Christians have good reasons to insist on addressing God as Father, especially in the liturgy, where the Christian story is reenacted. Father is not a culturally conditioned term but the proper name of God given by divine revelation. It is how God is primarily identified or named in relation to his Son. At stake is the Trinitarian identity, which inevitably affects the church’s identity. Playing the inclusive language game has a high theological cost that far outweighs any gains.
Do we need to remake God to keep the trans activists happy?
Here is a truth you can take to the bank: every stupid and idiotic idea, trend, fashion and ideology that the world is pushing will eventually find its way into the Christian church. Happens all the time. Take the issue of human sexuality: if easy divorce is pushed in the world, the churches will soon buy into it.
If homosexuality is pushed big time in the world, sure enough, plenty of churches will soon push it big time as well. If the radical trans agenda is being championed all over the West, then you know Western churches will hop on board as well. Instead of the church leading the world, it merely slavishly follows the world.
So it is no surprise that so many “churches” and so many “Christian leaders” are now fully into things like trans activism. And it is always the same old lame excuse: ‘Well, we have trans people in our congregations and we must support them and affirm them and celebrate them. We dare not call out their lifestyle – that would be unloving. Jesus accepts them just as they are, and so should we.’
Thus it was only a matter of time before major church bodies started saying we must be inclusive and accepting of such folks, and if need be, we must change our millennia-old theology to accommodate them. So we now must ask if God is a he or a she – or something else.
Of course this discussion has been around for a while. As feminism came to the fore in the West, the churches bent over backwards to accommodate, so they too asked about God and gender. But with the trans revolution sweeping the West and so much of the church, that debate has been reignited.
We are again having church enquiries about if the Christian God is inclusive enough, or if we need to change things to make people feel more comfortable. To be “compassionate” we need to push for gender-neutral language and the like. Many churches are now heading in this direction, including the Church of England. Consider one recent news item on this:
The Church of England is considering alternatives to referring to God as “he” after priests asked to be allowed to use gender-neutral terms instead. The Church said it would launch a new project on the matter in the spring to decide whether to propose changes or not. Any potential alterations, which would mark a departure from traditional Jewish and Christian teachings dating back millennia, would have to be approved by synod, the Church’s decision-making body.
The Rt Rev Dr Michael Ipgrave, Bishop of Lichfield and vice-chair of the liturgical commission responsible for the matter, said the Church had been “exploring the use of gendered language in relation to God for several years”. “After some dialogue between the two Commissions in this area, a new joint project on gendered language will begin this spring,” he said. “In common with other potential changes to authorised liturgical provision, changing the wording and number of authorised forms of absolution would require a full Synodical process for approval.”
The specifics of the project are as yet unclear. The bishop’s comments came in response to a question asked at synod by the Rev Joanna Stobart, vicar of Ilminster and Whitelackington in Somerset, about the progress on developing “more inclusive language” in services.
It is currently unclear what would replace the term Our Father in the Lord’s Prayer, the central Christian prayer which Jesus Christ is said to have instructed his followers to say together down the generations. Conservative critics have hit back at the possibility of changes, with the Rev Dr Ian Paul telling the Telegraph that they would represent an abandonment of the Church’s own doctrine. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/church-of-england-god-gender-neutral-b2277911.html
As mentioned, this idea of reassessing who God is in regards to the issue of gender has been around for a while, so I have dealt with it before. Eight years ago for example I wrote a piece on this very matter, with a female bishop – also from the CofE – raising the matter: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2015/10/29/god-and-gender/
What I said there in response to her remarks seems to be fully relevant to the current form of the debate, so instead of reinventing the wheel, I will simply post here part of what I wrote back in 2015. All that follows here is from that earlier piece:
The short answer is that God is not gendered, nor a sexual being. God is a spirit, as we are told by Jesus himself in John 4:24: “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” Divine beings are not male nor female. But, God is also a personal being. God is not a human being, but is nonetheless personal.
God is an individual being, with a self-consciousness, volition, a mind, the ability to feel, and the ability to enter into personal relationships with others. He is not just an object or a force. And in the Trinity we have three persons. The emphasis is on social relationships. God has relationships among himself, and we can have a personal relationship with God.