Is God male, female, or neither?

God is a pure spirit, which means that He has no physical body. God is neither male nor female, neither masculine nor feminine. God has no gender. Human beings and animals have gender since we do not reproduce asexually. Males and females need their counterpart in order to reproduce. Men and women complement one another since neither gender possesses the fullness of humanity. We are incomplete on our own. We need others. God does not need anyone. God is perfect and is the fullness of being.

So why do we use the masculine pronoun “He” and say God is a “He”? The answer goes beyond mere cultural or patriarchal tradition. Catholic Christianity, like all other Christian religions (Protestant or Eastern Orthodox), firmly believes in the doctrine of the Triune God. Divine revelation, which comes from God, revealed that there is but one God (monotheism) but that one God is also Triune: three persons in one God (trinitarianism). It is God who revealed Himself as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The Bible is considered the inspired and revealed written word of God. It uses the pronoun “He” since God also reveals His “fatherhood” in the Old Testament. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, revealed His “sonship” in the New Testament. The Holy Spirit is portrayed as the spouse of the Virgin Mary by which she miraculously conceives and gives birth to Jesus, the Son of God.

The Holy Spirit is also referred to with the male pronoun “He,” as Mary, the mother, is “she.” Since Christianity staunchly believes that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, then the use of the masculine or male pronoun is not considered anthropomorphic.

It is revealed. Yet only the Second Person of the Trinity (Jesus) took on a human nature and had an actual human (male) body. God the Father and God the Holy Spirit have no physical bodies. The mystery of the Triune God, though, is that these three persons are distinct but not separate. Hence, what affects one person affects all three persons, and vice versa.

Male human beings, however, cannot misinterpret this to mean that they have an edge over women. Genesis (the first book of the Bible) tells us, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (1:27). This means that men and women are equal in the eyes of God. While there are physiological and emotional differences between the genders, spiritually men and women are alike. Using the masculine pronoun “He” when referring to the Almighty is nothing more than acknowledging the revealed relationship of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Those who try to be politically correct and use novel terms like “God our mother” or who refer to the Holy Spirit as “She” are guilty of perpetrating anthropomorphism.

The spousal relationship of husband and wife as also being male and female is seen in the Bible as well. God is portrayed as the faithful spouse, and Israel is His often unfaithful bride. Whenever the Hebrew people dabbled in idolatry and pagan worship, it was seen as violating the covenant between God and the chosen people.

It is no coincidence that marriage between a man and woman whereby they become husband and wife is also called a covenant. God even tells the prophet Hosea to marry a harlot, Gomer, to symbolize the relationship between the faithful Lord and the unfaithful Israelites. No matter how many times she is unfaithful, the prophet takes her back. He never stops loving or forgiving her. Likewise, the faithful Lord never abandons or gives up on His unfaithful spouse, the children of Abraham. That spousal relationship of God as bridegroom and the chosen people as bride requires pronouns like “he” and “she” just to keep things sensible.

Jesus himself in the Gospel of the New Testament is portrayed as the new bridegroom and the Church as his bride. Biologically male in his humanity, Jesus in his divinity (because He is true God and true Man) has no gender per se. Yet, the pronoun “He” is also used not just because of His human masculinity but spiritually because Jesus Christ loves the Church as a groom loves his bride, says Saint Paul (Ephesians 5:25).

Source: The Catholicism Answer Book by Rev. John Trigilio Jr., Ph.D., Th.D. and Rev. Kenneth D. Brighenti, Ph.D

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