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Female and Made in My Father's Image

May 28 2014
Just because I’m a “she” doesn’t mean the Creator I reflect has to be.

I'm my dad's spitting image. My fair skin, strawberry blond hair, analytical mind, and impatience with all things not just-so come straight from him. Anyone who knows me and knows him knows that I am my father's daughter. The fact that I am made in his image does not get diminished at all because I am female.

The same is true for being made in God's image. Women and men equally are made in God's image, a characteristic and identity that's not tied to our sex: "Male and female he made them," all of us, in his image.

Being made in God's image entails far more significant qualities than our sex.

Being made in God's image means, among other things, that we are moral beings, able to have consciousness of right and wrong, good and evil. It means we share a vocation as vice-regents in the stewardship of his creation. It means that we are eternal, created to live forever. We are creative like our Creator, co-creators in multiplying his image-bearers. Like God, we love and hate and anger and hurt in ways that can't be explained merely by firing neurons and surging chemicals. We have language, and that language shapes us as we shape the world through our words. It means we can recognize and appreciate beauty. We long.

None of these characteristics of God, reflected in the creatures that bear his image, are confined to one sex or the other. I am no less made in my earthly father's image in being female than I am in being made in my heavenly Father's image.

Yet some purport that in order for us to understand the fullness of woman being created in God's image, it's helpful to refer to God "herself." Of course, the call for gender-neutral language has been around for nearly half a century. (I generally favor its use as it relates to human beings, although "I will make you fishers of persons" will never sound quite right to these ears.) In the most recent iteration of the debate over God's pronouns and names, I was surprised to learn that some Christians claim that other Christians are teaching that women aren't made in God's image. I have not been able to find anyone making this assertion. Some interpret this view as an implication of complementarian thinking, though the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (with whom I disagree on other substantial issues) does not take this position.

So let's be clear: We need not refer to God as female to understand that women are fully made in God's image. The reality of my being made in my father's image—whether my earthly father or my heavenly one—does not depend on my referring to either as "she." By way of analogy, the fact that my husband is more nurturing and romantic than I does not render him "she," nor me "he."

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