet not different, from the Father.

Consequences of Calling God Mother or Using Feminine Pronouns

Feminism is fundamentally an ideological/political movement, which doesn’t see the philosophical implications of its insistence on God as feminine or even “gender-neutral”.

The erroneous use of “mother” or the pronouns “she/her” when referring to God changes God into a passive thinker; namely, one who thinks as “she” receives new information. It turns God into a being who learns new things versus the eternally all-knowing God. Consequently, God becomes a being who changes and is, therefore, subject to time.

This forming of God into one’s own image is idolatry. It is the ultimate error of feminism.

The Right Response to God’s Revelation

We are called to love God as He has revealed Himself. We are not called to idolatry. Do not fall for the idiotic assertions emanating from the Swalwells and anti-God feminists who are ever present and growing in our post-modern culture.

Love God as He has revealed Himself to us and joyfully submit to His eternal love and truth. Only in this way can you become the truly human version of yourself.

This article first appeared on Catholic Stand.