BACKGROUND TO BUDDY #7

Note to the reader: the series of articles entitled Background to Buddy were extracted from a Christian nonfiction work that formed the basis for the novel Buddy, which is available from either Amazon or Signalman Publishing. Directions are noted on the page entitled Buddy on this blog site. The purpose of this work was to explain the reasons why I consider the Holy Spirit to be functionally female. Adventure episodes and humor were added for the entertainment of both the reader and the author.

Chapter 4: A Challenge and a Brief Response

I have made the claim in my book Family of God1 as well as in my blog friendofthefamily.wordpress.com that the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, has a functional gender, specifically that of a female. In those two venues my implicit definition of ‘gender’ is “otherness in a harmoniously and creatively complementary sense”. In that context, a female gender would be harmoniously and creatively complementary to a male other. Implicit in that relationship is the male role of initiator and the female role of responder. It is in that context that I view Paul in Ephesians 5 as presenting the mystery of the anticipated functional spiritual union between Christ as a male and the Church as a female. In that same context reasons are developed in Family of God for perceiving the same essence of creative union between God the Father and the Holy Spirit.

The presentation I made in Family of God has been received with a mixture of agreement and challenge. It is of concern to me that the challenge has come from persons who hold valid theological credentials and whom I respect as my betters for their understanding of God in other theological areas.

Before delving into specifics, I wish to acknowledge my understanding of Scripture as being inspired by the Holy Spirit and inerrant as to its source documentation. My assertions as to the gender of the Holy Spirit are derived entirely from my perception of what Scripture itself has to say about the subject.

Specific areas of disagreement:

The most obvious source of disagreement is the extensive repetition of the pronoun ‘He’ in Scriptural references to the Holy Spirit, although infrequently the neuter pronoun ‘It’ is also used. A partial listing of references to the masculine ‘He’ or ‘Him’ includes John 14:16, 14:26, 15:26, 16:7, 8 and 13-15, and Hebrews 3:7 and 10:15.

Scripture specifically claims in Galatians 3:28 that (in the resurrection) there is neither male nor female.

As I noted in my blog, I felt pretty much alone in my perception of the female nature of the Holy Spirit. It has been suggested to me that there usually are pretty good reasons for ‘being out there alone’.

An objection was made that I may not be alone as I think: I seem to share my conviction with a collection of individuals who are not well-regarded in the conservative Church, including thoroughly discredited Branch Davidian leader David Koresh and notoriously new-age adherent Oprah Winfrey.

I have been cautioned regarding what appears to be a hasty connection between Wisdom, as presented in the Book of Proverbs, and the Holy Spirit. It was noted in that regard that in the common interpretation of the purpose and nature of Proverbs, which is contained in the ‘prologue’ summary (Proverbs Chapter 1), there is no compelling reason to make that connection.

It seems inappropriate, in the light of Paul’s restrictions on the role of females in the Church, of conferring Godhood on a female.

There are many within mainstream Christianity who perceive God as being above passion. This particular notion of God being greater than our feelings of romantic love was expressed by the medieval theologian Zanchius2, who to this day enjoys a considerable following.

My responses:

Regarding the Scriptural use of masculine pronouns in reference to the Holy Spirit:

As to the proliferation in Scripture of a masculine pronoun in reference to the Holy Spirit, I addressed that issue in detail in Family of God. As my argument there fully acknowledged the Scriptural use of a male pronoun for the Holy Spirit, the number of repetitions in that use is meaningless to the argument: just one would have sufficed.

Basically, I said in Family of God that the Holy Spirit, while performing an essentially female function in the context that I have defined in the introduction above, could also legitimately be considered to be male with respect to substance, or essence or composition. I went on to speculate that the Scriptural emphasis on the male substance as opposed to the female function may actually be a promise to mankind regarding his future spiritual participation in the Godhead as the Bride of Christ. This viewpoint, however, applies to the entirety of redeemed mankind in the spiritual domain who constitute the Church, and not to redeemed individuals, who simply comprise components of that Body.

I expanded on this thought in my blog friendofthefamily.wordpress.com by noting that as Bride of Christ, redeemed (spiritual) mankind itself, while being designated as male in composition (mankind is a male descriptor), will obviously be performing a female functional role that is harmoniously complementary to Jesus Christ. Obviously, if future mankind can legitimately be male in composition and female in function, the same attributes may apply in an equally non-contradictory manner between the other two Members of the Godhead.

The explanation for the use of masculine pronouns in reference to the Holy Spirit may be simpler yet than those that I have given above: that in marriage the male and female members are components of a greater unity than either of them alone and as one, they would rightly be addressed by the gender of the dominant Member, the male. Scripture itself takes that convention in Genesis 5:1 and 2, which says

“This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.”

In both Family of God and the blog my implied definition of ‘female’ was ‘complementary other’. In neither venue did I connote in that description anything physical or overtly suggestive of a link between the spiritual gender that may be applicable to the Godhead with the manner in which sexuality is applied to humans, as such attributes that God may have in that realm are completely beyond our understanding. In no case was I attempting to contradict Scripture or to suggest that Scripture might possibly contradict itself. The reasons that I have presented above for a male reference to the Holy Spirit imply no such contradiction.

Paul’s statement in Galatians 3:28 that in the resurrection there is neither male nor female:

Regarding the reference in Galatians 3:28 that “there is neither male nor female”, I could also quote Matthew 22:29 and 30:

“Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels of God in heaven.”

The answer to this objection has already been given above, wherein I noted that gender applies to the Body as a whole rather than individuals. The Church as a Body is a composite rather than a single redeemed human individual. Obviously, given the mystery that Paul explained in Ephesians 5, Jesus was referring in Matthew 22 to the relationship among redeemed humans rather than the relationship the Church as a whole will enjoy as Wife of Christ. Precisely the same comment applies as well to Galatians 3:28: Paul spoke only regarding the inter-human relationship which, in the spiritual realm, apparently won’t include individual human sexuality. That says exactly nothing about the human-God relationship.

There is an interesting confirmation in Psalm 34:2 regarding the gender of our souls in the spiritual realm:

“My soul shall make her boast in the Lord; the humble shall hear of it, and b e glad.”

This particular quote came from the King James Version of the Bible. While some other versions substitute “it” for “her” and still others manipulate the grammar to avoid the gender issue altogether, the Young’s Literal Translation uses the word “herself”, which agrees with the KJV as to gender. In order to avoid a conflict with Galatians 3:28, David’s words here reasonably may be interpreted as his viewing his soul as functionally integrated into the Church as a whole.

My “being out there alone”:

I get a chuckle out of the suggestion that there might actually be a good reason why I’m ‘out there alone’. The suggestion smarts because it carries a lot of truth. I have to agree with that, wondering myself why such a profoundly beautiful concept has been ignored for millennia. I don’t have an answer to that. It still bothers me. Yet the problem doesn’t give me a Scriptural reason that justifies my abandoning the concept. I can only say that all of our understanding of Scripture, even collectively, is progressive. Why me? Who knows? Maybe it’s because I – and others of my persuasion – are such small potatoes that the introduction of this concept may be hardly noticeable and therefore quite gentle. Sometimes I wonder whether there are a lot of little people like me in Churches throughout the world who perceive as I do that the functional gender of the Holy Spirit is essentially female, but say nothing to anyone about their perception because they’d rather not rock the boat. Perhaps I’m not nearly as alone as even I think. If I am, what of it? This is not a Scripturally-based objection. And even if I’m wrong, I’m sure that God Himself is more than capable, if He should so desire, of negating any potential influence I may have toward anybody without involving another human being in the process.

Actually, the Mariology tradition of the Catholic Church3 gives me reason to suspect that a large number of thoughtful Christians over many centuries have inferred from Scripture that the Holy Spirit has had a female function or nature. Rather than submitting themselves to the expected reactionary abuse for their thoughts, they simply transferred attributes belonging to the Holy Spirit over to Mary, who herself, according to Scripture, provides us with a vivid type of the Holy Spirit. Mary’s typification of the Holy Spirit is even more pronounced in the Catholic Church due to this transference of attributes. In my opinion, the Catholic Church is less in error in this matter than the Protestant denominations, which have made no effort whatsoever to reconcile Scripture with their insistence upon making the Holy Spirit either entirely male or genderless.

Sharing my understanding with notorious heretics:

As for my conviction regarding the gender of the Holy Spirit seemingly being shared with other not-so-conservatively-Christian individuals such as Koresh and Winfrey, I ask the objector to go back and read my book with a little more understanding of the positions each of us have taken on the subject and of the obvious differences in our perceptions. Winfrey’s goddess theology is not even remotely connected with my notion regarding the gender of the Holy Spirit. The same can be said about Koresh and his self-serving beliefs.

[to be continued]

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