The Bible presents God as Father and uses masculine pronouns to refer to Him. But God isn’t limited by the sexual distinctions of His creatures. God is eternal Spirit, and should not be perceived in an anthropomorphic way. He may be conscious, personal, and masculine in some significant way, but His consciousness, personality, and masculinity so far transcend our experience of these things that we should always be on guard against thinking of Him in merely human terms.
Many people believe that since the Bible was written in an age when women were often perceived as being of less worth than men, they automatically portray God in a way demeaning to women. However, since the New Testament teaches clearly that women and men are equal in the sight of God (Galatians 3:28), this premise is questionable.
Scriptures written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit cannot be assumed to express a bias against women. It is unlikely that when the Lord Jesus instructed us to pray, “Our Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:9), He was expressing contempt or disrespect for mothers and women in general. Jesus demonstrated high regard for women (Matthew 9:22; 28:1-10; Luke 8:1-3; 10:38-42; John 4:7-29).
Is it safe to assume that inspired Scripture has no reasons for referring to God in masculine terms? And if so, why then is the church described in feminine terms in relation to God (Ephesians 5:25-27; Revelation 21:2; 22:17). Does this metaphor of the church (obviously including both sexes) as “wife” and “bride” also bear unnecessary “cultural baggage”?
C.S. Lewis outlined the dangers of such a perspective in his brief article “Priestesses in the Church”:
Christians think that God Himself has taught us how to speak of Him. To say that it does not matter is to say either that all the masculine imagery is not inspired, is merely human in origin, or else that, though inspired, it is quite arbitrary and unessential. . . . Without drawing upon religion, we know from our poetical experience that image and apprehension cleave closer together than common sense is here prepared to admit; that a child who has been taught to pray to a Mother in Heaven would have a religious life radically different from that of a Christian child. And as image and apprehension are in an organic unity, so, for a Christian, are human body and human soul.
We should not think lightly of altering the figures of speech used by the prophets, apostles, and our Lord. Judging from the metaphors of Scripture, God clearly relates to us in a masculine way (a masculinity uncontaminated with human flaws), but this doesn’t mean that femininity (including the feminine role of the church) isn’t based in and created by Him as well!