Is God both man and woman combined? Is He my heavenly father and mother? Are women made in God’s image? Are a man and a woman joined in marriage a more complete or closer image of God?
God is triune. He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Father and Son are both explicitly masculine terms. The Holy Spirit could be viewed as gender neutral, through His comforting and nurturing roles suggest attributes we usually associate with females.
That two of the three members of the trinity are depicted in masculine terms, does not make God male (as we understand the term). God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are both without body (and therefore not, strictly speaking, male). God the Son is a man. He not only was masculine in the incarnation, but He remains eternally masculine in his resurrection body.
Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” The word “man” in this verse is the generic term for mankind, not a specific term of masculinity. He created both man and woman with emotions, will, soul, and intellect. God created both man and woman equally in His image. This is the primary basis for equality of the genders. It’s important to realize that equality is not sameness. Men and women are equally gifted by God and equally valuable, but there are still differences.
It is common, if not natural, to view God through the lens of humanity—but it’s best to view humanity, as much as possible, through the lens of God. He existed before man and woman. He refers to himself as Father. Who am I to rename Him? It’s true that God sometimes uses analogies and illustrations of His work that are predominately feminine, but never does He refer to himself as female, nor take on a female incarnation.
Viewing God as mother treads dangerously close to many pagan/cult beliefs, and is not a view encouraged by Scripture. He represents qualities we ascribe to mothers, i.e. loving, compassionate, full of grace, protective, etc., but chose to reveal and refer to Himself in masculine terms in His word to humanity. God invented motherhood, but the Bible does not encourage us to address God as Mother.
Of course, females are fully able to relate to God as easily as males because they are equally created in God’s image, and God knows all (and best).
After creating everything, including males and females, God (the trinity) saw that it was very good (Genesis 1:31). He could have made humans of only one sex, or created an infinite number of sexes, but He specifically created two sexes to represent and bear His image. Males and females each individually bear the image of God. A husband and wife before their marriage bear the image of God in singleness and once married bear the image of God in their marriage, though because God is reflected in both masculinity and femininity, the husband and wife together may demonstrate a fuller picture of God than either of them did before the marriage. However, this should not be seen as a poor reflection on singles. If marriage led humanity into greater likeness of God, Scripture would not uplift singleness as an honorable lifestyle choice with certain advantages (1 Corinthians 7:8).
It is both fascinating and encouraging to realize that the different strengths of males and females are equally fashioned (though fallen) from the image of a perfect God. May men be men and women be women, and may we work together to reflect His glory.
Julia (Stager) Mayo holds a Master of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies from Western Seminary. She was previously part of the Eternal Perspective Ministries staff, and still does occasional research work for Randy Alcorn.