As I noted in a recent article, I shared a post on why I ditched the deities in my Otherworld worldbuilding on a Facebook group called Iron Sharpening Iron: Christian Speculative Fiction Authors, asked my fellow Christian spec-fic authors how they handled the issue in their fantasy worlds, and received some answers I didn’t expect!
One of the respondents proposed a fantasy world where God had revealed Himself to be female. They noted that there are a few verses where God likens himself to a female. For example, Luke 13:34 [and a parallel passage in Matthew] cite Jesus as saying:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!”
A hen is obviously female. Of course, Jesus is using a simile here. He’s not saying he’s female, or even that he would’ve turned female for Jerusalem’s sake. And he certainly wasn’t saying he was a chicken! He was using a figure of speech.
Even if God did have a “feminine side” as we say in modern parlance, it is undeniable that He has revealed Himself to be male. He is Father, Son and Bridegroom; never Mother, Daughter or Bride.
When I asked how they Biblically justified a goddess in light of the fact that God has revealed Himself to be male and He changes not, one commenter told me that they felt no need to Biblically justify it since their goddess was in an imaginary world. Another suggested that I needed to remember the distinction between reality and speculation. there was also a suggestion made that if we cannot speculate about a different sort of God than the one revealed in the Bible then our fiction isn’t really speculative. Jeremy Bullard, one of the admins, was one of a few who suggested that since God is a Spirit, He is genderless. The group’s owner, missionary David G. Johnson, chimed in on that score and suggested that God only revealed himself to be male because societies were patriarchal and he had no trouble with another author writing about a God revealing himself to be female on an alien world, though he personally would draw the line closer to what I believed.
Speculative fiction is built on asking, What If? What if there were faeries? What if we colonized the moon? What if my math teacher is a werewolf from the Amish sector of Mars? A spec-fic author can speculate about a great many things including God, but a Christian spec-fic author must needs write the truth about God. In other words, God isn’t a What If. He’s the I AM. The God of the Bible has revealed Himself and changes not.
As I noted to those who said God is a Spirit and therefore genderless, one can only make that claim if they do not consider the context of the rest of Scripture, which overwhelmingly describes God as male. So, yes, God is a Spirit; he’s a male Spirit.
Our first obligation as Christian spec-fic authors is not simply to ask “What If?” about anything and everything. Our first obligation is to glorify God through great storytelling – and we cannot do that if our storytelling contradicts the Bible’s revelation!
Here I am reminded of another objection on that same ISI Facebook thread in which an author suggested that writing about a goddess on a fictional alien world could show how societies could have been matriarchal rather than patriarchal, how women would have been esteemed rather than men and how phallic influences in architecture, etc., would have given way to more feminine symbolism. If you’ve taken a college course in Feminist Literature or simply had a literature professor who was a feminist, you’ll see where this is going. The basic premise is that if God were female, we’d be trying to elect the first male US President and the Washington Monument would basically be a big hole. ;]
The trouble is that the book’s premise [God could have revealed Himself to be female just as well as male] is that it paints God as arbitrary concerning His nature – and a part of His nature that would influence the very way society developed. This flies in the face of passages that reveal that God willfully orchestrates history, such as Acts 17:26:
“And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;”
One could be a Christian and write speculative fiction that asks What if God were female on some other world, but it would not be Christian spec-fic, for it does not speak the truth about God.
Likewise, David G. Johnson’s suggestion that God only revealed Himself to be male because societies were patriarchal. The trouble with this comment is two-fold:
- He has no way of determining that this is true. There is no Scriptural suggestion that God revealed himself to be male for any other reason than his actual masculinity.
- It makes God a respecter of persons, something the Bible says He ain’t.
I asked everyone involved to tell me in what way their fiction was Christian, and in each case they appealed to speculation itself. Spec-fic authors are supposed to use their imagination and speculate, right? As I pointed out in my previous post, Paul twice warned the Corinthian church that All things are lawful to us as Christians, but not all things are expedient. Just because we’re able to do something, doesn’t mean we should.
Again, God is not a What If; He is the I Am. We cannot play god with His revealed nature and attributes without creating a god or goddess that is not longer Christian. We are called to be ambassadors of Christ, which means we need to represent God as He is; not as we’d like Him to be or how He might be if He had revealed Himself to be otherwise.
For more on what makes Christian Speculative Fiction distinctly Christian, see my previous post.