“It has not been for nothing that the word has remained man’s principal toy and tool: without the meanings and values it sustains, all man’s other tools would be worthless.” – Lewis Mumford
“But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” – Matthew 12:36-37
Words matter. Pronouns make pertinent points. The recent decision by the Episcopal Diocese of Washington D.C. to ban the use of masculine pronouns when referring to God is no mere matter of semantics. The effects on those who subscribe to the ban will be significant.
Let’s be clear right up front, however. God is not human—neither male nor female in the sense that we understand gender. Most Christians recognize that the Bible uses metaphors to paint pictures of God that we can better understand. When we read the psalmist’s plea to “Let me dwell in Your tent forever; Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings,” we understand that God is not a giant bird. The metaphor of taking shelter in God’s wings helps us see God’s caring, protective nature.