Saturday, March 22, 2008

Godself, Jesusself, and Paulself

The Scriptures occasionally use feminine imagery to illustrate God's relationship with his people. According to some, this is evidence against the traditional view that God should be conceived of in primarily masculine terms. Some even go so far as to conclude that it is inappropriate for us to refer to God with strictly masculine pronouns. But this leaves us in a bit of an awkward spot, grammatically speaking. What are we to call God when our sentence structure requires a reflexive pronoun? Creatively, the term “Godself” has been suggested (i.e., “God has glorified Godself in Christ”).

Hmm…

Jesus and Paul also occasionally use feminine imagery to describe their interaction with God’s people. Jesus longed to gather Jerusalem like a hen gathering her chicks, and Paul, when ministering to the Thessalonians, was as tender as a nursing mother. What can this mean? Only one thing—“Jesusself” and “Paulself” must now join the ranks of our newly coined pronouns.

Or perhaps not. We naturally understand that when a masculine person utilizes feminine imagery to describe a particular activity he is engaged in, he does not in any way intend to communicate he is sans gender. Just because Gerald involves Geraldself in a traditionally feminine activity (say, singing my son to sleep) does not make me a woman or gender neutral. It only means that I have engaged in a traditionally feminine activity.

I fear my feminist friends are making more of Scripture’s feminine imagery than is warranted.

3 comments:

Laura said...

Another reason to refer to God as Godself is because that is a more trinitarian way of speaking. You can refer to God the Father, for example, as him, but when you are speaking of the Trinity, a singular pronoun (him/himself) is not wholly appropriate. (Nor is the plural--them/themselves--wholly appropriate because of the three-in-one nature of the trinity). So "Godself" would be one way forward. It works well in your example--"God has glorified Godself in Christ"--because all persons of the Trinity are glorified.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps we're overthinking the issue and missing the messages that lie therein.

Anonymous said...

Using gender-neutral self-reflexive language for God has nothing to do with a particular "action" of God but is concerned with accurately describing who God actually is.

It is odd to say "Paulsself" since we know that Paul is a "he"...no matter what activity he is performing. It is equally odd to call God "he" in that God is not a male. Gender-neutral language is not an imposition but a more accurate description based on how God reveals Godself in Scripture (as non-anthropormophic).